This book describes the history, mythology, rituals, and festivals of the most important temples in Ujjain. It describes the importance of River Shipra to the people of Ujjain. The book talks of the rise and fall of the city under various Indian rulers and foreign invaders. The book has several beautiful photographs of the temples, deities and festivals. This book is the result of long and extensive research conducted by the author.
The book will be of great value to those interested in the history and mythology of Ujjain, including students, researchers, and academics as also to tourists and pilgrims to the city.
Dr. M.K. Pal researches in arts, crafts and socio-cultural fields. He has participated in several Festivals of India in Japan and Europe. As Consultant to Japan’s National Museum of Ethnology he collected and documented several Indian artifacts. He has also designed and constructed a 35-feet replica of the old wooden ratha in Parthasarathi Temple, Chennai, for the Museum.
Dr Pal, in his several published works has analysed archaeological, historical, and literary data. Dr Pal has also organized folk cultural programmes in several countries.
This book titled Ujjain: The City of Temples by Dr M.K. Pal is intended to provide important and helpful information to the English-knowing inter-state visitors and foreign tourists who would like to have a glimpse of the various aspects of the age old temple culture of Ujjain, a city of temples located in the heart of India. The book basically records the salient features of the temple culture of Ujjain with special emphasis on their historical and socio-cultural perspectives. To make the book more interesting to its readers, the author has nicely interwoven his document with anecdotes and legends associated with the centres of worship. The architectural details and rituals of the temples have also been depicted by the author in a succinct and coherent manner. This work is the outcome of Dr Pal’s painstaking research and in-depth study based on field investigations. He has tried to cover most of the Brahanical religious shrines in Ujjain and enchanced the quality of the book with sharp and beautiful illustrations.
As one of the renowned Hindu places of pilgrimage in India, Ujjain is always visited by a huge number of pilgrims and visitors from all over India, especially from the neighbouring states of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Maharashtra. The book will automatically draw the attention of a varied class of readers including those who are seriously interested to carry on further research on the temple culture of Ujjain. A must have for those who are eager to know more about the great poet Kalidasa’s Ujjain, the blissful land of gods.
Temples have always played an important role in the socio-cultural life of the people. There is no denying the fact that temple became an aesthetic formulation of an essentially theistic religion. Through it, men sought to make all that their beliefs symbolized accessible to their sense-perception. These beliefs indeed influenced and commanded individuals in the privacy of their conscience. But as a visible emblem of the religion, philosophy, and ethics of the people, temple played a significant role far more vital than any other institution. It became a symbol of dharma for all. The architecture of temples only conveyed in spatial terms the intensity of the peoples’ longing for a ‘life of relief’. The God or Goddess to whom the structure was dedicated symbolized the Supreme Principle which controlled the affairs of the world, and directed the spiritual urge.
Due to this, the temple became the centre of all civic and social activities in the ancient city Ujjain. The temple structures dominated the surroundings by their location as well as size.
As a matter of fact, the temples functioned as the preserver of traditional values. Every locality grew around a temple which was the hub of activites.
Every today, the daily rituals in temples give assured employment to a group of people such as the priests, Brahmins, musicians, florists, and other functionaries. A temple festival is an occasion of great social rejoicing. People from surrounding villages gather to participate in the general merriment. These festivals generally end up as fairs, often lasting several days. Merchants and petty traders from places far and near arrive to barter or sell goods. To the devotees, the temples are spots of admiration being the abode of the God or devasthan. The evolution of temple architecture from its simple unostentatious beginnings into an agglomeration of large and complicated structures perhaps conforms to the growing emotional demands of the devotees.
It is presumed that river Shipra (also known as Kshipra) has undoubtedly earned the distinction of establishing a pattern of temple culture in Ujjain which has persisted to this day. A visit to the temples of this holy city, situated on the right bank of Shipra, is still considered a pilgrimage. As a religious centre, Ujjain is as important as Varanasi, Gaya, and Kanchi. Shaivism, Vaishnavism, and their various cults and sects, as well as Jainism and Buddhism, hav found a niche in this age-old catholic city. Avanti Khanda of the Skanda Purana mentions innumerable temples dedicated to Shakti and her various forms. The Siddha and the Natha cults, offshoots of tantricism, also flourished in this holy city. Even today the temples are considered means for peace, happiness, and salvation. A visit to the temples of Ujjain reveals their fundamental role linking the world of Gods to the people of the area where they are located.
It is difficult to trace the period of origin and growth of temple culture in Ujjain. Ujjain is more than 5,000 years old While the city’s early history is lost in the midst of antiquity, by the 6th century BCE, Avanti, wish its capital Ujjain, is mentioned in the Buddhist literature as one of the four greatest powers, the others being Vatsya, Kosala, and Magadha. Ujjain is one of the Shaktipeethas. The Skanda Purana mentions that Mahadevas, Yoginis, eight Bhairavas, and six Vinayaksa (Ganeshas) exist there.
It is believed that once a majestic Sun Temple existed in Ujjain. Avanti Mahatmya of Skanda Purana describes the Sun Temple and pools named Surya Kund and Brahma Kund. People from nearby villages take rituals dip in Surya Kund even today. Remains of the old temple are scattered all over the area. As it appears, Ujjain was developed as a sacred place in the ancient kingdom of western Malwa. According to S.M. Bhardwaj, it may never be know whether it was developed at the site of a former cult spot of the pre-Aryans. But the fact remains that its location on the trunk root from the Ganga Plain to the Arabian Sea may have made it a centre for pilgrimage as well as trade. Archaeologists agree that the impetus for the growth of Ujjain came from the iron using culture of the Gangetic plains.
It may thus be assumed that Ujjain also known as Ujjayini or Avanti, historically, emerged as the first major centre for commercial and cultural activities in the Malwa region during India’s second wave of urbanization in the 7th century the first being the Indus Valley Civilisation. Around an earthen rampart was built around Avanti, a city of considerable size. Avanti was one of the prominent Mahajanapadas of the Indo-Aryans. In the post-Mahabharata period around Avanti was a prominent kingdom in western India. It was ruled by the Haihayas, who were possibly of mixed Indo-Aryan and aboriginal origin.
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