Monday, October 22, 2018

Indore Diaries, Day 3 - Ujjain

We decided to visit Ujjain which is 60 kms away from Indore. Raja had work to do, so we hired a taxi and headed off to Ujjain. We got off early, about 8 ish, and this being Vijayadasami time, found the roads rather empty. A quick breakfast of poha and aloo vada and we were soon on the outskirts of Ujjain. Now Ujjain is an ancient city on the banks of the river Shipra. It was a political centre in 600 BCE and the most prominent in the Malwa region until the British developed Indore as an alternative city. In the 4th century BCE Ujjain (then Avanti) was annexed by Chandragupta Maurya and was one of the four provinces that was ruled by his grandson Ashoka. In the 4th and 5th century, when Vikramaditya ruled Ujjain, poet Kalidasa wrote his famous poems Meghdhoot Ujjain, a religious centre for Shaivites, Vaishnavites and Shakta devotees has some 80 odd temples, each with as much history as the other. The main ones we planned to visit were the Mahakaleshwar temple, one of the 12 Jyotirlings, the Harsiddhi temple, the Ramghat and the Chintaman Ganesh temple.
18th century Jantar Mantar courtesy Raja Jai Singh
We started with the Chintaman Ganesh temple which is on the outskirts, and considered one of the oldest Ganesh temples in India. On the way back from the Chintaman temple we stopped at Jantar Mantar which was built by Raja Jai Singh in the early 18th century.
The guide cum priest cum manager of Jantar Mantar, Lokesh Sharma, was kind enough to explain the instruments and the astronomy.
Lokesh insisted on a family pic
He is a botany graduate, the priest of the small temple on the Jantar Mantar premises and a most affable and helpful young man.
Jantar Mantar - Stairway to the stars
Our driver cum guide Hemant, who is well-informed about everything from politics to sports, then led us directly to the Mahakaleshwar temple. Here one cannot carry mobiles and bags and stuff and you can only carry wallets, so we left all our material bonds with our mobiles and went ahead. It's a long queue that winds and snakes its way down - the Mahakaleshwar temple's main idol is below - the complex is a three storey structure. It took us about 45 minutes to get the darshan - which they say is a quick time. I enjoyed chanting 'Om Nama Shivaiah' all the while inside the complex as instructed. The same with Tirupati where they write all the names of Lord Balaji while walking up and down the steps. One interesting fact - pre-dawn bhasm rituals are considered auspicious. The bhasm is from fresh ashes.
Harsiddhi temple - 1011 lamps are lit everyday
Outside, we found Hemant and also found that it was a pretty hot day. Next on line was the Bada Ganesh temple, which has a massive Ganesh idol. Then we drove to the Harsiddhi temple.

The Harsiddhi temple has two huge pillars in the front courtyard which have 1011 lamps on them. I was wondering how they lit all those lamps on that slippery and tall pillar and thought they used some mechanical way. But then I realised, thank to another timely WhatsApp forward in our usually useless school group about the Harsiddhi temple which I will share here. Its fascinating how they light those lamps. The Harsiddhi temple is the temple of King Vikramaditya's favorite goddess Harsiddhi devi. It has idols of Annapoorna devi flanked by Mahalakshmi and Maha Saraswati and is considered a shakti peeth.
Ramghat across the Shipra
A few moments there and then we made a quick visit to the Ram ghat on the banks of the Shipra river. It was well maintained, clean and serene. It must look lovely early in the morning or in the twilight times.
Another view of Ramghat
The sun was well on our head and we gave up plans of visiting the Kaalbhairav mandir where devotees give offerings of liquor as prasad to the deity, the Sandeepani ashram where Lord Krishna and Sudama studied under Guru Sandeepani. Interestingly there is Rumi's tomb and Kalidas academy (he is from Ujjain too!).

We headed straight back to Indore and into the comfort of our faculty lounge which served some excellent meals as always.

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