Dipu Sharma could barely contain his excitement about the soon-to-open Mahakal corridor in his hometown. He travels to an old overbridge near his house nearly every night to catch a glimpse of the “dazzling new project” and take selfies, he says.
And Sharma isn’t the only local admiring this drastic change of landscape from the ramp of Hari Phatak Overbridge that offers a view of the 108 ornate sandstone columns bearing decorative ‘trishul’ (tridents) on top and ‘mudras’ (symbolic hand gesture) of Lord Shiva on its faces, gushing fountains surrounded by sculptures of the deity and illuminated murals.
This trend of admiring the project site from a distance has picked up over the last few weeks. Last month, after the Madhya Pradesh cabinet’s first-ever meeting in the ‘holy city’, this craze for “flyover selfies” has only grown.
Every day, particularly after dark, scores of people gather near the overbridge parapet and either stand and admire the emerging skyline facing the ancient Rudrasagar Lake or take selfies with the corridor in the background.
Sharma, a resident of Jaisinghpura area near the project site, had gone to the flyover with his wife on Navratra’s final night on Tuesday. He parked his motorcycle on the flyover while his wife peeked below to admire the view.
“People of Ujjain are super excited about the new corridor, especially after it was confirmed by the Madhya Pradesh government that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate it soon. As that day nears, excitement is only building up,” he told PTI.
Prime Minister Modi will inaugurate the first phase of the ₹856-crore Mahakaleshwar Temple corridor development project here, around 200 km from Bhopal, on October 11.
The Mahakaleshwar Temple is one of 12 ‘jyotirlingas’ (a representation of Lord Shiva) in the country and gets devotees throughout the year.
While daylight offers a clear view of the new structures, people gather mostly after dark to enjoy the illuminated fountain at play, Sharma said.
His wife said women in her neighbourhood were also excited, particularly the young ones.
The state government has named the over 900-metre corridor, billed as one of the largest in India, ‘Mahakal Lok’. It has also started to garner popularity among the youth through social media.
Two majestic gateways — Nandi Dwar and Pinaki Dwar — have been erected near the starting point of the corridor, which winds its way to the entrance of the ancient temple while offering aesthetic views along the way.
“This portion of the overbridge faces the main gateway (Nandi Dwar), and it has sort of become a viewing gallery and a favourite selfie point. This craze has particularly picked up over the last few weeks and I see it often while driving by,” said Ujjain-based cab driver Rohit Songara.
Ujjain Smart City Chief Executive Officer Ashish Kumar Pathak feels excitement levels would only go up and lead to a “huge jump” in tourist footfall after the opening.
“The ornate columns, the aesthetic-looking fountains, and depictions of various elements from Shiv Puran in murals will enhance viewer experience,” he told PTI.
Officials of IPE Global, the consultancy firm which worked on the project under the Ujjain Smart City mission, said testing of fountains and lights had been taking place over the last several days, drawing scores of people.
“The project started in 2017 and, in five years, the entire landscape has undergone a sea change, from a chaotic, haphazard space into an aesthetic and pleasing sight. Since the opening is still a few days away, people are getting curious,” said Amit Gupta, manager, urban infrastructure and tourism at the firm.
“Once it opens, people will feel a different kind of excitement when they see the details on the columns and in murals.”
On Wednesday, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan offered prayers at the Mahakaleshwar Temple on Dusshera and took part in the grand ‘Mahakal ki Sawari’, describing it as an “extraordinary moment”.
His visit to Ujjain for a few hours further heightened the excitement among people about the corridor.
“This is an extraordinary moment and an extraordinary time. Delight is all around and there is an environment of excitement,” the chief minister told reporters as he took part in the ceremonial procession.
Chouhan and his wife joined ‘Mahakal ki Sawari’ midway and he also played a ‘damru’ and briefly carried a sacred flag. Later, he braved the rain to walk barefoot to Dussehra Maidan.
According to officials, the development of ‘Mahakal Lok’ includes a midway zone, a park, a multi-storied parking lot for cars and buses, florist and other shops, solar lighting, a facility centre for pilgrims, a mega entry gate, water pipeline and sewer line, among other works.
A lighting and sound system has also been developed along with installation of 108 ornate pillars showcasing Shiv Tandav shlokas (verses) as well as 52 murals depicting various stories taken from Shiv Puran. Several other majestic statues have also been installed, they said.