The author undertakes a rafting journey on the River Narmada along with three of the other companions.
Beginning the first lap of their journey at Amarkantak, on April 5, 2007, due to shortage of water on the river, they are forced to carry the raft on a vehicle. The river they find is filled with sewage and rubbish, the sight of which fills the author with revulsion. They reach Dindori where six canals merge into the waters of the Narmada. The author and his team travel further and set their camp at Mandla, where 16 canals are seen merging into the Narmada. They climb on to their raft but the raft gets stuck amidst rocks. By pushing the raft for some distance, they enter the water and are pleased to see the backwaters at Chirai Dongri.
After a long journey the team reaches Jabalpur where the statue of Narmada, nearly 1.60 metres high and one metre wide, built in the 11th century, holds them spellbound.
On travelling further, they pass through Gwarighat and reach Medhaghat where a temple, built with statues of 64 yoginis, is called the Chausanth Yogini temple.
In the second lap, the team begins its journey from Barman Ghat. According to the Skanda Purana, Lord Brahma is supposed to have done penance here. At this small island lying in the centre of the Narmada river the raft crew is pleased to see the river divide into two streams. Further on, it divides to become the Saptadhara where many streams of the river fall from a mountain. Below lie the Bhim, Brahma and Arjuna Kund. At Brahma Kund, it is said that ash is released from the earth. It is also believed that the Pandavas of the Mahabharata fame rested here when they lost their kingdom to the Kauravas and wandered through the forest. Since the Narmada carries large amounts of sediment from the Satpura and Vindhyachal valleys while flowing through them, the silt gets deposited in large amounts. It is blatantly stolen by contractors in broad daylight, with the connivance of the administration. The region however is a treasure-trove of many species of bird life and draws many bird-watchers and foreign tourists.
On reaching Hoshangabad, the author and his team are thrilled to see the beautiful Sethani Ghat for which the locals hold great sentimental allegiance. Here the author comes across Korkoo Vanvasis, who enthral his team with their music and dance.
On moving further, the team is attracted to the rapids at Budhni Bridge. At Mardanpur village, where sadhus have made their home, the author is shocked to see the filth accumulating in the river. The raft moves on and the team comes across fossils of trees and animals, especially at a village called Harra Tola, west of Dindori. About 80 kms away from Bhopal can be seen fossils of human beings at Hathnora.
In the third lap of the journey, the raft reaches Kaner where the team sees only the top of a temple submerged in the waters of the river. The author bemoans, “Drowned culture; drowned history!”
The backwaters of Indira Sagar however raise the team’s spirits. At Dewas district, the author sees Dharaji, which lies submerged in the backwaters of the Onkareshwar Dam. Here the author learns that a large fair used to be held every year where thousands of pilgrims and Vanvasis used to bathe. But now there is no festival and no crowds of people. Here the Narmada falls as a waterfall from a height of 20 to 25 feet. Dharaji, which has been built with basaltic rocks, is considered very sacred because many pilgrims and natives believe that a dip in the waters here provides relief from bodily and spiritual problems.
The journey concludes and the author and his team reach Onkareshwar where the temple presents a fascinating sight. The author visits the grave of Bajirao-Mastani and the Maheshwar town, which is 45,000 years old and renowned for its rich history, art, culture and archaeological evidences. On seeing the well-preserved heritage site, the author is tempted to shower praise on the Holkar family’s contribution, especially Ahilyabai who with her very modern views, encouraged weaving of the Maheshwar saris. The tradition is still continued by the present Richard Holkar and his wife. The author ends his journey at Sardar Sarovar at Bharoach (Gujarat).
This is essentially a coffee-table book with eye-catching and breathtaking photographs making you wish you too could undertake a journey along the same route.
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