By : Smt. Malati Purushotham
“Rs 250 for a quick darshan” reads a signboard atop a ticket counter outside the Mahakaleshwar Temple in Ujjain. We rush to the counter and we were happy to see a portrait of Sai Baba blessing us. We purchased four tickets to fix our date with divinity. Thousands of people have converged at the Mahakaleshwar Temple for a glimpse of their favorite deity on Kartik Amavasya day in Ujjain. A serpentine queue leads to the sanctum sanctorum. A few years ago, we wouldn’t have been able to come anywhere close to a large crowd, let alone go to a Shiva temple on an Amavasya day. But since we are in Ujjain and the magnetism and energy of the Mahakaal drew us towards it after our trip to Shirdi, I found myself braving the crowds fully trusting in Sai Baba. While in the queue, I joined others in chanting loudly, ‘Har Mahadev’— a traditional chant that invokes Shiva, in the form of the Mahakaal, a plea to release one from the cycle of birth and death. As the way to the sanctum sanctorum winds through downward-sloping, narrow alleys, we also recited Vishnu Sahasranama. As you walk through them, you can see the temple pond and its shikhara or tower through the fenced windows. With Vishnu Sahasranama I visualized Shiva and Lord Vishnu as one. Devotees believe that the Mahakaleshwar Temple has existed since prehistoric times.
Over the years, the temple saw various architectural styles. An inscription related to the temple says that it was reconstructed in the 12th century in the Bhumija style of architecture — in which the central shikhara comprises several smaller ones — favored by the Paramara dynasty.
In the meanwhile, my husband who also happens to be a Trustee of Sripuram Golden temple in Tamil Nadu spoke to a Senior Police Officer of Ujjain and we could perform ‘Abhisheka’ too. This was totally unexpected and perhaps Sai Baba made him use his connections, which he generally does not use!
Another pleasant surprise that Sai Baba sprang on us was that we were joined by a group of twenty Sai devotees from Malaysia and Singapore loudly chanting Sai Bhajans. Their leader Sri Ravishankar distributed Sai-Udi and pictures of Sai Baba to those present there. We had Baba’s blessings in abundance.
Slowly the crowds from two other alleys converged in a verandah leading to the sanctum sanctorum. I became unmindful of the milling crowd, although I was now surrounded by complete strangers. The only thing that was common between us is our faith and the quest to meet Shiva. There are three rows in the main hall, from where devotees can view the deity. To avoid being trampled, I held on to my husband and the railing. From the third row, I tried to look for the Shiva Linga just like video game enthusiasts do, when they are trying to catch an elusive Pokémon! Finally, after elbowing through the crowd, I got to see the Shiva Linga. There… this was my elusive Pokémon, my reward for persevering with the crowd. Even long after I left the temple premises, Shiva was still with me, unlike virtual Pokémons who disappear as soon as we turn off the app on the mobile phone. I can ‘poke’ Shiva anytime, anywhere, for He is the omnipotent and omniscient Ishwara, preserver and destroyer of the universe. My Ishwara cannot be restricted to the walls of the Mahakaleshwar temple in Ujjain or to any other form. After the blink-and-miss darshan, I came out of the temple, contented that Shiva will be with me wherever I go! Lord Vishnu is close behind my thoughts as I recite Vishnu Sahasranama!