Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Mahakaleshwar Corridor, constructed in Madhya Pradesh’s Ujjain at a cost of Rs 350 crore, on October 11. Here is a look at the project and what it entails.
Mahakal Maharaj Mandir Parisar Vistar Yojna is a plan for the expansion, beautification, and decongestion of the Mahakaleshwar temple and its adjoining area in Ujjain district.
Under the plan, the Mahakaleshwar temple premises of around 2.82 hectares is being increased to 47 hectares, which will be developed in two phases by the Ujjain district administration. This will include the 17 hectares of Rudrasagar lake. The project is expected to increase annual footfall in the city from the current 1.50 crore to nearly three crore.
First phases of the Mandir Parisar Vistar Yojna
One of the aspects of the Vistar Yojna’s first phase is a visitor plaza with two entrances or Dwaars — the Nandi Dwaar and the Pinaki Dwaar. The visitor plaza can hold up to 20,000 pilgrims at a time. A circulation plan to reduce congestion has also been developed, keeping in mind the entry of visitors into the city and their movement up to the temple.
Decentralised parking has been provided at various entry points and vehicular movement into the expanded temple area has been restricted. Facilities like ticketing kiosks have been provided at the entry plaza.
A 900-metre pedestrian corridor has been constructed, connecting the plaza to the Mahakal temple, dotted with 108 murals and 93 statues depicting stories related to Lord Shiva, such as Shiv Vivah, Tripurasur Vadh, Shiv Puran, and Shiv Tandav Swaroop. There are also 128 convenience points, eateries and shopping joints, florists, handicraft stores, etc. along this pedestrian corridor.
In a cabinet meeting held on Tuesday in Ujjain, the Mahakal corridor was renamed as Mahakal Lok.
What is the second phase of the plan?
The second phase, pegged at Rs 310.22 crore, includes expansion of the eastern and northern fronts of the temple. It also includes development of various areas of Ujjain city, such as Maharajwada, Mahal Gate, Hari Phatak Bridge, Ramghat façade, and Begam Bagh Road.
Buildings in Maharajwada will be redeveloped and connected to the Mahakal temple campus, while a heritage dharamshala and Kumbh museum will be built.
The second phase is being developed with funding from Agence Francaise de Development (AFD) under the City Investments to Innovate Integrate and Sustainable (CITIIS) programme.
The work to rehabilitate affected people is on. Apart from the over Rs 600 crore spent on the construction of the project, another Rs 150 crore has been spent on rehabilitation work.
When was the project conceptualised?
The Mahakal redevelopment project has become the most recent bone of contention between the ruling BJP and the Opposition Congress.
At the special cabinet held in Ujjain on September 27, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan credited his government for conceptualising the project in 2017 at a cost of Rs 95 crore. He accused the Congress government, which came to power in 2018, of putting the project in cold storage.
Meanwhile, countering Chouhan’s claim, state Congress president Kamal Nath said it was in August 2019 that his government drew the sketch of the Mahakal Temple and allocated Rs 300 crore for it. A three-member ministerial committee was appointed to finalise and execute the plan in a time-bound manner, he claimed.
Significance of Mahakaleshwar, who governs the temple
Mahakaleshwar, which means the ‘Lord of time’, refers to Lord Shiva. As per Hindy mythology, the temple was constructed by Lord Brahma and is presently located alongside the holy river Kshipra.
Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga in Ujjain is one of the 12 jyotirlingas considered the most sacred abodes of Shiva. As per records, the temple’s Mahakal Lingam is believed to be Swayambhu (self-manifested) and unlike any other jyotirlingas in the country, the idol of Mahakaleshwar faces south.
The bhasma-aarti is the first ritual conducted at the temple in the morning to wake the god, anoint him, and make the first offering of fire for him. It attracts thousands of devotees across the country. The shrine is revered as one the 18 Maha Shaktia Peeth in India.
The temple in its present form was built by the Maratha general Ranoji Shinde in 1734 CE. Before Independence, the Dev Sthan Trust used to look after the temple. This was replaced by the municipal corporation of Ujjain post-Independence. The collectorate office of Ujjain district now manages the administration of the temple.