The youngest of my four maternal uncles is employed with HPCL and currently posted at Indore, Madhya Pradesh. On the occasion of his 25th wedding anniversary, my parents decided to pay a surprise visit to their house. The ceremony was a low-key family affair but we had lots of fun. Over the dinner, my uncle proposed for a day-long outing on the following day. After some discussions over the possible destinations, it was decided that we will be going for a trip to Ujjain and Omkareshwar. While myself and my cousin wanted to visit the famed Satpura National Park instead, the voice of majority was with Ujjain and Omkareshwar. Personally I am not a very religious kind of person and was not too keen to visit temples, but living in a democratic country, I had to give in to the demands of majority. From the geographical point of view, Indore is sandwiched between Ujjain and Omkareshwar. Ujjain is located 56 KM towards the North of Indore, where as Omkareshwar is 78 KM away down South. It was decided that we would first go to Ujjain in the morning and visit the famous sites there. Trip to Omkareshwar was planned for the second half of the day in the post lunch session. My uncle owns a Mahindra Scorpio and we have a Ford Figo. We were a group of 6 people - uncle, aunty, dad, mom, cousin and myself. So the spacious Scorpio was the automatic choice to be our ride for this trip. We started from Indore early in the morning at around 6 AM and drove non-stop to Ujjain. Our first stop of the day was at Mahakaleshwar Temple. The temple houses one of the 12 revered Shiva Jyotirlingas. Lord Shiva is worshiped in the form of a Linga in this temple. The Linga is believed to have emerged on its own and hence it is often called as Swayambhu Jyotirlinga. As we had arrived there at around 7:30 AM, we didn't have to wait in long queues. We had to submit our belongings, including mobile phones, before entering the main sanctum. Soon we found ourselves at the Grabha Greeha where the main Jyotirlinga is placed. We offered our prayers to Lord Shiva and came out of the temple complex. After Mahakaleshwar Temple, we went to pay a visit to Bade Ganesh Ji Ka Mandir, which is situated right next to the water tank at Mahakaleshwar Temple complex. The huge aesthetically decorated statue of Lord Ganesha that adorns the temple is one of its kind. It also has an idol of five-faced Hamuman. Our next destination was the famed Kal Bhairav temple. The original temple is believed to have been built in the 8th century during the Parmara period. The present-day temple was constructed by Maratha King Mahadaji Shinde after the third battle of Panipat in 1761. The presiding deity in the temple is Kal Bhairav, the chief of the Ashta Bhairava. The temple is under the influnce of tantrik or kapalik sect of Hinduism and liquor is offered to the deity as part of the worship procedure. Outside the temple complex, local vendors sell coconuts, flowers and bottles of country liquor which are offered to the deity. We bought a basket of offerings and went inside the temple to offer our prayers. It took us a little over an hour to complete the darshan as the temple had decent amount of devotees at that time. The clock had gone past 10:30 AM mark as we came out of the Kal Bhairav temple. We all were feeling hungry. There are a number of food stalls and sweet shops near the temple and we decided to have our breakfast in one of those. After finishing off a plate of puri-sabji with hot tea, we started towards our next destination - the Chintaman Ganesh Temple. The temple is situated on the banks of Shipra River. A unique feat about the temple is that the idol of Ganesha worshiped here is believed to be Swayambhu in nature. Which means, the statue had emerged on its own. There was a huge queue of devotees waiting patiently for a darshan of Ganesh ji. While the elders went inside the temple, the two of us, me and my cousin, decided to wait outside. It took them more than one and another half hours to complete the darshan. Their plan was to visit the Harsiddhi temple next, but I had enough of temple darshan. My mother was annoyed at me for being such a spoilsport, but I was adamant. I also received support from an unexpected quarter in my father. I badly wanted to visit one of the heritage sites of Ujjain and the famous Kaliadeh Palace was on top of my list. My mother tamely said that the Harsiddhi temple is also a heritage site as it was built by King Vikramaditya, but this time I won the battle and we headed towards the palace instead. The Kaliadeh Palace is mostly in ruins now. The persian architecture of the palace signifies the influence of Muslim era. The palace was originally constructed in the year 1458 by the renowned Sultans of Mandu, during the reigns of Mahmud Khilji. The domed palace is located on a small islet formed by the Shipra river, which enhances the scenic appeal of the site. The long pillared corridor has been decorated with fine stone carvings and Persian inscriptions. The elegant building was destroyed during the Pindaris rulings, but it was later renovated by the Scindia family in the early parts of 20th century. There is a Sun Temple inside the palace complex which is another architectural marvel of Ujjain's glorious past. By the time we finished wandering around this beautiful site, the time had ticked past 2 PM. The hunger had started to make its presence felt, so we were back into the car looking for a decent place for having lunch. As our plan was to visit Omkareshwar on the very same day, my uncle suggested that we should have our lunch at one of the road-side dhabas along the Ujjain-Omkareshwar highway. Finally we spotted a nice Punjabi Dhaba near Mediya and satisfied our appetite on some delicious Punjabi vegetarian cuisines. Veg food was the choice of the day as we were on a religious trip. It was well past 3:30 PM by the time we finished our food. It was a hot day and all of us were more or less exhausted. Nobody seemed too keen on visiting Omkareshwar temple after such a tiring trip to Ujjain. So it was decided that we would call it quits for the day and return back to Indore. Omkareshwar trip was planned again on the following day. We returned home at around 5 PM after a great trip to Ujjain. We had visited the Mahakaleshwar temple, Bade Ganesh Ji ka Mandir, Kal Bhairav Temple, Chintaman Ganesh Temple and Kaliadeh Palace on this Ujjain trip. My mother also wanted to pay a visit to Harsiddhi Temple, Gadakalika Temple and Sandipani Ashram, but due to the lack of time, we could not visit them. Begum ka Maqbara and Bhartrihari Caves were on my personal wish list of places to visit in Ujjain, but I was not too disappointed missing out on visiting them. On the following day, we could not wake up early in the morning. By the time we started for Omkareshwar, it was already 8:15 AM. Uncle could not accompany us on this trip as he had some official engagements. Subodh, their driver, was behind the wheels for the day. Omkareshwar is located at a distance of 78 KM from Indore. There were some road repairing work going on in patches and it delayed us further. We reached Omkareshwar at 10 past 10 in the morning. The temple is located right next to the Narmada river, actually on an island formed by the river. The shape of the island is said to resemble the OM (ॐ) symbol, from which the place has derived its name. The Omkareshwar temple is regarded as one of the most prominent Shaivaite sites in the country. It is one of the 12 highly revered Shiva Jyotirlinga shrines and thousands of pilgrims visit the temple everyday to worship Lord Shiva. As expected, the temple was quite crowded at this peak hours. Devotees can be seen in long queues waiting patiently for a darshan of Bhole Baba chanting 'Jai Shambhu' at regular intervals. Our driver, Subodh, is actually a native of Khandwa and he is well aware of the panda culture which prevails here. He managed to negotiate with a panda for arranging a quick darshan for us, bypassing the long queue. Although offering such a blatant bribe is against my likings, I must admit that the thought of refusing the favor never came to mind at that situation. In-fact I was actually thankful just to avoid the mad rush of devotees. Anyway, we did a quick darshan of the Linga and offered our prayers. However contrary to the Mahakaleshwar temple, in Omkareshwar temple, the devotees are not allowed to go near the Linga. There is a barricade in-between and the devotees are required to pour the offerings (milk/water) in a hole connected by a pipe, which eventually spills the liquid over the Shiva Linga. Anyway, after seeking the blessings of Omkareshwar, we came out on the sacred Ghat of Narmada. The place is extremely serene and full of peace. The Ghat was clean and the river water looked refreshingly clear. Me and my cousin took a holy dip in the river. It was more to get relieved of the heat than anything else, although my mother might have thought that it was the magic of Omkareshwar that can even turn an agnostic soul into a believer. Finally we took a motor-boat ride to ferry us onto a Parikrama of Omkareshwar island. It was a very scenic ride. The boatman took us around the island through the whole periphery of the river and to the Triveni Sangam. Triveni Sangam is the place where Narmada meets with Kaveri (and Saraswati which is invisible). We really enjoyed the boat ride. We also visited the Mamleshwar temple situated on the other bank of the river. It is an ancient temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. For a change, there was no panda culture in this temple and it was more peaceful than the Omkareshwar temple. Gauri Somnath temple, Siddheshwar temple and Patali Hanuman Mandir were the other temples we visited during this trip to Omkareshwar. My mother and aunt seemed to be the happiest of the lot. Finally it was the time to bid adieu to Omkareshwar. The trip to Ujjain and Omkareshwar was truly a satisfying one. A great spiritual journey that helped us return home with inner peace and enlightened soul.