By Swami Harshananda
Narmadā (‘giver of joy’)
One of the seven sacred rivers of India, remembered daily at the time of ritualistic worship, Narmadā is said to have been born out of the sweat of Lord
Siva when he was once engaged in tapas or austerities. The goddess of this river
was so charmingly beautiful that she gave joy to one and all who saw her. Hence the name Narmadā.
Though not mentioned in the Vedas, it has been highly eulogised both in the Mahābhārata and in the purāṇas like the Matsya, the Kurma and the Padma.
It has been called ‘Revā’ also, the other names being Somodbhavā and Mekhalakanyakā.
It takes its birth in the mountains of Amarakaṇṭaka (in Madhya Pradesh), flows towards the west and joins the sea near the gulf of Cambay (near Broach, the ancient Bhṛgukaccha). Its total length is 1282 kms. (796 miles). There is one water-falls of 24 metres (80 feet) at Kapiladhārā and of 12 metres (40 ft.) near Jabalpur.
There are many holy spots on the banks of this river like Oṅkārnāth, Karnāli, Śuklatīrtha, Broach and so on. Oṅkārnāth is one of the twelve Jyotirliṇgas and the temple is situated on the island of Māndhātā inside the river. The emperor Māndhātā of the solar race is said to have worshipped this liṅga. The island itself is situated between the rivers Narmadā and Kāverī (not the Kāverī of South India). It is here that Śiva is said to have destroyed
the three cities, Tripura.
Bāṇaliṅgas of Siva are available in the river-bed a few miles away from Oṅkāreśvara (See BĀNLINGA for details.)
Where the tributary Or merges into Narmadā—the place being called Chandod —Vyāsa is said to have performed austerities.
Śrāddhas (obsequial rites) done on the banks of the Narmadā are said to yield inexhaustible results.
Narmadā-parikrama is another sacred act sometimes undertaken by devout pilgrims. It consists in walking from the confluence at sea up to the source in Amarakaṇṭaka and then return by the other bank to the sea. This generally takes about two years.
In the Śuklatīrtha, there are three ponds of Kavi, Śukla and Oṅkāreśvara. A religious festival is held here every year on the purṇima or full-moon day of Kārttika.
The Visnupurāna (4.3) gives a mantra in praise of Narmadā which dispels the poisons of serpents.
The water of Narmadā is considered so pure that even Gaṅgā (the goddess of that river) comes once a year as a black cow, bathes in it, becomes white and then returns!
Temples of Kumbheśvara Mahādeva, Śani (Saturn) and Śurpaṇeśvara are the other holy places gracing its banks.
See also AMARAKANTAKA.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore