Pilgrim's passage

Godly

Austere: Mahakaleshwar Temple in Ujjain.For the devout, the promised land of Ujjain is held in deep reverence since it is the ultimate destination for offering prayers to Mahakal and taking a holy dip in River Shipra. There is a huge congregation of devotional spirits when the city plays host to Ardh Kumbh and Kumbh fairs. For all those travel-crazy Indians, Ujjain with old world charms, majestic shrines, exotic cave temples and ashrams show off the ancient image of India.

Perhaps, it was the devotional spirit that took us to the city, a few years ago. The ancient city of Ujjain, synonymous with Kalidasa and Vikramaditya, dates back to the Aryan days that witnessed the rise and fall of many prominent Indian dynasties. No visit to Ujjain is complete without a pilgrimage to the shrine of Mahakal. Hence, we made it a point that the famed shrine of Mahakal would remain on top of our itinerary.

A pilgrim’s journey to the city of Ujjain starts and ends at the Mahakaleshwar shrine. Once we alighted at Ujjain, we headed towards the shrine to offer our prayers. One of the 12 jyotirlingams of India, the majestic shrine of Mahakal looms over the heart of the city and gives pilgrims a high. The shrine, devoted to Lord Shiva, has a shikara that stands like the sentinel in the sky. The south-facing deity of the shrine, makes it stand apart from other jyotirlingams of India.

Scores of priests chanting ritual hymns at an unhurried pace, while bathing the deity in the sanctum sanctorum, make for an invigorating sight that envelops the human mind in an aura of peace. The interiors of the shrine has illustrations of all the jyotirlingams of India.
Off the Mahakaleshwar temple, we proceeded to the shrine of Bade Ganeshji, honouring a gigantic size idol of Ganesha and the panchmukhi Hanuman. We soon realised that the city, with its wonderful array of splendid temples, caves and ashrams, has far more to offer.

Soon, we were at one of the most front-ranking temples on River Shipra with an outstanding façade of Maratha architecture — the Harsiddhi Temple, devoted to goddesses Annapurna, Lakshmi and Saraswati. The symbol of Shakti is also enshrined here. The interiors evoke grandeur with myriad forms of Parvati. The temple bears two huge pillars,
embellished with lamps, that are illuminated on Navratri days.

One of the highpoints of our trip was a journey to Mangalnath Temple, resting in perfect tranquillity. Regarded as the birthplace of Mars, the shrine is the abode of Shiva and its spiritual ambience enhances the appeal of the city.

From here, we moved on to the hamlet of Bhairogarh to visit Siddhavat, the sacred banyan tree on the banks of River Shipra, dating back to the epic era. Here, pilgrims take a holy dip in the river during Kumbh fairs.

A visit to the city provided an opportunity for us to explore the ancient sites of India. The 2,500-year-old Bharatrihari caves were quite intriguing for us. Built by King Bharatrihari, the brother of king Vikramaditya, the caves have the idols of Guru Gorakshanath and Neelkanth Mahadev. Legend puts forth that a visit to the cave enables pilgrims to gain salvation.We had a glimpse of Sandipani Ashram, whose corridors are full of mythological whispers. Once upon a time, Lord Krishna and his friend Sudama had received education in the ashram from their mentor, Sandipani.

Our trip to Ujjain would have remained incomplete without the mention of Kal Bhairav on the tour agenda. Lying in Bhairogarh, Kal Bhairav shrine has been the creation of Bhadrasen, the Paramara king, as early as 10th century. The shrine honouring Lord Bhairava flaunts tantrik traditions and remains an enigma for tourists since liquor is offered to the deity.

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