Have you met someone who keeps on repeating stories of life? For me, it is my fellow mate who keeps on reciting the same saga in which she almost lost her life in the steamy misty waterfall of Bhedaghat some 25 years before. Yes, 25 years before. The fierce water – the narrow trail- a life-taking slip – she being pulled by four men – she wearing the sweater of her cousin for rest of the trip. I also know it by heart now. So when I planned a trip to the birthplace of Narmada, Amarkantak, I planned it via Jabalpur. Obviously, Bhedaghat was a must visit which is merely 25 kilometres away from Jabalpur. If you have seen the Hollywood movie ‘Branded’ you would know why I did this and why before seeing the tranquil Narmada, I opted for its wild avatar. (BTW, skipping Raipur, Bilaspur and other options, was worth it!)
Narrating the Journey Upside Down
I may have visited Bhedaghat formerly but the birthplace of Narmada is Amarkantak, the heartland of Divinity, so rightfully, we should start with the Maikal mountain where Amarakantak is situated in Madhya Pradesh. Whether you come from Pendra Road or Bilaspur or Jabalpur (like me) the virescent environs are sure to woo your inner soul. It is like you have entered the threshold of some different world or yuga altogether. The rustic roads, the teak trees on the sides and the fragrance of freshness all around, the whole aura was so mesmerizing that even if I didn’t visit the landmarks of Amarkantak, the trip would have been one of the best. And just in case you spot a pilgrim or a saint walking 2600 kilometre straight from Bharuch, Gujarat to Amarkantak with bright smiling faces, I bet you too would think of leaving the job and doing the same. I too thought about it but my credit Card bills refrained me from going for Narmada Parikrama!
In the book ‘A River Sutra’, Geeta Mehta calls River Narmada as an epitome of diversity, religion and mythologies of Indian culture. If you happen to visit Amarkantak during the time of Shivratri, you would know how right she is. The six-day fair of Shivratri is like the collage of cultures. It was interesting for me to see how colours became the culture of people. While the people of Chhattisgarh were dressed in earthen colours, the Malwa people wore bright ones. And apart from praying the deity the fair hosts’ various shops of handicrafts, folk theatres, circus shows and the favourite part of any fair, merry-go-round.
Nestled between Vindhya and Satpura ranges, Amarkantak is like a heaven of flora and fauna. Apart from the waterfalls, there are many sarovars in Amarkantak. I chose to start my early morning with Pushkar Sarovar. The rising sun, the reflective water, the mist and green backdrop is a deadly combination. Then across the day, I had an affair with water. I know waterfalls have their own mesmerism but visiting Kapildhara and Dhoodh Dhara amidst jungle was an experience in itself. And I must say, everything in Amarkantak is simply unique. Like, when you visit the source of Son river, Sonemuda, you may have seen many panoramic views but standing up there and glancing the mountains, greenery and beautiful valley, the godly feeling is incomparable.
If the breathtaking scenery of Amarkantak is its icon, Narmada is its soul. Narmada Kund, the source of Narmada river has temples of many deities, all painted white that reflects an appealing glimpse over the water during the Narmada aarti in the evening. As per the legend, Narmada is said to have originated from the sweat of Lord Shiva and she is blessed to have healing property. That is why it is said that every year river Ganga takes the embodiment of a black woman and comes here to cleanse itself. In this temple compound, most intriguing is the statue of the Elephant. It is said that if you can pass between the front legs and hind legs of the elephant, your soul is free from sins.
I too tried it but I stuck in between. One of the elderly man standing beside me commented, “It’s not easy to be free from sins.” Though he was on the heavier side, he successfully passed through right after me. I had to try for the second time!
Bhedaghat’s Dhuandhar Fall
I feel the serenity of Amarkantak has also an impact over Narmada river that is why the calm river takes ferocious façade when it comes to Bhedaghat. If you love canyon, then Bhedaghat has a surprise for you. Yes, when the Narmada comes here it creates a 3-kilometre-long marble Gorge which is fantabulous. Don’t be astonished if your boat rower shows you crocodile or Indian mount Rushmore or many other figurines. If you are not able to locate them don’t feel sad, you are not alone. But let me tell you this 1.5-hour ride is just as awesome as the Dhuandhar fall itself. When the sun rays play hide and seek with white marble gorge, shades of blue, pink, yellow and green bestow their charm on the beholders. All this with the roaring sound of the river falling from the height of 98 feet. Dhuandhar fall is the mystic. Words cannot define it but yes, it certainly tells the water is divine and powerful.
In this blog post, I have not mentioned many of the places like the ancient Kalachuri temple which are said to be built by Pandavas during their exile or Maa ki Bagiya which seem more like the Garden of Monkeys but sewing Amarkantak in few words is not an easy task. After all, it is here where the Deity Narmada starts sculpting stones into the divine forms of her father – The Narmada Shiv lingam.