Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga is one of the most famous Hindu temples dedicated to Lord Shiva and is one of the twelve Jyotirlingams, which are supposed to be the most sacred abodes of Shiva. It is located in the ancient city of Ujjain in the state of Madhya Pradesh, India. The temple is situated on the side of the Rudra Sagar lake. The presiding deity, Shiva in the lingam form is believed to be Swayambhu, deriving currents of power (Shakti) from within itself as against the other images and lingams that are ritually established and invested with mantra-shakti.
As per Shiva Purana, once Brahma (the Hindu God of creation) and Vishnu (the Hindu God of sustenance) had an argument in terms of supremacy of creation. To test them, Shiva pierced the three worlds as a huge endless pillar of light, the jyotirlinga. Vishnu and Brahma split their ways to downwards and upwards respectively to find the end of the light in either directions. Brahma lied that he found out the end, while Vishnu conceded his defeat. Shiva appeared as a second pillar of light and cursed Brahma that he would have no place in ceremonies while Vishnu would be worshipped till the end of eternity. The jyotirlinga is the supreme partless reality, out of which Shiva partly appears.
The jyothirlinga shrines, thus are places where Shiva appeared as a fiery column of light. Originally there were believed to be 64 jyothirlingas while 12 of them are considered to be very auspicious and holy. Each of the twelve jyothirlinga sites take the name of the presiding deity - each considered different manifestation of Shiva. At all these sites, the primary image is lingam representing the beginningless and endless Stambha pillar, symbolizing the infinite nature of Shiva. The twelve jyothirlinga are Somnath in Gujarat, Mallikarjuna at Srisailam in Andra Pradesh, Mahakaleswar at Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh, Omkareshwar in Madhya Pradesh, Kedarnath in Himalayas, Bhimashankar in Maharastra, Viswanath at Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, Triambakeshwar in Maharastra, Vaidyanath at Deogarh in Jharkand, Nageswar at Dwarka in Gujarat, Rameshwar at Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu and Grishneshwar at Aurangabad in Maharastra.
The idol of Mahakaleshwar is known to be dakshinamurti, which means that it is facing the south. This is a unique feature, upheld by the tantric shivnetra tradition to be found only in Mahakaleshwar among the 12 Jyotirlingas. The idol of Omkareshwar Mahadev 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 vehicle of Lord Shiva. The idol of Nagchandreshwar on the third storey is open for darshan only on the day of Nag Panchami. The temple has five levels, one of which is underground.
The temple itself is located in a spacious courtyard surrounded by massive walls near a lake. The shikhar or the spire is adorned with sculptural finery. Brass lamps light the way to the underground sanctum. It is believed that prasada (holy offering) offered here to the deity can be re-offered unlike all other shrines.
The presiding deity of time, Shiva, in all his splendor, reigns eternally in the city of Ujjain. The temple of Mahakaleshwar, its shikhar soaring into the sky, an imposing façade against the skyline, evokes primordial awe and reverence with its majesty. The Mahakal dominates the life of the city and its people, even in the midst of the busy routine of modern preoccupations, and provides an unbreakable link with ancient Hindu traditions. On the day of Maha Shivaratri, a huge fair is held near the temple, and worship goes on through the night.
The temple is located in the heart of Ujjain, at a distance of two kilometers from the Ujjain railway station and bus stand. It is accessible by state-operated tempos (fare Rs. 10/- per head from railway station or bus stand to temple. The service of Tempos is after every five minutes), auto-rickshaws or private taxis.