Digital Dimdima
-By Jayanthi Mahalingam
Down to the sea
The Narmada in Gujarat
A Hill With A View
The Monuments Of Mandu
An Ancient City
An Island In The River
Beyond Hoshangabad
Steeped In Legends
Narmadey Har
The Cult of Thuggee
The Splendour of Marble Rocks
Original Inhabitants
The World Of Verrier Elwin
Tribal Queen
The Jewel Of Kanha
The Narmada In Mythology

 

Down to the sea

And so we come to the end of our journey
which began at Amarkantak, high in the Maikala range of Madhya Pradesh. We travelled with the Narmada throughout its course passing cities, ancient and modern, temples, dams, forests, hills and valleys. Now, in its final lap in Gujarat, the river Narmada flows through Chandod, Rajpipla and Ankleshwar, before entering the Arabian Sea at Bharuch.
Even today, there is a narrow gauge railway line connecting Dabhoi near Vadodara to Chandod. Dabhoi is the main junction of the narrow gauge railway set up by the Gaekwad rulers in the 19th century. It is not only the centre of the world’s oldest narrow gauge railway system but still houses the greatest number of working narrow gauge steam engines anywhere in the world. From Chandod one can take a ferry to Rajpipla.
Rajpipla was once a princely state ruled by the Gohil Rajputs. The most illustrious ruler of the clan was Vijay Sinhji, who ascended the throne in 1915. He was a great administrator and under him Rajpipla acquired a modern look. He built a gymkhana and a polo ground and because he was a racing enthusiast , maintained one of the finest stables of racehorses in British India.The Vijay Raj Palace which was built for him in 1912 when he was a crown prince, and is now a hotel, looks like an Italian villa, complete with a fountain in the forecourt, pillars, arches and domes. There is a fine view of the river and of the banana and fruit plantations that border it, from the rear of the palace.
Ankleshwar is the biggest industrial zone in Asia. It also boasts of four Digambara Jain temples — the Chintamani Parshwanatha temple which is reputed to have the miraculous power to grant wishes, the Neminatha temple, the Adinatha temple and the Mahavira temple.
Bharuch which is a hop, skip and a jump away from Ankleshwar, was once called Bhrigukachcha or Bhrigupur, after the sage Bhrigu. There is a temple dedicated to him in Bharuch town on the river bank. Bharuch is the oldest settlement in the Narmada valley. It was a trading centre until the 1940s. The British ships that fought the Spanish Armada were built of wood from Bharuch’s dense forests. Today Bharuch has many industries just like Ankleshwar.
At one time, Parsis were the backbone of Bharuch and the surname Bharucha meaning from Bharuch, was very common. Though few Parsis are left in Bharuch, their delicious cuisine has survived. So have many of their gracious old houses, fire temples and towers of silence. In fact, the UNESCO has begun the Parzor project to preserve these heritage homes and their unique water-harvesting system called the ‘Tanka’. The water collected this way is said to be as pure as any bottled mineral water!
On the way to the estuary, the Narmada passes by the village of Mangaleshwar, named for the Mangal (Mars) temple here.
There are several sandbanks forming islands called bets near the estuary. One of them is Kabir Vad. The great poet-saint Kabir planted a banyan tree there. The tree still lives. It is one of the largest banyan trees in the country with a canopy that spreads for nearly half a kilometre. Part of the tree was hacked away some years ago to build a marble temple shaped like a lotus.
Badbhut is a big fishing village on the banks of the river, near Aliya Bet, a larger island. The Narmada is so wide here that it is impossible to see its opposite bank. The silt and teeming microscopic life makes its waters appear dark, as the river ends its long journey and enters the shallow continental shelf of the Gulf of Khambat.


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