A quaint spiritual town offering you even quainter images of peddlers selling religious paintings and kitschy idols, malas and garlands, jewellery and toys and innumerable road side shops peddled on the steps to the holy Narmada. This is Omkareshwar beatifically packed in a hillock shaped like ‘Om’ and thus came the name Omkareshwar. Lying as a secluded island packed with natural beauty and holiness in the air to speak of, Omkareshwar presents a picturesque image one could only see in the most creative of landscapes drawn by most artistic of painters.
The magic of the image drawn from the MP tourism resort with the temple on the other side of the river; its reflection flickering with the waves of the river, the mammoth Omkareshwar Dam on one side and the dim lights of the distant and myriads of temples filling up the night sky is inescapable and unforgettable. Sit on the balcony of the resort and capture this beatific feast to the eyes while letting the soft, chill monsoon wind caress your soul and soothe your mind. It is not just spirituality but also the intense work of Nature weaving such beautiful images in one thread; that will empower your senses. And soon the chimes of the evening aarti fill up the air. You feel being a part of this land – a land of confluence of two holy rivers Narmada and Kabeni, a land where nature meets spirituality.
Omkareshwar is among the twelve jyotirlingas; a sacred shrine for Hindus but is also a lot of things unspoken of. This small sleepy town owes its existence in the travel books due to the jyotirlinga. As to who constructed the temple and when is all shrouded in mystery. The sanctum sanctorum of the temple is said to be originally a small temple and the major extensive part was later constructed. One very conspicuous thing about the temple is that the sanctum sanctorum and the main deity are neither in the front of the main door nor below the higher Shikhar. A priest there would be quick to tell you that the jyotirling is a swambhu meaning that it appeared all by itself. The interesting thing about the temple is that pujas are done here three times a day – the first by the temple trust, second by the scindia samaj and the third by the Holker samaj.
While jyotirlingas is most often the obvious reason for pilgrims to come to this place, the Mamleshwar jyotirling on the other side of the river to Omkareshwar offers a striking architectural stone work. One definitely needs a photographer’s eye to enjoy this. But the real vista comes as one crosses to the other side on a boat where the Omkareshwar Dam waits to portray the prettiest picture drawn on the watery canvas of River Narmada. As the steamer struggles to move, you feel closer to the prowess of the harmless looking water as it roars past you.
Numerous shops wait for you on the steps of the river. A right turn and you head towards the Omkareshwar and a left takes you on the parikrma route – a 10 km stretch to be covered on foot. Seems a bit strenuous exercise as one move from the river banks to the hill top at 300 mts, but equally enjoyable and thrilling. Myriads of temples significant and less significant gild your way. Half-way on the parikrma route comes the sangam the confluence of Narmada and Kabeni – the holy point for mingling of the holy waters. Even the daily ritual of hundreds of pilgrims bathing at this holy point seems nothing less than a happening. You cannot afford to miss the small temples on the way adjusting them in the spiritual aura of this place. Even if you are interested in these ubiquitous temples, keep taking side turns for the kaleidoscopic natural portrait this place draws for you with the indecisive turns of Narmada and the hills painted in the colour of green staging a natural holi before you. It is a colour palate set before you. As you ascend the hills the picturesque image gets brighter and more enchanting.
Passing through the Omkar Math, Patali hanuman Mandir and barfani Gufa and a darshan of the Gauri Mahadev Mandir with a six feet tall Shiva linga, the parikrama ends with the Siddhinath temple and there you see the Hindu style mixing with the carnatic style. This is one of the most architecturally inspiring temples. It is on a plateau on the island hill supported by a huge plinth with all its four sides carved with singular correctness and excellence of attitudes.
The beauty of Omkareshwar doesn’t die with temples, in its uncovered layers is hidden some history some mythology. As one descends from the Siddinath temple towards the jhoola which connects the island to the main land, one comes across numerous ruins said to be of the Mahabharat era: the worth mntioning of them being the Arjun-Bheem dwar. The strategic place at which it is located offers the closest and the most elegant look of the dam. You can just spend hours looking and pondering about the unimaginable power of the gushing water as the dam opens its gates declaring its unchallenged control over the island. The feeling is like being send to the territory of a dragon where you can just admire the sheer power of the creature. As you go down the stairs towards the jhoola, you can lend your ears to the roars of water declaring that you are but in its territory.
Stranded markets left to be adjusted at the mercy of the water level, the delicate sound of the bells in the temple voicing above the thunderous roar of the mighty, untamed Narmada, the natural surroundings guarding the packs of spirituality and history lost in shrouds of mystery, the rustic lifestyle which seems more defined when embellished with tilak, malas, bhajans and agarbattis and the temple becoming synonymous to the identity of the place – Omkareshwar is a place to visit. Not just the spiritual completeness, the place offers you the untouched natural settings and the rustiness for you to carry along with yourself.