Written by – Sathya Shivakumar, Global Member HSTD
Edited by – Shivakumar Chandrasekaran, Editorial Lead HSTD

Mahākāleśvar – Part 1

The Himalayan School of Traditional Dance (HSTD) is happy to share a travelogue to the glorious shrines of Lord Śiva in central India.

As Mohanji (the inspiration behind HSTD) often says, there exist powerful places on earth that act as a magnet, drawing people towards them and bringing alignment, purification, and transformation. A recent trip to Ujjain Mahākāleśvar and Ōṃkārēśvar, two of the most revered Jyotirliṅgas (12 sacred sites in India associated with Śiva), was one such opportunity for us to experience the divine energy that permeates these powerful shrines. One can effortlessly sense the pulse that connects all of us at a deeper level of consciousness. The auspiciousness of these places brings about a profound change in those who connect with them earnestly, offering a promising opportunity for purification.

Mahākāl – The great Lord of Time

Jyotirliṅgas are unique in that they are self-manifested and derive their power from their own manifestation, much like the soul that radiates its own light. The sacred Jyotirliṅga of Mahā Kāleśvar (the great Lord of time) is one of the most powerful Jyotirliṅgas in India and is situated in Ujjain, a city steeped in history and heritage. Notably, it is the only one that faces the southern direction, symbolising that Lord Śiva transcends the boundaries of time and is the eternal rider of time.

Time is a fundamental force that shapes our destiny. Every living being is bound by the finiteness of life between the time of birth and the time of exit from this earth. On the one hand, time brings joy and happiness, and on the other, it brings tough times as well. However, our finite minds are often incapable of comprehending the laws of time and tend to swing between the extremes of ecstatic celebration when things go right and blame people and circumstances for misfortunes. As the lord of time, Lord Śiva is revered for His eternal divinity that transcends even these fluctuations and boundaries of time. The tale of Mārkaṇḍeya (a sage who was said to have been rescued from death by Śiva) serves as a reminder that with divine grace, even death can be overcome.

Our journey commenced with a flight from Bangalore to Indore. It was our maiden visit to the city that we had only “visited” while playing the board game of Trade/Business. At the airport, two things instantly caught our attention. Firstly, there was a dedicated section that honored the queen, Rani Ahilyabai Holkar, who ruled these parts in pre-independent India. She was known for her compassionate leadership and oversaw the construction of numerous temples and dharmaśālās (public rest houses or shelters) across the country. Her noteworthy achievements include restoring and consecrating sites that were damaged or destroyed by invasions. Undoubtedly, she was a remarkable ruler, reformer, and poet.

The second thing that caught our attention was a billboard which read, “Welcome to the cleanest city in India” which seemed like a bold claim, but as we exited the airport and made our way through the city, we observed the immaculate roads first hand. It was such a pleasant sight to see such cleanliness. The journey from Indore to Ujjain by car took approximately two hours, and en route, we passed through bustling streets, street-side ḍhābās (restaurants), big resorts and universities, eventually opening up to sprawling wheat fields.

Upon arrival at Hotel Nandi, we wasted no time and ventured out to the temple at night. The temple’s streets were bustling with activity, drawing pilgrims from all over the country, who were captivated and adorned by various articles ranging from bracelets to shirts and scarfs, all featuring the bold imprint of “MAHAKAAL.”The land of Śiva is ruled by the great Lord himself, and His divine energy permeates the air. One cannot help but feel the rhythm and vibrations that call out to all. After purchasing a few articles, we arrived at the temple gates with a desire to have a darśan (sight or vision of the divine). A local couple generously offered us prasād (food which has been consecrated after being offered to a deity or Master) and informed us that it had taken them four hours to catch a glimpse of the lord. Our inner flames of devotion were high, but the sky was turning dark. We offered our salutations at the entrance, hoping for a blessed darśan the following day, as the drumbeats of Śiva echoed into the night.

Mahākāleśvar – Part

Satyam Śivam Sundaram

  • Satyam – the eternal truth
  • Śivam – the ultimate consciousness
  • Sundaram – the divine beauty – all in one, Lord Śiva

On April 13th, 2023, we started our day with a visit to the Śrī Mahākāl temple. Soham Shastri, a priest from Ujjain, served as our guide and point of contact. Per our group’s interest, he arranged  Rudrābhiśekam (ritual worship of the deity Rudra). We entered the temple premises and began to feel the energy of the place. The priest asked our group to remain seated near the Hanumānjī mandir (temple dedicated to the deity Hanumān) while we waited for our turn to visit the inner sanctum. As some members of the group left for their darśan, we explored the temple’s other shrines and offered ablutions to the Śiva liṅgam (icon representing Śiva). The morning pūjā (ritual worship) had just commenced in those shrines, and the aura of each deity was palpable. Hanumānjī looked majestic, and His loving gaze blessed all those who came for darśan.

The first group returned after their fulfilling darśan of the inner sanctum, where they performed jal abhiṣek (bathing in water) and felt immensely blessed to have had such a wonderful opportunity at this powerful shrine. We then proceeded towards the outer hall for Rudrābhiśekam. The Rudrābhiśekam ceremony was incredibly powerful. Eleven priests chanted in chorus, and each round of abhiṣek was followed by the chants of Kālabhairav Āṣṭakam (song in praise of the deity Kālabhairav), which was enchanting and transported us to the realms of Śiva. Our family took turns performing water and milk abhiṣekam to the liṅgam, and the ceremony was deeply satisfying.

The Śiva liṅgam was a sight to behold – radiant and beautiful. The white curves that naturally formed on it appeared as if the Śiva liṅgam was smeared with sacred ash or vibhūti. The water seamlessly flowed out of the Nandi (a great devotee of Śiva in the form of a cow) spout, bathing Śiva incessantly. After a few rounds of offering water and milk, the second group went for the darśan of Mahākāl in the sanctum sanctorum (innermost shrine). It was a privilege to step inside through the “Dvā́r” or entrance, and even though the queue was long, the darśan was well-organised. People entered in groups of ten, each having the opportunity to offer jal (water) to the Śiva Liṅgam, touch and pray to the liṅgam without being pushed and shoved. It was a deeply spiritual moment, and some of us even felt the liṅgam as we placed our heads upon it.

As we exited the temple, we realised that the entire darśan at the sanctum sanctorum was captured on live video, creating a memory that would last a lifetime and beyond. Although the experience itself was etched in our hearts, having it in video form made it even more thrilling for us to revisit it whenever we felt the need. As I wondered if I had made the most of the gifted time inside without my mind being scattered, I heard the words “Satyam Śivam Sundaram” uttered by a priest who passed by. It was a way to silence the doubting mind. As Mohanji would say, “Don’t analyse; just be!”

It will be appropriate here to recall Mohanji’s words: “Śiva is a state that we aspire for. We all are trying to be in the state of Śiva: stillness, all-encompassing acceptance, oneness, oneness with Truth. The beauty that emanates from inside when absolute purity stabilises in us that’s Śiva. That’s why Śiva is amazingly beautiful. Śiva is innocence. Satyam-Śivam-Sundaram.”

Śiva’s presence filled us up through all the events of the day, and we couldn’t wait to share our personal experiences with each other over lunch back at Hotel Nandi.

Mohanji says that one can also operate on the energy level inside by doing the abhiṣek of Śiva Liṅga, the form of the supreme unmanifested, the superconsciousness in the form of liṅga. It is said that not even a drop of water is wasted or goes unrecorded if it falls on the Śiva Liṅga, which means every drop of water that we pour on the liṅga enhances our connection with the supreme unmanifested, the power of Śiva.

Śiva is a state, and it is the state that we aspire to reach, and in that state, we do not exist as a being separate from the consciousness called Śiva; we become one with Śiva.

At around 3:30 in the afternoon, we decided to explore the newly inaugurated Ujjain Mahākāl corridor. Despite the scorching sun, our spirits were still high. While the rest of the group took a break after the darśan, Radha and I took the opportunity to experience the corridor from the perspective of a dancer. Indian architecture and classical dance have always shared a special bond, and over time they have evolved to provide artists with space to showcase their artistic abilities. Temples traditionally housed sabhā (an assembly, congregation, or council) and maṇḍapas (pillared halls or pavilions for public rituals in Indian architecture).

We had read that the newly inaugurated corridor displayed the “karṇās.” karṇās are based on 108 brief movements that describe specific leg, hip, body, and arm movements accompanied by hasta mudrās or hand gestures. Radha was ready, draped in a traditional dance practice saree, and I had my camera. Our mother faithfully accompanied us with a water bottle in case we became too passionate and dehydrated.

Executing the karṇās was a tough challenge as the figures were small and high up on the pillars. Our attention shifted to the huge sculptures, each with its own story to tell. The Mahākāl path is adorned by 108 pillars that portray the Ānand Tāṇḍav Svarūp (a dance form) of Lord Śiva. The mural wall that runs along the pathway is based on stories from the Śiva Purāṇa (ancient scripture related to Śiva ), such as the act of creation, the birth of Gaṇeśa, and the story of Dakṣa (an ancient sage). The pathway houses magnificent sculptures that depict the various pastimes of Lord Śiva.

Excitedly, we took the opportunity to enact each of the scenes in Bharatanāṭyam (traditional Indian dance). The first one was “Amṛta Manthānam (churning to extract the elixir of immortality).” The “Kṣīra Sāgara” is the site of the legend of Samudrá Manthānam (the story of the churning of the primordial ocean). The Devas (gods) and Asuras (demons) churned the primaeval ocean to obtain the elixir of immortality, using Mount Mandara as a churning pole and Vāsuki, the serpent-king, as the rope. Initially, the mountain sank, and Lord Viṣṇu took the form of a giant turtle, Kūrma, and held it on his back. As they churned the ocean, halāhala, the poison, emerged from the depths and enveloped the universe with its poisonous fumes. The ever-benevolent Lord Śiva, who is beyond good and bad, swallowed the virulent poison that would otherwise have caused massive destruction. As he consumed the poison, his consort Pārvatī held his throat to prevent it from spreading to the rest of his body. The poison turned Śiva’s neck blue, and he became known as Nīlakaṇṭha – “The blue-throated one.”

Numerous treasures emerged during the churning of the milky ocean, such as Kāmadhenu, the celestial cow; Airāvata, the elephant; Uccaiḥśravas, the horse; and Kalpavṛkṣa, the wish-fulfilling tree. Finally, Lord Dhanvatari – “The celestial physician,” considered an avatar of Viṣṇu, emerged carrying the pot of Amṛta (elixir of immortality). We captured the photo, and our mom surprised us with her eye for detail. “Look at Śiva’s neck… It is indeed blue!” We could not help but appreciate the massive work that has gone into the making of the corridor and the efforts to bring out even the subtle aspects of the sculptures. As artists, it is easy to appreciate and fathom the work of other artists.

A couple of Mohanji’s quotes come to mind while observing the Samudrá Manthānam.

“Many emotions may come out from inside, but your world will be destroyed if you spit them out. If you swallow it, that means if you suppress it, you will be sick. This is our life: churning of this milky ocean happens in our life all the time. So it has to be clearly understood.”

“Only a personality or a person or a state which has the power to contain poison can save us. That’s why we have to have the connection to this kind of frequency, the frequency of Śiva

We continued our exploration of the corridor through dance, admiring the intricate sculptures that depicted various stories and characters. One sculpture that caught our attention was of Mount Kailās (a sacred mountain in Tibet said to be where Śiva resides) being lifted by Rāvaṇavana, the ten-headed demon king from the epic Rāmāyaṇa. Another sculpture depicted the story of Mārkaṇḍeya, a devotee of Lord Śiva who was blessed with immortality. Yet another sculpture depicted Lord Dattātreya, a combined form of the trinity – Brahmā (creator), Viṣṇu (sustainer), and Śiva (dissolver). All of these can be cherished as individual posts.

As we made our way down the hallway, the honking of an electric vehicle caught our attention. We happily got inside and were dropped off at the entrance gate. Before leaving, we quickly visited the Bhārat Mātā Mandir (temple dedicated to Mother India) and had a moment of quiet reflection.

As we walked out, the words of Mohanji from his book “Mast – The Ecstatic” came to mind, reminding us of the sacredness of the land we were standing on. “Dharma (divine order, ground rules of existence, duty), Artha (material fulfilment and support) and Kāma (desire) exist in all parts of the world, amongst human and non-human beings. Mokṣa – the thought and sincere conviction for liberation from the karmic cycle -exists only in Bhārat (India). This makes this land sacred.” “Do not take this land that you walk on for granted. Great sages walked this land!”

Mahākāleśvar – Part 3

Kṛṣṇa – The Eternal Romantic

April 13th, 2023 – Sacred Sojourn: Exploring Śrī Sāndīpani Āśram on Day 2 of the Mahākāleśvar Pilgrimage

In the evening, we took a rickshaw ride to visit Śrī Sāndīpani Āśram. Sāndīpani was Lord Śrī  Kṛṣṇa’s guru. As we passed the Shipra river, Devi’s question to Mohanji came to my mind. “Babaji is considered to be the disciple of Bhoganāthar. What did Bhoganāthar teach Babaji?”

Mohanji shed light on the subject by explaining the connection between Kṛṣṇa and Sāndīpani. Mohanji asked, “When a Parabrahma (Supreme Father) like Kṛṣṇa is a disciple, what could a Guru possibly teach?”. He then elaborated, “Kṛṣṇa was everything. So maybe basic things. Babaji was fully accomplished. When someone is already accomplished, then it is only a role-play”. 

Pondering on these words, Radha and I walked into the āśram. Tranquillity filled the air inside the premises. We felt blessed to step onto the sacred soil of Sāndīpani Āśram. We were simply amazed to see the 64 skills taught by Guru Sāndīpani to his students depicted in the glass paintings. After a quick tour of the hall, we came to the main shrine, which is considered to be the sacred spot where Guru Sāndīpani attained Samādhi (conscious exit from the body). Presently, this houses a Śiva Liṅgam. The rest of our group also joined us at the main shrine. Our father had bought two beautiful idols of Kṛṣṇa. They were placed at the shrine and given to us as a blessed gift to treasure and pray to. We walked around the āśram soaking in the sacred vibes. The life of Śrī Kṛṣṇa and his friends in the Gurukul (traditional Indian school or place of learning) came alive as we read each of the murals. From boat riding to making flower garlands, Kṛṣṇa romanced every aspect of life. The painting of Kṛṣṇa learning the art of dancing, cooking, bodybuilding etc., really inspired us. As Mohanji would say, this was an experience of the “Divine Romance”. This is not the love between male and female, but of one loving every aspect of life and soaking in its essence. Kṛṣṇa is indeed an eternal romantic etched in our hearts: A loving son, disciple, lover, warrior, teacher and a perpetual yogi amidst all the role play. When we recently shared the visit to Sāndīpani Āśram with Mohanji, he reflected, “How I wish I had a Sāndīpani!”

As we contemplate the above words, at the worldly level, a guide is truly helpful even if one is accomplished and has attained the highest.

Mohanji walked the path alone, and connecting to the spine was his method. He rose from the depths of despair like a phoenix from ashes. This also makes us realise how privileged we are to have a contemporary master with us, guiding us in our journey in both the gross and subtler aspects of life and leading us towards light. With gratitude welling in our hearts, we alighted the rickshaw to head out to the next destination.

Mahākāleśvar – Part 4

Fearlessness is the very nature of truth!

April 13th, 2023 – Eternally protected from fear: Seeking Blessings at Kālabhairav Temple

On April 13th, 2023, after visiting the Sāndīpani Āśram, we took a short ride by Rickshaw to the Kālabhairav Temple in Mahakal. This sacred temple is devoted to Kālabhairav, the guardian deity of the city, and is situated in the Bhairav Garh region on the banks of the river Kshipra. The temple has an ancient structure, with the shrine built on a high mound and a short flight of stairs leading up to it. The temple holds a special place for the Tantriks (practitioners of tantra), who find spiritual significance in worshipping Kālabhairav.

As the guardian deity, Kālabhairav is believed to protect and watch over the city, providing protection to one and all who visit the Temple. The vibrant atmosphere and spiritual energy here attract thousands of devotees who come to offer prayers and seek blessings.

The idol of Lord Kālabhairav is adorned with a turban, a tradition carried on for centuries, gifted by the Scindia family of Lord Gwalior. The turban symbolises a historical event where the king of the Scindia family, Mahad JI Scindia, defeated his enemy kings after seeking LordKālabhairav’s blessings with the offering of his turban. This tradition continues to this day as the turban is still presented to Lord Kālabhairav by the royal house of Gwalior.

After the darśan, we found a serene spot under the Sthala Vṛkṣa (sacred tree associated with the temple) to meditate, basking in the peaceful aura of the temple. From there, we had a clear view of the temple flag, which added to the sacred experience.

During our visit, a kind priest offered each of us a sacred rakṣā thread, a black thread with spiritual significance. These threads are believed to symbolise protection and are considered to ward off evil, bringing divine blessings to the devotees. As we circumambulated the temple premises, we came across a Dattātreya Mandir, where the priest was busy preparing the lamps for the evening’s lighting. The sight added to the spiritual ambience of the temple.

The visit to the Kālabhairav Temple was undoubtedly an enriching experience, leaving a lasting impression of peace and fearlessness. As the quote goes, “Fearlessness is the very nature of truth” by Mohanji, the temple visit reinforced our belief with a fearless heart.

Ujjain’s Sacred Gem: Unravelling the Secrets of Harsiddhi Devi Temple

After returning to our room, we eagerly prepared ourselves once again to visit the magnificent Harsiddhi Mata Mandir later that night. This revered temple in Ujjain is dedicated to the goddess Annapūrṇa, who is beautifully adorned in deep Sindur colour. The divine idol of Goddess Annapūrṇa is gracefully placed between the idols of Goddess Mahālakṣmī and Goddess Sarasvatī.

Having withstood the test of time, the Harsiddhi Mata Temple in Ujjain boasts a history of 2000 years and holds a significant place as one of the 51 Śakti Pīṭhas. It is believed that the elbow of Satī Devi, the consort of Lord Śiva, fell at this sacred spot. According to Hindu Purāṇas, these Śakti Pīṭhas emerged at the locations where various parts of Satī fell, including her clothes or jewellery. The temple is nestled near the serene pond known as Śakti, Rudra Sāgar, or Rudra Lake.

Legend has it that once two formidable demons named Caṇḍa and Pracaṇḍa attempted to capture Kailās, the abode of Lord Śiva. In response, Lord Śiva called upon Goddess Caṇḍī, who annihilated the demons with her divine power. Pleased with her valour, Lord Śiva bestowed upon her the name “Harsiddhi,” (one who possesses all Siddhis – divine powers), declaring that her name would be renowned across the three worlds.

The temple premises has two lamp pillars, each boasting an impressive array of 1011 lamps. During the grand Ārtī (ritual offering involving lamps, camphor and incense) ceremony, all the lamps are meticulously cleaned and kindled, creating a mesmerising spectacle. It is firmly believed that lighting a lamp on these pillars can fulfil any sincere wish. These sacred pillars were commissioned by the illustrious King Vikramāditya, who held Harsiddhi Mātā in the highest regard as his Kuladevatā (family or ancestral deity).

As we circumambulated the temple, our attention was drawn to an old person standing at the corner amidst the divine atmosphere. With a soulful gaze, he skillfully played the cymbals, producing enchanting sounds that seemed to resonate with the very essence of the temple. The music transcended time and space, bridging the gap between the past and the present.Interestingly, another Harsiddhi Temple exists in Dwarka, Saurashtra, and both temples, we learnt, share identical idols of the goddess. With Dwarka beckoning us next, we eagerly anticipate exploring its divine charm and sacred connection to Ujjain.

Interestingly, another Harsiddhi Temple exists in Dwarka, Saurashtra, and both temples, we learnt, share identical idols of the goddess. With Dwarka beckoning us next, we eagerly anticipate exploring its divine charm and sacred connection to Ujjain.

1 thought on “The Great Lord of Time

  1. There are no words to describe the Sincerety and Purity of the Devotion of Radha and her family, real fulltime Mohanji Angels.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.