Mahakaleshwar- the third revered Jyotirlinga


Call it a city of famous Hindu king Vikramaditya or great poet Kalidas or city of Tantriks, Ujjain is known for its great cultural and spiritual importance like Varanasi or Benaras.

Ujjain, the erstwhile state capital of Malva region is now also one of the major cities of Madhya Pradesh. Situated 183 km west of state capital Bhopal. Ujjain is also known for its Simhastha Kumbha Parva.

Ujjain and Mahakal are synonymous with each other. For each Hindu devotee, Ujjain means Mahakal. Yes,Mahakaleshwar is the presiding deity of Ujjain and it is the third sacred Jyotirlinga of Hindu Dwadash Jyotirlinga circuit.

Mahakal-The Lord of the earth and legend:

According to Hindu scriptures, the universe is seen as consisting of three regions-the sky, the earth and the nether. Mahakal is Lord of the earth. Out of the 12 Jyotirlingas, only Mahakal is known as the Lord of the earth and Lord of the death. The meaning of Mahakal is taken as Lord of Time and also Lord of death. In astronomical calculations, Shanku Yantra is an important instrument. It is believed that at the centre of earth Ujjain at the place of that shanku yantra the Jyotirlinga Mahakala is established. From this place the astronomical calculations for the entire world was done.

Avantikhand of Skand Purana narrates that it was a Mahakalvan(forest) and it was a favoured place for penance for Yaksha, Rishis Gandharvas etc. There are two stories related to Mahakaleshwar.

According to one story there was a ruler of Ujjain called Chandrasen(some also call as Vrishabhsen), who was a pious devotee of Lord Shiva and worshipped 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 pray with him. However, the guards removed him by force and sent him to the outskirts of the city near the river Shipra.

Meanwhile, kings of the neighboring kingdoms decided to attack on Ujjain. 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, he prayed to Lord Shiva inside the river Shipra. 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 Mahakal form and destroyed the enemies of King Chandrasen. 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 Mahakal in a linga.

According to Matsyapuran,a demon called Andhak once tried to kidnap Goddess Parvati. Lord Shiva thus came into action and there was an intense fight between Shiva and Andhak. Lord Shiva created a world of Mahakals to win over Andhak and finally he succeeded. Thus Lord Shiva came to be known as Mahakal and Ujjain was also known as Mahakalpur.

The third story is about a Brahmin. According to this story, a Brahmin called Devvrata was a devotee of Lord Shiva and he was staying with his four sons. Once the family was performing Shiva pujan, a demon called Madandh dushan attacked the family. To protect the Brahmin, Lord Shiva emerged in the form of Bhutanath and destroyed the demon. Lord Shiva stays in this place and hence it is known as Mahakaleshwar.

Mahakaleshwar Temple:

Ved Vyas sang glory of Mahakala in Mahabharat and so did poets like Kalidas, Banbhatt and Bhoja.In 11th century, the temple was renovated during Parmar regime. In 1234,Sultan Iltutmish of Delhi attacked on Ujjain and demolished Mahakal temple. From the Shivapuran reference, it appears that the temple was built eight generations before Nanda, the guardian of Lord Krishna. Perhaps at that time the Jyotirlinga was established. The Shikhar of the temple has been high and the premises been large from ancient times.

The present temple of Mahakaleshwar located near a lake is set upon a spacious courtyard and surrounded by massive walls. It has five levels, one of which is underground. The Shikhar is sculptural finery. Brass lamps light the way to the underground sanctum. The present beautiful temple was constructed by Sukhtankar Ramchandra Baba Shenavi, a divan of Ranoji Shinde during Bajirao Peshwa regime in 18th century.

Mahakaleshwar Sanctum:

Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga is situated below ground level in the main temple. 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 12 Jyotirlingas. Due to these considerations, worship of Shri Mahakal with vedic mantras proves fruitful for the devotee.

The idol of Omkareshwar Shiva is consecrated in the sanctum above the Mahakal shrine. The images of Ganesh, Parvati and Kartikeya are installed in the west, north and east of the sanctum. 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 Nagpanchmi.

Mahakal and Bhasma Arti:

To attend Bhasma Arti in Mahakaleshwar is desire for every Hindu devotee. Mahakal and Bhasma Arti are synonymous with each other. Bhasma means ash. Mahakaleshwar is the only Jyotirlinga temple,where the Bhasma Arti is performed. Amidst vedic chants and strotras and sounds of cymbals, conchs and damru, the Bhasma arti is performed every morning (Except the second day of Mahashivaratri) from 4:00 am to 6:00 am to the Lord Mahakaleshwar. The Bhasma is prepared by burning dried cow dung. The mahant of the Akhil Bhratiya Mahanirvani Akhada or his representative offers the Bhasma.

The Bhasma Arti has its own protocols. During Bhasma Arti, no one can enter in the garbhagriha for worship wearing regular clothes. Only males wearing sola or silk clothe on their loins are allowed to enter into garbhagriha.At the time of Bhasma Arti,women are not allowed to enter inside. The devotees enjoy watching the great puja sitting in Sabhagruha just outside the garbhagriha. On next day of Mahashivaratri, the Bhasma Arti is held in afternoon after removal of the Lord’s Sehra(bridegrooms’ floral crown).This happens only once a year.


Related information on Bhasma Arti:

As mentioned, the Mahakaleswar Temple is another famous tantrik center of Ujjain. So for tantriks, the Bhasma Arti is most important. It is said that the ash with which the Shiva linga is ‘bathed’ every morning must be that of a corpse that has been cremated the day before. If no cremation has taken place at Ujjain, then the ash must be obtained at all costs from the nearest cremation ground.

However, the temple authorities assert that though it was once customary for the ash to belong to a ‘fresh’ corpse, the practice had long been discontinued. Whatever the truth, pilgrims travel long distances to watch the Bhasm Arti. The belief goes that those who are fortunate to watch this ritual will never die a premature death.

Temple Timings:

The main temple opens at 3:30 am .The Bhasma Arti is performed between 4:00 am and 6:00 am. Between 7:30 am to 8:15 am the Naivadya Arti is performed. Between 10:30 am to 11:15 am ,the Mahabhog Arti is performed. In the evening, the Sandhya Arti is organised at 6:30 pm to 7:15 pm and Shayan Arti at 10:30 pm. The temple closes at 11:00 pm.

Salient  features of Mahakal:

Among Dwadash Jyotirlingas, the Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga is the only Jyotirlinga where Bhasma Arti is performed. Besides it is the only Jyotirlinga temple where Artis are performed 5 times in a day and it is the only Shiva temple where varied forms of Shiva Sringars are created.

Temple Administratuion and Pujas:

Mahakaleshwar temple is managed by Shri Mahakaleshwar Mandir Prabandh Samiti, Ujjain. The authorities have put remarkable efforts for the comfort of devotees, cleanliness drive etc.

Many pujas are  performed in the Mahakaleshwar temple. The rates are different.

For simple puja it is Rs.51/-,Abhishek Mahimna Strotra Rs.101/-,Rudrabhishek Vedic puja Rs.151/-,Abhishek Mahimna Strotra puja Rs.251/-,Rudrabhishek Ek Darshana Vedic puja Rs.501/-,Laghurudra Rs.1500/-,Maharudra Rs.11,000/-, and Mahamrityunjay Jap Rs.15,000/-.

The devotee who wants to perform such puja first has to deposit the amount in the trust office in temple, get receipt and contact the assigned pandit by the office. The pandits normally sit outside the garbhagriha and after getting the receipt, they perform the puja with the devotee. The pandits are not greedy and helpful kind of persons. The office also give prasads to devotee for such pujas. Devotee can self perform puja in the garbhagriha.

It is said that Mahakal is Mrityunjaya and his worship saves the devotees from the clutches of death. In a year at Mahakaleshwar, the Mahamrityunjaya puja is done more than a crore times. It is believed that the patient for whom this japa is done get cured, those on death bed get well.

Mahakal Premises:

According to belief, 33 crore Gods reside in Mahakal premises. Adorned by Hanuman, Shiva, Devi, Navgraha, Radha-Krishna, Ganesha temples, the premises evokes vibrant spiritual feelings. Mahakal is the only temple among Dwadash  Jyotirlingas, which has so many temples in its premises.

Mahakal premises is also referred as home of gods. There are more than 42 temples in Mahakal temple premises. This include Lakshmi Narsimha, Riddhi-Siddhi Ganesha,Vitthal Pandharinath Temple, Sriram Darbar Temple, Avantika Devi, Chandradityeshwar, Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga in Garbhagriha, Omkareshwar Mahadev, Nagchandreshwar Temple(Which opens only on Nagpanchami in holy Shravan month),Nagchandreshwar Pratima, Riddhi-Siddhi Vinayaka.

Besides there is a temple called Sakshi Gopal which according to belief provide sakshi(evidence) of the darshan of the devotee to Mahakaleshwar. There are other temples like Sankatmochan Siddhadas Hanuman, Brihaspateshwar Mahadev, ancient Shiva idols, Trivishtapeshwar Mahadev, Bhadrakali, Navgraha, Marutinandan Hanuman, Vrikha Triveni, Lord  Shri Ram, Neelkantheshwar, ancient Nagbandha, Khanderao Dakshini Maratha temple. Dedicated to famous deity of Maharastra-Khandoba),Govendeshwar Mahadev, Suryamukhi Hanuman, Lakshmi Pradata Modh Gandesh,Swarnajaleshwar Mahadev,Shani temple,Koteshwar Mahadev,Saptarshi Temple,Anadikalpeshwar Mahadev,Shri Bal Vijay mast Hanuman,Omkareshwar Mahadev and Vriddhakaleshwar Mahadev.

There is a temple called Swapanweshwar Mahadev, which is one of the 84 Mahadevas of Ujjain. According to Skandpuran, the darshan of this temple provides relief to the devotee from evil dreams and the bad effects of such dreams are nullified. On the 8th and 14th day of the every fortnight a special worship is offered.

Sacred Koti Tirtha gives more beautiful impact of the entire temple complex. It is the water source in the Mahakal temple premises. According to Puranas, it contains waters of all sacred rivers of India. According to Mahabharat, Bhima took dip in this tirtha and had darshan of Bhutabhavana. From the water of this tirtha, the abhishek of Mahakal is performed daily.

Parvapuja and Mahakal Savari:

There are seven special parva pujas and special events of Mahakal in a year. This includes Shravan Mahotsava in the holy month of Shravan, Harihar Milan on 14th day of the Kartik Sud(bright fortnight),Narak Chaturdashi, Uma Sanjhi Mahotsava which is organised on 11th day of  Ashwin vad(Dark fortnight),pradosh(on the 13th day of every dark and bright fortnight),Mahashivaratri and Nagpanchami(5th day of the bright fortnight in holy shravan month).

Mahakal is also prime attraction for devotees in Ujjain. The savari or procession of king Mahakal is a unique celebration. Mahakal sitting in Palanquin moves in the city and the devotees from different corners of the world gather to have a glimpse of their beloved king. The message underlying becomes clear that when the ruler cares for his subject,  the subject makes him god. In the state gazette, this day is recognised as a Parva.

To provide shoulder to the panquin of Mahakal is included in the responsibilities of the minister of the state administration, the district collector and the police Superintendent. During the month of Shravana, the savari is being organised on every Monday. On these days, the Mukhauta(the face) of the Lord Mahakal is moved in the city in the form of a procession. This event takes place between 4:00 pm to 7:30 p.m. On all Mondays of Shravana and first two Mondays of Bhadrapada, the savari takes place. Similar tradition of savari on all Mondays of the Kartika and Vijayadashmi is also followed.

Shri Harsiddhi Mataji:

The temple of Goddess Harsiddhi is one of the prominent temple of Ujjain. It is one of the 51 shakteepithas. According to Shivapuran, when Lord Shiva carried away the body of Sati, her elbow dropped at this place. The image of Goddess Harsiddhi painted with vermillon is located between the images of Mahalaxmi and Mahasaraswati. Shree Yantra is also installed in the temple. According to the tradition, this is real Harsiddhi. In tantric tradition, it is regarded as a Siddha Pitha. According to Skandpuran, the goddess was called Harsiddhi because she had killed two demons-Chand and Prachand

Goddess Harsiddhi in Porbandar and Ujjain are same. According to belief, the Goddess stays in Harsiddhi sthanak (40 km away from Porbandar in Gujarat)up to afternoon and comes to Ujjain at evening, returns in Gujarat at night. According to folk tradition, Harsiddhi is the worshipping goddess of King Vikramaditya. It is said that King Vikramaditya offered his head to goddess every 12 years and by blessings of the goddess, king got new life. This happened for 11 times. When king offered his head for 12th time,he didn’t got new life. King Vikramaditya ruled over Ujjain for 135 years.It was the King Vikramaditya who pleased goddess to stay in Ujjain from Gujarat and the goddess agreed to stay for half day.

The temple complex is beautiful. The present temple was built by Baba Ramchandra Shenavi,the divan of Scindias in Maratha regime.The temple opens at 5:30 m and closes at 11:30 p.m..The daily puja performed at 5:30 p.m.

Mahakal and Muslim rulers:

It is interesting to know that Mahakal temple was patronised by staunch Muslim Mughal ruler Aurangzeb. The evidence shows that Aurangzeb made farman(order) of daily offering of  ghee to Mahakal. Infact liberal Mughal rulers like Akbar, Jehangir and Shahjahan had patronised the Mahakal region as well.

In a contradiction, the invasion by Iltutmish in 1234 caused a systematic desecration of the temples and Mahakal was the prime target. The tide destruction was stemmed only during the time of Baz Bahadur of Mandu. The Mughal ruler heralded a new era of construction. Emperor Akbar constructed a city wall for the defence of Ujjain.

Interestingly enough, it was Aurangzeb who gave numerous grants to temples thus belying tales of intense religious bigotry. He is said to have issued a farman giving blanket protection to his brother Dara Shikoh’s Hindu Guru, Kavindracharya Saraswati after Aurangzeb killed his brother Dara to gain power.

Vipul K Shukla

(The writer is Ahmedabad based Public Relations Consultant .He visited the shrine in November, 2008.He can be contacted at [email protected] e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it )


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