Tripadvisor recommended Best Places to visit in Ujjain
Madhav Nagar Tower
Madhav Nagar Tower is a major landmark in Ujjain. This elegant clock tower was built in the early 20th century by Madho Rao Scindia.
As the city got increasingly crowded, Madho Rao offered the land around the tower to new settlers. A post office now functions from the first two floors of the tower. Apart from this landmark, Ujjain has a plethora of temples that will primarily make up your itinerary for the city.
One of the 12 jyotirlingas, this temple, popularly known as the Mahakal Temple, is one of the most sacred Shiva temples in India. Located in the heart of Ujjain, it is also the best place to start exploring this ageless town. The marker around the temple is also Ujjain`s commercial centre. Glass-fronted ATMs share wall with kiosks selling puja paraphernalia, while denim-clad yound men jostle for space with naga sadhus.
There is no way to ascertain the exact date that the Mahakaleshwar Temple was built. Ancient Hindu texts say that the foundations of the temple were laid by Lord Brahma himself. There is a reference in the Puranas of the appointment of Prince Kumarasena as the administrative head of Mahakala Temple by the erstwhile ruler of Ujjain. it is assumed by historians that the temple had no shikhara up till the Gupta period. This was probably why the great Sanskrit poet, Kalidasa, described the temple as a niketan (house) in Raghuvamsha. So taken was Kalidasa with this great temple that in the early chapters of Maghadoota, he would describe in length the beauty of the shrine.
After the decline of the Guptas, Mahakaleshwar Temple came to be partobised by successive dynasties. It was said that no one could rule over Ujjain without first capitulating to Mahakaleshwar. Among the diverse works of literature composed in the ancient and early medieval period, many sang praises of the Mahakaleshwar Temple, including Harshacharita and Kadambari by the poet Banabhatta.
The Mahakal dominates the life of the city and its people, even in the midst of the busy routine of modern preoccupations, and provides an unbreakable link with past traditions. Bhasm Arti, one of the important ritual of this temple is a symbolic representation of Death and Life. This unusual sacrament that involves smearing the linga with hot ashes from the burning ghats is a mark of respect the Destroyer of the universe, Lord Shiva.
Bada Ganpati Temple
Located next to the Mahakal Temple complex, on the road leading to Harsiddhi Temple, is Bada Ganapati Temple. It enshrines a massive 4-m tall idol of Ganesha. In one of the chambers one can see a beautiful four-faced brass idol of Vishnu.
Harsiddhi Temple, a major seat of the Shakta Sect, occupies a special place in the galaxy of temples in Ujjain. Seated between the idols of Mahalakshni and Mahasaraswati, goddess Annapurna, the main deity worshipped in the temple, is painted a brilliant vermilion.
The Skanda Purana mentions a legend that details the reason why goddess Chandi or Annapurna acquired the epither of Harsiddhi. Once when Shiva and Parvati were alone on Mount Kailash, two demons, Chand and Prachand tried to force their way in. Shiva called upon Chandi for help and in the fierce ballet that ensued, Chandi was victorious. Shiva then bestowed upon her the epithet of Harsiddhi or the ‘one who vanquishes all”.
According to the Shiva Purana, when Shiva was immersed in the tandava nritya grieving over Sati`s untimely death, Vishnu, in a bid to save the world from Shiva`s dance of destruction, served Sati`s body into 51 pieces. The text goes on to list the sites where the different parts of the goddess`s charred body fell and states that one of Sati`s elbows landed here, making Harsiddhi a shaktipeeth. The Sri Yantra, the symbol of power or shakti, is also enshrined in the temple.
The pillars in the temple`s ardha-mandapa date to the 11th century, which pushes the antiquity of the temple considerably. The structure was reconstructed during the Maratha period and the two soaring deepa-stambhas, each adorned with 1,008 lamps, were added. These lamps present a glorious spectacle when lit during Navratri festivities. There is also an ancient well on the premises, next to which is a temple dedicated to Karkateshwar Mahadeva.
Half a kilometer west of Harsiddhi is the modern Chardham Temple, built in 1994. The four garbhagrihas of this imposing temple enshrine the deities of the four holiest Hindu pilgrimages – Dwarka, Badrinath, Rameshwaram, and Jagannath-Puri. A pilgrimage to this temple is said to bestow in the devotee the virtues borne out of visiting these four sites.
The temple complex houses an artificial cave that replicates the environment in which the sages meditated in the Himalayas. It also has floats where battery-operated wooden figures enact scenes from Lord Krishna`s life.
The Shipra forms the spiritual life-line of Ujjain. legends state that during the samudra manthan and the consequent fight between the gods and the demons, a drop of divine nectar fell near Ujjain and that gave rise to the Shipra river. A dip in its waters cleanses the soul and prepares one for moksha.
For centuries, people have been thronging the banks of the sacred river not only for holy baths but also to perform life-cycle rituals. Ghats have been built all along the banks of the river for this purpose, the most important of them being the Ram Ghat.
Flanking the eastern bank of the Shipra, the Ram Ghat stretches for almost a kilometer from the Pashupati Templein the south to the road bridge across the river in the north. The wide promenade is dotted with temples and the air is full of the sound of temple bells.
The best time to explore the ghat is early morning and late evening. The first rays of the morning sun illuminate the umerous temple spires along the banksand herald a new day of ardent worship. Devotees wade into the waist-deep water and perform the surya tapas, welcoming the new day. One can walk down the entire length of the ghat from south to north and also cross over to the ghats on the western bank, which are somewhat less crowded.
Arguably the most spectacular scene on Ram Ghat is the sandhya aarti, a daily ritual, in which priests gather on both banks at sundown to worship the sacred river. Keeping rhythm with the chant of Sanskrit shlokas, and the clash of cymbals and drums, the river is worshipped with flower, incense, sandalwood and vermillion.
First, the comaphor lamp and then the many-flamed aarti lamps are raised high and then arched back to the water, the dark river reflection the golden flames as the Shipra accepts the worship. As the evening draws on, silence descends on those witnessing the aarti ceremony. Hands are folded, eyes are shut and lips quiver in prayer as the drummers beat with increasing intensity.
Ganga Ghat is located on eastern bank of the Shipra, north of Ujjain. Due to its location outside the bustle of the city, it is an ideal place to watch the setting sun. legend has it that Hanumana poured Gangajal (holy water from the Ganges) into the Shipra at this spot while collecting the waters of all the sacred rivers. On the banks of the ghat is Ram Sewa Dham, the ashram of the famous saint Mauni Baba.
One of the largest temples in the city, the Gopal Temple is located at the heart of the town`s main market. Constructed in the mid 19th century by Bayajbai Scindia, wife of kind Daulat Rao Scindia, it is a striking example of Maratha temple architecture. As in the Maratha tradition, the temple is enclosed by a high wall, pierced by an ornate gateway with the distinctive bangaldar roof.
The deepastambha, the other hallmark of this style of architecture is, however, absent. The huge silver-plated doors of the garbhagrha once belonged to the Somnath Temple in Gujarat. These were looted by Mahmud of Ghazhni in the 11th century, and later restored by Mahadji Scindia, who acquired them from Lahore where they arrived courtesy Mahmud Shah Abdali.
The temple is built on a meter-high platform. The ardhamandapa is fashioned like a gallery whose sides are pierced by four open arches. The idol of Lord Krishna in the garbhagriha is made of black granite and is adorned with precious jewels. The resplendent diamond embedded on the chin of the idol was gifted by the Holkar queen, Rani Ahilya Bai.
A quick walk from Gopal Temple, in the main market is a circular park, in the centre of which is a handsome statue of Madho Rao Scindia, the ruler of the erstwhile Gwalior state. The statue under an elaborate chhattri of pavilion. Around the park are old buildings, some of which are adorned with stained glass windows. To the southwest of the chhattri is one of Ujjain`s biggest mosques, known as the Shahi Masjid.
On the road from Ram Ghat to Gopal Mandir, between two rows of houses is the Chaubees Khambha (24 pillars) it is evident from the first glance that it was once a gateway but has since been turned into a temple enshrining an image of goddess Kali. Passing through the arch that marks the gateway, one is flanked by two identical galleries with 12 pillars each contributing to the present name of the structure.
The Chhatri of Vir Durgadass
According to a legend, Jaswant Singh (1629-1680), the ruler of Jodhpur, was defeated by Aurangzeb at Dharmatpur, 15 km from Ujjain . His valiant general Durgadass, though seriously wounded, managed to escape. After the king`s death, Durgadass helped his son, Ajit Singh, ascend the tjrone, against the wishes of Aurangzeb. After his death in 1718, his last rites were performed on the ghats of the Shipra in accordance with his wishes. In his memory, the Jodhpur state erected this beautiful chhatri. Built in a distinctive Rajput style, this memorial is located on a high embankment on the eastern bank of the Shipra. Made of red sandstone, the chhatri stands on a platform measuring 7 m on each side and is a meter high. The base is octagonal and from each of the corners a pillar rises to support the overhead dome.
Bina Neen ka Masjid
Built on a rocky outcrop around half a kilometer south of Durgadass ki Chhattri is this unique masjid, whose name literally translates to the mosque without a neeb (foundation). As the structure is built on solid rock, the builders did not need to lay a foundation.
From the road in front of it, the mosque looks like a miniscule fort because of its high and thick walls. The entrance lies at the end of a narrow lane, flanked by houses. The gateway opens to a large courtyard on the western side of which lies the sanctuary. On the innermost wall of the pillared sanctuary is a highly embellished mihrab. A little distance away from Bina Neeb Ka Masji is dhobiyan ka Masjid, litelarry, the mowqui of the washermen.
The Legend of the Shaktipeeths
One of the most popular legend associated with Devi worship in that of the king Daksha and his powerful son-in-law, the best great Lord Shiva. Once, the arrongant Daksha invited all the gods for a yagya. However, he did not invite his son-in-low. His daughter, Sati, utterly humiliated, plunged into the
Sacrificial fire. Shattered by her death, Shiva held her charred body and broke into the tandava nritya, the dance of destruction, annihilating everything in his way.
The Durga Bhagwata records that Lord Vishnu, in an effort to save the world from destruction, cut Sati`s body with his sudarshana chakra. Pieces of the body were flung in various directions and each spot became charged with primordial energy and came to be known as a shaktipeeth. Shiva is then said to have taken the form of Bhairav, with a dog as his divine vehicle, to stand guard over each of the shatkipeeths.
Hence, near all Devi temples there is always a shrine dedicated to Bhairav. Harsiddhi Temple at Ujjain where Sati`s elbow fell, is one of the 51 shaktipeeths.
Temple of Gadkalika
It is said that the deity enshrined in the temple was once worshipped by Kalidasa. The legend goes that Kalidasa, whose verses were once quite ordinary, gained his literary genius through the blessings of Gadkalika.
Gadkalika (goddess Kali of the fortress) is supposed to be one of the earliest deities to be worshipped in Ujjain. the fort does not exist anymore bt archaeological evidence points to a flourishing settlement in the immediate vicinity around the 6th century BCE.
Like many of Ujjain`s other shrines, the Gadkalika Temple has been rebuilt a number of times. The first recorded renovation was made by Harshvardhana of Thaneshwar in 7th century CE. Then following the destruction wrecked by the ruthless invasion of Iltutmish, it was rebuilt by the Paramaras in the 12th century CE. The temple was rebuilt yet again by the Scindias of Gwalior in the middle of the 19th century. In consonance with the Maratha architectural style, two deepastambhas flank the entrance on the inside. The temple is located 2 km away from Mahakaleshwar.
These caves are located on the eastern bank of the Shipra river, close to Gadkalika Temple. According to a legend, Bhartrihari (460-510 CE), who is said to have been the brother of the Gupta king Chandragupta II (480-513 CE), lived and meditated here after renouncing worldly life. He was one of the most renowned Sanskrit scholars of his time. His most notable works include Shringarshatak, Vairagyashatak as well as Nitishatak.
Legend has it that whole he was meditating here, his spiritual powers increased exponentially until Indra, the king of the gods, feared that Bhartrihari might end up being more powerful than him. In a bid to break his meditation, Indra struck down the cave with a bolt of lightning. As the roof of the cave came tumbling down, Bhartrihari is said to have stopped it with the palm of his hand. Local guides claim that the impression of his palm can still be seen on the roof of the cave.
Upon entering the enclosure that houses the cave, one sees the remains of an encient temple of which only some pillars have survived. In the first courtyard, a cave enshrines an idol of Kal Bhairav. The courtyard walls have a number of sculptures and temple fragments cemented on to them, some of which display sculptural finesse.
Rumi Ka Makbara
Perched on top of a hill, and hidden from view by tall trees, this is a delightful structure located close to the Bhartrihari Caves. Finding the monument can be something of an intrepid task. Locals will helpfully point out to a clump of trees around half a kilometer away, behind which lies the tomb and mausoleum of Rumi.
Nothing concrete is known about Rumi`s antecedants. Some day that he was a Sufi saint while others believe him to be the commander of an invading army. Indian Antiquary, Vol IV (1875), talks of a Sufi saint, Jalaluddin Rumi, who was active in this region in the 15th-16th centuries and suggests that this structure is his tomb. He is not to be mistaken with the 13th-century Persian poet, theologian and mystic, Jalaluddin Muhammad Rumi.
The hexagonal tomb is built on a square platform around 3 m in height. The central chamber is surmounted by a bulbous dome. A tunnel takes one to the actual tomb underneath. Unmarked graves are present inside the enclosure in which the markbara is located.
Pir MatsyendranathThe shrine of Pir Matsyendranath is located on the banks of the Shipra, close to the Gadkalika Temple and the Bhartrihari Caves. Matsyendranath, also known as Pir Macchinder, is believed to be the founder of the nath sect of Shaivism. It is said that he was given the name Matsyendranath because he was born from the stomach of a fish. Incidentally, a fish or matsya is one of Vishnu`s tem Avatars.
Kal Bhairav Temple
Crossing the bridge over the Shipra, near the Bhartrihari Caves, one reaches Kal Bhairav Temple, barely kilometer away. The worship of the ashta bhairavs or eight fearful attendants of Lord Shiva is a part of the long and unbroken Shaivite tradition of Ujjain and, since the chief among these is Kal Bhairav, this temple is particularly significant to the town. The worship of Kal Bhairav is especially integral to the Kapalika and Aghora sects, for whom Ujjain serves as a key centre of practice.
This temple is believed to have been built by King Bhadrasen of Mahismati (modern Maheshwar). The antiquity of the temple is attested by its mention in the Avanti Khanda of the Skanda Purana. Like most of the other temples in Ujjain, Kal Bhairav Temple was rebuilt during the Maratha period.
It was surrounded by a massive wall pierced to the east by a gateway built on the lines of a Mughal naubatkhana. Inside the enclosure, the temple was originally flanked by two massive deepastambha of which only one survives. Like Kal Bhairav temples elsewhere in the country, offerings to the deity include not only flowers, coconuts and incense, but also liquor. Shops outside the temple selling puja paraphernalla also sell both ‘Indian made Foreign Liquor’ (IMFL) and deswi (country) liquor to offer to the deity. In the handed over to the priest, who proceeds to pour half its contents of the idol. The remaining is given back to the devotee as Prasad.
Ram & Vishnu Janardan Temples
A short walk east of the Kal Bhaivar Temple leads to one to Ujjains architedctural gems. The temples dedicated to Rama and Vishnu Janardan were built in the 17th century by Aurangzeb`s confidante Sawai Jai Singh, who, as the governor of Ujjain, also built the Ved Shala. The boundary wall that now encircles the temple and the tarik inside were later added by the Marathas. The older of the two, the Rama Temple enshrines in its garbhagriha idols exquisite image of Vishnu dating back to the 10th century CE can be seen in the vestibule.
Vishnu Janardan Temple is more striking in appearance owing to the abundance of sculptures in the jangha (outer walls) and the ardhamandapa. The ceiling of the ardhamandapa still has remains of the paint that decorated it once. Facing Vishnu Janardan Temple is a tank built during the Maratha period. On the other end of the tank is a graceful gateway capped with the distinctive bangaldar roof.
Traditionally, banyan trees have been held in great reverence across India. The holy banyan tree of Ujjain, Siddhavat, is worshipped with the same devotion as a deity.
The Skanda Purana mentions that Parvati, the consort of Shiva, used to perform her penance under this very tree. It is also from Siddhavat that the Saptamatrikas (seven mother goddesses including Chamunda, or Kali) are said to reveal themselves to the devout. This tree grows on the banks of the Sipra, where a ghat has been constructed for devotees to take holy dips in.
As interesting story boosts the faith of the people in Siddhavat. Once, at the behest of a Mughal ruler, the tree was cut off and the site was covered with thick iron sheets. But in spite of this, even the tender saplings pierced through the iron and grew into a new tree.
Further down the river on the opposite bank from Siddhavat, Mangalnath Temple is mentioned in the Matsya Purana as the birthplace of Mars (Mangal). The text tells us of a battle between Lord Shiva and the fearful demon Andhakasura. It was said that if even a single drop of the demon`s blood touched the earth, a thousand more demons would spring from that very drop. During the battle, Andhakasura was struck by Shiva`s trishul, but such was the sanctity of Ujjain`s blessed soil that instead of a thousand demons, Mars was born from his bold and proceeded to slay Andhakasura.
On the steps leading up to the temple, one can meet Falahari Baba, a sadhu who for the last 45 years has lived only on fruits. Also look out for the image of Shiva in his Mahadev manifestation enshrined in the temple.
Incidentally, the site of the temple offers one of the clearest view of Mars from anywhere in India and is hence considered suitable for astronomical studies as well. As Mars was born out of blood, all the offerings made to this temple, have to be red in colour or at least, wrapped in red cloth. Even the priests of the temple wear red robes.
Ujjain has enjoyed a position of pre-eminence as a centre of learning in ancient India. Sandipani Ashram is where Krishma and his Brahmin friend Sudama are said to have received their early instruction from Guru Sandipani. The ashram exists to this day in the Ankapata area of Ujjain.
Within the precincts of the ashram is a sacred tank known as Gomti Kund. This is where Krishna is said to have called all the holy rivers so that his guru would not have to gravel to distant places on a pilgrimage. It is also at this tank that Lord Krishna is believed to have washed his writing tablets.
The numeral 1 to 100 etched in stone on the ghats of this tank are said to have been inscribed by Guru Sandipani himself. A beautiful sculpture of Nandi, dating back to the Sunga period (185-75 BCE) can also be seen on the banks of the tank. The ashram is a place of pilgrimage for the members of the Vallabh sect, followers of Vallabhacharya (1479-1531). It is considered 73rd of the 84 seats from where Vallabhacharya delivered his sermons across India.
Away from the city lies this scenic palace. The serene environs of this sprawling complex on the Shipra river gives the traveler a fair idea of what Ujjain might have looked like in the height of its glory. The palace is located in a little island on the Shipra and man-made tanks and waterways inside the complex give the illusion that the entire structure is floating on the sacred waters. An inscription found in the palace complex says that it was constructed in 1458 CE during the reign of Mahmud Khilji or Malwa. One of Mahmud`s constructed tanks and waterways around the palace to withstand the summer sun.
The main durbar hall of the palace is crowned with a majestic dome, built in accordance with the Persian style of architecture. Two inscriptions in Persian were found in one of the long corridors of the palace which record that the Mudhal Emperors Akbar and Jehangir visited Kaliadeh Palace.
The palace complex suffered major damages during the war between the Marathas and the Pindaris in 1818. After the Pindaris were crushed, the palace remained uninhabited and neglected until Madho Rao Scindia restored it to its former glory in 1920.
Scindia Oriental Research Institute
Vikram Kirti Mandir was established in 1944 to mark the second millennium of the Vikram era. It houses the Scindia Oriental Research Institute (SORI), an archaeological museum, an art gallery and an auditorium. The SORI preserves a huge collection of over 18.000 rare manuscripts that cover a wide range of subjects from Vedic literature and philosophy to dance and music.
A copy of the Srimad Bhagavatam here is said to have actual gold and silver worked into its illustrations. The institute also preserves several invaluable old paintings of the Rajputana school and innumerable Mughal miniatures. The museum here has a rich array of sculptures, temple fragments, copper-plates, rock edicts and fossils found in the Narmada valley.
This observatory was built in the 17th century by Sawai Jai Singh (1688-1743) during his tenure as the governor of Malwa. It is located on the Ujjain-Fatehabad road about 2 km southwest of Mahakal Temple. The Tropic of Cancer, as per modern calculations, is just to the north of Ved Shala.
Locals call it Jantar Mantar, a corruption of the Hindi words Yandra (instrument) and mantra (formula). The purpose of the observatory was to compile stronomical tables, and predict the movement of the sun, moon and planets.
Ujjain`s Ved Shala consists of four main instruments. The Samrata Yantra, measuring 6.7 m high, is used for calculating time. Equinoctial days are computed with the help of the Nadi Walaya Yantra. The Digansha Yantra is used to determine the position of stars and planets, while the Bhitti Yantra calculates the decline of the sun and the distance of the zenith. Additionally, the observatory also houses a planetarium and a telescope.
Apart from Ujjain, Jai Singh built similar observatories at Delhi, Mathura, Varanasi and Jaipur. The observational techniques and instruments used here are said to have been far superior to those used by contemporary European astronomers. In fact, Jai Singh spent eight years observing the activities of the planets and making alterations to the instruments.
The date of the construction of the observatory, however, is quite obscure. Virendra Nath Sharma in Sawai Jai Singh and His Astronomy states that, “there are reasons to believe that the observatory must have been constructed before 1730 as one finds its mention in texts written about that time”.
After completion, the observatory remained in operation for a decade or so. Its operation ceased after Jai Singh`s death in 1743, only to be renovated and revived two decades later by Madho Rao Scindia.
Chintamani Ganesh Temple
The temple os located across the Shipra on the Ujjain-Fatehabad road, 5 km from Ved Shala. The idol enshrined in this Paramara period (9th-14th century CE) temple is said to be swayambhu, literally, self-created. Worshippers throng this temple especially because the deity here is known as Chintaharan or Chintamani Ganesh or ‘the one who frees the mind from worldly anxieties’.
Of particular note here are the intricately carved pillars in the assembly hall that must have belonged to an earlier temple destroyed by Iltutmish. In the courtyard lie several sculptures and remains from older temples. Also in the courtyard are several modern pavilions which are used for marriages and other rituals.
Located at Triveni Ghat, the Navagraha Temple (temple of the nine planets) attracts crowds of devotees on full moon nights. It is located 3 km from Nanakheda bus terminus on the Ujjain-Indore highway. The temple consists of a low rectangular structure divided into 11 chambers. In each are enshrined images of the solar system. Every shrine is crowned with a dome, painted a different colour. The largestdome, in red, crowns the shrine dedicated to Surya, the sun god.