Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga (Hindi: महाकालेश्वर ज्योतिर्लिंग) is one of the most famous Hindu temples dedicated to Lord Shiva and is one of the twelve Jyotirlingams, which are supposed to be the most sacred abodes of Lord Shiva. It is located in the ancient city of Ujjain in the state of Madhya Pradesh, India. The temple is situated on the side of the Rudra Sagar lake. The presiding deity, Lord Shiva in the lingam form is believed to be Swayambhu, deriving currents of power (Shakti) from within itself as against the other images and lingams that are ritually established and invested with mantra-shakti.
As per Shiva Purana, once Lord Brahma (the Hindu God of creation) and Lord Vishnu (the Hindu God of sustenance) had an argument in terms of supremacy of creation. To test them, Shiva pierced the three worlds as a huge endless pillar of light, the jyotirlinga. Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma split their ways to downwards and upwards respectively to find the end of the light in either directions. Brahma lied that he found out the end, while Vishnu conceded his defeat. Shiva appeared as a second pillar of light and cursed Brahma that he would have no place in ceremonies while Vishnu would be worshipped till the end of eternity. The jyotirlinga is the supreme partless reality, out of which Shiva partly appears. The jyotirlinga shrines, thus are places where Shiva appeared as a fiery column of light. 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. At all these sites, the primary image is lingam representing the beginningless and endless Stambha pillar, symbolizing the infinite nature of Shiva. The twelve jyotirlinga are Somnath in Gujarat, Mallikarjuna at Srisailam in Andhra Pradesh, Mahakaleswar at Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh, Omkareshwar in Madhya Pradesh, Kedarnath in Himalayas, Bhimashankar in Maharashtra, Viswanath at Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, Triambakeshwar in Maharashtra, Vaidyanath at Deogarh in Jharkhand or at Baijnath in Himachal Pradesh, Nageswar at Dwarka in Gujarat, Rameshwar at Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu and Grishneshwar at Aurangabad in Maharashtra.
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 idol of Nagchandreshwar on the third storey is open for darshan only on the day of Nag Panchami. The temple has five levels, one of which is underground. The temple itself is located in a spacious courtyard surrounded by massive walls near a lake. The shikhar or the spire is adorned with sculptural finery. Brass lamps light the way to the underground sanctum. It is believed that prasada (holy offering) offered here to the deity can be re-offered unlike all other shrines.
The presiding deity of time, 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 Mahakal dominates the life of the city and its people, even in the midst of the busy routine of modern preoccupations, and provides an unbreakable link with ancient Hindu traditions.
On the day of Maha Shivaratri, a huge fair is held near the temple, and worship goes on through the night.
In the precincts of the Mahakaleshwar temple is Shri Swapaneshwar Mahadev temple, where devotees pray to Shiva as Mahakaal, to realize the most important dreams of their lives. Sadashiv Mahadev is so empathetic, benevolent and easy to please that devotees are sure to be granted the boons they wish for with a pure heart in this temple, it is believed. Here Mahadev is Swapaneshwar and Shakti is Swapaneshwari.
The temple is open from 4 am to 11 pm.
The temple is also glorified in 7th century.C.E, Tamil tevaram hymns of tirugnanasambandar, sundarar, tirunavukkarasar, and they refer to the same as tiru oonjai maakalam, oonjai being Tamil name of word ujjain.
The shrine is revered as one of the 18 Maha Shakti Peetham.
Shakti Peethas are shrines that are believed to have enshrined with the presence of Shakti due to the falling of body parts of the corpse of Sati Devi, when Lord Shiva carried it. Each of the 51 Shakti peethas have shrines for Shakti and Kalabhairava. The Upper Lip of Sati Devi is said to have fallen here and the Shakti is called as Mahakali.
The temple complex was destroyed by Sultan Shas-ud-din Iltutmish during his raid of Ujjain in 1234-5.
The present structure was built by the Maratha general Ranoji Scindia in 1736 CE. Further developments and management was done by other members of his dynasty, including Mahadji Scindia (1730–12 February 1794) and Daulat Rao Scindia's wife Baiza Bai. (1827–1863). During the reign of Jayajirao Scindia (until 1886), major programs of the then Gwalior State used to be held at this temple.
After Independence the Dev Sthan Trust was replaced by the municipal corporation of Ujjain. Nowadays it is under the collectorate office of Ujjain districrt.