Amarkantak in Madhya Pradesh is an important pilgrim center for the Hindus and the source of the rivers Narmada and Sone. Holy ponds, hills, forests, and beautiful waterfalls make Amarkantak a sought-after destination for the religious as well as nature loving tourists.
Amarkantak is a Sanskrit word, where the literary meaning of Amar is immortal, and kantak is hindrance. The scenic beauty of Amarkanak and the surrounding areas, prompting the great poet Kalidasa to romantically paint Amarkantak hills in his epic poem Meghadutam.
Situated in the south-eastern part of Maikal mountain range at 1,048 meter (3,438 ft) above sea level, it is the originating point of River Narmada and Sone River. Narmada, said to be 150 million years older than River Ganges, is considered by many Hindus to be the most sacred of all Indian Rivers
The eco-system of Amarkantak is truly unique, as they are very similar to that of isolated valleys. In Amarkantak, if a particular plant becomes extinct, the genus itself dies because it fails to live through any of its variant species. Therefore, every genus in Amarkantak is of great botanical interest, and makes the region important as a natural heritage site.
The natural setting of Amarkantak attracts all, be it a pilgrim, nature lover, adventure seeker or those in search of spirituality.
The Narmada, the largest west flowing river of the peninsula, rises near Amarkantak range of mountains in Madhya Pradesh. It is the fifth largest river in the country and the largest one in Gujarat. It traverses Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat and meets the Gulf of Cambay in Arabian sea. The total length of the river from source to sea is 1312 kilometers (815 miles).
One of India’s seven sacred rivers, the Narmada, according to Hindu mythology, was born of Lord Shiva’s sweat when he performed this cosmic dance.
The rivers, Narmada and Sone, originate at Amarkantak. Legend says that the two were to be wed. But Sone rebuffed Narmada and married another. The spurned Narmada was so hurt that she changed her course and began to flow westward!
This large temple complex houses the Kund (tank) from where the holy river Narmada originates. There are two temples, facing each other and connected with a mandapa. One is known as Narmada Udgam Temple and other as the Narmada Mai Temple.
There is a legend about the construction of this temple. It is said that the goddess Narmada appeared to Rewa Nayak, a banjara or nomad, in a dream. The river goddess directed him to clear the site of the present kund. When Rewa Nayak found the spot, it was covered with a dense mass of bamboo trees. He toiled hard, day and night, to clear the site.
Once he cleared the site of trees, he found a stream, which was none other than the holy river Narmada. Rewa Nayak installed an image of the goddess in a temple at this spot. His descendants later installed Rewa Nayak’s image in one of the alcoves in the temple.
Pataleshwar Mahadev Temple
The Pataleshwar Mahadev Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Pataleshwar means the god of the nether world, and hence the temple is constructed slightly below the ground level. It follows the Nagara execution style, except for the roof of its mandapa, which is executed in a pyramid shape.
It is at this point that the Narmada plunges down a 24m high vertical cliff-face into a gorge and transforms into a large river. Legend goes that an ancient sage Kapil, who performed severe austerities here, asked Narmada to stop flowing. But she defied him and fell into the gorge.
This temple has a unique construction style consisting of two garbha-grihas (sanctums) situated perpendicular and connected by a single mandapa (hall).
Keshav – Narayan temple
Keshava – Narayan temple is the source of the river Sone, which flows eastwards to meet the Ganga at Patna.
Best time to visit
July – April