The recently concluded Ujjain Panchakoshi yatra is an ancient spiritual circuit in the Dev Nagari (city of gods) Avantika, that we know today as Ujjain. It is mentioned in no less than Skanda Purana in its Avantika Khand. The city was established by the legendary emperor Vikramaditya and is said to have continued uninterrupted since the 14th century. It starts every year on Krishna Dashmi of Vaishakha month of Hindu calendar and ends on the Krishna Amavasya. During the yatra, the pilgrims cover a route of 118 km on foot, circumambulating the entire city. Ujjain has been consecrated as a four-sided polygon with four forms of Shiva (four Mahadevas) as its dwarapalas and Mahakal at the centre.
These four Mahadevas are Pingaleshwar in the east, Kayavarohaneshwar in the south, Bilkeshwar in the west, and Durdeshwar in the north. The circumambulation is done in a clockwise direction, from east to north. These four Mahadevas are the last four Mahadevas in the 84 Mahadeva temple circuit within Ujjain city.
The Ujjain yatra
The yatra starts on Krishna Dashmi of Vaishakha month. Prayers are offered at Karkaraj Mandir at beginning of the journey. Thereafter, devotees take a dip in the waters of Maa Shipra and visit Nagachandreshwar in Patni Bazar. There, devotees seek strength for the 118 km from NagaChandreshwar by offering coconut to the deity. Over the next five days, the 118 km journey is conducted on foot. The Nagar Dwarpalas are visited and propitiated and finally visiting Neelkantheshwar Mahadev. The journey is then ended by returning the Shakti (strength), leased from NagaChandreshwar, for the pilgrimage. This is done by offering horses made of mud to the deity as the horse is a symbol of strength and discipline.
Why the yatra is AshtaVimshati
There are 28 small and big tirthas (pilgrimage centres) between both banks of the Shipra. These tirthas are also visited during this five-day long pilgrimage hence it is also called “AshtaVimshati Yatra”. They are Rudra Sarovar, Karkaraj, Narsingh Tirtha, Neelganga Sangam, Pishachmochan Tirtha, Gandharva Tirtha, KedaraTirtha, ChakraTirtha, SomaTirtha, DevaPrayag, Yoga Tirtha, Kapil Ashram, Ghrita Kulya, Madhu Kulya, Okhareshwar Tirtha, KalaBhairava, Dvadashark, Dashashvamedha, Angarak tirtha, Khagrata Sangam, RnaMochan Tirtha, ShaktiBheda Tirtha, PapaMochan Tirtha, VyasaTirtha, PretaMochan Tirtha, Navanada Tirtha, Mandagni Tirtha, Paitamah Tirtha. As the name suggests, the yatra is for the purification of five Koshas (sheaths that cover the soul). As to how it happens is one of the many occult mysteries of the city and this country.
Tradition in Covid times
Due to movement restrictions and lockdown amid the pandemic, the district administration discontinued the yatra. However, the Akhil Bhartiya Brahman Samaj decided to keep the tradition alive and seek divine intervention to end this pandemic. It took special permission for a group of five members of the samaj to go ahead with the yatra. This, as per the samaj, is in line with the role of Brahmins in the greater Hindu society — to keep the link to tradition alive even in most trying times, even with their own lives at potential peril. This group of five acharyas was led by Pt Rahul Vyas Sandipani. He is a direct descendant of the lineage of Guru Sandipani who was the guru of Bhagawan SriKrishna. The yatra this year started on 6 May at 6 AM and ended on 11 May on Amavasya. The other members of this group were Pt Surendra Chaturvedi of the ABBS, president Pratap Singh Thakur of Karni Sena, city president of the Sandipani Ashram Rahul Vyas who was in charge of the pilgrimage and JP Hardeniya.
This is what it means to keep the Dharma alive — to live up to the traditions and ensure their continuity, at the times when to keep going is the most difficult thing to do. This is how Dharma is sustained, and this is how Dharma in return sustains the society that makes effort to sustain it. This is what is धर्मो रक्षति रक्षितः.
Disclaimer: The featured image on top of the page is an old one, used here for representational purpose
Edited by Mrinaal Prem Swarroop Srivastava