An ancient city of temples dating back to 600 BC, Ujjain has a myriad of lanes winding through temple clusters and is one of the seven sacred sites of Hinduism. Described by the Sanskrit poet Kalidasa as “The town fallen from heaven to bring heaven to earth”, the city has seen various rulers, resulting in a diverse mix of art, culture and heritage. Ujjain is popular for traditionally textile printing such as bagh, batik and Bhairavgarh print and screen, and its shops sell sarees and yardages showcasing these techniques.
Every 12 years, Ujjain hosts the Kumbh Mela, the world’s largest spiritual congregation where millions of devotees from all over the world take a dip in the holy Kshipra (Shipra) river to absolve their sins and gain freedom from the cycle of birth and death.
The impressive Mahakaleshwar Temple is a must-see in Ujjain, with its marble walkways and temple tank. One of Ujjain’s most prominent temples, it is is one of 12 jyotirlingas (a devotional representation of Shiva) in India. The present temple has five storeys and was built in Bhumija, Chalukya and Maratha styles of architecture during the 18th century. At 4 am each day, the temple holds a traditional Bhasma Arti (offering of ashes) to Lord Mahakaleshwar, a two-hour-long pooja (idol worship) performed using burning cow dung cakes (upale).
Ujjain has always been a leader in the field of astronomy, and the Vedhshala or ‘the observatory’ was constructed to help Hindu astrologers and scholars with their studies and research. It is one of the five observatories built during the 18th century in India by the raja, alongside Delhi, Mathura, Jaipur and Varanasi.
Many of the fascinating original instruments are still housed in the observatory, along with masonic instruments still used today to carry out research.
According to legend, the Bhartrihari Caves are named after the great scholar Bhartrihari, the stepbrother of King Vikramaditya, who meditated here for almost 12 years. This popular tourist attraction on the edge of the city near the river Kshipra has a small temple for devotees of the Nath community and numerous rooms containing idols and images of Hindu deities. Thousands of devotees to Bhartrihari journey here every year to meditate and pay homage, with saints of the Nath community pitching tents outside the caves.
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