History, Culture, And Time Itself: Why The Rediscovery Of Samrat Vikramaditya Is Way More Important Than You Think

Sumati Mehrishi

Jul 18, 2022, 05:36 PM | Updated 05:36 PM IST

Prime Minister Modi and Chief Minister Chouhan.
Prime Minister Modi and Chief Minister Chouhan.
  • As Ujjain emerges as the new cultural power centre of Bharat, Prime Minister Modi has the chance to pull off a cultural resurgence and pay his tribute to Samrat Vikramaditya.
  • A few weeks back, the Zee website reported that Prime Minister Narendra Modi might inaugurate the Vikramaditya Vedic Clock during his expected visit to Ujjain. The clock, reports say, would display the globally accepted Greenwich system as well as the Indic system based on the Hindu time calculation and time keeping.

    The Vedic clock is named after Samrat Vikramaditya. The significance of it being placed in Ujjain cannot be overstated. According to Pandit Akhilesh Joshi, pujari at the Vikramaditya Mandir in Ujjain, there are several reasons, practices of calculations surrounding Mahakaal and his Nandi, and other practices and scientific facets that make Ujjain important to the concept of time. Ujjain was the main centre of kaal ganana (calculating time), he says.

    So far, the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government has managed to keep the Vikram Samvat, the Indic calendar system associated with the reign of Samrat Vikramaditya, as a facet of priority in its cultural celebrations.

    The Vikram Samvat begins on Gudi Parva/Chaitra Pratipada (falls on a day in March-April). On 2 April, this year, the birthday of Ujjain was marked by the state government in several celebrations, also the time that marked the beginning of the Vikram Samvat. The Vikramotsav this year kept the core of celebration rooted in Sanatan while embracing the 'contemporary'. The linking of Kshipra Ghats with the celebration of the Vikromotsav is ready material for Prime Minister Modi to strike a spark into Chief Minister Chouhan's efforts.

    Vikram Samvat 2079 (2022 CE) is also when Ujjain saw scientists, historians and archaeologists brainstorming over giving the Vikram Samvat national character in public consciousness, news cycle and people-memory.

    A national conference was held in Ujjain dedicated to the Indic calendar system. The event was significant as a step in cultural persuasion from a section of scientists, historians, archaeologists and experts.

    Research papers were presented with views on why the Vikram Samvat should and needs to become the bedrock of the national calendar and be the national calendar.

    Some of the views that emanated at this national conference as per local media and reports are:

    -the Vikram Samvat needs to be adopted instead of the Gregorian system;

    -it can embrace the several Indic calendars currently in use in India on the basis of and due to calculations of time prevalent in Sanatan;

    -that it is scientific;

    -that the issue of amendment in the national calendar should reach the Indian Parliament.

    Vikram Samvat 2079, when Ujjain is emerging as the new cultural power centre of Bharat, is when Prime Minister Modi has the chance to pull off a cultural resurgence-centric lease of efforts to pay his tribute to Samrat Vikramaditya.

    Pandit Akhilesh Joshi, adds, "Vikramaditya satyavadi aur nyayapriye raja thhe. We have heard over the generations through several retelling of the texts that his nine gems were masters of their own vidyas and vidha. Avantika, one of the Saptapuris, used to be the centre and capital of Akhand Bharat in the era of Vikramaditya ji. Yaheen se baith kar wo apna rajya-kaaj sambhalte thhe."

    The Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led government has the capabilities and capacities to raise the bar of celebrations around Samrat Vikramaditya and his nine gems in gradual and well planned efforts. Vetal Bhatta and Kalidasa are two gems known to the average Indian — in varying degrees of familiarity, study and depth.

    Kalidas is under-celebrated, just as Meghdoot, other works, the seasons, the arts and Hindustani classical music, are. Imagine the culturescape if the Chouhan-Modi team goes full force in celebrating Meghdoot and Malhars — as one combined facet during monsoon, for music, poetry, visual; folk and classical performing arts, in Bharat's own Utsav and the world stage.

    Then, there are six other gems waiting to be explored in public interactions.

    Prime Minister Modi's own visit to Ujjain should pull him towards his homage and ideas dedicated to Vikramaditya. One reason is the placement and presence of the Vikramaditya Temple in the city. It is nestled amid the reflection of the ceremonial lights of the Mahakaal Mandir and the Harsiddhi Mandir, at Mata Harsiddhi Road.

    This writer, after visiting the Vikramaditya Temple in Ujjain felt that Samrat Vikramaditya's own fervent bhakti towards Shakti, should become a reason for anyone and everyone visiting Ujjain for Mahakaal and Harsiddhi Mandirs, to visit and revisit the space dedicated to the Samrat.

    From one point at the Vikramaditya Temple, this writer gazed at the shikhara of the Mahakaal Temple for long. When the magnificent aarti at the Harsiddhi Mandir takes place every evening, the depiction of Vikramaditya witnesses it in rapt attention. Under the calm wholeness of the Poornima, it seems as if the depiction will come to life, rushing to the Harsiddhi Mandir, to make an offering, another offering.

    The visuals of celebration of Shiva and Shakti in Mahakaal Sarkar with Vikramaditya as their parambhakta, by Prime Minister Modi, would go a long way in igniting public interest in their own heritage.

    Beyond this, the combined focus of the Centre-state on the celebration of Ujjain as the core centre of devotion, art and culture will bring a great momentum to making the holy teerthapuri the twenty-first century centre of Indic knowledge and studies.

    ‘How exactly?’ you may ask.

    In February this year, state Higher Education Minister Mohan Yadav called for widening and diversifying the celebration of the nine-day Vikramotsav by taking it beyond Ujjain. Another interesting point of focus from Yadav in this year's celebration under the Vikramotsav was the celebration of the sage scientists of Bharat in the Vikram Samvat Panchang.

    The very idea suggests that the Chouhan-led government is working to highlight the pride in Maharaja Vikramaditya, the era of Maharaja Vikramaditya, and the pride in Indic sage-geniuses. Indeed, the Chouhan government is already working on rejuvenating the existing cultural narrative with the help of organisations and initiatives, and connecting them to the celebration of the Vikram Samvat.

    Will Prime Minister Modi respond to this new moment in his cultural intervention?

    When it comes to Devi Ahilyabai Holkar, Prime Minister Modi has mentioned her contribution to Sanatan and Bharat — particularly in her tangible interventions in the seats of Jyotirlinga, teerth and devotion. When it comes to Maharaja Suheldev, Prime Minister Modi has invoked his courage, his contribution to Sanatan and Bharat. He has spoken to the communities connected to the legacy of Maharaja Suheldev from the political dais.

    What his stepping into the arena of Vikramaditya's celebration could achieve is and would be way beyond Madhya Pradesh, beyond politics, beyond polls, beyond a community.

    Pandit Akhilesh Joshi says, "(It is believed) that those who come here are called by Maharajadhiraj (Vikramaditya) himself. Those who have to come and are called by Maharajadhiraj himself come without any sankat (hindrance)."

    Sumati Mehrishi is Senior Editor, Swarajya. She tweets at @sumati_mehrishi 

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