I would often see people walking around the temple in clockwise direction 3 times or simply turning around in one place chanting some mantra. I tried seeking an answer, but was promptly told thats the way it is and I better do it if my prayers were to reach god. At an age, when I had endless list of demands which included that fancy perfumed eraser in the store, sip of that lime juice sold at the street corner, the latest comic that I could slip away with under the bed etc etc.; I gladly followed suit. Many years and many realisations later it seemingly occurred that a clock wise circumambulation (parikrama in Sanskrit) in places of worship or high energy vortexes would energize our aura as well to good health and well being.
So here I was standing at the base of the old bridge in Omkareshwar on a rainy day all set to do a parikrama around the island on a path tracing the letter “OM”. The ancient route was revived and repaired by Madhya Pradesh Tourism few years ago as the Gita Parikrama Path where Sanksrit Shlokas from the Gita are inscribed all along the way on red slabs.
Known to be around 6 kms it takes about 2-3 hours to complete with intermittent stops. According to legend, Narmada is considered to be Shiva’s daughter, and the the purest of the pure and circumambulation in this place as initiated by Adi Shankaracharya is a picturesque and calming route beyond the religious fervour.
After a short flight of steps upward and then downward, I walked along the Narmada with people, cows and bulls, never losing sight of its breathtaking beauty. There were a few temples along the way and the Buddhist Shikhara on top reminding if it had a probable connection with Adi Shankaracharya’s visit from Nepal. I continued to chant “Om Namah Shivaya” under my breath as I moved along. I do it not for religion but for the peaceful vibration that I experience.
Just then, a few kids emerged from a gurukula settling their dhoti and negotiating with a lady selling soft corn by the pathway.
I smiled at their antics and moved on to find a picture of Shiva swinging under a tree while an old gentleman rocked him carefully as if he was putting a child away to sleep.
Soon, it started to pour and I was admiring the green, the chirping birds, the happy squirrel when a bull with sharp horns came dangerously close to knocking me off the way. I held my breath while fellow pilgrims shooed him away !!
About 45 minutes later, I reached the Sangam – meeting point of Narmada and Cauvery. At this point the edge of the island seems like the tail of the OM if written in Sanskrit, Devanagari script. The narrow stretch of land was teeming with people, defying the rain and mist for a dip in anticipation of washing away sins. Infact, there was a temple next to it “Hruna Mukteshwar” which essentially means release from all accumulated dues. Actually, any meeting point of rivers – or water bodies (Sangam) is auspicious in Hinduism since it is considered to be an earthly manifestation of Ida and Pingala, the energy channels in our physical body which when balanced ensures happiness and well being. A dip in the sangam, holding our breath, allowing the cold water to permeate through our being is a reminder for us to balance our energy and heal ourselves. I loitered around for about half an hour here, wondering what brought me here on a rainy day thousands of kilometres away, is it the beginning or closure of something unknown? I deliberate whether to pick up a few “Bana Lingas” stones from the sangam akin to shiva linga and take them home and finally decide against it. Let nature rest with its companions I tell myself and move on.
After this point, the walk gets interesting as we walk through a dilapidated doorway (Dharmaraja Dwara) referring to Mahabharata and some settlements where the monkey population seemed to out do humans. The road is flat but often slippery and while I watch my step, I also watch my breath. A couple of dharamshalas & temples housing sadhus and self styled god men were advertising to initiate people with the spiritual mantra as a panacea to all of life’s problems and a quick pass to god. I reach a beautiful temple (Gori Somnath), with exquisite carvings and the smoke from the lamps mingle with the monsoon haze to create a divine aura. Apparently the white shiva linga in the temple turned black after Emperor Aurangzeb looked at it when he came here at war. My hand reaches out for the bell for Shiva the creator for gifting me this beautiful journey and I turn around to find a handsome Shiva all of 90 feet in height gazing at me with compassion. I stand around sipping a glass of sugary lime juice for Rs 10/- from a makeshift canopy, catching up with a group of people who were resting under the tree with chants of “Jai Hanumanji” emanating from the temple opposite to Gori Somnath.
After a while I find a group of people praying within ruined remains of statues smeared with orange vermilion. While they thought, I was too close to their prayer, I was amused by the blessing on the tree :). This is the highest point in the path after which a steep set of stairs lead us down through another doorway (Suraj-Chand Darwaza) and the first thing I notice is the solar panel above the ASI Watch Box. Go Green India !!
On the left was the ruins of a very beautiful temple – Siddheshwar Shiva. There was some special prayer going on that day and the bells, chants and the raindrops in company of the flowing Narmada down below was nothing short of heaven. I sat there for a while, counting my blessings once again.
The Omkareshwar Dam can be seen from here and then a few steps ahead a rocky path leads to the banks of the river while the one upward leads to the temple. It was nearly half past three and I had to rush for my date with Shiva in his abode which was to close doors for mortals like me at 4pm.
Little Munni (that’s what my parents call me) got her giant eraser today, full of fragrance that promised to erase all the grime of decades and that sip of street corner lime juice which she often longed for !! Time will tell, the story of energy and absolving of sins.
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 art and history
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.