Legend of Ujjain
The city of Ujjain finds mention in the Hindu mythological tale of churning of the cosmic ocean by the gods and the demons, with Vasuki, the serpent as the rope. According to the legend the ocean bed first yielded fourteen gems, then Goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, and finally the coveted vessel of Nectar, Amrita. In the wild conflict for immortality, with the demons chasing the Gods across the skies, a few drops of the Nectar spilt from the vessel and fell at Haridwar, Nashik, Prayag, and Ujjaini or the present Ujjain.
Ujjain under Mauryan Empire
According to an ancient Hindu calendar, the first meridian of the planet earth passes through Ujjain, thus marking the city as the universal time coordinate. Shipra River passes through Ujjain is regarded as very holy and sacred by the devotees. The greatest religious congregation of the Hindus, Kumbha Melais held in Ujjain. In its long history, Ujjain has been introduced to many other religions and cultures. The Marathas, Muslims and Christians had also attempted to make their presence felt but the city has retained its Hindu essence.
In mid-3rd century B.C., King Ashoka became the Governor of Avanti and Taxilaat the young age of 18, during the reign of his father, Bindusara. Ashoka was known for his ruthless methods that earned him much dishonour. However, he became a follower of Buddhism in 257 B.C. and laid the foundations of a group of stupas in Sanchi. He also constructed stupas in Ujjain, which was the first territory he ruled. Ashoka is reported to have built anything between 1,000 to 84,000 stupas, of which only a few remain today.
Ujjain under Gupta Empire
With the death of Ashoka in 232 B.C., his huge empire started falling apart. The land was then invaded by the Indo-Greek and Scythians. The 2nd century B.C. witnessed the influx of the Sakas through Madhya Pradesh. They established the line of the Kshatrapa princes in Ujjain. The Kshatrapas of Ujjain traced their descent from Lord Chastana who was related to Ptolemy, the Greek mathematician and astrologer. The Indo-Greek influence spread as far as Mathura and Ujjain, until the establishment of the Gupta Empire from A.D. 320 to about A.D. 540.
Chandragupta II, the legendary Gupta king, defeated Chastana's grandson and the last ruler of the line, Rudradaman and ruled here from A.D 380 to 415. Vikramaditya was instrumental in starting the Hindu Vikram Samvat era, beginning 57 years before Anno Domini. It was at his court that the famous poet Kalidasa, wrote the Meghdoot with its celebrated lyrical description of the city and its people.
Ujjain remained as an important part of the Gupta Empire during the 4th and 5th centuries A.D. During that time period the prosperous plains of northern India was invaded by the Huns led by Toramana. However later they had to retreat back. In A.D. 606, Harshavardhanaascended the throne of Kannauj and reigned for about 41 years. It was during his reign, that the Chinese pilgrim Hieun Tsang visited India to study Buddhism. He spent a time perioed of about 15 years in India and even gave an interesting account of Bundelkhand, Maheshwar and Ujjain, and described Ujjain as the city of splendours. In A.D. 647 Harshavardhana died.
After the Guptas, rival groups ruled the Indo-Gangetic Plains. The Paramara Dynastygained prominence in the 11th century, until the Sultans of Mandu captured their last ruler, Siladitya. Ujjain was invaded by the neighbouring rulers like the Chalukya Dynasty of Gujarat, the Chandella Dynasty of Bundelkhand and the Rajputs.
Ujjain under Delhi Sultanate
Ujjain was invaded by the forces of the Delhi Sultanate led by Iltutmish in 1235. The Malwa Plateau was overrun by Muslim invasions from the late 12th century onwards. In A.D. 1305, Ala-ud-din Khilji, the powerful ruler of the Khaliji Dynasty of the Delhi Sultanate, captured Ujjain. Ujjain was also invaded by Muhammad Bin Tughlaq and Firoz Shah Tughlaq. The city suffered widespread destruction under these rulers. Until the emergence of the Mughals, Ujjain remained under the conflicts of the local Rajput rulers, the Malwa Sultans and the rulers of the Delhi Sultanate. The city was also ruled by the Afghan Sur Dynasty under Shujjat Khan and his son, Baz Bahadur. However the later was defeated by the Akbarin A.D. 1562. Akbar succeeded in subduing the powers of the regional rulers while his grandson Aurangzeb contributed financially to preserve the glory of Ujjain's ancient temples.
Later Developments of Ujjain
In the 17th century Ujjain was invaded by the Marathas. During the last half of the 18th century Ujjain was the headquarters of the Maratha leader Mahadji Scindia. The Scindias later established themselves at Gwalior, and Ujjain remained part of Gwalior state until Indian Independence in 1947. As a consequence of reorganizing the states on linguistic grounds, Madhya Bharata, or the Central Indian Provinces and other territories were merged to form the new state of Madhya Pradesh on 1st November, 1956.