Saturday, 19 November 2016

A Recovery At Omkareshwar

Introduction

7 am on a cool October morning; inside a bus heading from Khandwa to Indore, I was sitting next to the driver, eyes on the road, with a ticket up to Omkareshwar Road Station. Also, I was shivering. not so much from the cool air, but more from weakness and an imminent fever. The toll of a heavy work week was already showing on my body and mind and all I wanted to do at that moment was to curl up and sleep; if only the driver would stop honking.

The Omkareshwar Temple and the Narmada

Omkareshwar - the abode of divinity on the banks of the Narmada - one of the twelve Jyotirlingas - was where I was headed. This was my first foray in to the state of Madhya Pradesh; and as far as beginnings go, mine had not been a good one.

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A Little About Omkareshwar

The temple town of Omkareshwar is largely split into two sections: the town proper on the southern bank of the Narmada and the river-island of Mandhata which houses the main Omkareshwar Temple. The other important temple of Mamleshwar is located in the town proper. Two bridges span the river connecting the island to the town and are overlooked by the huge dam to the east. Below the bridges small boats ferry tourists across the river and are an important means of commuting to the various ghats and temples.

Omkareshwar proper as seen from Mandhata island

The main sections of the temple town are amassed with pilgrims and tourists. Yet there are enough quiet spots to laze, relax and watch the river do its thing.

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Getting In

Omkareshwar is connected to the Khandwa-Indore road through the fork at Mortakka. This is also the location of the Omkareshwar Road railway station on the Akola-Khandwa-Mhow meter-gauge line. A less than 2 hour ride from Khandwa, passing through Sanawad, got me to this place, at the fork going to Omkareshwar proper.

On the map
 
A bus waited - empty, it would wait till it was full before it departed. No other public transport was headed that way, so it was a long wait. I was hungry. There was poha-jalebi, the standard MP breakfast, waiting for me on the other side of the road, but my weakness meant I could not risk a bad meal. I decided to wait till I reach Omkareshwar. That happened an hour later, when I tumbled out of the packed bus.

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In Search Of A Bed

I then walked about 3kms to and through Omkareshwar (over both bridges), looking for a place to crash. A solo Indian male traveler is not an exciting commodity for the conservative sections of the society - many dharamshalas cater to the accommodation needs of specific societal communities - which I found out after being denied entry at a few places. The cheap guest houses love us though, as I found out soon after, as I moved from one ramshackle place to the other looking for a decent (sic) place at a bargain. Finally, I found one such place.

A makeshift Ganesha temple along the way

It was 11am, I was without breakfast, I was weak, the room did not have a bathroom door, the room had two windows, the room had a workable bed, I didn't care. I took a bath, shivered like a malaria patient, cursed my insistence on this trip, cursed my existence at this place, cursed the silly long walk, dried up and slept.

I felt a bit fresher when I woke at about 1pm, but weaker and the fever had caught on. I filled one of my two water bottles with ORS and took a swig. Went out to the balcony and called out to the manager cum bellboy to get me some light lunch. I put off further exploring and went to sleep again.

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The Evening Stroll

Feeling better in the evening at about 5pm, I decided to take a stroll. The first stop was the Omkareshwar Temple across the bridge where the darshan was quick.

Ruined colunms - probably of the original temple

These all lie unattended to a side

Roaming through the lanes of Mandhata island, I then came down to the ghats of the Narmada. A boatman was waiting for his pack of tourists to return and with them agreed to take me across to the other bank for a princely sum of Rs. 10.

My ride on the Narmada

The temples, akhadas and ghats of Mandhata


 On the steps of the ghats

The old Mamleshwar temple was next and the climb up the stairs left me a bit exhausted. The temple had a flow of pilgrims, yet gave a peaceful vibe. Quite a few ruined sculptures are strewn about the compound here.


Sculptures on the wall of the Mamleshwar Temple


Devis and other figures


A lost Trimurti

Mandhata had settled to a peaceful rhythm under the watch of the setting sun and I roamed around taking a swig of my ORS, until I too, finally, settled down by the banks of the river as the cool breeze goofed around in the twilight.

A small aarti of the Narmada in the evening

 The lights of the Omkareshwar Temple and reflections in the Narmada

An early and light dinner ensued, after which I promptly went off to sleep, with plans to trek on the small hill behind the Omkareshwar Temple to see the giant Shiva statue that beckoned from my room window.

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The Quick Hike

The next morning was much better. I woke up well after sunrise and with swigs of my ORS made my way up the mountain steps to the Shiva statue. The path there rounds up the island to come back to the Omkareshwar Temple. The old path is given away in many places and is not very safe. I returned after goofing about with a few squirrels there.

The Shiva statue - you cant miss it from anywhere in Omkareshwar

So much love :D

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A Promise To Return

I checked out of Omkareshwar by 10am. I was out at the bus stop awaiting departure of my ride to Maheshwar. Very soon, I was on the road; this time feeling much better than yesterday. I've a feeling I'd be back soon.



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© One Of The Road

1 comment:

  1. Very well narrated description of a beautiful and sacred place !!

    ReplyDelete