Ujjain (Hindi: उज्जैन) pronunciation (help·info) (also known as Ujain, Ujjayini, Avanti, Avantikapuri), is an ancient city of Malwa region in central India, on the eastern bank of the Kshipra River (Hindi: क्षिप्रा), today part of the state of Madhya Pradesh. It is the administrative centre of Ujjain District and Ujjain Division.
In ancient times the city was called Ujjayini. As mentioned in the Mahabharata epic, Ujjayini was the capital of the Avanti Kingdom, and has been the Prime Meridian for Hindu geographers since the 4th century BCE. Ujjain is one of the seven sacred cities (Sapta Puri) of the Hindus, and the Kumbh Mela religious festival is held there every 12 years. It is also home to Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga, one of the twelve Jyotirlinga shrines to the god Shiva and is also the place where Lord Krishna got education with Balarama and Sudama from Maharshi Sandipani.
History of Ujjain
The earliest references to the city, as Ujjaini, are from the time of the Buddha, when it was the capital of the Avanti Kingdom. Since the 4th century B.C. the city has marked the first meridian of longitude in Hindu geography. It is also reputed to have been the residence of Ashoka (who subsequently became the emperor), when he was the viceroy of the western provinces of the Mauryan empire.
In the Post-Mauryan period, the city was ruled by the Sungas and the Satavahanas consecutively. It was contested for a period between the Satavahanas and the Ror Sakas (devotees of Shakumbari), known as Western Satraps; however, following the end of the Satavahana dynasty, the city was retained by the Rors from the 2nd to the 4th century CE. Ujjain is mentioned as the city of Ozene in the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, an antique Greek description of sea ports and trade centers in the western Indian Ocean. Following the enthroning of the Gupta dynasty, the city soon became an important seat in the annals of that empire. 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.
In the 6th and 7th centuries, Ujjain was a major centre of mathematical and astronomical research. 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.
Ujjain was invaded by the forces of the Delhi Sultanate led by Iltutmish in 1235, suffering widespread destruction and systematic desecration of temples. Under the Mughal emperor Akbar it became the capital of Malwa. During the last half of the 18th century Ujjain was the headquarters of the Maratha leader Scindia. The Scindias later established themselves at Gwalior, and Ujjain remained part of Gwalior state until Indian Independence in 1947. Gwalior state became a princely state of the British Raj after the Maratha defeat in the Third Anglo-Maratha War, and Gwalior, Ujjain, and the neighboring princely states were made a part of the Central India Agency. After Indian independence, the Scindia ruler of Gwalior acceded to the Indian Union, and Ujjain became part of the Madhya Bharat state. In 1956 Madhya Bharat was merged into the Madhya Pradesh state.
Ancient monuments and tourist sites in Ujjain
Mahakal Temple Ujjain
- The Mahakal Temple, one of the twelve Jyotirlingas, is a famous and venerated Shiva temple. The Shivling in this temple is supposed to be the only Jyotirling which faces south and hence it is known as Dakshinmukhi or the south-facing ling. It is the most popular and important temple of Ujjain. Every year on Shivratri (claimed to be the wedding day of Lord Shiva), there is a huge crowd of devotees for darshan. The same kind of public crowd can be seen in the month of Savaan, Nagpanchami. On every Monday of “Savan”, there is a huge procession for the Lord Shiva idol in the city attended by large numbers of devotees from across the India.
- Mahakal derives its name from “kaal” meaning end of life – death; the word Mahakaal means Lord of Death.
- 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.
- The temple of Chintaman Ganesh is the biggest ancient temple of Lord Ganesha in Ujjain.
- The temple of Maa Wagheshvari is known for its tall idol of the goddess Wagheshwari and “Sinh (lion) – Dwar (gate)”.
- The Harsidhhi Temple is one of the Shaktipeeth, situated at 52 places in India.
- The Sandipani Ashram is where tradition says Shri Krishna was educated with Balarama and Sudama from Maharshi Sandipani.
- The Siddha Ashram, located between Ramghat and Narshinghat, is known for research in Ayurvedic medicine and Kundalini Shaktipat.
- The Kaliyadeh Palace, located on the north of the city, is one of the palaces belonging to royal Scindia family of Madhya Pradesh.
- The Bharthari caves is an ancient site which has some interesting legends associated with it. It is said that it holds tunnels which lead directly to 4 ancient dhams (char dham). These ways were later shut down by Britishers.
- Canopy (Chhatri or Dewali) of Veer Durgadas Rathore “the Great Warrior and protector of Marwar” at Chakratirth.
- The Observatory (Vedha Shala) built by a Rajput king, Raja Jai Singh II, in the 1720s, is one of the five such observatories in India and features ancient astronomical devices.
- The Prashanti Dham is a holy place, where Sai Baba’s Ashram is situated.
- Jain temples: Jai Singh Pura Atishay Kshetra, Tapobhoomi, Avanti Parshwanath, Hanumant Baag, Manibhadradham Bhairavgarh.
- The Kothi Palace presents a sight worth watching in the evening.
- The Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan museum, located near Chamunda tower, holds many ancient objects.
- The throne of Maharaja Vikramaditya, known as the “seat of judgment (salabanjika throne)” may be located in the Rudra Sagar lake.
- Other temples are Harsidhhi (Durga Temple), Gadh Kalika, Kaal Bhairav, Triveni (Nav Graha Shani Mandir), Mangalnaath, Siddhhanath and Shiv Shakti.