Narendra Modi in Amarkantaka: The significance of River Narmada's point of origin explained

Amarkantaka, Madhya Pradesh: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Amarkantaka in Madhya Pradesh on Monday to pay obeisance to River Narmada on the occasion of the concluding ceremony of the 148-day 'Namami Devi Narmada Sewa Yatra'. The prime minsiter will also release a blueprint on conservation of the river that originates in Amarkantaka, which lies on the bed of Vindhyachal range of mountains and development of the area as a major tourism hub.

The Namami Devi Narmada Sewa Yatra was launched on 11 December, 2016 by Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan — that involved people walking along the river from its origin to its point of meeting the Gulf of Khambhat in the Arabian Sea, and back to its point of origin in Amarkantak. The major objectives of the yatra were to increase awareness about the need for conservation of the river and the sustainable use of its resources, to promote plantation along its banks to protect the riparian zone, to promote sustainable agricultural practises and to identify sources of its pollution and to eliminate those. The 148-day yatra covered 1,100 villages and a distance of 3,350 kilometres.

A drive from Jabalpur — one of the important cities of the state that is situated quite close to the Narmada and famous for marble rock formations of Bhedaghat along the banks of the river — to Amarkantak is an introduction to the rich natural wealth of the state. Long stretches of forests are interspersed with lush, green farms, providing a perfect relief to eyes used to only concrete jungles with noise and pollution. This, indeed, is the land of Narmada as the river is never too far away from anywhere in this part of the state. The eastern part of the state, in fact, is bound by the civilisation that Narmada has nurtured.

When Modi finally pays his homage to the river as part of the function curated to mark the end of Narmada Sewa Yatra and to take a pledge for a clean Narmada, it will be a historic as well as politically-beneficial moment for Chouhan. Madhya Pradesh will be going to the polls at the end of the year. This Narmada Sewa Yatra has been a big people's outreach programme for Chouhan who has been at the helm of this central Indian state for three consecutive terms. This has also provided him an emotional connect with the public of the state for whom the Narmada is as significant as the River Ganga, or even perhaps more at times, as it is worshipped as a 'mother'.

File image of an ancient temple in Amarkantak. Wikimedia Commons

File image of an ancient temple in Amarkantaka. Wikimedia Commons

Narmada, the virgin river

The river Narmada, geographically, is the only major river in the country that drains in the Arabian Sea after flowing from east to west, unlike all other rivers of the peninsula that flow from west to east and drain into the Bay of Bengal. Flowing across the breadth of Madhya Pradesh (crossing 16 districts and covering 1,077 kilometres), the river is rightfully known as the lifeline of the state. It's worshipped throughout the year through various festivals, which is not a surprise considering the waters of the river quench the thirst of 40 million people and irrigate 1.7 million hectares of land.

Anybody familiar with the day-to-day happenings in Madhya Pradesh would be well aware of the huge emotional connect the Narmada Yatra has generated with the people of the state. The people of the state take pride in Madhya Pradesh remaining one of the 'least touched-by-tourism' states of the country, which has helped in preserving major parts of its rich natural resources as they were.

Importance of Amarkantaka

Amarkantaka, situated on the Vindhyachal mountain range (Vindhya Parbat) at Anuppur district in Madhya Pradesh. Also known as the 'Vindhyan Supergroup' is one of the largest and thickest sedimentary successions in the world. This small place, yet one of the holiest in India, has ecological, religious, spiritual and tourism importance. Besides the Narmada, another important river, Sone originates from Amarkantaka and passes through Uttar Pradesh and Odisha on its way to Bihar.

Dehri city in Rohtas district in Bihar also known as Dehri-on-Sone lies on the bank of the Sone. The longest railway bridge in India, measuring over three kilometres in length, goes across the Sone and links Sone Nagar and Dehri.

In Hindu mythology, Amarkantaka finds mention in the Skand Purana where it is referred to as Reva Khand. The Ramayan and the Mahabharata mention the river as Reva. Religiously, its significance is underscored by the fact that it is a virgin river — Narmada, unlike the other rivers such as Ganga, who never married. According to mythology and folklore, the marriage between Narmada and Sone ultimately didn’t happen and Narmada remained virgin; while Sone got married to another small river Juela — a companion of Narmada.

"Amarkantaka has great spiritual importance and value. It is said that one lakh chants elsewhere equal to 10,000 chants at Amarkantaka. A person can gain spiritual benefits by only paying a visit to Narmada which is equivalent to taking dips in river Ganga for three days and in Yamuna for seven days. It is also known as a seat of shakti (spiritual power) and has a strong astrological and ritual importance," says Professor Shiv Prasad Pathak, a Sanskrit scholar and noted astrologer from Bhopal.

According to one legend, the Vindhya mountain once competed with the Mount Meru (Himalayas), growing so high that it obstructed the sun. The sage Agastya asked Vindhya to lower itself, in order to facilitate his passage across to the south. In reverence for Agastya, the Vindhya lowered its height and promised not to grow until Agastya returned to the north. Agastya settled in the south, and the Vindhya mountain, true to its word, never grew further. Geographically, its height is lower than the Himalayas.

Amarkantaka on Maikal range of Vindhyachal is also known for its rich flora and fauna, and herbal plants, with medicinal importance.

Updated Date: May 15, 2017 12:44 PM

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