Ujjain Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga
Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga (Hindi: महाकालेश्वर ज्योतिर्लिंग) 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 Lord 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, Lord 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.
When did the Mahakala temple first come in existence, is difficult to tell. However, the event may be assigned to the Pre-historic period. Puranas narrate that it was first established by Prajapita Brahma. There is reference to the appointment of prince Kumarasena by king Chanda Pradyota in 6th c. BC for looking after the law and order situations of Mahakala temple. The punch-marked coins of Ujjain, belonging to 4th-3rd c. BC, bear the figure of Lord Siva on them. Mahakala temple is also mentioned in several ancient Indian poetic texts. According to these texts, the temple had been very magnificent and magnanimous. Its foundation and platform were built of stones.
The temple rested on the wooden pillars. There had been no sikharas on the temples prior to the Gupta period. The roofs of temples had mostly been flat. Possibly due to this fact, Kalidasa in Raghuvansam described this temple as ‘Niketana’. The palace of the king had been in the vicinity of the temple. In the early part of the Meghadutam (Purva Megha), Kalidasa gives a fascinating description of the Mahakala temple. It appears that this Chandisvara temple might have been a unique example of the then art and architecture. It may be ascertained that how splendid had been the temple of the main Deity of that town which possessed multi-storeyed gold-plated palaces and buildings and the superb artistic grandeur. The temple was enclosed by high ramparts attached with the entry-gates. At twilight the lively rows of glittering lamps enlightened the temple-complex.
As per Shiva Purana, once Lord Brahma (the Hindu God of creation) and Lord 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. Lord Vishnu and Lord 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. There are 64 forms of Shiva, not to be confused with Jyotirlingas. 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 Andhra Pradesh, Mahakaleswar at Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh, Omkareshwar in Madhya Pradesh, Kedarnath in Himalayas, Bhimashankar in Maharashtra, Viswanath at Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, Triambakeshwar in Maharashtra, Vaidyanath at Deogarh in Jharkhand or at Baijnath in Himachal Pradesh, Nageswar at Dwarka in Gujarat, Rameshwar at Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu and Grishneshwar at Aurangabad in Maharashtra.
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. In the precincts of the Mahakaleshwar temple is Shri Swapaneshwar Mahadev temple, where devotees pray to Shiva as Mahakaal, to realize the most important dreams of their lives. Sadashiv Mahadev is so empathetic, benevolent and easy to please that devotees are sure to be granted the boons they wish for with a pure heart in this temple, it is believed. Here Mahadev is Swapaneshwar and Shakti is Swapaneshwari. The temple is open from 4 am to 11 pm.
Shakti Peethas are shrines that are believes to have enshrined with the presence of Shakti due to the falling of body parts of the corpse of Sati Devi, when Lord Shiva carried it. Each of the 51 Shakti peethas have shrines for Shakti and Kalabhairava. The Upper Lip of Sati Devi is said to have fallen here and the Shkati is called as Mahakali.
As referenced in Hindu scriptures
According to the Puranas, the city of Ujjain was called Avantika and was famous for its beauty and its status as a devotional epicenter. It was also one of the primary cities where students went to study holy scriptures. According to legend, there was a ruler of Ujjain called Chandrasena, who was a pious devotee of Lord Shiva and worshiped him all the time. One day, a farmer’s boy named Shrikhar was walking on the grounds of the palace and heard the King chant the Lord’s name and rushed to the temple to start praying with him. However, the guards removed him by force and sent him to the outskirts of the city near the river Kshipra. Rivals of Ujjain, primarily King Ripudamana and King Singhaditya of the neighboring kingdoms decided to attack the Kingdom and take over its treasures around this time. Hearing this, Shrikhar started to pray and the news spread to a priest named Vridhi. He was shocked to hear this and upon the urgent pleas of his sons, started to pray to Lord Shiva at the river Kshipra. The Kings chose to attack and were successful; with the help of the powerful demon Dushan, who was blessed by Lord Brahma to be invisible, they plundered the city and attacked all the devotees of Lord Shiva.
Upon hearing the pleas of His helpless devotees, Lord Shiva appeared in his Mahakala form and destroyed the enemies of King Chandrasena. Upon the request of his devotees Shrikhar and Vridhi, Lord Shiva agreed to reside in the city and become the chief deity of the Kingdom and take care of it against its enemies and to protect all His devotees. From that day on, Lord Shiva resided in His light form as Mahakala in a Lingam that was formed on its own from the powers of the Lord and His consort, Parvati. The Lord also blessed his devotees and declared that people who worshipped Him in this form would be free from the fear of death and diseases. Also, they would be granted worldly treasures and be under the protection of the Lord himself.
When did the Mahakala temple first come in existence, is difficult to tell. However, the event may be assigned to the Pre-historic period. Puranas narrate that it was first established by Prajapita Brahma. There is reference to the appointment of prince Kumarasena by king Chanda Pradyota in 6th c. BC for looking after the law and order situations of Mahakala temple. The punch-marked coins of Ujjain, belonging to 4th-3rd c. BC, bear the figure of Lord Siva on them. Mahakala temple is also mentioned in several ancient Indian poetic texts. According to these texts, the temple had been very magnificent and magnanimous. Its foundation and platform were built of stones. The temple rested on the wooden pillars. There had been no sikharas on the temples prior to the Gupta period. The roofs of temples had mostly been flat. Possibly due to this fact, Kalidasa in Raghuvansam described this temple as ‘Niketana’. The palace of the king had been in the vicinity of the temple. In the early part of the Meghadutam (Purva Megha), Kalidasa gives a fascinating description of the Mahakala temple. It appears that this Chandisvara temple might have been a unique example of the then art and architecture. It may be ascertained that how splendid had been the temple of the main Deity of that town which possessed multi-storeyed gold-plated palaces and buildings and the superb artistic grandeur. The temple was enclosed by high ramparts attached with the entry-gates. At twilight the lively rows of glittering lamps enlightened the temple-complex.
The whole atmosphere echoed with the sound of various musical instruments. Thecharming and well-decorated damsels added a lot in the aesthetic beauty of the temple. The echo of the Jaya-dhvani (Let the Lord be victories) of the assembly of the devotees was heard far and wide. Priests remained busy in worshipping the Deity and chanting eulogies. The Vedic hymns were recited and Stutis were sung, the painted walls and well-carved images projected the artistic heights of the day.
After the downfall of the Gupta empire, several dynasties including the Maitrakas, Chalukyas, Later Guptas, Kalachuris, Pusyabhutis, Gurjara Pratiharas, Rastrakutas etc. dominated the political scenerio in Ujjain one after the other. However, all bowed down before Mahakala and distributed endowments and alms to the deserving. During this period a number of temples of various gods and goddesses,Tirthas, Kundas, Vapis and gardens took shape in Avantika. Several Saivite temples including those of 84 Mahadevas existed here. This fact should specifically be underlined that when every nook and corner of Ujjain was dominated by religious monuments housed by the images of their respective deities, the development and progress of Mahakala temple and its religiocultural milieu was not at all neglected. Among many of the poetic texts composed during this period, which sung the significance and glamour of the temple, Harsacharit and Kadambari of Banabhatta, Naisadhacharit of Sri Harsa, and Navasahasamkacharit of Padmagupta are noteworthy. It so appears that during rhw Paramara period, a series of crisis prevailed over Ujjain and the Mahakala temple. In the Eighth decade of Eleventh c. AD, one Gazanavide commander invaded Malwa, looted it brutally and destroyed many temples and images. But very soon the Paramaras rejuvenated every thing. A contemporary Mahakala Inscription testifies the fact that during the later Eleventh c. and early twelfth c., the Mahakala temple was re-built during the reign of Udayaditya and Naravarman. It was built in the Bhumija style of architecture, very favourite to the Paramaras. Remains available in the temple-complex and the neighbouring places authenticate this fact. The temples of this style had been either Triratha or Pancharatha in plan. The main feature of identification of such temples had been its star-shaped plan and the sikhara. So far as the sikhara is concerned, urusrngas (mini-spires), generally of odd numbers, gradually decreasing in size in rows between the well-decorated spines (haravali or lata) rose up at the cardinal points from the Chityaas and the Sukanasas ultimately surmounted by the Amalaka. Every part of the temple was glutted with decorative motifs or images. Horizontally, the shrine from front to back was respectively divided in entrance, ardhamandapa, sanctum, antarala (vestibule) garbhagrha and Pradaksanapatha. Upper components of the temple rested on the strong and well-designed pillars and pilasters. Such temples, according to the contemporary Silpa-sastras contained the images of various god and goddesses, Nava Grahas (Nine planets), Apsaras (celestial damsels), female dancers, anucharas (attendants), Kichakas etc. The sculptural art of the temple had been very classical and multifarious. Besides the Saivite images of Nataraja, Kalyanasundara, Ravananugraha, Gajantaka, Sadasiva, Andhakasura-slayer, Lakulisa etc., the temples were adorned with the images of Ganesa, Paravati, Brahma, Visnu, Surya (Sun-god), Sapta Matrkas (Seven mother-goddesses) etc. These images had been very proportionate, well-decorated, sculpturally perfect and carved according to classical and Puranic texts. The worshipping and the conduct of rituals continued in some way or the other. Prabandha Chintamani, Vividha Tirtha Kalpataru, Prabandha Kosha all composed during 13th-14th c. reveal this fact. Similar mention is made in Vikramacharit and Bhojacharita composed in 15th c. AD. According to the epic Hammira Mahakavya, Hammira, the ruler of Ranathambor worshipped Lord Mahakala while his stay in Ujjain.
A few Sanads issued by the Sultans of Malwa and Mughal emperors have come to light in Ujjain which testifies that during the mediaeval period these Islamic rulers contributed some donations to priests for conducting worship, lighting the lamps and offering the prayers to Divinity for the safety of their reign. Thus it is evident that these Islamic rulers also had a respect for Mahakalesvara and they issued financial assistance for the appeasement of Hindu subjects too. Maratha regime was established in Ujjain in the fourth decade of Eighteenth c. The administration of Ujjain was assigned by Peshwa Bajirao-I to his faithful commander Ranoji Shinde, The diwan of Ranoji was Sukhatanakar Ramchandra Baba Shenavi who was very wealthy but unluckily issueless. On the suggestions of many learned Panditas and wel-wishers, he decided to invest his wealth for religious purposes. In this connection, he re-built the famous Mahakala temple in Ujjain during the 4th-5th decades of Eighteenth c. AD.
The temple complex was destroyed by Sultan Shas-ud-din Iltutmish during his raid of Ujjain in 1234-5. The present structure was built by the General of Srimant Peshwa Baji Rao and Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj of the Hindu Pad Padshahi—Srimant Raanojirao Shinde Maharaj (Scindia) in 1736 AD. Further developments and management was done by Shreenath Mahadji Shinde Maharaj (Mahadji The Great) also known as Madhavrao Shinde the First (1730–12 February 1794) and Srimant Maharani Bayzabai Raje Shinde (1827–1863).
In the regime of Maharaja Shrimant Jayaajirao Saheb Shinde Alijah Bahadur until 1886, major programs of the then Gwalior Riyasat used to be held at this mandir. After Independence the Dev Sthan Trust was replaced by the municipal corporation of Ujjain. Nowadays it is under the collectorate.
The Puja-archana, abhishekaarati and other rituals are regulalrly performed all the year round in Mahakala temple. Some particular aspects are as under:
- Nitya Yatra: Yatra to be conducted is narrated in the Avanti Khanda of the Skanada Purana. In this Yatra, after taking bath in the holy Sipra, the Yatri (Participator) respectively visits Nagachandresvara, Kotesvara, Mahakalesvara, goddess Avanatika, goddessHarasiddhi and Agastyesvara for darsana.
- Sawari (Procession): On every Monday of the Sravana month upto the Amavasya in the dark fortnight of the Bhadrapada and also from the bright fortnight of the Kartika to the dark fortnight of Magasirsha, the procession of Lord Mahakala passes through the streets of Ujjain. The last Sawari in Bhadrapadais celebrated with great pomp and show and draws attendance of lakhs of people. The procession of Mahakala on Vijaydasami festival visiting the celebrations atDashahara Maidan is also very attractive.
- Harihara Milana: On Baikuntha Chaturdasi, Lord Mahakala visits Mandir in a procession to meet Lord (hari) during the mid-night. Later on in a similar procession on that very night Dwarakadhisa visits Mahakal temple. This festival is the symbol of one-ness between the two great Lords.