Indian mythology is as rich as it can get only to be rivaled by its Greek counter-parts. And hence we have the religious pilgrimages where every nook and corner seems to have a story. Some of them really incredible like the one which used to bemuse me as a kid .My native place Allahabad is known for the Holy Sangam. The only issue I had was where was this third river Saraswati! Nonetheless Allahabad is one of the many places which have been part of our religious folklore. We have Kashi with its serene Ghats, Haridwar with the river Ganges in full flow, Mathura with its stories of Lord Krishna. Ujjain situated just 40 kms away from Indore is definitely an ‘A’ category pilgrimage if ever there was a rating conducted.
I had been to Ujjain twice and both the visits were restricted to the Mahakaleshwar temple famous for its Jyotirling. It is one of the 12 such places in the country and paying a visit to this place is considered to be very holy. This time the plan was to stay on and go around the city and see what else it had to offer.
And what it does offer you is a glimpse into our heritage. A total of more than 4500 temples, in a small town spread over a few hundred sq kms, meant that you could spot one at almost every corner. You will never be out of sight of a place of worship such is the frequency of temples here. As one of the four places where the Kumbh Mela is held, religion was visibly an integral part in the daily life of Ujjain.
You can get a guide with a license from MP Tourism who would take you to the 12 main attractions (read temples) of Ujjain. We hired Raj as our guide to take us around the town and to show us some of the main temples and all of it for Rs 200 only.
First up was Acharya Sandipani’s ashram. This is where the epic friendship between Krishna and Sudama had begun according to the Mahabharata. Next we drove to the Mangalnath temple traversing the old and charming city of Ujjain. The temple is situated on the banks of river Shipra and is said to be the birthplace of “Mangal” griha. The Kal Bhairav temple was another unique experience. The stalls outside the temple will pleasantly surprise anyone who likes to have a drink since the Prasad here includes a variety of alcohol ranging from country liquour to scotch (I picked up a bottle of Signature!). Then we visited two temples which are known as Shaktipeeth in Indian mythology. We ended our tour with a visit to the Bada Ganpati which lived up to its name with a huge idol of Lord Ganesha. It was a fitting end to a tour full of stories from our past.
Ujjain certainly will make you aware of how ancient our civilization is. It is a vivid example of the uninterrupted continuity with which our myths and stories have been passed through generations. These myths have given birth to a faith which has strengthened with time, evident in number of people paying visits to such holy places in order to stay hopeful in life.
Perhaps that is the strength of these places where everyone comes with a hope to make things better and the emotion just multiplies. What you take back is just a little bit of positivity. For any believer the experience would be gratifying and for those who do not believe it is a slice of our history coming alive.
P.S.- If you are hungry do visit the Bus Station where you have a shop called Jain Ke Prasiddh Daal Baafle. It is worth a try!!