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Ujjain is a quiet and relatively small provincial town. It is situated about 60 km North of Indore. Ujjain is one of the greatest cities of ancient India and one of the seven sacred cities of Hindus in India. It is also one of the four towns where the Kumbh Mela is held and plays as a host up to a million pilgrims who gather on the place every twelve years. Various people come here to bathe in the Shipra River and worship at the temples on its banks. Since the 4th century B.C. the city has marked the first meridian of longitude in Hindu geography is also the city from where the Tropic of Cancer passes. This explains the presence of the observatory (Vedha Shala) built by the Raja Jai Singh of Jaipur in 1725. Even today, the Ephemeris tables (predicted positions of the planets) are published here. Ujjain is also known for industry and crafts.

Historicity of UJJAIN  According to legend, the gods and the demons once churned the ocean for Kumbha (a pot of divine nectar of immortality called amrit).  First emerged a pot of poison which Lord Shiva drank. The poison was so strong that his divine neck turned blue and he was known as ”Nilkantha” or” the blue-necked one”.  It is believed that during the battle, Lord Vishnu (Incarnated as Mohini-Mürti) flew away with the Kumbha of elixir spilling drops of amrita at four places: Allahabad, Haridwar, Ujjain and Nashik.

 In the ancient times and in the great Hindu epics, the Upanishads and the Puranas Ujjain was known as the Avanti Kingdom or Avantika.  According to the legend, the Lord Siva commemorated his victory over the demon ruler of Tripuri by changing the name of his capital to Ujjaiyini. Ujjaiyini means one “who conquers with pride”.  Various dynasties like the Sakas, Guptas, Paramaras, the governors of the Slave Dynasty of Delhi, Mughals and Marathas ruled over this prosperous city.  It is also said to have been the seat of the viceroyalty of Ashoka during the reign of his father in 275 BC. Chandragupta II also transferred his capital from Pataliputra [modern day Patna in Bihar, Northern India] to Ujjain.  The Emperor Asoka’s sons were born here, and it was from here that they set out to preach Buddhism.  The Sandipani Ashram is where Puranic traditions say Lord Krishna received his education, along with Sudama, in the ashram of Maharshi Sandipani.  The poet Kalidasa, wrote some of his works here. He described the city as the “town fallen from Heaven to bring heaven to earth”.  The throne of King Vikramaditya, known as the "Seat of Judgment (Salabanjika throne)" is located in the Rudra Sagar lake.

Legacy of Ujjain

 Since Ujjain is one of the oldest cities in India, it has been known by many names: Avantika, Padmavati, Kushasthali, Bhagavati, Haranyavati, Kandakatringa, Kumudvati, Pratikalpa, Ujjayani, Udeni, Vishala. It is said that to the Western astronomers it was known as "Arin".  Its astronomical and geographic importance is the reason it was chosen as the location for an Observatory (Vedha Shala) built by a Rajput king, Raja Jai Singh II, in the 1720s, is one of five such observatories in India and features ancient astronomical devices.  Ujjain is mentioned as the city of Ozene in the “Periplus of the Erythraean Sea”, an antique Greek description of sea ports and trade centres in the western Indian Ocean. “Inland from this place and to the east, is the city called Ozene, formerly a royal capital; from this place are brought down all things needed for the welfare of the country about Barygaza (Bharuch: oldest city in Gujarat situated on the mouth of the Narmada River), and many things for our trade: agate and carnelian, Indian muslins and mallow cloth, and much ordinary cloth.” —Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, Chapter 48.

 Ujjain is considered to be the traditional capital of King Chandragupta II, also known as Vikramaditya, at whose court the nine poets known as the navaratna (nine jewels) of Sanskrit literature are said to have flourished of which Kālidāsa is said to be a part of.  Kālidāsa, a devoted worshipper of Kali, is said to have called upon his goddess for help when he was going to commit suicide in a well after he was humiliated by his wife for his ignorance and idiocy, and was rewarded with a sudden and extraordinary gift of poetry.  In the 10th and 11th centuries, Ujjain was a major centre of mathematical and astronomical research.

Ujjain Observatory (Vedh Shala) built in 1720 by Raja Jai Singh of Jaipur.  The famous mathematicians who worked there included: Brahmagupta, whose book Brahmasphutasiddhanta was responsible for spreading the use of zero, negative numbers and the positional number system to Arabia and Cambodia; Varahamihira, who was the first to discover many trigonometric identities; and Bhaskaracharya, or Bhaskara II, whose book Lilavati broke new ground in many areas of mathematics.  Indian astronomers added their own observations to the old but replaced the oldfashioned sexagesimal system of notation (base 60) which dated back to Babylonian times with a decimal system that included a symbol for "nothing" to help keep track of place values. They called this symbol sunya, the Hindi word meaning "the void." When this was translated into Arabic, scholars used the word sifr, meaning "empty." Italians transliterated this word as zefirum, zefiro, and zefro, which eventually became zero.

 Moreover, Ujjain is one of seven most holy places for Hindus in India where Varanasi is considered as the holiest of the seven holy cities. “Ayodhyā Mathurā Māyā Kāsi Kāñchī Avantikā I Purī Dvārāvatī chaiva saptaitā moksadāyikāh II “ Garuḍa Purāṇa I XVI .14

A Kṣetra is a sacred ground, a field of active power, a place where Moksha, final release (enlightenment) can be obtained. The Garuda Purana enumerates seven cities as giver of Moksha. They are Ayodhya, Mathura, Māyā, Kāsi, Kāñchī, Avantikā and Dvārāvatī.

RELIGIOUS CENTRE OF HINDU WORSHIP Ujjain is one of the most holy cities in India for Hindus. It hosts the KUMBH MELA every 12 years in the month of April. It is the largest pilgrimage of Hindus and the largest religious congregation in the world. Only Haridwar, Allahabad and Nasik are considered Holy enough to host the Mela. The Mela at Allahabad is held every 144 years as the planetary alignment is most opportune and comes every 144 years.

Left Above: Mahakaal Temple, 1 of 12 Jyotirlinga’s in India. Idol is unique as it faces South. Left Below: 6000yr old Shivling at Ankapata said to be worshipped by Guru Sadipani, the legendary teacher of Lord Krishna and Sudama. Above Right: Seated between the idols of Mahalaxmi and Mahasaraswati, the idol of Annapurna is painted in dark vermilion colour. The Sri Yantra, the symbol of power or “shakti”, is also enshrined in the temple. According to the Shiva Purana, when Shiva carried away the burning body of Sati from the sacrificial fire, her elbow dropped at this place.


Topmost Right: Chintaman Ganesh Temple. Above: Idol of Lord Ganesha at “Bade Ganeshji Ka Mandir� near Mahakaleshwar Temple. The temple is adorned with an idol of a 5 Headed Hanuman. The temple also teaches Astrology and Sanskrit. Top Left: Kaliadeh Palace. Built upon the ruins of an ancient Sun Templeit was constructed by 1458 AD. Left Middle: Mangalnath Temple, said to be the birth place of Lord (Nath) Mars (Mangal). Famous for a clear view of the planet Mars, it was an ideal location for astronomical studies. Left Bottom: Kaal Bhairav Temple housing the idol of BHAIRAV (Fright/Terror) the manifestation of Lord Shiva associated with annihilation.

Top Left: Char Dham Temple dedicated to the deities of the 4 Dhams (Pilgrimmage locations that every Hindu ought to visit once in his life): Rameshwaram, Badrinath, Puri and Dwarka. Bottom Left: Bhartihari caves. This is where “Bhartihari”, brother of King Vikramaditya, renounced worldly life, lived and meditated in these caves. He also composed several Sanskrit poems here.

Top Right: Shani Dev Temple dedicated to Saturn. This is defferent than all other Shani Temples for the following reasons: 1. All Shani Temples have the idol of a Black Rock, here the idol is a statue made of Iron, the metal most loved by Shani. 2. Shani’s vahana (vehicle) is a crow, but here the vahana is depicted as an elephant, which is the vahana of Laxmi (Goddess of Wealth). Bottom Right: Siddhavata (Siddha = Immortal + Vat = Tree), a holy tree under which, according to legend, Goddess Parvati meditated. It also said that Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb ordered the tree uprooted, stumps burnt and covered the area with Iron sheets, despite of which it grew back and was deified.

Top Left: Ram Gopal Mandir. Constructed by Bayajibai Shinde, the queen of Maharajah Daulat Rao Shinde, in the 19th century. The door in the inner sanctum is believed to have been carried to Ghazni from the Somnath temple and from thence by Mahmud Shah Abdali to Lahore, from where it was rescued by Mahadji Scindia Top Right: Sandipani Ashram. This is where Lord Krishna and Sudama received their education from Maharishi Sandipani. Bottom Left: Navagraha Mandir (Triveni). The temple is a small one, with nine square rooms set out in a 3X3 matrix, thus 9 big rooms with a swayambhu idol of each planet at the inner corner, the central room with an idol of Surya (Sun). The main door opens into the sanctum of Shani, and then we circumambulate the temple, viewing all the other planets through the open doors. Bottom Right: Gadkalika Temple tat houses an idol of Goddess Kali, that is said to be worshipped by legendary poet Kalidas himself.

Above: 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. Left: Durgadas fought for the independence of Jodhpur after the death of Maharaja Jaswant Singh and helped Ajit Singh to ascend the throne against the wishes of Aurangzeb. Durgadas died at Rampura in 1718 and his funeral rites were performed according to his wishes on the banks of Shipra River. The rulers of Jodhpur built the Chatri as Memorial to Durgadas, whose funeral rites were performed at this place in 1718. This structure built in Rajpur style of architecture, housed a statue of Durgadas which crumbled down.


An informative resource I made for AIESEC Indore about the Ancient city of Ujjain.

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