Courtesy: Sri.PP.Ramachandran

Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga is one of the most famous temples dedicated to Shiva . It is located in the ancient city of Ujjain. The temple is situated on the side of the Rudra Sagar lake. The presiding deity is believed to be Swayambhu, deriving currents of power from within itself as against the other images and lingams that are ritually established and invested with mantra-shakti. Because of the number of golden towers of several temples, Ujjain is also known as "Swarna Sringa."

The idol of Mahakaleshwar is known to be Dakshinamurti meaning-- facing the south. This is a unique feature, upheld by the tantric shivnetra tradition to be found only in Mahakaleshwar among the 12 Jyotirlingas. The idol of Omkareshwar Mahadev is consecrated in the sanctum above the Mahakal shrine. The images of Paravati,Ganesha, Kartikeya are installed in the west, north and east of the sanctum sanctorum. To the south is the image of Nandi, the vehicle of Lord Shiva. The idol of Nagchandreshwar on the third storey is open for darshan only on the day of Nag Panchami.

The temple has five levels, one of which is underground. The temple itself is located in a spacious courtyard surrounded by massive walls near a lake. The Shikara or the spire is adorned with sculptural finery. Brass lamps light the way to the underground sanctum. It is believed that prasada (holy offering) offered here to the deity can be re-offered unlike all other shrines.

The presiding deity of time, Shiva, in all his splendor, reigns eternally in the city of Ujjain. The temple's Shikhar soars into the sky--an imposing façade against the skyline, evoking primordial awe and reverence.
On the day of Maha Shivaratri, a huge fair is held near the temple, and worship goes on through the night.
In the precincts of the Mahakaleshwar temple is Shri Swapaneshwar Mahadev temple, where devotees pray to Shiva as Mahakaal, to realize the most important dreams of their lives. Here Mahadev is Swapaneshwar and Shakti is Swapaneshwari.

The Upper Lip of Sati Devi is said to have fallen here and the Shakti is called as Mahakali.

According to the Puranas, the city of Ujjain was called Avantika and was famous for its beauty and its status as a devotional epicenter. It was also one of the primary cities where students went to study holy scriptures. According to legend, there was a ruler of Ujjain called Chandrasena, who was a pious devotee of Lord Shiva and worshiped him all the time. One day, a farmer's boy named Shrikhar was walking on the grounds of the palace and heard the King chant the Lord's name and rushed to the temple to start praying with him. However, the guards removed him by force and sent him to the outskirts of the city near the river Kshipra. Rivals of Ujjain, primarily King Ripudamana and King Singhaditya of the neighboring kingdoms decided to attack the Kingdom and take over its treasures around this time. Hearing this, Shrikhar started to pray and the news spread to a priest named Vridhi. He was shocked to hear this and upon the urgent pleas of his sons, started to pray to Lord Shiva at the river Kshipra. The Kings chose to attack and were successful ; with the help of the powerful demon Dushan, who was blessed by Lord Brahma to be invisible, they plundered the city and attacked all the devotees of Lord Shiva.

Upon hearing the pleas of the helpless devotees, Lord Shiva appeared in his Mahakala form and destroyed the enemies of King Chandrasena. Upon the request of his devotees Shrikhar and Vridhi, Lord Shiva agreed to reside in the city and become the chief deity of the Kingdom and take care of it against its enemies and to protect all devotees. From that day on, Lord Shiva resided in his form as Mahakala in a Lingam.

Bharthari was the elder son of King Gandharva-Sena, and received the kingdom of Ujjain from the celestial God Indra and the King of Dhara.

When Bharthari was King of 'Ujjayani' (modern day Ujjain) in his state there lived a Brahman who after years of austerities was given the fruit of immortality from the celestial tree of Kalpavriksha. The Brahman presented the same to his monarch, Raja Bharthari, who in turn, passed it on to his love, the beautiful, Pinglah Rani or Ananga Sena--- Raja Bhartrhari's last and youngest wife. The Queen, being in love with the Head police officer of the State, Mahipaala, presented the fruit to him, who further passed it on to his beloved, Lakha, one of the maids of honour. Eventually, Lakha being in love with the King presented the fruit back to the King. Having completed the circle, the fruit revealed the downsides of infidelity to the King and he summoned the Queen and ordered her beheading, and ate the fruit himself. After that he abdicated the throne, and became a religious mendicant.

He later became a disciple of Pattinatthar (Swetharanyar or Pattinatthu Chettiyar is the poorvashram name of this saint from Poompuhar,Tamil Nadu) who first indulged in an argument about samsari and sanyasi with King Bhartrhari. Later during the conversation Pattinathar said that all women have 'dual mind' and it might be the true case even with Parameswari. King conveyed this news to Rani Pinglah and she ordered Pattinathar to be punished and to sit in 'Kalu Maram' (Tree, whose top portion would be sharpened like a pencil and whole tree is fully coated with oil, a person who is punished to sit in the top will be split into 2 pieces), they tried to kill Pattinathar, but Kalu Maram started burning and nothing happened to Pattinathar. The King came to know this news and went directly to Pattinathar and asked him to get ready to die the next day, but Pattinathar replied, " I'm ready right now, to die". The next day King came with tears in his eyes and released the saint from jail because he actually noticed Queen Pinglah in love with horsemen that night, He threw away his empire, wealth, even full coat dress and dressed in a simple loin cloth, the King became a disciple of Pattinatthar and got mukthi (salvation) in the Kalahasthi temple.

The temple complex was destroyed by Sultan Shas-ud-din lltutmish during his raid of Ujjain. 1234-5.
The present structure was built by the Maratha General Ranoji Scindia in 1736 CE. Further developments and management was done by other members of his dynasty.

The biggest religious fair "The Kumbh " is held here. Millions of devotees come here to be a part of this holistic ceremony and consider themselves, very fortunate after having bath in Shipra River and a darshan of Lord Mahakaleshwar-- Shiva-Lingam.

One of the major attractions of Mahakaleshwar Mandir is the Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga Bhasma Aarti. The divine ceremony includes worshipping the idol with holy ash brought from the ghats and ash from funeral pyres and applied with sacred chants. Amidst vedic chants and strotras and sounds of cymbals, conchs and damru, the Bhasma aarti is performed every morning. It is performed to wake Lord Shiva, do "Shringar" (anoint and dress him for the day), and carry out the first aarti .

Veda Vyasa sang the glory of Mahakala in Mahabharat and so did poets like Kalidasa, Banabhatta and Bhoja. In 11th century, the temple was renovated during the Parmar regime. In 1234, Sultan Iltutmish of Delhi attacked on Ujjain and demolished Mahakal temple. From the Shivapuran reference, it appears that the temple was built eight generations before Nanda, the guardian of Lord Krishna The present beautiful temple was constructed by Sukhtankar Ramchandra Baba Shenavi, a divan of Ranoji Shinde during Bajirao Peshwa regime in 18th century.

Once there lived a Brahman who had four sons, who were all devotees of Siva. The wicked demon king Dushan came to Avantika after attaining a boon from Lord Brahma and started torturing the erudite Brahmins of Avantika. But the Brahmins who were so engrossed in their worship of Shiva did not even notice.

The demon King sent all four of his henchmen with the orders that they have to ensure that no Vedic Dharmanushtan activities are to take place. The harassed people came running to the BrahmIns seeking help. The BrahmIns assured the people and pacified them. They immediately started praying to Lord Shiva.

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Meanwhile, just as the Demon king tried to attack the BrahmInas, the earth would split open near the Parthiv Murty with a loud noise and a huge crater was formed there. In this manner, Siva assumed the colossal form of Mahakal and appeared. He ordered the wicked Demon from going anywhere near the Brahmins. But the wicked Demon king did not pay heed. As a result, Siva burnt him to ashes with just one grunt. Seeing Lord Siva in this Avatar, Brahma, Vishnu and Indra and other Devas came down and prayed to the Lord and pleased Him.

Chandrasena, the King of Ujjain was not only a scholar, but also a staunch devotee of Lord Siva. Once his friend Maheswari's follower Manibahdra gave him a beautiful gemstone called Sundara Chintamani. It shone so bright and beautiful when Chandrasena wore it on his neck, that he looked even more glorious than the celestial gods. It would make even them feel jealous. Once, some kings went and asked Chandrasena to part with the jewel and Chandrasena promptly refused to do so. This angered the Kings, who in turn attacked Chandrasena's kingdom. When Chandrasena realized that he was surrounded by the enemy he sought the help of Mahakal. Bhagawan Shiva was pleased with his prayers and showed him a solution for his problem. An illiterate boy once saw the King performing Puja and the boy installed the stone in his empty house. He imagined it to be an incarnation of Shiva and started worshipping it. The boy became so engrossed in prayer and chanting, that he even forgot all about food. When his mother went to call him, any number of calls had no affect on him. He was silently praying. Angered by this, the mother who was still bound by worldly love, threw away the Siva Linga. She destroyed all the items of worship. The boy was very sad at what his mother had done. He started to pray to Shiva with his entire concentration. Siva was not long in coming to the rescue of his devotee. This stone Siva Linga which was brought by the son of a cowherd soon became adorned with gemstones and turned into a Jyotirlinga. After singing in praise of Lord Siva, when the boy returned to his house, he was amazed to find a beautiful palatial home instead. Thus, with the Grace and Blessings of Lord Siva, the boy became rich and led a very happy life.