Mahakaleshwar Temple Ujjain

Mahakaleshwar Temple Ujjain
Vital Information for Visitors
Address:

Mahakaleshwar Shiva Temple, Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh

Open & Close

Open on all days
04:00 AM – 11:00 PM

Bhasma Aarti

04:00 - 06:00 AM

Naivedya Aarti

07:30 - 08:15AM
(summer- 7:00 - 7:45AM)

Sandhya Aarti

06:30 - 07:00 PM
(Summer- 7:-00 - 7:30 PM)

Shayan Aarti

10:30 PM

Entry Fees

NIL

Duration

1-3 hrs

Significance

One of the 12 Jyotirlingam

Mahakaleshwar Temple, also called Mahakal Temple, in Ujjain is one of the Dwadash Jyotirlingams. Mahakal Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, destroyed in the 13th century AD and rebuilt in the 18th century, is a very ancient shrine. As per the ‘puranas’, Lord Brahma had established a Shiva temple here. The earliest historical traces of Mahakal Temple, built by king Chandpradyot’s son Kumarsen, date back to 6th century AD. It was further renovated in 12th century AD by kings Udayaditya & Narvarman. It is one of the holiest twelve Jyotirlingams. Maratha Queen Devi Ahilya Bai Holkar reconstructed it, after the barbaric Islamic invaders pillages, deconsecrated and demolished it. In early 18th century AD, Ranoji Shinde, a Maratha military commander of Peshwa Bajirao–I, had renovated Mahakaleshwar Temple in the 18th century AD. Mahakal Temple in Ujjain represents refined architectural elements of Maratha, Bhumija and Chalukya temples. The Shivalingam, a stone shaft or column representative of Mahadev, is symbolic of universe with no beginning or end. Mahakaleshwar Shivalingam is the only south-facing Jyotirlingam.

Presently, in the spacious temple of Mahakal, the sanctum sanctorum is in the bottom level of the three-story temple, reached with a steep set of stairs. Above Mahakal, in the ground-level sanctum, is the lingam of Omkareshwar, and above it on an upper floor is yet a third lingam, called Nagachandreshwar, an image of Shiva worshipped primarily on the Naga Panchami day in the monsoon month of Shravan (श्रावण). The center of gravity here, however, is the sanctum of Mahakal at the bottom of this axis of lingams. In its newest renovation, the entire area under the temple has been further excavated to create a large underground hall next to the sanctum sanctorum, where hundreds of pilgrims can wait for the opportunity for ‘darshan’.

The sanctum sanctorum of the temple is the most auspicious place. The sanctum of Mahakal is small, and priests struggle to keep order while a human throng surrounds the lingam, the dense air resounding with Namah Shivaya, “Praise to Shiva”. The lingam of Mahakal, when it is fully visible, is a two-foot-high smooth stone set in a solid silver pitha (पीठ) in the floor of the sanctum. Shiva’s naga (serpent / snake) swims up the silver channel of the pitha. The scene is a colorful human swirl of devotion—a dozen arms reaching out toward the lingam, circling brass trays heaped with red ‘kumkum’, gray ash, and small oil lamps, hands stretched toward Mahakal clutching ‘bilva’ leaves (बिल्वपत्र) and flowers to heap on the top of the lingam, hands holding pots of water to pour upon the lingam, hands touching the red ‘kumkum’ to the forehead. In the morning, when the pilgrims have coursed through this small chamber with their offerings, the whole enclosure of the pitha is filled with green leaves and flowers. This is one time during the day, as at Kedarnath, when pilgrims come into the sanctum, touch the lingam with their hands, and place their offerings directly on the Shivalingam. For the evening shift, the lingam is elaborately adorned and the priests are the strict intermediaries of offerings.

The ‘shringar’ of Shivalingam by the priests in Mahakal Temple of Ujjain is an elaborate daily routine. As at Kedarnath, the rites of Mahakaleshwar’s temple juxtapose the faceless ‘nishkala’ Shiva with the more apprehensible ‘sakala’ Shiva. Here Shiva shows his face on the lingam in a remarkable variety of ways. There is, of course, the standard four-faced silver cap, set over the top of the lingam during certain periods of worship. And there is the silver, coiled ‘naga’ that curls around the stone like a crown. Both of these are used as processional stand-ins for the lingam itself during the great festivals, such as Shivaratri. Most unusual here at Ujjain are the distinctive faces called ‘jhankis’ (झांकी), “glimpses”, of Shiva rendered upon the Shivalingam by artist-priests, with the eye and hand of a Picasso. They use ash, sandalwood, and ‘kumkum’ to paint the expressive faces of Shiva’s presence. Half cashews outline the face and add emphasis. In the famous ‘bhasma shringar’ (भस्म श्रृंगार), the entire lingam is covered with gray ash and the face of Shiva, with yellow eyes and red pupils, gazes forth. In order to seek entry into ‘garbhgrih’ to participate in Bhasma Aarti, the devotees have to wear ‘dhoti’, a traditional attire, and nothing above waist. In another ‘shringar’, the face is half-black and half-orange, half-male and half-female, the black half of the forehead streaked with Shiva’s horizontal markings, and the orange half decorated with the ornaments of the goddess. The eyes are of silver, and a silver crown with the spreading hood of a cobra adorns his head. At the festival of Holi, the ‘jhanki’ is of Shiva strewn with red powder, and on Ganesha Chaturthi, the face of Lord Ganesha is outlined with cashews on the shaft of the lingam. These glimpses of the divine vary with the sacred times of the temple ritual calendar, but they all remind the worshipper that the human beings may indeed glimpse the multiple faces of Shiva, even in the shaft of the world-spanning, transcendent lingam.

In Ujjain, as in Kashi ( Varanasi) and at Kedarnath, the devotees are constantly pointed beyond the stone lingam, beyond the temple itself, to a larger reality. The real lingam of light here is not so much a single icon, not even the magnificent Mahakaleshwar, but a whole area, a ‘kshetra’ (क्षेत्र), or field. The Puranic ‘mahatmyas’ tell us that when Shiva appeared here, he expanded one ‘krosha’ (two miles) in each direction, filling a wide ‘kshetra’ of power with his presence. At the center of the ‘kshetra’ is the particular lingam of Mahakal, but there are eighty-four lingams listed in the ‘kshetra’, their tales recited in the Skanda Purana (स्कन्द पुराण). One might imagine that such a number of lingams would simply be acknowledged as a group, but in Ujjain today the penny-mahatmyas locate each individually. On many temples the specific name of the lingam is given with a notation painted on the temple wall, stating which one of the eighty-four lingams is within. On the bathing ghats of the Shipra River is one single stone slab in which all eighty-four are represented as small lingams, gathering the whole of the sacred precinct into one. This symbolic strategy of condensation goes hand in hand with the symbolic tendency to expand, proliferate, and duplicate the one into the many. The eighty-four matter, and are named in their separate locations, and yet again the eighty-four can be honored all at once, right here.

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