It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. How true!
My quest for Amarkantak began with one such photo of the Narmada Udgam temple seen on the web-site of MP Tourism Board. The photo was taken at night and the temple was aglow in floodlight of yellow sodium vapour lamps against dark black night sky. I was mesmerized by the pristine site and Amarkantak became a “must visit” place on my itinerary.
Narmada Udgam temple is built at the source of the Narmada and is the holiest spot in Amarkantak. This place is one kilometer away from Mai Ki Bagia (seen on my previous post on this blog). The legend says that Narmada River originates near Mai Ki Bagia in form of a very small stream. It then goes underground and comes out one km away at a place which is known as Narmada Kund and then it’s flow can be traced as river Narmada till it meets the sea. However, the flow of water at the two places is in opposite directions. Our car driver told us another legend that claims that Narmada and Sone (another river that originates in Amarkantak) were friends and used to play together in Mai ki Bagia. Once while playing they had a strong argument with each other. Narmada was very angry and upset over the argument. So she disappeared underground and emerged at the place one km away from Mai ki Bagia and started flowing in direction totally opposite of the direction of Sone River. I do not know the truth behind both the legends. I am just amazed to see how much our ancestors humanized the nature around them and how much they cared for it.
We reached Amarkantak in the evening around 4:00 pm. Our car was passing through the small alleys typical of any Indian pilgrimage town on our way to MP tourism resort . Our driver pointed in the distance to a group of white steeples of the domes (shikhara) of temples in the middle of the town. They were surrounded by high boundary wall. So the temples themselves were not seen clearly. He said that was the Narmada Udgam temple complex. I found it hard to believe. I was expecting the temple complex to be on the bank of a reasonably wide river bed. But this one appeared to be locked by land in the middle of the town. Only later, after visiting the place, I realized that this is where the river literally emerges from earth and water gets collected in a well built pool (kund) near the temple. Then it flows down the hill through well built bathing places (ghats) – a series of pools – that lie just outside the complex. All this can be seen only when one nears the complex.
As soon as it started getting dark, I rushed to Narmada Udgam temple with my photography gear. I was eager to capture the scene that pulled me this afar exactly the same way I had seen on MP tourism web-site. Alas, today the temple was not floodlit. I was told that they do it only on specific auspicious days when there are huge crowds. So I returned to resort very disappointed.
I returned to the complex next day morning. And, lo and behold, the temples were shining against the blue sky in all their divine glory in the morning directional light. Their mirror images were reflected in the still dark-blue waters of Narmada kund. This was far superior to the image I could have captured the previous night. I was convinced that Narmada maiyya did not want me to return disappointed from her temple and she was revealing herself in all its glory. I just said “Narmade har har”, bowed my head and started clicking.
The Bhonsles of Nagpur built this temple. Maharaja Gulab Singh belonging to the Baghel dynasty of Rewa constructed the outer boundary wall of the temple complex. Around Narmadakund, there are number of temples such as Narmada and Shiva temple, Kartikey temple, Shri Ram Janki temple, Annapurna temple, Guru Gorakhnath temple, Sri Shuryanarayan temple, Vangeshwar Mahadev temple, Durga temple, Shiv Pariwar, Siddheswar Mahadev temple, Sri Radha Krishna temple, Eleven Rudra temple etc.
The Narmada Kund, the place where Narmada emerges, can be seen between the arches in photo above.
Right behind the Udgam is the temple of Shiva and Narmada. There are many Shivalingas outside the temple and also in the pool around temple. One can prey wherever one wants.
And then I saw people crawling under the belly of this elephant statue and pushing themselves through its legs. They said one’s all sins (paap) stay behind if one is able to pass through the legs of this elephant!!
The devotees are not allowed to bath inside the complex but there are well built bathing ghats just outside the complex where you can see devotees taking holy dip.
I must have spent at least two hours in the complex. I was in no mood to leave the place. But I could also see the 8th century AD group of temples built by Kalchuri Kings across the wall and the photographer in me pulled me towards them.
More about them in my next post on this blog.