Updated: Jul 6
Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas. Being a self-formed lingam and the only south-facing one, Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga has a unique importance in Hindu pilgrimage. Know more about this temple and its legend
The Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga in the historic city of Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh is situated on the banks of River Shipra. It is the only Jyotirlinga in India where the deity faces towards south and is thus described as dakshinamukhi, symbolizing him as the conqueror of death as well as the supreme divine guru. The name Mahakal Bhairav refers to Lord Shiva being beyond existence, death and time, the supreme destroyer, and the ultimate reality.
In the 13th century, the Mamluk King, Shamsuddin Iltutmish raided and destroyed the Mahakaleshwar temple complex, but the temple was rebuilt in the 18th century. The Koti Rudra Samhita section of Shiva Purana narrates the story behind this powerful and unique Jyotirlinga
Ujjain was called Avanti in the ancient times. Once there lived a pious Brahmin and Vedic scholar named Vedapriya with his four sons, Devapriya, Priyamedhas, Sukrita and Dharmavahin, in the city of Avanti. The father and the sons were ardent devotees of Lord Shiva. So sincere was their devotion, that the entire city was blessed with glory, peace, and prosperity.
In that region, there also lived an asura called Dusana on the Ratnamala hills. He prayed to Lord Brahma, who blessed him with invincibility. It was not possible for anyone to defeat him. He was an evil being, who destroyed city after city, temple after temple. He disliked the gods (devatas), Vedas (the sacred texts) and worship of gods. He stopped people from worshipping and destroyed anyone who disobeyed him. He heard of the splendour of Avanti and came to attack it with his army of asuras
The demons of Dusana started destroying the whole city, but Vedapriya and his sons did not give up worshipping Lord Shiva. This enraged Dusana and his evil army started carrying out terrible brutalities to the whole city of Avanti. The people of Avanti requested Vedapriya to stop his worship to stop the violence. But Vedapriya said, “Lord Shiva will protect us.”
As Vedapriya and his sons continued their prayers to the Shivalinga, Dusana rushed into the sanctum of the temple to attack them. As Dusana raised his sword to behead Vedapriya, the ground started shaking. A huge chasm appeared in the ground next to the Shivalinga. From that opening, appeared the Mahakal form of Lord Shiva, in a terrifying form that was bigger than the universe. The Lord thundered, “I am time, and I am death, and I will destroy you!” The Mahakal Shiva uttered a sound of “hum”, and that single sound, called humkara, destroyed Dusana and his entire army, reducing them to ashes.
Vedapriya and his sons prayed to Lord Mahakal Shiva, to stay with them forever. Shiva blessed them by merging into the Shivalinga and thus leading to the formation of the Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga. Thus, the Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga is considered to be Swayambhu, or self-formed, and not established by humans and rituals, and derives its power from within itself. The shakti that supports this Jyotirlinga is believed to be spread across a wide area underneath the ground. That is why the temple is also revered as one of the eighteen Shakti Peethas of India.
The Mahakaleshwar Temple has three levels, one of which is underground, known as the Garbhagriha. The massive Shivalinga of Mahakaleshwar is on the underground level. On the second level, is the Omkareshwara Linga. The third level has the statue of Lord Shiva in the form of Nagchandreshwar. Here, Lord Shiva and Parvati are seated on a ten-hooded snake. The Nagchadreshwar Deity can be viewed by the public only one day in the year – on the day of the holy festival of Nag Panchami. It remains shut on all the other days.
An interesting ritual carried out here is the Bhasma Aarti (worship and offering with ashes). Bhasma signifies the true, non-dual form of the world his body. Bhasma is considered to be pure, unchanging, and indestructible, like the Lord, and is always worn by Lord Shiva on his body