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Friday, 29 September 2017

Narmada Parikrama - A Circular Journey On Foot Around The Holy River Narmada

Narmada is one among the seven holy rivers according to Hindu beliefs. It is the fifth largest river in the Indian subcontinent. River Narmada originates from the Maikal Mountain ranges (Amarkantak Hills) in the state of Madhya Pradesh. It flows in the Western direction (East to West) through a length of 1312 KM along two different Indian states, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, before merging onto the Arabian sea through the Gulf of Cambay near the Bharuch city in Gujarat. From a geographical point of view, River Narmada is considered as the divider between North India and South India. Right from the days of mythological epics, including Ramayana and Mahabharata, the Narmada river has found numerous mentions for its religious significance. Narmada is believed to be the daughter of Lord Shiva and hence the people of India worship the river as a Goddess (Narmada Maiya). The Narmada Jayanti festival is regarded as a popular religious festival in India and it is celebrated with great reverence in the Central region of the country.

Narmada River Basin
Narmada River Basin
The ancient Hindu knew that walking around sources of positive energy would charge one with the same positive energy. So they devised the system of doing a Parikrama - walking around in a clockwise circle of maa Narmada. Narmada Parikrama is one of the oldest tradition - almost 7000 years back Markandeya Rishi performed Narmada Parikrama. You will perhaps not believe that Markandeya Rishi performed Great Prakrima of Narmada mother. Parikrama is also referred to as Pradakshina. 'Parikrama' is a Sanskrit word which means circumambulation. Narmada Parikrama is essentially the circumambulation of River Narmada. Narmada Parikrama holds immense significance among the followers of Hinduism. It is considered to be a meritorious act that can help devotees in attaining purity and spirituality. Circumambulation of this Holy river is believed to wash away all the sins.

While doing Narmada Parikrama, the devotees perform a full round of the Narmada river from its point of origin to the point of confluence and then come around to the source again. The whole journey through Narmada's Source-Confluence-Source is known as Narmada Parikrama. Traditionally, the holy pilgrimage of Narmada Parikrama is done in a clockwise direction. During the trip, the pilgrims visit various sacred temples situated on the banks of River Narmada and offer their prayers to the divine Mother. There is no hard and fast rule that one has to begin his Parikrama of the Narmada river from its point of origin. One may decide to do it in the opposite direction from Confluence-Source-Confluence. In-fact, you can start from any random point, travel along the river and return to the same point again on the opposite bank to complete your Narmada Parikrama. Overall a pilgrim is required to travel for around 2600 KM to complete the Narmada Parikrama.

River Narmada
River Narmada
Narmada Parikrama is an ancient tradition. Those days the pilgrims and sadhus (saints) used to walk barefoot along the banks of Narmada without carrying any money or food. One has to go out of his comfort zone to do the sacred journey. Common belief is that the more difficult the journey goes, the higher it is in terms of merit. Still there are a few devotees who prefer to do it in the old style, but the majority of pilgrims today make use of vehicles to move from one site to another. Now-a-days there are basically 4 different ways in which a person can perform the Parikrama of Narmada -

1. The old style, that is by walking all the way.
2. Using public transports like bus and jeep service.
3. Package tours offered by the travel agent/tour organizer.
4. Travelling by own vehicle.

As has been stated previously, one can start Narmada Parikrama from any point along the course of the Narmada river. Ujjain is a popular starting point. Most of the pilgrims start from Ujjain and move towards Omkareshwar along the flow of the Narmada river. A popular Narmada Parikrama route, when you start from Ujjain, is -

Ujjain - Omkareshwar - Khargone - Shahada - Ankleshwar - Mithi Talai - Bharuch - Baroda - Jhabua - Mandu - Bhopal - Jabalpur - Umaria - Amarkantak - Dindori - Lakhnadon - Piparya.

Important Religious Places En-route

  1. Mahakaleshwar Temple, Ujjain.
  2. Kaal Bhairav Temple, Ujjain.
  3. Omkareshwar Temple, Omkareshwar.
  4. Triveni Sangam Ghat (Narmada-Kavery-Saraswati), Omkareshwar.
  5. Navgraha Temple, Khargone.
  6. Dakshin Kashi (Prakasha), Shahada.
  7. Shri Ankleshwar Tirth, Ankleshwar.
  8. Confluence of Narmada River with the Arabian Sea, Mithi Talai.
  9. Nareshwar Dham, Bharuch.
  10. Laxmi Narayan Temple, Bhopal.
  11. Shankaracharya Temple, Jabalpur.
  12. Tripura Sundari Temple, Jabalpur.
  13. Gwari Ghat and Beda Ghat, Jabalpur.
  14. Narmadakund, Amarkantak.
  15. Mai ki Bagiya, Amarkantak (one of the 51 Shakti Peetha).
  16. Jyoteshwar Mahadev Temple, Lakhnadon.
River Narmada
River Narmada

Narmada Parikrama Rules:

There are a few unwritten norms or rules that a Parikramavasi (person doing the Parikrama) is expected to adhere to during his/her Narmada Parikrama yatra. These are -
  • A pilgrim must follow Bramhacharya (celibacy) during the Parikrama. One should conduct himself/herself in a dignified manner and behave with humility to all.
  • It is important to abstain from lies and wrong doings.
  • Devi Narmada is the presiding deity during the Parikrama. A Parikramavasi must worship her twice at day - before and after a day's journey.
  • It is a norm to carry a bottle of Narmada water from the Parikrama starting point.
  • Due to the geographical conditions, if the Parikrama route deviates from the river, then the devotee should offer prayers to the bottle of Narmada water instead.
  • One should not eat non-vegetarian food during the Parikrama.
  • Consumption of alcohol is not allowed.
  • The devotee is expected to shave the head and beard before the Parikrama starts.
  • A devotee can take rest only on the floor. Chairs, cots or any other furnuture should not be used for taking rest.
  • A devotee should walk along the shore of Narmada, but he is not allowed to cross the river.

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