I have not written for a while, though I have been mentally making notes of different things that I experience everyday. A couple of years ago, a young nephew Shubho, recited a beautiful phrase on “OM” that he had learnt in school. The words had an indelible impact which sent me in search of OM the universal sound.
During my research on “OM”, I discovered the existence of Omkareshwar, the OM shaped island also known as Mandhata island in the middle of river Narmada. The temple here is also one of the 12 Jyotirlinga’s where Shiva is worshipped as a pillar of light. The temple is on a steep edge along the banks of Narmada and can be approached by one of the 2 bridges after climbing a flight of stairs or simply taking a boat across the river. However, the Amareshwar or Mamleshwar Temple on the main land is considered to be the Jyotirlinga given the 2nd line in the stotra dedicated to Jyotirlinga’s. “Ujjayinya Mahakalam Omkaramamaleswaram ||
I arrived on a rainy and cloudy day in the month of July which is considered very auspicious to worship Shiva. It was a brief stop over en route Maheshwar and I had to make the most of it despite the weather and the crowds. Vehicles are not allowed into the main town, so a short walk through crowded lanes, I reached the banks of the river bustling with life on a rainy day. There is never a dull moment in a pilgrim town where faith, colour and emotion present its many hues. In between the holy dips by pilgrims, the boatmen where busy negotiating for a ride across the river, and priests calling out for prospective pilgrims. I walked through the kiosk lined street selling flowers, fruits and other religious items in brisk pace to reach the old bridge which connects the Mandhata – OM island to the main land. The chants of Om Namaha Shivaya reverberated through the air and accompanied me all through.
The view of the temple, the winding Narmada and the hanging bridge is simply out of this world. On a misty day, with limited visibility the vastness of the Narmada at the other end appeared to be limitless like an ocean. Omkareshwar Palace, appeared to be worn out and dull but with a promise of great views of the Narmada was perched on a higher cliff along the banks.
The circumambulation route or the Gita Parikrama path starts from the base of the bridge and I happily followed scores of pilgrims headed that way. Some people also go around the island in a boat. Somewhere after an hour, we would reach the meeting point of rivers Cauvery and Narmada, where a customary dip would probably absolve me of all sins.
At the end of the 2.5 hour Parikrama, I reached the other end of the island close to the dam which was at the centre of the Narmada Bachao Andolan. The dam was yet to be filled with not so promising monsoon this year. I quickly walked towards the main temple, since it was time for closure @ 4pm. While, I may not always like to do it, I joined the special queue with a ticket of Rs 100/- which allowed me to get ahead. A quick visit to Lord Shiva in his abode, pushed around by devotees and priests alike, scurrying with pots of water to pour on his head, I emerged back on the banks of the Narmada. I crossed over through the newly constructed hanging bridge and went to the Mamleshwar Temple on the main land. The sun was nearly off the horizon and I was headed to Maheshwar about 60 kms away !!
Travel Tip: Indore is the closest Railway Station and Airport about 90 kms away. There are regular buses from Gangwal bus stand in Indore or take a taxi. Stay in Gajanan Maharaj Dharamshala which is spic and span and looks very neat and simple. I was on a day trip so did not stay here. Boat Rides for crossing the river (Rs 10/-) or a joy ride is negotiable.
Most people head to Maheshwar also by the Narmada River about 60 kms away or Ujjain another seat of Jyotirlinga about 150 kms away. Additionally Mandu about 100 kms away on the way to Ujjain is a great place to visit for history and art.
Best Time to Visit: All year through but July to March is preferable since the summer months of April to June are very hot and sultry.