Ujjain, also known as Ujjayini or Avanti, is an ancient city located in Ujjain District of Madhya Pradesh. Ujjain is mostly visited for its ancient temples and is a main centre of religious activities. Ujjain is located on the bank of the river Shipra and is famous for a site for the triennial Kumbh Mela.
Ujjain is the modern name for Ujjayini. Legend has it that in the hoary past, the God like 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).
The magnificence and awesome spectacle of the bathing ritual at 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 colours, into an India in miniature.
There are several mythological legends that are associated with the city of Ujjain. It was once ruled by emperors like Vikramaditya and Asoka while poet Kalidas wrote his poetry here. The mention of the city as a capital of the Avanti kingdom is also found in the Mahabharata.
Ujjain is one of the seven sacred cities of the Hindus and popular for its ancient temples. It is popularly recognised as Shiva’s land and the name of legendary figures like Kalidasa, Ashoka, Brahmagupta, Vikramaditya, Varahamihira etc, are also associated with the city. 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 literature 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, 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 metallic blue and iron, found their way to the northern Deccan from the Gangetic plains through Ujjain. The articles of export to the western Asia such as precious stones and pearls, scents and spices, perfumes, silks and muslin, reached the port of Brighukachcha from the remote north through Ujjain. All this finds a detailed and interesting description in the Periplus 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 Periplus talks of a city called Ozene to the east of Barygaza (Broach) which fed all commodities to trade like onyx, porcelain, fine muslin and quantities of ordinary cottons, spikenard , costus bodellium to this important port and to other parts of India.