Ujjain (also known as Ujain, Ujjayini, Avanti, Avantikapuri), is an ancient city of Malwa region in central India, on the eastern bank of the Kshipra River, today part of the state of Madhya Pradesh. It is the administrative centre of Ujjain District and Ujjain Division. In ancient times the city was called Ujjayini. As mentioned in the Mahabharata epic, Ujjayini was the capital of the Avanti Kingdom, and has been the Prime Meridian for Hindu geographers since the 4th century BCE. Ujjain is regarded as one of the seven sacred cities (Sapta Puri) of the Hindus. It is one of the four sites that host the Kumbh Mela (also called the Simhastha Mela), a mass pilgrimage that attracts millions of Hindu pilgrims from around the country.
It is also home to the Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga, one of the twelve Jyotirlinga shrines to the god Shiva. An ancient seat of learning, Ujjain is the place where Lord Krishna, along with Balarama and Sudama, received his education from Maharshi Sandipani. There is an interesting tale behind the sanctity of the city. Its origin is ascribed to the mythological legend of Sagar Manthan (churning of the primordial ocean to discover the pot of nectar). The story goes that after the nectar was discovered, there was a chase between the gods and the demons to have the nectar first so as to attain immortality. During this chase a drop of nectar spilled and fell on Ujjain, thus making the city sacred. According to legend, the river Kshipra that flows across Ujjain is regarded to have originated due to the churning of the gods and goddesses.
Apart from the mythological legends, the city has a long and distinguished history: it has witnessed legendary rulers including the renowned king Chandragupta II, great scholars such as Brahmagupta and Bhaskaracharya, and literary gems like Kalidasa. Today, however, Ujjain represents an interesting blend of an age-old legacy and the modern-day lifestyle: even as the city and its people move forward on the path of rapid change and development, they are faced with the intriguing challenge of not losing touch with the cultural heritage of this ancient city and its unique place in the history of Indian civilization.
One of the twelve jyotirlingas in India, the lingam at Mahakaleshwar is believed to be swayambhu (born of itself) deriving currents of power (shakti) from within itself as against the other images and lingams which are ritually established and invested with mantra-shakti. The idol of Mahakaleshwar is known to be dakshinamurti, facing the south. This is a unique feature upheld by tantric traditions to be found only in Mahakaleshwar among the twelve Jyotirlingas. The idol of Omkareshwar Shiva is consecrated in the sanctum above the Mahakal shrine. The images of Ganesh, Parvati and Karttikeya are installed in the west, north and east of the sanctum sanctorum. To the south is the image of Nandi. The idol of Nagchandreshwar on the third storey is open for darshan only on the day of Nag Panchami. On the day of Maha Shivaratri, a huge fair is held near the temple and worship goes on through the night.
Maha Kumbh is the largest religious congregation on earth. History of this festival is given in holy scripture Bhagavata Purana. It is said that when demons become powerful and demigods (in charge of material administration) become too weak than Lord Brahmä and Lord Shiva advice them to pray to the supreme personalty of Godhead Lord Visnu. Ujjain is one of the holy city where this event is organised and next kumbh mela will be held in year 2016.
Ancient Monuments And Places Of Interest In Ujjain:
- The Harsidhhi temple is one of the Shaktipeeths, situated at 52 places in India. It is dedicated to the goddess Annapurna and houses the Shri Yantra, a symbol of "shakti" or power.
- Kal Bhairav is a temple on the banks of the Kshipra that is dedicated to the worship of Kal Bhairav, the chief of the eight Bhairavas described in Saivite tradition.
- The Chintaman Ganesh temple is an ancient temple of Lord Ganesha.
- The Mangalnath Temple is situated away from the bustle of the city and looks down upon a vast expanse of the Kshipra River. It is regarded as the birthplace of Mars (mangala in Hindi), according to the Matsya Purana.
- The Sandipani Ashram is where Puranic traditions say Shri Krishna received his education, along with Balarama and Sudama, in the ashram of Maharshi Sandipani.
- Gadkalika, situated about two miles from the present town, the deity in this temple is believed to have been worshiped by Kalidasa.
- Siddhavat is an enormous banyan tree on the banks of the Kshipra, considered sacred since the medieval ages.
- The throne of Maharaja Vikramaditya, known as the "seat of judgment (salabanjika throne)" is located in the Rudra Sagar lake.
- The Kaliyadeh Palace, located on the north of the city, is an ancient site that was restored by the erstwhile royal Scindia family of Gwalior. It is believed that there was once a majestic Sun temple at this site.
- The Observatory (Vedha Shala) built by a Rajput king, Raja Jai Singh II, in the 1720s, is one of the five such observatories in India and features ancient astronomical devices.
- The Siddha Ashram, located between Ramghat and Narshinghat, is known for research in Ayurvedic medicine and Kundalini Shaktipat.
- Sri Sri Radha Madan Mohan Temple, of the ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) or Hare Krishna Movement, also has a guest house and restaurant, and is a major attraction for tourists, though it is very new on the map of Ujjain.
- The Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan museum, located near Chamunda tower, houses many antique objects.
- Jain temples: Jai Singh Pura Atishay Kshetra, Tapobhoomi, kala,Avanti Parshwanath, Hanumant Baag, Manibhadradham Bhairavgarh.
- The Kothi Palace presents a sight worth watching in the evening.
- Other important temples are Gopal Mandir, Triveni (Nav Graha Shani Mandir), Maa Waageshwari, Siddhhanath, Prashanti Dham and Shiv Shakti, Gebi Hanuman.