Of Legends and Reality Maheshwar & Omkareshwar
Sometimes beliefs in our land are based on a seamless meld of ep-ics,
legends and reality. The tales that wreathe Maheshwar and Omkareshwar
in haloes of veneration have their origins in such lore.
The official folder on these two places says: Maheshwar was a
glorious city in the dawn of Indian civilisation when it was known as
Mahishmati, capital of King Kartvirarjun. This temple town on the
banks of the river Narmada finds mention in the epics: Ramayana and
It then goes on to proclaim: Omkareshwar, the sacred island
shaped like the holiest of all Hindu symbols, OM has drawn a hundred
generations of pilgrims... and here, as in so many of Madhya
Pradeshs sacred shrines, the works of nature complement those
of man to provide an awe-inspiring setting in its magnificence.
Nevertheless, the modern visitor, unmoved by such descriptions might
not find these places any more impressive than many other pilgrim
Having said that, however, we must admit that the spectacle of
hundreds of brightly dressed devotees worshipping and bathing on
these riverine landing steps or ghats, is a happening
that is unique to Hinduism.
Moreover, the temples on these ghats are excellently carved and
sculpted: every pillar and panel would occupy a pride of place in any
museum in the world.
In addition to these features, the temples and ghats become colourful
during festivals particularly the major ones of Dussehra and Diwali.
Maheshwar is also famed for the manor, the walled mansion of the 18th
century queen of Indore and the state of Holkar, Ahalyabai. She was a
very wise, powerful and virtuous woman who has now been virtually
deified by her subjects. She introduced and encouraged the weaving of
Maheshwari saris: still a popular craft in Maheshwar.
Omkareshwar is on a temple-dotted island at the confluence of the
Narmada and Kaveri rivers. During major festivals, townships of tents
and huts spring up on the banks, and flotillas of decorated boats
ferry pilgrims across the water. Of special interest in Omkareshwar
are its Omkar Mandhata Temple with one of the 12 powerful Jyotirlinga
Shiva shrines, an old palace and an akhara (headquarters of a sect of