Recognized as one of the most prominent Jyotirlingam in India, the temple of Mahakaal situated in India’s Greenwich, Ujjain is one of it’s kind in world. The temple devoted to Lord Shiva is known specially for sacred daily ritual of Mahabhasma Aarti. The ritual starts at 4 am daily and carries on for two hours every day.
I had heard about this special ritual from many sources and decided therefore to be part of it, in my recent trip to Ujjain. You have to pre-book the slot in online Aarati, as there is huge rush to be there. To take part in Aarati which starts at 4 am sharp, we woke up at 1:30 am. It was tough to get up at this time and specially for the kids, but determination to be a part of unique Mahabhasm Arati was a big motivator for every body. We took bath etc and wore a dhoti for the occaison. Actually its mandatory for women to wear saaree and for men to wear a dhoti to enter sanctum sanctorum or gribha griha of the temple. I was helped by my wife to wear a dhoti. It was awkward initially but once done, I realised this Indian dress is really the most comfortable one for Indian climate and yes it looks more graceful both for men and women.
We reached the temple complex by 3 am and after security check, sat in the waiting area. Even at this early hour of the day, the area around temple was all full of activities. The shopkeepers outside were offering flowers and prasadam. The dhoti was also available for hire and for outright purchase. It is very interesting to see people helping each other at this time of the morning in tying the Dhoti of each other. Gradually a decent crowd built up around the main gate of main temple. There were more than a 1000 devotees, who had queued up to witness the Mahabhasm Arati. The whole environmemt was charged up really. The freshness of an early morning in the Brihma Mahurat was rejuvenating and very pleasing.
We were allowed to go inside, a little before 4 am. I went in along with my family to offer water to Lord Shiva. It was a very auspicious occasion for my entire family. I prayed for my family and vasudhaiv kutumbkam. After that we came out to take our position in Nandi Hall to witness the Mahabhasma Aarati. I sat besides the Nandi idol to have a clear view of entire Mahabhasma Aarati.
During Aarati an elaborate sequence is followed to please Lord Shiva. The Jyotirlingam is first bathed with holy waters of Narmada. It is followed by bathing with milk and offering curd, honey and other pious materials to lingam. It is followed by decoration, by making paintings over lingam with removable materials. Various forms and shapes of Lordshiva are drawn over Jyotirlingam every day. The most unique procedure however is bathing the lingam with bhasma. It is said that the ashes from the fresh burning pyres are procured every morning from specified Hindu crematoriums. In no other Jyotirlingam this ritual is done in India. The entire process continued for for than 2 hours. We were really feeling elated and charged up. Finally the ceremony came to end and we were ushered out to the courtyard outside.
The morning light had broken in when we came out. A gentle breeze was also blowing there and we all were very hapy. We purchased the prasadam of Mahaakal and distributed among ourselves and saved for our families back home.