Ujjain is the largest city in Ujjain district of the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. It is the fifth largest city in Madhya Pradesh by population and is the administrative centre of Ujjain district and Ujjain division. It is a known Hindu pilgrimage centre with the Kumbh Mela held here every 12 years.
An ancient city situated on the eastern bank of the Kshipra River, Ujjain was the most prominent city on the Malwa plateau of central India for much of its history. It emerged as the political centre of central India around 600 BCE. It was the capital of the ancient Avanti kingdom, one of the sixteen mahajanapadas. It remained an important political, commercial and cultural centre of central India until the early 19th century, when the British administrators decided to develop Indore as an alternative to it. Ujjain continues to be an important place of pilgrimage for Shaivites, Vaishnavites and followers of Shakta.
Ujjain has been selected as one of the hundred Indian cities to be developed as a smart city under PM Narendra Modi’s flagship Smart Cities Mission.
Excavations at Kayatha (around 26 km from Ujjain) have revealed chalcolithic agricultural settlements dating to around 2000 BCE. Chalcolithic sites have also been discovered at other areas around Ujjain, including Nagda, but excavations at Ujjain itself have not revealed any chalcolithic settlements. Archaeologist H. D. Sankalia theorized that the chalcolithic settlements at Ujjain were probably destroyed by the Iron Age settlers.
According to Hermann Kulke and Dietmar Rothermund, Avanti, whose capital was Ujjain, “was one of the earliest outposts in central India” and showed signs of early incipient urbanisation around 700 BCE. Around 600 BCE, Ujjain emerged as the political, commercial and cultural centre of Malwa plateau.
The ancient walled city of Ujjain was located around the Garh Kalika hill on the bank of river Kshipra, in the present-day suburban areas of the Ujjain city. This city covered an irregular pentagonal area of 0.875 km2. It was surrounded by a 12 m high mud rampart. The archaeological investigations have also indicated the presence of a 45 m wide and 6.6 m deep moat around the city. According to F. R. Allchin and George Erdosy, these city defences were constructed between 6th and 4th centuries BCE. Dieter Schlingloff believes that these were built before 600 BCE. This period is characterised by structures made of stone and burnt-brick, tools and weapons made of iron, and black and red burnished ware.
According to the Puranic texts, a branch of the legendary Haihaya dynasty ruled over Ujjain.