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Ujjain is the modern name for Ujjayini. Legend has it that in the hoary past, the God- tike king Shiva of Avanti commemorated his victory over the demon-ruler of Tripura or Tripuri, on the banks of the Narmada by changing the name of his capital, Avantipura to Ujjayini (one who conquers with pride).
Modern Ujjain is situtated on the banks of the Shipra, regarded since times immemorial as sacred. The belief in the sacredness of the Shipra, has its origins in the ancient Hindu mythological tale of the churning of the ocean by the gods and the demons, with Vasuki the serpent as the rope. The ocean bed first yielded fourteen gems, then Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, and finally the coveted vessel of nectar. Then began the wild scramble for immortality with the demons chasing the gods across the skies, and in the process, a few drops were spilt, and fell at Hardwar, Prayag, Nasik and Ujjayini. Hence the sanctity of the waters of the Shipra.
The magnificience and the awesome spectacle of the bathing ritual at the Simhastha defies description. Beginning on the full moon day in Chaitra (April), it continues into Vaishakha (May), until the next full moon day. Ujjain turns, amidst a riot of colour, into an India in miniature.
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. The poet describes the imaginary passage of the cloud over Ujjayini and it is almost as if he is loath to move on, for in 12 verses (27-38), there is a lyrical description of the city and the people which conjures up a vivid picture of a civilised attractive society, a leisured class, intensely practical and yet imbued with deeply religious and pholosophical preoccupations.
The early history of Ujjain is lost in the midst of antiquity. As early as the time of the Aryan settlers, Ujjain seems to have acquired importance. By the 6th century B.C., Avanti with its capital at Ujjaini, is mentioned in Buddhist liteature as one of the four great powers along with Vatsa, Kosala and Magadha.
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, and 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 a metallic blue and iron, found their way to the northern Deccan from the Gangetic plams through UJJain.
The articles of export to western Asia such as precious stones and pearls, scents and spices, perfumes, ssik:- and muslin, reached the port of Brighukachcha from the remote north through Upm. All this finds a detailed and interesting description in the Peripius 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 Peripius talks of a city called Ozene to the east of Barygaza (Broach) which fed all commodities of trade iike onyx, porcelain, fine muslins, mellow colourea muslins and quantities of ordinary cottons. spikenard, costus bodeUium to this important port and to other parts of India.
The earliest known epigraphic record ot 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 Maiwa were probably vassals of the Rastrakutas. The Udepur Prasati mentions Vakpati ! as the king of Avanti and it was probably in his regson 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 regin that the independent Paramara rule in Malwa began. It is believed that it was at this time that the capital was shifted to the area of the Mahakala Vana in Ujjain.
From the 9th to the 12ih centuries, the Paramaras became so identified with Ujjain that subsequent tradition has converted Vikramaditya into a Paramara The last Paramara ruler. Siladitya, was captured alive by the Sultans of Mandu, and Ujjain passed into the hands of the Muslims.
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 nordes. The invasion of Ujjain by lltutmish in 1234 triggered off a systematic desecration and despoiling of temples This tide of destruction was stemmed only in the time of Baz Bahadur of Mandu. The Mughal rule heralded a new era in reconstruction.
Emperor Akbar put an end to Baz Bahadur's hegemony over Malwa and had a city wall constructed for the defence of Ujjain. The Nadi Darwaza, Kaliadeh Darwaza, Sati Darwaza, Dewas Darwaza and Indore Darwaza were the various entrances to the city.
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