Narmada River

FACTS & FIGURES

Source Mahadeo hills in Madhya Pradesh.

Length 1,312 km

Coverage Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat

Important cities Jabalpur

MYTHOLOGY  

The Narmada River is considered the mother and giver of peace. Legend has it that the mere sight of this river is enough to cleanse one’s soul, as against a dip in the Ganga or seven in the Yamuna. The Ganga is believed to visit this river once a year, in the guise of a black cow to cleanse herself of all her collected sins.The journey along the river Narmada is in some sense similar to famous parikrama (taking round) of the river, except that the parikrama is of life in the valley of the Narmada.

ALONG THE RIVER

Narmadakund in Amarkantak has an ambience that makes a pilgrim spot out of this small place. Amarkantak is a plateau from which hangs a tale.

Young Narmada falls in love with the male river Son and asks Juhilla (a tributary of the Son) to convey her message of love. Juhilla entices Son herself. The disgust and anguish of the lovely Narmada compels her to jump off the western cliffs of Amarkantak. A mere six kilometers from her genesis, the Narmada hurtles down 150 feet at Kapildhara, a gorgeous waterfall. Named after the saint Kapil, this fall is soon followed by Dudhadhara. All along the river, one will be always close to teak jungles. Apart from teaks, India’s best hardwood forests are found in the Narmada river basin and they are much older than the ones in the Himalayas. Moving along, one reaches the marble rock country Bheraghat near Jabalpur . Bheraghat, about 24 km away from Jabalpur , is a cluster of great, white limestone cliffs standing out 30 m above the waters of the Narmada. They are an awesome sight, particularly by night when white, silvery moonshine bathes the gorge. The views at Dhuandhar, where the river is more like a screen of mist, and Haathi-ka-Paon are mesmeric.

There is the Chausath Yogini (sixty-four yoginis) temple above the lower end of the gorge. The attendants of Durga are represented here. Although the images have been damaged, they still retain their pristine beauty.

The city of Jabalpur is the second largest in Madhya Pradesh after Bhopal. The metropolis itself stands in a rock basin about 10 km away from the Narmada. Named after a saint called Jabali who lived here, Jabalpur is famous for its marble rocks.

Down the Narmada, it is a myriad landscape-thickly forested mountain slopes, rocky regions with picturesque rapids, falls and whirlpools and cultivated lands with rich black cotton soil. The great river runs through rift valleys, which are part of perhaps the oldest geological formations of India. Believed to have originated from the body of Shiva, the river is also known as Jata Shankari. The worship of Shiva is common in these areas, and each stone or pebble found in the bed of the Narmada is believed to 

be a Shivalinga. Places along the banks-Omkareshwar, Maheshwar, and Mahadeo-are all named after Shiva.

Omkareshwar has several old and new temples. There is an island on the river that is supposed to have one of India’s twelve great Shivalingas. Maheshwar is on the northern banks of the river. Cenotaphs in memory of the Holkars beautify the landscape at Maheshwar. There are a number of temples too, and a fort. One also gets a chance to see the delicate, gorgeous Maheshwari saris being hand-woven. Comfortable in warm and cold weather, dressy and yet light, these saris have a dedicated, select following among Indian women. Places like Maheshwar and Omkareshwar are just examples of the large number of religious centers that dot the banks of the Narmada as it weaves its 1,000-kilometer journey through the state of Madhya Pradesh.

To this Narmada, home to so many, religion to more, and beautiful river to all, there are many odes. The best ode would be a sojourn for a real experience that can last a lifetime.

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