Mahakaal

Mahakaal, Ujjain

Mahakaal, Ujjain

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.

IMG_2751

Waiting before Aarati at 3 am

IMG_2752

All decked up in traditional Attire

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.

After Aarati

After Aarati

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.

The Lord Shiva's favorite flower(madar) garland

The Lord Shiva’s favorite flower(madar) garland

Thandai Of Ujjain

The city of Ujjain is famous worldwide for the temple of Mahakaal. The temple located in the city is believed to be since time immemorial and is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Just a stone throw away from this temple, there is more than half a century old shop selling Bhang(Cannabis) and thandai. The old person manning this shop is doing it for 54 years and has attained a sort of perfection in his job. I think he is enjoying his job to extreme. I chanced upon to meet this gentleman recently and also a chance to savor one of the best thandai ever.

With the Master

With the Master

It’s a small shop only but the way old man does his job, is so rhythmic and so enchanting that you can not be, but impressed by his perfection and devotion to what he does. The Bhang is said to be favorite of  Lord Shiva and his devotees not only offer its leaves to Lord, but also consume the paste of its leaves on regular basis. The Cannabis leaves and buds of female plant are intoxicating in nature and not everybody can handle them. I therefore asked him to prepare thandai without mixing cannabis. I have drunk thandai in old Lucknow many a times and also drunk the ready made thandai syrup mixed with chilled milk too. I was keenly watching however, the way he prepared his signature thandai.

The man at the helm of affairs was a devotee of Lord Shiva and had put elaborate tilak on his forehead. On our request of 2 glasses only (other group members were hesitant), he spread the white cloth attached to a bucket and softly folded it a bit. then he mixed a white paste of almonds and cashews, fresh butter cream and curd. Then he rubbed it with his hands and mixed some curd and sugar powder and few other ingredients. He meshed it again with his hands inside the cloth. The mixture thus was getting filtered through the cloth into another deep pan placed just below the cloth. Some ice was added too. He then got a slice of mango to add to the mixture and added the milk along with. All the ingredients were rubbed inside the cloth  once again. All the ingredients finally got filtered down to the deep pan. Now the yellowish white milk liquid was poured into glasses and the top of them was laced with drops of kevda (Pandanas Syrup) and saffron. It was now ready to drink.

Preparing Thandai

Preparing Thandai

The whole process of its preparation was so tempting and mouth watering that I could not resist for even seconds to gulp it down. It’s taste was simply mind blowing  and unlike any other thandai, I ever had. The whole process of its preparation and the rhythmic way, it was done had made it really a great coolant drink with a perfect flavour. The other members of the group watching the whole process curiously were too overwhelmed in the meantime and asked for them. The master started yet again, with the same commitment and with the same perfection. I did not think twice before ordering one more for me……..