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maheshwar tour

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 Mahabharata.”

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 Pradesh’s 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 towns.

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 mendicants.

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