Origin of a river has always fascinated me. My mind finds this fact hard to believe that a water body so expanse, vigorous and energetic so as to engulf anything that comes in its way, has such a humble beginning. Of-course there are numerous geographical factors which are involved in turning this humble stream into a gigantic magnificent river and witnessing this oneself is quite enchanting and surprising. This time the river in focus was holy Narmada, a river that brings alive the vast central plains of Indian subcontinent and during the course assumes a rather significant and mystic identity of its own.
While travelling the road from Jabalpur to Amarkantak we already knew what it will have in store for us but didn’t diminish the fascination of seeing Narmada’s origin in the form of a small stream from a tiny ‘Kund’. We had already seen Narmada in its full glory in Jabalpur while taking a morning dip in it along with chanting of mantras and ‘aarti’ and to visit its origin reminded us again of the various natural wonders of this country. A stream originates in some mountain, grows into a river and finds meaning to its existence and then disappears in vast ocean after travelling thousands of kms, all happening on a single mainland. Narmada, the Ganges of central India is one of the most prominent rivers of the country and the fact that it flows through some of the most arid parts of the country adds more significance to it.
As is the case with most aesthetic geographical phenomena in India a visibly prominent religious significance has been attached to Amarkantak too. Over the years many temples have cropped up in town making it a favourite destination for religiously inclined but in spite of such a huge pilgrim inflow the place has somehow kept its serenity intact, a truly remarkable feature absent in other pilgrim towns. The place is yet untouched to a large extent by commercialisation with no luxury accommodations, apart from the one by MP tourism and no superfluous market places. Just simple Dharmashalas and small eateries.
While approaching Amarkantak on a well-built highway through dense forests, the first place we visited was ‘Kabir Chabutra’. It comprises of a paved structure on which two tiny rooms sit, one containing the portrait of Saint Kabir and the other is residing chamber of 2 of his followers taking care of the place and a small pond besides it, right in the middle of jungle. Saint Kabir is said to have spent some time here in isolation. After taking life lessons from the people in-charge, we moved straight to the most iconic temple complex of Amarkantak, the ‘Narmada Udgam (origin) Temple’.
The temple complex is made fully out of white stone and marble imparting it a beautiful tranquil look. There are no high rising ‘Shikhars’ or large ‘Mandapas’ just small ‘Garbagrahas’ with various deities residing in them. Most of the area is open, tiled space around the most important central tiny pond from which extremely small stream of Narmada originates. There is a relatively larger pond besides that for devotees to take a holy dip.
Just at a short distance is Sone Udgam Temple, another river Sone’s origin. There is no grand or lavish temple complex but just the tiny tank from which the stream flows. The approach from the main road to temple further extends ta a mountain cliff-side viewing point. There is an archaeological site just behind Narmada origin temple with ancient temples of ‘Kalachuri’. A picturesque place with ancient temple remains surrounded by a garden, maintained by Archaeological dept.
There are a no. of other temples small and big which one can visit while in Amarkantak, the prominent ones being the ‘Jain Temple’ and ‘Shri Yantra Temple’ or you can simple indulge in local cultural, spiritual and natural flavours being surrounded by thick green forest covered hills along with no. of monkeys and birds. There are few small waterfalls like ‘Kapil dhara’ and ‘Dudh dhara’ where one can sit and appreciate the nature’s bounty in these hilly forests. If religion and nature is your cup of tea then Amarkantak is the place for you.