If only one agrees and notices, life is a series of thousands of tiny miracles. Once noticed, we can take pride in how far we have come and have faith in how far we can go. Pilgrimages and spiritual journeys take one to places far and wide not only across the lengths and breadths of his country but sometimes even beyond its boundaries. The revered Jyotirlinga temples dotted on the map of India are an excellent example of one such destiny voyage.
The 12 Jyotirlinga shrines in India are the body and the Jyotirlinga at Pashupatinath in Kathmandu (Nepal) is the head over the body, it is said. Located on the banks of river Bagmati at Kathmandu in Nepal, the shrine is considered to be the seat of the deity lord Shiva and is declared as a cultural heritage site by UNESCO. Those who aim to visit all 12 Jyotirlingas in India always speak ofthe wish to visit Nepal to offer homage to Pashupatinath, believing this would mark a complete pilgrimage.
As all of these Jyotirlingas are scattered in different parts of India, far from each other, it is physically difficult to visit all in a single trip. However choosing one or two at a time from the states where they belong (Maharashtra, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand) depending upon their proximity to each other, the holy Darshan of all can be accomplished.
The fourth and fifth of the twelve Jyotirlingas - Omkareshwar and Mahakaleshwar respectively are located in Madhya Pradesh and can be visited in a single tour as the road distance between both is around 140 kilometres. With a base in the well-connected Indore, one can hire a vehicle to move around by road. Indore lies in between both - with Omkareshwar at 70 kms and Mahakaleshwar at 60 km. Allotting a day to each coupled with on-route sightseeing is more than enough. Situated on an Om shaped island in river Narmada - are Omkareshwar (meaning the lord of Omkaar or Om sound) and Amareshwar (also called Mamaleshwar), meaning immortal lord or lord of the immortals/devas. Both are ancient shrines of equal importance. Home to one of the world’s biggest dam projects, the Narmada flows, hugging the island which is connected by boats and a hanging bridge.
Emerging as the political centre of central India as early as 600 BCE, Ujjain has retained its importance as a religious, cultural and commercial centre and continues to be a popular place of pilgrimage even today. Mahakaleshwar Jyotirling in Ujjain is believed to be a swayambhu (born of itself) one, deriving currents of power (Shakti) from within itself. Located on the river Kshipra, the Shivlinga is bathed early at 4 am in the ashes brought from the crematorium for the auspicious ‘Bhasmarati’, attended by many who wait in long queues from midnight to watch the one-of-its-kind ceremony.
Temples in Ujjain - Mangalnath, Kal Bhairav, Chintaman Ganesh, Gopal, Chamunda - add to its ageless beauty. Ved pathshala, Siddhavat ghat and Sandipani ashram are few more age-old but evergreen attractions. Of these the Sandipani Ashram is said to be the very place where Krishna, Balrama and Sudama lived and learnt.
Indore, too, is full of ancient palaces, museum, old and new temples and buildings of historical importance. Among these are many heritage sites including the spectacular Lal Baag Palace built by Maharaja Shivaji Rao Holkar that reflects the lifestyle and taste of the Holkar Rulers. The construction of this palace began in 1886 and completed in 1921. Owing to its unique style of construction, it was, then, one of the most stylish residences in India. While it’s daunting gates are unique in Asia, its interiors transport the visitors to the historic era.
Here, lavish decorations in the style of Versailles Palace, Italian marble columns, grand chandeliers, rich Persian carpets, flying nymphs on the ceiling, Belgium stained glass windows, Greek mythological reliefs, Italian style wall paintings, stuffed leopards and tigers offer an out-of-the-world experience to visitors. The palace reflects the highly westernised outlook and aesthetic sensibility of the later Holkars who inhabited it till 1978 - Tukojirao III being its last resident. Taking over this magnificent monument the MP government has turned it into a museum charging a nominal entry fee of Rs 10. However visitors are not allowed to shoot pictures inside. The other spots to visit in Indore are the Rajwada of Ahilyabai Holkar and famous shrines - Bada Ganapati, Annapurna, Harsiddhi and the 120 year-old handcrafted glass temple, Jain Kanch Mandir.
At the end of the two-day tour there’s still time left for a quick shopping sojurn, especially for the locally woven Maheshwari cotton sarees. The brief tour adds colours to memories and leaves little doubt that faith shall flow uninterrupted and people shall throng to take a holy dip in the waters of the Kshipra, Narmada and Kaveri to wash out their sins.