Jul 11, 2012

Seven Sacred Cities of India- Ujjain

Kashi, Kanchi, Maya, Ayodhya, Avantika
Mathura, Dwaravati chaiva saptaita mokshadayika

My Mother always talks about Seven Sacred Cities and four sacred teerthas (sacred places) of Hindu religion. So, I decided to visit those cities and places during my travel. These seven cities are Varanasi, Kanchipuram, Haridwar, Ayodhya, Ujjain, Mathura and Dwaraka. My travel to Madhya Pradesh presented me with an opportunity to visit Ujjain. I was thrilled.

Ram Ghat- Shipra Teerth
Then coming to the four teerthas ... The legend goes like this ... After churning the Ksheerasamudra (ocean of milk) when the Gods got the nectar of immortality, demons chased them for 12 days and 12 nights. Lord Vishnu took a form of beautiful Mohini and offered to serve the nectar equally among gods and demons. In the process, 4 drops of this nectar fell on the Earth at four places. These four places were Ujjain on the banks of Shipra river, Haridwar- where the holy river Ganga enters the plains after descending from great Himalayas, Prayag- the confluence of the rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati and Nasik- on the banks of river Godavari. Visiting Ujjain was a must now.

There was a third reason, visiting Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga! One of the twelve revered jyotirlinga temples in India. Why wait then? I took a bus from Indore early in the morning. It was my first experience in the MP- private buses. For mere 71KM it took 2.5 hours. Well, right near the Dewas Gate bus station I took a room for two nights. I had to visit  many temples and I was worried about lines in each temple!

First day, I rented a taxi to go around 10 important temples in Ujjain. The taxi driver charges Rs.500 for the whole circuit of 23KM. If there is a time crunch this is the best option. The local public transport is not that great and is very time consuming! First, I visited the Mahakaleshwar Temple which is located in the heart of Ujjain city. The temple is supposed to be pre-historic, and then existing royals have restored the temple in their respective times.

Devotees cannot take camera and mobile phones inside. The bags should be kept at safe lockers before entering  the temple complex. The locker facility is free and very well organized. Though it wasn't a weekend or a monday, there was a long line. I thanked the authorities for having trees around so there is shade all over where people stand in line. The trees came with shade, and also birds and their droppings! It took around 4 hours to enter the main shrine. People took milk and water for abhishek which they themselves can perform. There are pandits who control the crowd, they push people out. There are many more smaller shrines here in the complex to visit. This was my first ever Jyotirlinga darshan.

After the main action point- visiting Mahakaleshwar Temple was striked off, went ahead to visit other important temples of Ujjain. Harasiddhi and Gadakalika are two shaktipeethas. Harasiddhi Temple has tow high towering lamp-stands in the complex, see the picture gallery below. I am sure when all the lamps are lit, the night show must be spectacular! The temple also has the Sri Yantra on the ceiling. The legendary poet Kalidasa was gifted the literary skills by Goddess Gadakalia for his sincere devotion to her.

And headed to Kal Bhairava Temple. The Kal Bhairav deity is, the most fierce menifestation of Lord Shiva among Ashta Bhairavas and is worshipped by tantric cult. From the parking I started walking towards the temple in the direction mentioned by my taxi driver. I was little shocked and thought I was in a wrong place- street side venders were selling liquor. Then little ahead I saw the pooja-thalis had liquor bottles too!! Wow! Something very interesting! 

I asked an old couple resting under the tree for more info on this temple. Per them, The deity of Kal Bhairav consumes liquor offering and no one knows, technically, where it goes! It seems people have investigated to find any outlet but have found none. There was a big bunch of dogs here- resting and moving around. Also present was a sculpture of a dog right in front of the temple. It is the divine vehicle of Kal Bhairav! Very interesting temple ever!

After some excitement of visiting Kal Bhairav temple, I was at Mangalnath temple for evening arti. Mangalnath temple is the birth place of Planet Mangal (Mars) and the place has a specific astronomical importance that meridian of ancient world had passed through this place. It stands overlooking the holy river Shipra. Then headed to Ram Ghat to touch the waters of sacred river Shipra. Visited cave temples of Bhatruhari. At the end of the trip visited Sandipani Ashram where Lord Krishna and his brother Balarama studied!

Next Day, I thought of wandering around the city on my own using public transport. One of the must see temples was Sri Gopal Mandir for its silver plated doors of the inner sanctum. These doors have an history- originally they belonged to the popular Somnath temple of Gujarat which were taken away by afghan invaders, it was then recovered by Scindias and installed in this temple. Lord Gopal knew my desire and presented me with the full view of the doors! Hare Krishna! 

The very popular Chintaman Ganesh temple was little out of circuit but somehow managed to get an auto for a cheaper fare, an elderly couple took me with them while they paid a heavy amount for the trip! The 11th century temple was built around the deity which is swayambhu (self incarnated). After an hour in the very confusing queue-system I was blessed by the God. 

On the way back, got inside the less popular Veda Shala Observatory, a Jantar Mantar complex. It is one of the four 17th century jantar matntar complexes built by Raja Jai Singh. It has four instruments working of which the guide will explain. It also overlooks the river Shipra. The place is secluded and one can have some peaceful time on the riverside. It is a nice-to-see place and take your own vehicle or a reserved autorikshaw. Public transport is very sparse on this route. There is an entry fee of Rs.10.

Ujjain has busy markets. I saw sweet stalls and huge kadai-full of gulab Jamuns, mava sellers, bakeries, kulfi, kadai milk and so much more. Looked like dairy and bakeries are favorites here. I couldn't resist tasting gulab jamun and kulfi! Yum!

Once the stomach was full headed to Bhairugarh for Kailadeh Palace. After a gruelling drive in that van sort of vehicle with motorcycle engine I reached the lonely place. This palace was built on the island in river Shipra. The palace might have seen glorious days. When I visited there was hardly any water in this part of the river. I could see vast expanse of exposed rocky riverbed. These palaces are abandoned and crumbling, on that visitors have etched their names all over the walls adding to ugliness. Impressive is a still functioning Surya shrine.

Right across the road there is a pond called Surya Kund. A beautiful man made pond polluted beyond imagination. I observed people took a dip in the waters and left their clothing there creating a massive lot of litter. If maintained well this pond might look heavenly. It was getting late and I had to return to the city. I had to pack and be ready for my journey to next destination Mandu.

Ujjain, one of the seven sacred cities for Hindus ... visit is an experience in itself!

Leave a comment to share your beautiful thoughts :)

Click HERE to read more read more stories about Madhya Pradesh. To check complete Backpacking India series click HERE.

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Scrapbook- A Travel Blog by Kusum Sanu is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


  1. Thats a beautiful write up on Ujjain. Lovely shots too.


  2. wonderful write up with a lot of history. We had a chance to visit haridwar last year but unfortunately didnot work out. I ought to visit atleast one of them!

    1. Thank you Jenny. Yeah, the history associated with these places makes them interesting.

  3. Thanks very interesting blog!

  4. I'm not sure where you are getting your info, but good
    topic. I needs to spend some time learning more or understanding more.
    Thanks for wonderful information I was looking for this info for my mission.


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