Mahakala is the Lord of time and Death. One of the 12 jyotirlingas in India, the lingam at Mahakal is believed to be swayambhu (born of itself) deriving currents of power (shakti) from within itself as against the other images and lingams which are ritually established and invested with mantra-shakti.
According to a story, a five year old boy named Shrikar was enthralled seeing the devotion of king Chandrasena of Ujjain towards Lord Shiva. He took a stone and by considering it a linga started worshipping it regularly. Others thought that his worship as merely a game and tried to dissuade in all ways. But all the efforts went in vain. On the contrary the devotion of Shrikar increased day by day. Pleased by the boys devotion Lord Shiva assumed Jyotirlinga form and resided in the Mahakal forest.
Another Legend has it that a demon by name Dushana tormented the residents of Avanti and that Shiva appeared from the ground and vanquished the demon, and then upon the request of the inhabitants of Avanti, took up permanent abode here as Mahakaleshwara Jyotirlinga. Also in Ujjain is the temple to Parvati - Harasiddhi Devi temple.
Details about Temple
The temple courtyard of Bhagwan Mahakaleshwar temple is very big. The temple is itself grand and beautiful. This Jyotirlinga is situated below the ground in a Garbha Griha. The linga is quite big in size and is encircled by a snake of silver. On one side of the linga there is the idol of Lord Ganesha, on the another side is the idol of Parvati and Kartikeya are installed. The Kumbha mela that is organised every year on the banks of the Kshipra river is very famous. All devotees take a holy water from the Kshipra river and seek blessings of Lord Mahakaleshwar.
On the banks of river Kshipra, the city of Ujjain exists in Madhya Pradesh. It is also known as Indrapuri Amaravati, and Avantika. Because of the number of golden towers of several temples, this town is also known as Swarna Sringa. One of the seven cities of deliverance or salvation, Avantika Nagar has 7 Sagar Teerthas, 28 teerthas, 84 SiddhaLingas, 25-30 SivaLingas, Ashtabhairav, Ekadasa Rudrasthana, temples for hundreds of deities, Jalakund and monuments are there.
The idol of Mahakaleshwar is known to be dakshinamurti, which means that it is facing the south. This is a unique feature, upheld by the tantric shivnetra tradition to be found only in Mahakaleshwar among the 12 Jyotirlingas. The idol of Omkareshwar Mahadev is consecrated in the sanctum above the Mahakal shrine. The images of Ganesh, Parvati and Karttikeya are installed in the west, north and east of the sanctum sanctorum. To the south is the image of Nandi, the vehicle of Lord Shiva.
The temple is a three tiered one, with Mahakal at the lowest level, which is actually below the ground. At the middle (ground) level is a temple to Omkareshwar, and over it is a shrine to Nagachandreshwara. This is an interesting shrine which is opened only on Nagapanchami day every year.
According to belief, 33 crore Gods reside in Mahakal premises. Adorned by Hanuman, Shiva, Devi, Navgraha, Radha-Krishna, Ganesha temples, the premises evokes vibrant spiritual feelings. Mahakal is the only temple among Dwadash Jyotirlingas, which has so many temples in its premises. Mahakal premises is also referred as home of gods. There are more than 42 temples in Mahakal temple premises. This include Lakshmi Narsimha, Riddhi-Siddhi Ganesha,Vitthal Pandharinath Temple, Sriram Darbar Temple, Avantika Devi, Chandradityeshwar, Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga in Garbhagriha, Omkareshwar Mahadev, Nagchandreshwar Temple(Which opens only on Nagpanchami in holy Shravan month),Nagchandreshwar Pratima, Riddhi-Siddhi Vinayaka.
Festivals at Mahakaleshwar
Mahashivaratri Festival or the The Night of Shiva is celebrated with devotion and religious fervor in honor of Lord Shiva, one of the deities of Hindu Trinity. Shivaratri falls on the moonless 14th night of the new moon in the Hindu month of Phalgun, which corresponds to the month of February - March in English Calendar. Celebrating the festival of Shivratri devotees observe day and night fast and perform ritual worship of Shiva Lingam to appease Lord Shiva. Various traditions and customs related to Shivaratri Festival are dutifully followed by the worshippers of Lord Shiva.
Devotees observe strict fast in honor of Shiva, though many go on a diet of fruits and milk some do not consume even a drop of water. Devotees strongly believe that sincere worship of Lord Shiva on the auspicious day of Shivaratri, absolves a person of sins and liberates him from the cycle of birth and death. Shivaratri is considered especially auspicious for women. While married women pray for the well being of their husbands unmarried women pray for a husband like Lord Shiva, who is regarded as the ideal husband.
To mark the Shivratri festival, devotees wake up early and take a ritual bath, preferably in river Ganga. After wearing fresh new clothes devotees visit the nearest Shiva temple to give ritual bath to the Shiva Lingum with milk, honey, water etc.
On Shivaratri, worship of Lord Shiva continues all through the day and night. Every three hours priests perform ritual pooja of Shivalingam by bathing it with milk, yoghurt, honey, ghee, sugar and water amidst the chanting of Om Namah Shivaya and ringing of temple bells. Nightlong vigil or jaagran is also observed in Shiva temples where large number of devotees spend the night singing hymns and devotional songs in praise of Lord Shiva. It is only on the following morning that devotee break their fast by partaking prasad offered to the deity.