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

 

Narmadey Har

The Hoshangabad district lies in the central Narmada Valley and on the northern fringe of the Satpura Plateau. It takes its name from its headquarters Hoshangabad, which was founded by Sultan Hoshang Shah Gori, the second king of Mandu (Malwa), in the early 15th century. Hoshangabad is a dusty little town with broken roads and small roadside shops. The better part of the town is where the Collectorate and other district offices are housed, and the Kothi Bazaar, which is not a market as its name suggests, but a quiet residential area.
The Narmada Jayanti is celebrated at the Sethani Ghat here every January. Amarkantak is the only other known place in the Narmada valley where the riverís birthday is celebrated. The festival begins at the crack of dawn, with pilgrims chanting Narmadey Har (Praise be to the Narmada) loudly as they take a dip in the river. Musicians announce the commencement of the Narmada abhishek by playing loudly on their dholak and shehnai. Before daybreak, the streets are lined with gaudily canopied stalls selling items of puja and eatables. Barbers shave off the heads of devotees who have pledged their hair to the river goddess. At around six in the evening the statue of Goddess Narmada, dressed in full splendour, is carried in a procession through the crowded streets, to the ghat. Priests offer panchamrut : milk, ghee, curd, honey and fruit, and at each oblation, the crowd shout out in unison : Narmadey Har . The festivalís most spectacular moment is at night, when devotees set afloat hundreds of lighted wax-filled aluminium diyas on the river.
The Narmada is the only known river where a parikrama or a sacred circumambulation is performed. It is believed that by going around the river from source to mouth and visiting each of the holy places along the banks on foot, brings about salvation. The approximately 2200km trek takes roughly three years to complete. A person going on a parikrama is not allowed to carry any food, but is required to subsist on whatever is offered to him by the villagers living on the banks of the river. He is also not allowed to cross the river except at the estuary.


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