Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga or the Ujjain Mahakal Mandir is the third out of the 12 Jyotirlinga, Nestled on the banks of the sacred Kshipra River in the heart of India Madhya Pradesh. This ancient shrine, dedicated to the Mahakaal Shivling in the historic Avantika Nagara (present-day Ujjain) is said to manifest Lord Shiva in the form of everlasting flame. “Mahakaal” means a person beyond time and death, it is the other name of Mahadev Lord Shiva who is said to reside in Ujjain after annihilating the demon Dushana. The beautiful Bhasma aarti that takes place daily is a boon to watch, where Lord Shiva is coronated with the ashes of just dead people with a series of aartis.
Where is the Mahakaal Shivling located?
The temple is located on the picturesque banks of the Shipra River in the city of Ujjain which is known for its rich cultural heritage and vibrant markets. Mahakaleshwar Temple follows the Nagara style of architecture, characterised by its intricate detailing. The temple’s majestic Bhasma Aarti is a sight to behold. The Mahakaal Shivling is present inside the Garbha Gruha and is said to have been manifested in the form of eternal flames. The roofs of temples had mostly been flat. Possibly due to this fact, Kalidasa in Raghuvansam described this temple as ‘Niketana’.
Read about: Jyotirlingas in Madhya Pradesh
Legend of Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga
The Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga, located in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh, is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas, the most sacred abodes of Lord Shiva in Hinduism. The temple is steeped in legends and mythology, and its origin is associated with a fascinating story. Here’s the tale of the Mahakaleshwar Temple
In ancient times, Ujjain was known as Avantika, renowned for its exquisite beauty and its role as a spiritual hub. It was a prominent learning centre, drawing students from far and wide who sought to immerse themselves in the sacred scriptures. One of the pivotal figures in this city’s history was King Chandrasena, a ruler deeply devoted to Lord Shiva.
One day, a humble farmer’s boy named Shrikhar strolled near the palace grounds and overheard the King’s emotional chants to Lord Shiva. In a desire to join in the worship, Shrikhar rushed to the temple to pray alongside the King. However, palace guards forcibly ousted him and left him on the city’s outskirts, close to the banks of the sacred river Kshipra.
Around the same time, Ujjain faced threats from rival kingdoms, namely King Ripudamana and King Singhaditya. These adversaries conspired to seize the city’s treasures. Learning of this impending danger, Shrikhar began fervently praying, and word of his devotion reached a priest named Vridhi, who, along with Shrikar, initiated prayers to Lord Shiva on the banks of the river Kshipra.
The rivals attacked Ujjain with the help of a demon named Dushana who had powers from Lord Brahma to be invisible. Hearing the worship from his devotees, Lord Shiva appeared in the form of Mahakaal and defeated the enemies of Ujjain, and from then on he started residing in the form of Mahakaal Shivling in the city of Ujjain which is known as the Mahakaleshwara Jyotirlinga today.
The Bhasma Aarti at the Mahakaleshwar Temple in Ujjain is one of the most significant and awe-inspiring rituals performed in honour of Lord Shiva. The term “Bhasma” refers to sacred ash, which is a symbol of purity and the transient nature of human existence. The Bhasma Aarti is a daily ritual where the ash of dead humans is poured on the Mahakaal Shivling. It takes place in the early morning hours, and it holds great spiritual and cultural significance.
History of the Mahakaleshwara Jyotirlinga
- After the Gupta Empire’s decline, various dynasties such as the Maitrakas, Chalukyas, Later Guptas, Kalachuris, Pusyabhutis, Gurjara Pratiharas, and Rastrakutas ruled Ujjain in succession.
- Despite the changes in rulers, reverence for Lord Shiva and the Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga remained intact, with rulers contributing endowments and helping the poor in and around Mahakaal Shivling.
- Prominent poetic texts such as Harsacharit, Kadambari by Banabhatta, Naisadhacharit by Sri Harsa, and Navasahasamkacharit by Padmagupta celebrated the significance of the Mahakala Shivling.
- Ujjain faced crises during the Paramara period, including an invasion by a Ghaznavide commander who looted and destroyed many temples and images
- The Mahakaal Shivling was rebuilt during the late 11th century and early 12th century under the reign of Udayaditya and Naravarman, adopting the Bhumija style of architecture favoured by the Paramaras
- The temple featured a star-shaped plan and a distinctive Shikhara with Urusrngas (mini-spires) and well-decorated spines (Haravali or Lata), and the centre of the temple was the Mahakaal Shivling.
- Even during the Maratha regime in the 18th century, the Mahakala temple was rebuilt with financial assistance from the Diwan Sukhatanakar Ramchandra Baba Shenavi, a wealthy and childless commander in the service of Peshwa Bajirao-I.
- Islamic rulers, including the Sultans of Malwa and Mughal emperors, issued Sanads, providing donations for the maintenance and worship of the Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga, demonstrating their respect for the deity and Hindu subjects.
How to reach Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga
The Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh, is one of the most revered pilgrimage sites for devotees of Lord Shiva. Here are the various ways to reach the glorious Mahakaal Shivling:
By Air: Devi Ahilya Bai Holkar Airport, Indore (IDR): The nearest airport to Ujjain is the Devi Ahilya Bai Holkar Airport in Indore, which is approximately 53 kilometres away. You can reach Ujjain from the airport by hiring a taxi or taking a bus
By Train: Ujjain Junction (UJN): Ujjain has its own railway station, Ujjain Junction, which is well-connected to major cities in India. You can check the train schedules and book tickets to Ujjain Junction. The railway station is located near the city centre, making it convenient to reach the temple.
- State Transport Buses: Madhya Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation (MPSTC) operates regular bus services to Ujjain from various major cities and towns in Madhya Pradesh and neighbouring states. You can find both deluxe and ordinary bus services.
- Interstate Bus Services: Some private bus operators also run interstate bus services to Ujjain, especially from neighbouring states like Rajasthan and Gujarat.
Interesting stories about the Mahakaal Shivling
- The Bhasma aarti takes place every day at the early mornings when the priests pour the ash of dead humans on the Mahakaal Shivling
- The Nagachandreshwar temple in the Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga premises is opened only once in every year
- It is the only Temple where the Mahakaal Shivling faces south which means it is a Dakshinamurti
- Official Website: Shree Mahakaleshwar