Mahakala is a form of Lord Siva and the equivalent deity, Lord Mahakaleshwar. Kala means time. Mahakala is One that transcends time or time beyond time, who devours all things and forms and, by so doing, helps the soul transcend all dualities. Mystically, time devours itself and thus the timeless state is achieved.
Brahma having created his manasputras runs into trouble with creation. Lord Shiva’s Ardhanreeshvara from, makes know that Purusha needs the Shakti of Prakriti to procreate. Once the Pashus or creatures were created and their hunger satiated they began to produce and reproduce. Soon enough, there was flooding; there were too many of them. The Cosmos was chocking, with too much life. Brahma wondered if he had made a mistake. Mother Saraswati points out to Prajapti Brahma that he was in error not to have created Death.
MRITYU: Death was necessary in the cycle of life. Brahma and Saraswati approach Lord Shiva with the problem in hand. The Lord gave darshan together with Mother Parvati. The matter was heard by the Kailash court. Lord Siva then created Mrityu and ordered that she goes out to kill all creatures. Mrityu was horrified of the formidable task and fled. Afterall, she had been made a feminine personality carrying motherhood attributes. Lord Siva found Mrityu shedding tears in a desolate place. The Lord consoles her. ‘All those who would die would be reborn until their papas have been relinquished by their good deeds and there would be no more rebirth. You would be mother even though she would kill’. Mrityu then understood that Death became not the end of life but a gateway to a new one.
Mrityu then took the form of Goddess Mahakali, devoured all life and Lord Shiva became Mahakala, the lord of time, the regenerator. Life became a wheel, rotated by Shiva an eternal cycle of births and rebirths. This Mahakala form of Lord Siva is found as deity in Ujjain and the Mahakala Shiva Temple. It stands as the third among the twelve Jyotirlingas. The Mahakala here is known as Mahakaleshwar, the fierce form of Shiva beyond imagination and description.
UJJAIN JYOTIRLINGA: This version from the Shiva Purana is told and retold to suit various plots in the Hindu pantheon regarding the Linga. Brahma and Vishnu get into an argument about their Supremacy. To test them, Lord Siva pierced the three worlds to appear as a huge endless Pillar of Light. This is called Jyotir Linga. Jyoti means Light. Both the Creator and Preserver were curious as this endless Light coming in as new competition. So they split their way to downwards and upwards respectively to find the end of the light in either directions. Brahma flew upwards while Vishnu burrowed downwards. After thousands of years, Brahma lied that found the tip of the Light. Byt Vishnu admitted defeat. Lord Siva then manifested out of the Light as second pillar, to give darshan. Vishnu was praised that would be worshipped till the end of eternity. Brahma was cursed that he would have no place in ceremonies
Basically Jyotirlinga is the supreme partless reality, out of which Shiva partly appears. It was originally believed that the first Jyotilinga encompassed a circumference of 64 Jyotirlinga sthalas. Later importance was given to 12 Jyotirlinga auspicious sites which take the name of the presiding Deity of Siva. Each of these places are a manifestation of Lord Siva with a backdrop Puranic account of the manifestation. (Some of these have been posted) The primary Deity in these twelve places are the Linga which represents beginningless and endlessness of Siva. The Puranic accounts symbolise the infinite nature of Lord Shiva and Mother Parvathi.
STAMBHA: The Lord appears in Ujjain as the Deity of Time, the Mahakala. Notwistanding this unmanifest form, Shivalinga is also ‘Stambha’ meaning Cosmic Column. It is the bond which joins Svarga-heaven and Prithvi-earth. In the Atharva Veda, Shivalinga Stambha is described as celestial stambha which supports the cosmos and material creation. This is symbolically shown in temple pillars which their detail sculpturing and inscriptions. In Ujjain, Lord Siva stands in to reign eternally. The Mahakala dominates life in the midst of human life. The place is well-known for Maha Shivaratri festivals.
SHIVA PURANA: This Purana explains Mahakala this way. Then Ujjain was known as Avanti. There lived a pious man in Avanti who was an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva. He had four sons and the family worshipped Lord Shiva daily. Not far away from their home in a hill named Ratanmala there lived an Asura named Dooshana. Demon Dooshana hated all forms of Shiva and vedic worship. He went around killing people who worshipped Shiva. Soon Dooshana came to know about the family in Avanti that worshipped Shiva.
Soon the demon arrived with his army and attacked the city. But the family continued to worship Shiva in the form of a Shivlinga.
Finally, the demon and soldiers reached the home of the pious man and started hurling weapons. The demon broke open the door and advanced towards the Shivlinga by raising a sword.
Suddenly, there was a deafening sound and there appeared a dreadful form beyond explanation before the Shivlinga. A single glance by the Mahakala form of Shiva burned the demon and his army into ashes. Uncontrollable and unsatisfied, the form of Shiva gave a huge roar; the entire universe trembled in fear.
The family was but delighted to see Lord Shiva and continued chanting his glory and prayers. Before his true devotees, Shiva is always the Bholenath, One who is easily influenced by his bhaktas. Hearing the prayers of his devotees, His anger subsided.
But the family who was aware of the dangers of the world realized that the form of Shiva as Mahakala was essential for peace and prosperity and asked him to reside in this form at Ujjain. Since then Shiva remains at Ujjain Mahakala Temple as Mahakala – the one with the power to annihilate all living
SHRIKHAR OF UJJAIN: In all its beauty and splendor, Ujjain or Avantika, was an ancient city of learning the holy scriptures and devotional epicenter. It was ruled by King Chandrasena, a devout Shiva bhakta. One day, Shrikhar, a farmer’s son, was walking on the grounds of the palace and heard the King Chandrasena chanting Shiva-namah. He rushed to the temple to start praying with him. This was found unbecoming, so the guards removed him by force. Shrikhar was banished to the outskirts of the city near the Shipra river (also written kshpra river)
Presently Shipra River, rising in the Kakri Bardi hills of the Vindhya Range, is in the Madhya Pradesh state. Ujjain city os on its right bank. It is also the pilgrimage site for the Kumbh Mela festivals for every twelve years. The Sripa River has Puranic origins linked to Siva but this would be taken up in the ‘Rivers in the Hindu way of Life’ later.
Now, back to the myth. Shrikhar spends his days on the Shipra banks meditating on Lord Siva. There he overhears that the rivals of Ujjain, primarily King Ripudamana and King Singhaditya of the neighboring kingdoms decided to attack the Chandrasena’s kingdom. Now, this is again another common Puranic plot. The demon Dushan does severe austerities and prays to Brahma. He becomes pleased to give Dushan a boon of invincibility. Ripudamana and Singhaditya find an unholy partner in Dushan to attack Ujjain and plunder its treasure.
Shrikhar, on his own accord, severe tapas against this. Soon news spread to a priest named Vridhi. He too was shocked and joins Shrikhar to pray to Lord Shiva. Soon a group of devotees join the cause at Shripa river banks. But the attack commenced and Shiva devotees were injured. They pray to Lord Shiva. Upon hearing the pleas of His helpless devotees, Lord Shiva took the form of Mahakala and destroyed Dushan and the enemies of King Chandrasena.
It is said that upon the request of his devotees Shrikhar and Vridhi, Lord Shiva agreed to reside in Ujjain city and become the chief deity of the Kingdom. The Lord, from his own powers and that of his consort, Parvati, thus manifested as Jyotirlinga to protect all bhaktas.
TEMPLE: Indeed the spire of the temple is called the ‘Shikhar’ and is adorned with beautiful sculpture. The Mahalaleshwar Jyotirlinga is one of the most famous of Jyotirlinga temples dedicated to Lord Siva. Ujjain Jyotirlingam manifestation is Swayambhu and is said to be the most sacred abodes of Siva. In this form, the Lingam is believed to derive Shakti’s current of power. This is slightly different from Lingas or other images of Lord Siva that are ritually established and invested with mantra-shakti. The prasada here is reoffered unlike other shrine traditions.
SHIVA NETRA: The Mahakaleshwarar deity in Ujjain is also known as Lord Dakshinamurti. This implies that the deity is facing south. This is a unique feature, upheld by the Tantric Shivnetra tradition to be found only in Mahakaleshwar and all the twelve Jyotirlingas shrines.
Shiva Netra is a sacred dialogue between Lord Siva and his consort, Parviti. Mother Parviti asks Shiva questions on the behalf of all humanity, and through his answers the teachings are imparted. This is the Netra Tanra. Parvaiti asks Lord Shiva how is it that the fire of his third eye is both destructive and yet the source of divine energy, love and compassion. "Teach me what you have never unveiled, the secret of all secrets," she requests for the benefit of all of us.
Lord Shiva answers, "The brilliance of billions of suns together is not equal to this fire. With that power I destroy the universe when the time comes. The fire of the third eye and the amrita, the immortal nectar, resides in all states, in all creatures. It is the strength of all strengths, the source of all. Yet it is hard to reach even with yoga. Those who have access to it are the conquerors of death. They can break the staff of death and toss it away. Such yogis walk in the universe at their will. Their celestial conversation goes on……
Hara Hara Mahadeva
(draft Gods, Goddesses, Minor Deities and Sages)
By Swamiji Yogi Ananda Saraswathi