Vijay Soni | 17 Mar, 2016
THE STAGE IS SET for the celestial drama called Simhastha at Ujjain, one of the most ancient cities on Planet Earth. The city of the Lord of Cosmic Time, Shri Mahakaleshwar, will play host to devout pilgrims drawn from every nook and corner of India as well as abroad, in quest of spiritual solace. The month-long festivities from April 22, 2016 to May 21, 2016 will be a global event.
The time and duration of fairs and festivals of the Sanatan Dharma are based on appropriate constellations. Simhastha, in Ujjain, is one of the 4 Kumbha Melas held in Prayag (Allahabad), Haridwar, Nasik and Ujjain. The Kumbha at Ujjain is called Simhastha as the Sun is in Aries and Jupiter in Leo. It is believed that bathing in the Kshipra River at Ujjain during the Simhastha, particularly on auspicious dates, cleanses the souls of pilgrims and qualifies them for salvation. According to the Skanda Purana, “The holy bath of Kumbh is equal in Punya to thousands of Kartik Snanas, hundreds of Magh Snanas, and crores of Narmada Snanas during Vaishakh month. The fruits of Kumbha Snana are equal to the fruits of thousands of Ashvamedh Yajnas, hundreds of Vajpaiyee Yajnas and lakhs of journeys around the earth.”
The Simhastha is said to be the commemoration of the drops of ambrosia that fell in the Kshipra in the course of the struggle between the demi-gods and demons. The Puranas tell the epic story of the churning of the ocean by the demi-gods and demons that yielded, among other, things a jar of ambrosia. A battle ensued between the two sides to capture the jar that continued for 12 days in the skies. In the battle, a few drops fell into the rivers in Haridwar, Prayag, Nasik and Ujjain.
The month-long congregation of pilgrims during the mega fair offers magnificent spectacles and memorable pin-ups. Processions of seers and sages from Akharas of various sects in their prescribed costumes who gather to take a holy dip in the Kshipra with their holy Nishans, or sartorial banners, on specific ceremonial and ritual bath days are most spectacular of the sights. This affords a rare opportunity to pilgrims to have a glimpse of the kaleidoscopic religious and spiritual traditions of the Sanatan Dharma.
All of them follow the rituals and traditions of their respective sects prescribed thousands of years ago. The city reverberates with the chanting of mantras and hymns singing the glory of Shiva. The devotees and pilgrims lined up on either side shower flower petals on the procession, thereby paying their respects to the saints and sages. The saints and seers, in turn, rip off their garlands and throw them on the devotees. This is, indeed, a sight for the gods to see. The spectators feel transported back to millions of years. Many of the seers and sages taking part in the processions come out of their place of penance only to take part in the Kumbh Melas. For the devotees it is a rare opportunity to have a glimpse of them.
NAGAS: THE ARMY OF SHIVA
Naga Sadhus, the nude mendicants, smeared in ash, are the main attraction of the procession as well as the mega event. Their seemingly unending row is an ethereal spectacle. As they move forward like a most disciplined army, they look like Shiv Ganas amidst chants of Har Har Mahadev by euphoric and devotion-charged devotees. The latter reverentially collect the dust trodden upon by the Nagas who call themselves the Sanyasi army for the protection of the Sanatan Dharma. They consider their nakedness as a symbol of renunciation and are totally detached from life.
NO MUNDANE DIVISIONS
All mundane divisions disappear during the Simhastha. There is a sea of humanity surging like one organic whole, driven by a common desire to be one with the divine. The entire city acquires an otherworldly hue. Every household in the city plays host to the pilgrims, serving them with great affection and takes care of them to the best of their ability. The spiritual ambience offers devotees a rare opportunity to feel the aroma of the divine presence in the wind and have a close encounter with spirituality, besides snatching a glimpse of eternity. Pilgrims converge on the ghats of the sacred Kshipra to take the holy dip.
Shri Mahakaleshwar, the Lord of Cosmic Time is the presiding deity of Ujjain, located on the Tropic of Cancer, prime meridian of India. Shri Mahakaleshwar temple enshrines one of the 12 Jyotirlingas that occupy an exalted position in the Sanatan Dharma. The most important aspect about the Jyotirlinga here is that it is believed to be swayambhu or born of itself and derives currents of power or Shakti from within itself. Besides, it is the only south-facing Jyotirlinga and that is why it is called Dakshinamurthy or Dakshinmukhi. It is of special importance in Tantra traditions.
HOLY CITY UJJAIN
Ujjain is not merely a physical entity, but also a tremendous spiritual energy field. The moment you step into it with a little meditative mind, you feel spiritually elevated in an ocean of vibration of divine energy that permeates every particle of this one of the seven most sacred cities of India mentioned in the scriptures. The city is known the world over for its truly unmatched spiritual sublimity.
Previously known by various other names like Avanti, Kushasthali, Kanakshringa, Bhaumvati, Padmavati, Pratikalpa, Amaravati, Vishala, Avantika, Ujjaini, etc., the city’s fascinating beauty always attracted poets, writers and other artists and scholars. Mahakavi Kalidasa has devoted 12 of the 100 verses of his classic Meghadootam to Ujjain. Panegyric accounts of this most hallowed of cities have been given by ancient travellers like Fa Hsein, Hiuen Tsiang, Francis Bernier, etc.
A classic example of religious and communal tolerance and syncretism, Ujjain had all along been a prominent religious centre where Jainism and Buddhism also flourished. This has been an important seat of the Siddha and Nath sects.
The city has countless temples. There goes a saying that if a person comes to Ujjain with two cartloads of food grains and offers one handful of grains at a temple he would fall short of the offerings without visiting all the temples.
Shri Chintaman Ganesh, Harsiddhi Temple, Shri Kal Bhairava, Bade Ganesh Temple, Mangalnath-Mahadeva, Gadh Kalika, Gopal Mandir… According to Skand Purana, there are 84 Mahadeva, 64 Yogini, six Vinayaka (Ganesh) temples in Ujjain. Other important temples include Navagriha temple, Ramjanardana Mandir, Harihar Tirtha and Mallikarjun Tirtha in the city.
Ujjain has been a prominent centre of astrological and astronomical studies since ancient times. The city is considered the Greenwich of India. Horoscopes are cast using the tables and the ephemeris produced here annually. According to Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, “There is something very striking about the consistency of Ujjain’s dominance in Indian time accounting.”
Sandipani Ashram: In ancient times Ujjain enjoyed the reputation of being a great seat of learning. Yogeshwar Lord Krishna and his brother Balram had received early education at the Ashram of seer Sandipani in the Ankpat Kshetra of Ujjain. It is believed that the numerals 1 to 100 found on a stone here were engraved by Guru Sandipani. The place is regarded as the 73rd of the 84 seats of Vallabhacharya. Here he delivered his discourses throughout the country.
Following unique coincidences happen on the occasion of Simhhastha:
IMPORTANT PLACES NEAR UJJAIN
UJJAIN DECLARATION FOR WORLD PEACE
In ancient times, the Simhastha, besides being a religious and ritual bath festival used to be an occasion to brainstorm on issues concerning society, nation and mankind. Scholars, seers and sages would exchange views and come out with solutions.
Reviving this tradition, the Madhya Pradesh government, on the initiative of Chief Minister Shri Sivraj Singh Chouhan has taken the initiative to hold brainstorming sessions on burning issues facing society, nation and the world.
The Simhastha would be preceded by a series of International seminars. The first seminar has already been held in Bhopal and was graced by Gurudev Jaggi Vasudevji Maharaj, one of the evolved souls who discoursed on Value-Based Life.
The subjects of other seminars include Environment, Religion and Science, Spiritual Life and Essential Unity of Religions. Scholars, saints, writers, poets and other enlight-ened persons would express their views and research papers would also be submitted.
Based on the conclusions of these seminars a Maha Sammelan will be held at Ujjain during the Simhastha. On the basis of its gist, a Ujjain Declaration would be issued at international level, giving the message of value-based life and global peace, harmony and goodwill.
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