In Sanatan dharma and Vedic culture, rivers have a unique place. Rivers are treated as mothers. Our rivers are not silent. They speak of their age old experiences. They keep human emotions alive. Our ancestors kept an unending relation with rivers and succeeded in evolving a spiritual dialogue with them as a result of which, these rivers also dedicated themselves in the process of refining humanity.
Our tradition admires, adores and worships the purity and holiness of rivers. Rishis of Vedic period sang verses in praise of these rivers. These verses inspired the successive generation which through their toil realized the dreams of their ancestors and in this way achieved glorious destiny of our civilization and culture.
Though the Western poet hailed the purity of rivers, there is a distinctive difference in the Western and Indian view of rivers.
In England, they praised mighty Thames but they talked of only the utility of the river. Neither do they attached any idea of spiritual meaning to the existence of rivers like we do with Ganga, Yamuna and Narmada that they became lifelines of our collective spiritual, cultural and ancient civilization experience.
Kshipra river, flowing since the times of ancient India to the present age has been witnessing ups and downs of cultural and spiritual evolution as well as rise and fall of dynasties that flourished on its banks.
It originates not out of a mountain cave, but out of the womb of the earth and flows on the surface. Hence sorrows, happiness, expectations and aspirations of common people have been intermingled in its waters. This is the reason, it is called ‘Lok Sarita’, the river of the masses.
It has been sprinkling its water at the holy feet of Lord Mahakal since time immemorial and has become a living symbol of our faith.
Kshipra is a witness to that great feeling which defines humanity itself after every twelve years when great religious congregation Simhasth Kumbh Mahaparv is celebrated here which is the great spiritual experience of Indian culture.
Kshipra seems to awaken us as a mentor of holiness, penance and conviction to maintain the eternal Indian tradition. Kshipra is a carrier of our evergreen cultural legacy.
Majority of Indian rivers flow towards the south but Kshipra is a ‘Uttargami’ (north flowing) river. Chambal is a tributary of Kshipra. This fact has been mentioned in the ‘Skandpuran’ also.
Sanskrit literature is full of Kshipra grandeur. We find Kshipra’s mention in Yajurveda also.
Sanskrit literature is full of Kshipra grandeur. We find Kshipra’s mention in Yajurveda also. There a Vedic Rishi has remembered Kshipra calling – ‘Kshipre awe payha’. The river also found a place of honour in Mahabharata, Bhagwat Puran, Brahma Puran, Shiv Puran, Ling Puran and Waman Puran also.
Great poet Kalidas praised Kshipra in words like ‘Kshiprawatah Priyatamiva Prarthanachatukarah’. Rishi Vashishtha calls it a river of salvation. He worshipped Kshipra and Lord Mahakal in these words:
महाकाल श्री शिप्रा गतिश्चैव सुनिर्मला।
उज्जयिन्यां विशालाक्षि वास: कस्य न रोचते।।
स्नानं कृत्वा नरो यस्तु महान घामहि दुर्लभम्।
महाकालं नमस्कृत्य नरो मृत्युं न शोचते।।
Mahakal Shri Kshipra Gatishchev Sunirmala
Ujjayinya Vishalakshi Vash Kasya Na Rochate
Snanam Kritva Naro Vastu Mahanadhya Hi Durlabham
Mahakal Namaskritya Naro Mrityu Na Shochate
Holy dip in Kshipra during Simhasth Kumbh Mahaparv has a special significance because here the festivals of Kumbh and simhastha both intermingled.
A legend has it that Atri Rishi did rigorous penance for 3000 years at Ujjain. Throughout this period he held his arms upward. When he completed his penance and opened his eyes he saw that two great bands of light emerging from his body. The first one went to the sky and it is said it converted into the moon and the other band of light went downward to earth and took the form of river Kshipra.
Kshipra is also called ‘Somvati’. There is a very famous story in the ‘Dasham Skand’ of Bhagwat. When Lord Krishna finished his education at ‘Sandipani Ashram’ he offered his ‘Guru Dakshina’ to the Guru Patni, the wife of the master Sandipani. She asked him to return her son to life who had drowned in a river.
Lord Krishna obeyed the order of Guru Patni and thus paid Guru Dakshina, the offering a student pays as a token of his gratitude towards his master.
Such legends and stories are part and parcel of the waters of Kshipra. Another interesting legend has it that once Lord Mahakaleshwar was very hungry. Like a holy sage, he went for begging. But he didn’t get anything for a number of days. Then he went to his colleague deity Lord Vishnu.. But Lord Vishnu instead of offering alms, showed his index finger. Lord Shiva lost his patience and he pierced the finger with his Trishul. The finger started bleeding profusely. Seeing this, Lord Shiva calmed down and he kept a human skull under the bleeding finger to collect flowing blood in it. When the bowl of skull got filled, blood started overflowing and this led to the birth of river Kshipra.
Banks of Kshipra have been witnessing so many religious congregations over the ages, though Kshipra today is not what it has been described in our ancient literature. It doesn’t have that great flow and it has become polluted to a great extent. But for the first Simhasth Kumbh Mahaparv of new millennium, People of Ujjain are determined to free the Kshipra of pollution and maintain its flow as a result of this the river seems to be shimmering with happiness on being restored its pristine glory.
Kshipra has surrounded the city of Ujjain from three sides. It enters the city through south-eastern end and then it establishes intimacy with every nook and corner of the city before taking beautiful turns at ‘Triveni’ and at the road leading to Chintaman Ganesh temple.
Then it is blessed at the Mahakal and Harsiddhi temples. In front of Lord Mahakal its waves seem to be dancing and when it reaches towards Durgadas’ Chhatri at Chakra Tirth, It reminds us of the world famous Manikarnika ‘ghats’ of Kashi.
Then it passes by Bhartrihari cave, Peer Machhinder, Garha Kalika and Kal Bhairav, and telling glimpses of Sandipani Ashram and Ram Janardan Mandir, it reaches Mangalnath.
Then it takes turn to Siddhavat and after that surrounds Kaliadeh Palace. At Kaliadeh Palace, it takes so many beautiful turns, which are worth seeing. Then it comes to the centre of the town and pays obeisance to Lord Mahakal at Mahakal Temple. This winding course of Kshipra has seen fascinating sages, ascetics and sadhu since ages. The banks of ‘ghats’ which witness beauty of Kshipra has become immortal in the golden pages of ancient history of India.
These spellbinding banks of Kshipra have many ancient temples, which seem to tell the glory of Kshipra. There are 28 important ‘Teerths’, the holy places on the banks of Kshipra. Pilgrims come here and pay obeisance at these Teerths. Karkraj, Nrusinha, Pishachmukhe, Gandharva, Kedar, Som, Chakra, Kalbhairav, Mangal and Shaktibhed Teerth are some of the important ones.
Pious, sacred and full of religious significance, theriver Kshiprais in fact salvation-granting Ganga of Malwa on the banks of which famous Simhasth Kumbh Mahaparv, the great religious congregation, takes place every twelve years.
Kshipra is not merely a river; it is a living symbol of faith, believe and inner experience of Millions of devotees across the Globe. Millions of Devotees comes here and aspire for salvation by taking holy dip in this sacred “Kshipra River”. Mythological references have it that a few drops of “AMRIT”(Nectar) -the mortal drinks of the Gods-spilled into the sacred river during the conflict between the Gods and demons. Bearing this legend, the holy river has been flowing like ‘Amrit Dhara‘ (the stream of nectar or ambrosia)and because of this holy men, sages and sadhus feel gratified by taking holy dip in this sacred river.
In Jyeshta month of Hindu calendar a festival of Ganga Dussehra is celebrated. Similarly in Kartik holy dip is taken in this hallowed river. Vaishakh witnesses another holy dip with Panchkroshi Yatra, an on-foot journey of 122 km. Millions of devotees come here on these magnificent occasion and feel the Ancient Spiritual experience.
But holy dip during the Simhasth Kumbh Mahaparv have utmost significance. Ancient scriptures tell us that the auspicious fruits of holy dip are equal to thousands of Ashwamedh Yagya (horse sacrifice), hundrends of Vajpaya Yagya (fire sacrifice) and lakhs of journey around the world. According to the tradition, carrier of Sanatan dharma (the eternal religion), thirteen Akharas (Organisations of Warrior monks) come here with all their spiritual, religious and cultural grandeur and contribute in the congregation in their unique way.