Ujjain temple revival marks a new chapter in exploration of our past indiabusinessport.com

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate the Mahakaleshwar temple project in Ujjain, one of our most ancient cities, on October 11. It is a significant event in India’s journey as a civilisational state. You may wonder, why? We present to you two reasons:

The first is faith-based and devotional in content. Mahakaleshwarji is one of the great Jyotirlings dedicated to the worship of Lord Shiva. Thousands and, on ritual days, lakhs of devotees gather at the temple to pray to Mahadev. The temple had faced iconoclastic attacks in the past and, in modern times, illegal encroachments around its precinct. Skanda Purana mentions the Rudrasagar lake close to the temple, which had woefully become a shrunken sewage dump.

But now this great temple is rejuvenated. The Madhya Pradesh government cleared encroachments peacefully after discussions with residents, with suitable compensation. It helped that the residents understood the fillip the local economy would receive as a result of the proposed renewal. Traffic decongestion in the core city, parisar expansion and decentralised parking, safety and security hardware and software, intelligent pedestrian circulation and crowd management protocols, coupled with artful aesthetics have combined efficiency with beauty. Green measures include e-rickshaws with adequate charging docks providing noise- and pollution-free quick transport while solar panels meet electricity demand.

Inside too, as I realised during a visit a fortnight ago, it’s a breath-taking transformation. Beautiful panels using traditional techniques to depict stories of Lord Shiva are all around. Stunning life-like statues of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati with their children Lord Ganesh and Lord Kartikeya tug at your heartstrings. Sculptures and graven images of Shiv-Parvati vivah, Tripurasura vadh, Tandava swaroop and the Saptarishis beam you into a mystical state. Rudrasagar lake has been restored to its pristine form with waters from the holy Shipra River nearby. Facilities for the thronging pilgrims are state-of-the-art. It’s a devotional renaissance.

A second aspect is in play in Ujjain today; a holographic repatterning that is built into the name of this great temple: Mahakaleshwar as Lord Shiva is the Great Lord of Time. Ujjain — Avanti of old — was an ancient centre for scientific research. Celebrated mathematicians and astronomers like Varahamihira, Brahmagupta and Bhaskaracharya travelled from distant regions of India and made Ujjain their home. This was because the city was considered home to the prime, or zero meridian — a reference point for calculation of time by ancient Indian mathematicians. Today, a brass strip at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich in the UK represents zero meridian.

Ujjain is also considered by early astrologers as the spot where the Tropic of Cancer — Karka Rekha — intersects with the zero meridian. During the summer solstice — longest day of the year — the sun is overhead at midday. It is the beginning of the period of Dakshinayana when the Sun God begins his journey south. It was a logical location to anchor calculation of time. No wonder the city was called the navel of the world. The Hindu lunisolar calendar — panchang — uses Ujjain as the zero meridian to this day. Most Hindu homes know the panchang as the eponymous Kaal Nirnay that keeps track of our festivals and ritual days.

In ancient times, the overhead sun on summer solstice fell directly on the shikhar (tip) of the spire atop the grand Mahakaleshwar temple. It might have diverted by now to the nearby Mangal Mandir (temple of Mars). This would occur due to the precession of the earth’s axis. Remember that fascinating geography lesson from school — that the earth wobbles on its axis? Broadly though it is the same location as was described in the ancient astronomical text from the 4th century CE: Surya Siddhanta.

This re-infusion of energy into the temple precincts will hopefully also lead to a revival of our sciences and exploration of our ancient texts created in and around Avanti. In the play Julius Caesar, Brutus informs Cassius that there is a “tide in the affairs of men” that must be “taken at the flood”. It “leads on to fortune”. How beautifully Shakespeare captures the essence of time with those famous words. Time is an energy which, if not used, wastefully dissipates never to return. Time moves inexorably, trapping us in its inevitable forward movement. And yet, if we can seize time and pull it in the vertical direction of this moment, we can grab the baton thrust into our extended hand by our ancestors, and spur our wonderful nation into a glorious future.



Views expressed above are the author’s own.


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