Madhya Pradesh, as the name signifies, is the heart of Bharat and has been a witness to prehistoric phases and confluence of cultures and traditions. From ujjain’s timeless itihaas of mahakaleshwar to ramayana’ chitrakoot. Madhya pradesh when seen with the lens of such chronological and archeological evidence presents a refreshing splash of the glorious civilization.
Isolated remains of Homo erectus found in Hathnora in the Narmada Valley indicate that Madhya Pradesh might have been inhabited since the Middle Pleistocene era, around 500,000 years ago. Painted pottery dated to the later Mesolithic period has been found in the Bhimbetka rock shelters. Chalcolithic sites belonging to Kayatha culture (2100–1800 BCE) and Malwa culture (1700–1500 BCE) have been discovered in the Western part of the state.
Mesolithic Rock painting, Bhimbetka, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
The oldest available treatise on astronomy and time was surya siddhanta which makes mention of madhya rekha and further proved by ancient mathematicians like bhaskaracharya.
In his magnum opus “Siddhant Shiromani” (Crown of Treatises) under the chapter Bhu Paridhi Adhyay (Circumference of the Earth), Bhaskara mentions Madhyamrekha:
The verse deals with the circumference of the earth at a given point (Sphuta paridhi – rectified circumference). It then defines the Madhya Rekha as: “Also the primary terrestrial meridian is that longitudinal line passing through the places Lanka, Ujjayini (Ujjain), Kurukshetra upto Meru (Mount Meru was considered as the Northernmost point of earth.)”
In Verse 3 under the section Bhu Paridhi Adhyay (Circumference of the Earth), Bhaskara gives a correction called Deshantar (distance between lands in terms of time). Bhaskara gives the rule- It is the subtraction of time to the east of the meridian and addition to the west, just as we do it today with respect to GMT. [India is (+) 5:30 hours while New York is (-) 5 :00 hours with respect to GMT]. This primary meridian was referred to as Bhu Madhyarekha by the then astronomers & mathematicians. Today, the primary meridian is taken as Greenwich meridian (GMT).
Ujjain’s glorious history is incomplete without mahakaleshwar temple which is timeless and as eternal as shiva himself.
Lord Mahakaleswar is one of the most important among the 12 Jyotirlingam temples due to its utmost sacredness among devotees. It is located on the banks of the River KShipra, Ujjain, Maharashtra. The most significant aspect about it is that the presiding deity who is also known as Lord Dakshinamukhi, is facing south. It is one of the 12 Jyotirlinga temples and is very important to Shaivitees due to this fact. In a Jyotirlinga temple Lord Shiva himself has a column of light, which gives the shrine special mystics powers like none other, so worshiping the Lord here is said to absolve one of sins.
The most interesting aspect of the temple is its idol which is beautiful and striking. Facing south, it is immensely decorated and prayed to by devotees who throng here from all parts of the country. The temple is a beautiful structure, grand and majestic and is adorned by the most artistic sculptures. People come here in huge numbers during Navaratri and Mahashivratri to seek blessings of the Lord for a peaceful and prosperous life. Such is the loveliness and importance of this temple that the poet Kalidasa mentions it in his works Meghaduta. What he brings out in this work, is the beauty of the rituals that was followed in this temple, giving particular importance to dance and art, which gives insight into the kind of techniques used in prehistoric periods in this ancient temple.
In Ujjain there lived King Chandresena, who was an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva. When he was worshiping the Lord, a farmer’s son by name Shikara heard him when walking on the palace grounds. He rushed to where the king was in the palace temple and started praying with him, however the guards forcibly removed him from the place. He was then sent to the city outskirts where he heard the plot of King Chandresena rivals – King Ripudamana and King Singhaditya wanting to attack his kingdom and take over its treasures.
Shikara prayed to Lord Shiva and this news went to the local priest Vridhi. He also started to pray to Lord Shiva, but at this time King Ripudamana and King Singhaditya had already started their attack and they were successful. When Lord Shiva’s devotees were attacked, the Lord could not tolerate it and appeared in his Mahakala form to destroy the enemies of King Chandrasena. Upon ardent requests from devotees Shikhar and Vridhi, Lord Shiva decided to reside in the city and protect it against its enemies. After that the city became the place where he resided in the form of a column of light. Lord Shiva blessed his devotees and also stated that whoever worshiped him in this temple would be free of diseases and death, will gain peace and prosperity under his immense protection.
Tamil Saint Nayanar Appar sang about this particular temple in the vaippu Sthalams.
Many studiers of ancient temple architecture will find this temple to be an architectural marvel, simply because it is so huge and is a combination of different building styles. Inside you can see a combination of Chalukya, Maratha and Bhumja styles which give it an ethereal look and make it such a beauty to enjoy for devotees. Spread across the three floors of the temple is the Linga of Mahakaleswar, Omkaaeswar and Nagachandreswar. There is a lovely tank close by which enhances the attractiveness of the place, making it more divine and godly. This tank is called the Koti Thrirtha and is built in the Sarvotobadra style.
There are 64 forms of Shiva, not to be confused with Jyotirlingas. Each of the twelve Jyotirlinga sites take the name of the presiding deity – each considered different manifestation of Shiva.
The presiding deity of time Kala, Shiva, in all his splendor, reigns eternally in the city of Ujjain. The temple of Mahakaleshwar, its Shikhar soaring into the sky, an imposing façade against the skyline, evokes primordial awe and reverence with its majesty.
The Puranas or ancient Hindu texts also put forward that the Shipra originated from the heart of Varaha, Lord Vishnu’s incarnation as a boar. Also on the banks of the Shipra is Sage Sandipani’s ashram or hermitage where Krishna, Lord Vishnu’s eighth incarnation, had studied.
Religious Significance of River Shipra
Religious Significance of Shipra River Ujjain is in Malwa region. The holy city of Ujjain is located on the right bank of the Shipra River. The famous Kumbha Mela takes place in the ghats of this city, once every 12 years, a yearly celebration of the river goddess Kshipra. There are hundreds of Hindu shrines along the banks of the Shipra River.
The Shipra River is one of the sacred rivers in India. It finds mention not only in ancient Hindu texts, but also in Buddhist and Jain scriptures. Every evening “Shipra Aarti”, the offering of lit oil lamps to the river, takes place. This was popular with the pilgrims. Thousands of small lamps are set afloat on the river on rafts of leaves and flowers.
It is believed that the north-bound Shipra takes these offerings to the abode of Lord Siva in the Himalayas .
JATA SHANKAR CAVE TEMPLE
The cave derives its names because of the peculiar rocky formation that resembles the matted locks of Lord Shiva. Legend has it, pleased with the devoted worship of demon Bhasmasura, Shiva granted him the power to burn anything he laid his hands on. Drunk on this new found prowess, the demon decided to test his boon on the god himself. Fleeing from Bhasmasura, Shiva hid himself in the Jata Shankar Cave, till Vishnu intervened as Mohini, the enchanted seductress, and tricked Bhasmasura to touch his own head.
- Madhya Pradesh retains other places of significance in Lord Ram’s story.
- One such place is Orchha, where till today Lord Ram is worshipped as the king of the land. The Ram Raja mandir in Orchha is where Shri Ram sits in a Padmansana pose, crossing his left leg over his right thigh.
- Devotees and tourists throng this place alike every Special rituals are held every day where chandan is applied to Lord Ram’s left toe.
- The Ram Raja mandir was constructed by Ganesh Kunwari, the queen of the Bundel king Madhukar Shah Judev.
- This temple dates back to 1575. It is said that the queen was an ardent devotee of Lord Ram and had gone to Ayodhya to bring Him to Orchha in his child-form. As she sat in meditation on the banks of River Sarayu, Lord Ram appeared in her lap and agreed to come with her on the condition that he will be the king of Orchha.
- The Orchha royals since then have worshipped Lord Ram as their Even today, Lord Ram, the king of Orchha is guarded by a retinue of security personnel.
- Another such place which has a rich collection of ancient temples is Going back to the Gupta and the Gurjara–Pratihara times, remains of several temples are found in this area.
- One such temple complex in Padvali, close to Morena, has exquisite depiction of scenes from Ramayana, carved on the walls of the temple.
- When Ma Sita was held captive in the Ashok Vatika by Ravana, a demoness by the name Trijata is said to have cared for her. She is said to have also saved Ma Sita from the wrath of Ravana while bringing her important messages from outside. A temple dedicated to Trijata is found in Ujjain even today, where she is worshipped as the saviour of Ma Sita.
- The Ram Ghat in Ujjain, known as the kingdom of Avantika/Ujjayani in the times of Ramayana is an important ghat where devotees come in large numbers during the Kumbh Mela. It is said that Lord Ram had visited this area along with Ma Sita.
- Ujjain is also home to Valmiki Dham, a tribute to Saint Valmiki who composed the Ramayana. Saints and followers of Valmiki live in this region on the banks of the Kshipra river.
- When Lord Ram went into exile, one of the first places he came to was Chitrakoot. He is said to have spent several months of his exile Chitrakoot is mentioned prominently in the Valmiki Ramayana.
- It is here that many rishis joined Lord Ram as he conducted the shraddha ceremony for Raja
- Chitrakoot is where the Ram–Bharat milaap took place.
- Today, Ramghat and Janaki Kund on the Mandakini river remind us of the time Lord Ram and Ma Sita spent here.
- The Valmiki Ghat is an important place of worship and taking holy dips in the river during the Kumbh Mela.
- Tourism, especially religious tourism, can have a great impact on economic upliftment. Tourism also generates jobs and creates economic assets like hotels, transportation hubs and small businesses in the local area of the tourist attraction.
Prehistoric Rock Shelters at Bhimbetka
The Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka are in the foothills of the Vindhyan Mountains on the southern edge of the central Indian plateau. Within massive sandstone outcrops, above comparatively dense forest, are five clusters of natural rock shelters, displaying paintings that appear to date from the Mesolithic Period right through to the historical period. The cultural traditions of the inhabitants of the twenty-one villages adjacent to the site bear a strong resemblance to those represented in the rock paintings.
Bhimbetka reflects a long interaction between people and the landscape. It is closely associated with a hunting and gathering economy, as demonstrated in the rock art and in the relicts of this tradition in the local adivasi villages on the periphery of the site.
The Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka are located about 45 km south east of Bhopal on the road to Hoshangabad. The site spread over 10 km in length and about 3 km in width has more than 700 rock shelters, of which over 400 have paintings. The earliest human activities are known from the numerous stone tools including handaxes, cleavers and also the pebble tools.
The latter pertinently was found in primary contexts. The continuity of human evolution from the Lower Palaeolithic Period is noticed by the smaller size of stone tools in the following Middle Palaeolithic Period besides new tools like scrapers. During the Upper Palaeolithic Period newer tool types like: blades, borers and burins had also emerged. However, it is in the Mesolithiic Period that there is a clear change in the materials and tool typology. Earlier, the tools were largely made of quartzite and sandstone, whereas the tools being made in the Mesolithic Period were most often of chalcedony. The stone tools of this period include blades, triangles, trapezes, crescents besides quern and muller.
The Mesolithic culture at Bhimbetka continued much longer as understood by the presence of Chalcolithic potteries in otherwise Mesolithic contexts. By the Early Historic times it appears that interaction with the surrounding cultures became more pronounced. This is evidenced by the presence of rock-cut beds in a rock shelter on the top portion of an inselberg-like outcrop not far from the later built temple at this site. In all respects it resembles the Sallekhana spots observed in South India.
The cave also has a small inscription of the Maurya/Sunga period. Within the general area of Bhimbetka Group of rock shelters small stupas have been found at Bhimbetka, near Bhoranwali, at Bineka, at Lakhajuar and midway between Lakhajuar and Bhimbetka. At Bineka besides the stupa enclosure wall and other structures were found. There are a large number of Shanka Lipi inscriptions in the Bhimbetka cluster of rock shelters.
However it is the rock paintings of Bhimbetka that steals the limelight. Of particular interest to the tourist are the Auditorium Rock Shelter, Zoo Rock and Boar Rock in Bhimbetka Cluster. The earliest endeavour here other than for mere run of the mill activities for survival is the engravings of small cup like depressions at the end of the Auditorium Rock Shelter, which is dated to nearly 100000 years. Near the end of this tunnel there is a cluster of painting depicting a hunter, deer, tiger cattle and stylised peacock. Further ahead on the same path one comes across the Zoo Rock Shelter, which qualifies as the most densely painted rock shelter, paintings spanning from the Mesolithic to the Mediaeval. The paintings here include those of A Mesolithic boar painted in dark red, animals like: elephant, rhinoceros, boar, barasingha, spotted deer and cattle and snake, etc. Later paintings include battle scenes painted in red and an elephant painted in white. The Boar Rock, which is the last among the rock shelters accessible for tourist has a depiction of a mythical boar with horns that is many more times larger than the human being chased by it.
Rock cut architecture caves
An important tourist landmark in Panchmarhi, Pandav Caves lend their name to this picturesque hill resort of Madhya Pradesh. According to local legends and popular beliefs, the five Pandav brothers of Mahabharata, along with their wife ‘Draupadi’, spent a part of their exile here. Five ancient caverns carved out on a sandstone rock, in a low hillock, forms these famous caves of Pachmarhi.
Pachmarhi is a combination of the two words ‘Panch’ and ‘Marhi’, which translates to ‘Five Caves’ or ‘Five Huts’ in Hindi. This reiterates the lore that the caves were home to the five Pandava brothers. Amongst these five caves, the most well ventilated and the spacious one is the ‘Draupadi Kuti’, named after Draupadi, the wife of the five Pandava brothers. The darkest of all the caves is the ‘Bhim Kothari’, named after the toughest of the five brothers – Bhima. All the five caves are hewed in a rough manner, which however do not mar their beauty or attraction. Later on, they became home to buddhist monks.
Singrauli in Madhya Pradesh is one of the districts with immense natural history. It was once ruled by the Rewa princely state and its architectural history dates even back from those times. It has remained one of the cradles of civilization in India and this can be seen in the numerous architectural evidences present around the district.
Singrauli lies in the forest belt in the heart of India and is surrounded by hills, mountains, rivers and valleys. These mountains and hills have been considered some of the most treacherous in the state. It is in the midst of these hills and valleys is located, the Mada Caves. These caves are not only beautiful examples of rock cut architectures but also important from the view of iconography. These caves consist of a series of caves which have been known by various names like Vivah Mada, Ganesh Mada, Jaljalia Mada etc.
Vivah Mada Caves
Vivah Mada is one of the caves in the series and it is a single long cave divided into three portions. This cave faces north and the legend has it that Lord Ram and Sita were married in this very cave. The cave is built such that there are rooms, which are supported, by pillars and large verandahs all around with a Shivling in the middle. It is a two-storey structure but only the lower storey has survived today but some evidences of an upper storey construction is still visible.
Shankar Mada- Ganesh Mada Caves
These are twin caves, with Ganesh Mada facing north and Shankar Mada facing south. Ganesh Mada consists of three rooms of which the middle room contains of the Shivling on a raised platform made of stone. The most fascinating aspect of this cave is that the entrance to the cave lies on the top, in the roof of the cave, which also has a Ganesh statue. Shankar mada caves is carved out of the same mountain on the other side as the Ganesh Mada and has a statue of Lord Shiva in Natraj avatar. There are also two Shivalingas on top of the mountain with the large one called Pathiya and the smaller one called Paila.
Raavan Mada Caves
These caves are north-east facing and also cut out of a single mountain. This cave has some of the most beautiful architectural nuances and is one of the most famous in the region. Legend has it that Raavan stayed in this very cave resulting in it being called Raavan Mada.
Jaljaliya Mada Caves
This cave complex consists of two caves of which one is a temple cave and the other is an underground cave which in in the form of a pool. The temple consists of Lord Shiva statue and the statue of a goddess. The most interesting aspect is that the pool cave has an unidentified source of water and was probably used as a bathing pool in ancient times. Legend has it that the devotees who used to come to the temple for worship probably used the underground bathing pool to bathe and wash and the cave as changing rooms. About 200 meters away from this cave, there is a small temple dedicated to Goddess Sita known as Sita Kuti. Near this is a small waterfall, which is also known as the wish-fulfilling waterfall and hence popular among the locals.
Celebrated in the entire Indian literature and sacred books; the abode of Lord Ram, his spouse Sitaji and his brother Lakshman during their exile for about eleven years and a half; capable of purifying the human heart and of attracting the tourists by its charms of nature. Chitrakoot is a holy place famous both for its natural scenery and its spiritual altitude. A tourist is as much thrilled by sighting its beautiful waterfalls, playful young deer and dancing peacocks as a pilgrim is overwhelmed by taking a dip in the Payaswani/Mandakini and by immersing himself in the dust of the Kamadgiri.
From times immemorial, the Chitrakoot area has been a live centre of inspiration for cosmic consciousness. Thousands of mendicants, hermits, sages and saints have attained higher and higher spiritual status and have exerted a beneficial impact on the world through their penance, sadhana, yoga, tapasya and various arduous spiritual endeavours.
Nature has been very generous in bestowing over the area all the gifts in her power, which enable it to attract pilgrims and tourists alike from all over the world. Atri, Anasuya, Dattatreya, Maharshi Markandeya, Sarbhang, Sutikshna and various other sages, seers, devotees and thinkers have lived in this area through all the ages; and knowledgeable people say that many of such figures are still engaged in tapasya here in various caves and little known places. This lends the area a spiritual aroma which permeates its entire atmosphere and makes it spiritually alive to this day.
Chitrakoot is the teerth of all teerths. According to the Hindu belief, Prayagraj (modern nameAllahabad) is the king of all teerths; but Chitrakoot is rated as more elevated. When Chitrakoot did not go to him as all the other teearths did, Prayagraj was told that Chitrakoot enjoyed a higher status and it was Prayagraj who was expected to go to Chitrakoot and not vice versa. It is said that Prayagraj comes every year to wash off his sins by bathing in the Payaswini. It is also said that all the gods and goddesses came to Chitrakoot when Ram performed the Shraddha ceremony of his father to partake of the shuddhi (i.e. a feast given to all the relatives and friends on the thirteenth day of the a death in the family). They were captivated by the beauty of the place. Lord Ram’s presence there added a spiritual dimension to it.
So they were unwilling to depart. Vashishtha, the family priest sensing their desire to stay and in accordance with the wishes of Lord Ram, forgot to utter the visarjan (departure) mantra. Thus, all the gods and goddesses have made this place their permanent abode and are always present there. Today also, even when a mere tourist reaches this place strewn profusely with ancient rocks, caves, ashrams and temples with sages engaged in holy and spiritual sadhana, he loses himself unwittingly in the atmosphere charged with unceasing holy rites and enlightening sermons and partakes of the bliss of a world very different from our own. Thousands of pilgrims and seekers of the truth from all parts of the world resort to this place impelled by an irrepressible desire to improve and elevate their lives.
Chitrakoot has had its own identity and this very name since times immemorial. The first known mention of the place is in the Valmiki Ramayan, which is believed to be the first ever Mahakavya composed by the first ever poet.
As an unwritten composition, an epic of growth, it was handed down from generation to generation by an oral tradition. As Valmiki is said to be contemporaneous with (or even earlier than) Ram and is believed to have composed the Ramayan before the birth of Ram, the antiquity of its fame can well be guaged. Valmiki speaks of Chitrakoot as an eminently holy place inhabited by the great sages, abounding in monkeys, bears and various other kinds of fauna and flora.
Both the sages Bharadwaj and Valmiki speak of Chitrakoot in glowing terms and advise Ram to make it his abode during the period of his exile, as the place was capable of relieving a person of all his desires and of giving him a calm of mind that could make him achieve the highest of the goals in his life. Lord Ram himself admits this bewitching impact of this place.
In the ‘Ramopakhyan’and descriptions of teerthas at various places in the Mahabharat, Chitrakoot finds a favoured place.
It ‘Adhyatma Ramayan’ and ‘Brihat Ramayan’ testify to the throbbing spiritually and natural beauty of Chitrakoot. The writer has been told that the latter work devotes as many as sixteen cantos to the description of Chitrakoot and its principal places. Entire Indian literature relating to Ram gives it a unique pride of place. The Rev. Father Kamil Bulke even mentions a ‘Chitrakoot—Mahatmya’; found among the collections of Mackenzie.Various Sanskrit and Hindi poets also have paid similar tributes to Chitrakoot.
Mahakavi Kalidas has described this place beautifully in his epic ‘Raghuvansha’;. He was so much impressed with its charms that he made Chitrakoot (which he calls Ramgiri because of its time-honoured associations with lord Ram) the place of exile of his yaksha in Meghdoot.
Tulsidas, the saint-poet of Hindi has spoken very reverently of this place in all his major works-Ramcharit Manas, Kavitawali, Dohawali and Vinay Patrika.
The last-mentioned work contains many verses which show a deep personal bond between Tulsidas and Chitrakoot. He spent quite some part of his life here worshipping Ram and craving his darshan. It was here that he had what he must have considered the crowning moment of his achievements–ie. the darshan of his beloved deity Lord Ram at the intercession of Hanumanji.
Mahajanpadas and dynasties
Chedi or Cheti
The Chedis (Sanskrit: चेदि), Chetis or Chetyas had two distinct settlements of which one was in the mountains of Nepal and the other in Bundelkhand near Kausambi. According to old authorities, Chedis lay near Yamuna midway between the kingdom of Kurus and Vatsas. In the medieval period, the southern frontiers of Chedi extended to the banks of river Narmada.
Sotthivatnagara, the Sukti or Suktimati of Mahabharata, was the capital of Chedi. It was ruled during early periods by Paurava kings and later by Yadav kings.
The Chedis were an ancient peoples of India and are mentioned in the Rigveda. Prominent Chedis during the Kurukshetra War included Damaghosha, Shishupala, Dhrishtaketu, Suketu, Sarabha, Bhima’s wife, Nakula’s wife Karenumati, and Dhristaketu’s sons. Other famous Chedis included King Uparichara Vasu, his children, King Suvahu, and King Sahaja. A branch of Chedis founded a royal dynasty in the kingdom of Kalinga according to the Hathigumpha Inscription of Kharvela.
During the time of Bharata war the entire between the Yamuna and the Vindhyas was inhabited by the Chedis.The King Kasu Chaidya (identified with Vasu of the Mahabharata) is mentioned in a danastuti, found at the end of the hymn in the Rigveda. he puranic literature represents these Chedis as an off shoot of the Yadus. According to the puranic tradition, Manu’s grandson Pururavas Aila, founder of Lunar race , extended his sway into the Gangetic doab. Malwa and Eastern Rajputana, covering most probably Bhind district also.His great grandson Yayati is said to have reduced the whole of Madhyadesha and the surrounding region. After him his son Yadu, projenitor of Yadavas , became a mornarch of the territory , that was watered by Chambal , the Betwa and the Ken. The Yadus were supplanted by the Haihayas, who were again annihilated by the Yadus of Vidarbha. A member of this royal house , named Kanishka , became the king of Chedi -desha, comprising all the land lying to the south of the Yamuna, between the Chambal and the Ken. Thus the District , evidently lying in the area came under Aryan fold. The Chedi country is mentioned in the puranic list. It was , one of the Sixteen Mahajanapadas in the 6th Century BC. After some time the Chedi king of the Yadava lineage was over thrown by Vasu, a descendant of King Kuru of Hastinapur. A few generations later , the Chedi king of this line was King Shishupala, who abused Lord Krishna during the Rajasuya ceremony of the Pandavas and was slain by him at Indraprastha.
Vamsa or Vatsa
The Vatsas, Vamsas or Vachchas (also known as Batsa, or Bansa) are said to be an offshoot from the Kurus. Vatsa’s geographical location was near the confluence of the Ganges and Yamuna rivers, corresponding with the territory of modern Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh. Its capital was Kauśāmb, (identified with the modern village of Kosam, 38 miles from Allahabad). Kausambi was a prosperous city and the residence of a large number of wealthy merchants resided. It served as an exchange post for goods and passengers from the north-west and south.
The Puranas state that the Vatsa kingdom was named after a Kaśī king, Vatsa.The Ramayana and the Mahabharata attribute the credit of founding its capital Kauśāmbī to a Chedi prince Kuśa or Kuśāmba. The first ruler of the Bhārata dynasty of Vatsa, about whom some definite information available is Śatānīka II, Parantapa, father of Udayana. Udayana, the romantic hero of the Svapnavāsavadattā, the Pratijñā-Yaugandharāyaṇa and many other legends, was a contemporary of Buddha and of Pradyota, the king of Avanti. According to the Puranas, the four successors of Udayana were Vahināra, DanḍapāṇI, Niramitra and Kṣemaka. Later, the Vatsa kingdom was annexed by the Avanti kingdom. Maniprabha, the great-grandson of Pradyota ruled at Kauśāmbī as a prince of Avanti.
Vatsa had a monarchical form of government based at Kausambi. The Buddha visited Koushambi several times during the reign of Udayana on his effort to spread the dharma, the Eightfold Path and the Four Noble Truths. Udayana was an Upasaka (lay follower) of Buddha, and made Buddhism the state religion. The Chinese translation of the Buddhist canonical text Ekottara Āgama (“Numbered Discourses”) states that the first image of Buddha, curved out of sandalwood was made under the instruction of Udayana.
Avanti (Sanskrit: अवन्ति) was an important kingdom of western India and was one of the four great monarchies in India when Buddhism arose, the other three being Kosala, Vatsa and Magadha. Avanti was divided into north and south by the river Vetravati. Initially, Mahissati (Sanskrit Mahishamati) was the capital of Southern Avanti, and Ujjaini (Sanskrit Ujjayini) the capital of northern Avanti, but in the times of Mahavira and Buddha, Ujjaini was the capital of integrated Avanti. The country of Avanti roughly corresponded to modern Malwa, Nimar and adjoining parts of the Madhya Pradesh. Both Mahishmati and Ujjaini were located on the southern high road called Dakshinapatha extending from Rajagriha to Pratishthana (modern Paithan). Avanti was an important center of Buddhism and some of the leading theras and theris were born and resided there. Avanti later became part of the Magadhan empire when King Nandivardhana of Avanti was defeated by king Shishunaga of Magadha.
The city of Ujjain (also known as Avanti) arose as a major center in the second wave of Indian urbanization in the sixth century BC, and served as the chief city of the kingdom of Malwa or Avanti. Further east, the kingdom of Chedi lie in Bundelkhand. Chandragupta Maurya united northern India c. 320 BCE, establishing the Maurya empire (321 to 185 BCE), which included all of modern-day Madhya Pradesh. King Ashoka’s wife was said to come from Vidisha- a town north of today’s Bhopal.
The Maurya empire went into decline after the death of Asoka, and Central India was contested among the Sakas, Kushanas, and local dynasties during the 3rd to 1st centuries BCE. Ujjain emerged as the predominant commercial center of western India from the first century BCE, located on the trade routes between the Ganges plain and India’s Arabian Sea ports. It was also an important Hindu and Buddhist center.
The Satavahana dynasty of the northern Deccan and the Saka dynasty of the Western Satraps fought for the control of Madhya Pradesh during the 1st to 3rd centuries CE.
Northern India was conquered by the Gupta empire in the 4th and 5th centuries, which became known as India’s “classical age”. The Vakatakadynasty were the southern neighbors of the Guptas, ruling the northern Deccan plateau from the Arabian Sea to the Bay of Bengal. These empires collapsed towards the end of the 5th century.
Ujjain lay on the main trade route between North India and Deccan going from Mathura via Ujjain to Mahismati (Maheshwar) on the Narmada, and on to Paithan on the Godavari, western Asia and the West. The Northern black polished ware – the NBP as it is often called which is technically the finest pottery of the time, with a brilliantly burnished dressing almost of the quality of a glaze in colour from jet black to a deep grey or metallic blue and iron, found their way to the northern Deccan from the Gangetic plains through Ujjain.
- The articles of export to the western Asia such as precious stones and pearls, scents and spices, perfumes, silks and muslin, reached the port of Brighukachcha from the remote north through Ujjain. All this finds a detailed and interesting description in the Periplus of the Erythrean Sea.
- An account of an unknown Greek merchant who made a voyage to India in the second half of the first century AD. The Periplus talks of a city called Ozene to the east of Barygaza (Broach) which fed all commodities to trade like onyx, porcelain, fine muslin and quantities of ordinary cottons, spikenard , costus bodellium to this important port and to other parts of India.
- The earliest known epigraphic record of the Paramaras, the Harsola Granth, issued at the beginning of the 10th century AD, maintains that the kings of the Paramara dynasty were born in the family of the Rastrakutas in the Deccan The early Paramara chiefs of Malwa were probably vassals of the The Udaypur Prasati, mentions Vakpati Vakpati I as the king of Avanti and it was probably in his region that the Rastrakuta Indra III halted at Ujjain while advancing with his army against the Pratihara Mahipala I. Malwa was lost in the time of Vakpati’s successor, Vairisimha II, to the invading forces of Mahipala I who avenged his defeat at the hands of Indra III by invading the empire of Rastrakuta. Mahipala and his Kalachuri confederate Bhamanadeva are said to have conquered the territory up to the banks of the Narmada including Ujjain and Dhar. The Paramara sovereignty in the Malwa ceased until AD 946 when Vairsimha II became dominant in the area. It is in his son Siyaka II’s reign that the independent Paramara rule in Malwa began. It is believed that it was this time that the capital was shifted to the area of the Mahakala Vana in Ujjain.
- From the 9th to the 12th centuries, the Paramaras became so identified with Ujjain that subsequent tradition has converted Vikramaditya into a The last Paramara ruler, Siladitya, was captured alive by the Sultans of Mandu, and Ujjain was invaded by Muslims and with this started holocaust of indian culture.
Thus began a long era of misfortune and decay and the ancient glory of Ujjayini was lost in a morass of repeated inroads of attacking hordes. The invasion of Ujjain by Iltutmish in 1234 triggered a systematic desecration and despoiling of temples. This tide of destruction was stemmed only in the time of Baz Bahadur of Mandu.
In 1658, a battle took place near Ujjain in which Aurangzeb and Murad defeated Maharaj Jaswant Singh of Jodhpur, who was fighting on behalf of Prince Dara. The actual scene of the battle is Dharmatpura, renamed Fatehbad by Aurangzeb, after the victory. The cenotaph of Raja Rattan Singh of Ratlam, who fell in the battle, still stands at the site.
Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh was made the Governor of Malwa, a great scholar of astronomy, he had the observatory at Ujjain reconstructed and built several temples.
- At the beginning of the 17th century, Ujjain and Malwa went through another period of seize and invasion at the hands of the Marathas, who gradually captured the entire The Maratha domination of Malwa gave impetus to a cultural renaissance in the region and modern Ujjain came into being. Most of the temples of Ujjain were constructed during this period.
- It was during this time that Ujjain became the meeting ground of painters of the Poona and Kangra The impact of the two different styles of painting is distinctive. The examples of Maratha style are found in the temples of Ram Janardan, Kal Bhairava, Kalpeshwar and Tilakeshwar while the traditional Malwa style can be seen in the Sandipani Ashram and in many large houses of the local seths.
- Ujjain finally passed into the hands of the Scindias in 1750 and until 1810, when Daulat Rao Scindia founded his new capital at Gwalior, it was the chief town of his dominions.
The shifting of the capital to Gwalior led to a decline in the commercial importance of Ujjain. But the opening of Ujjain-Ratlam-Godhra branch of the Bombay-Baroda line corrected the balance. A considerable volume of trade mainly with Bombay, existed in cotton, grain and opium during the British Indian period.
The names of Kalidasa and Ujjayini are inextricably linked together in the Indian traditions. It is in Meghdoot, a poem of a little over hundred verses, describing the anguish of a yaksha, separated from his beloved by a curse, sending a message to her in the city of Alaka through a rain cloud from his exile in Ramagiri (now identified as Ramtek near Nagpur) that Kalidasa’s love of Ujjayini finds full expression.