Enshrined within the sacred waters of the Narmada river lies the holy island of Omkareshwar, also known as Mandhata. The island holds great spiritual significance for Hindus, believed to have been created by Vindya, the deity of the Vindhya mountain range. Vindya performed worship to atone for his sins, creating a lingam of sand and clay that pleased Lord Shiva enough to manifest himself as Omkareshwara and Amareshwara.
The island boasts two of the revered 12 Jyotirlingas, with Omkareshwar closely connected to the Mahakaleshwara Jyotirlinga at Ujjain. A 270-ft cantilever hanging bridge spanning the river adds to the island's natural beauty, attracting devotees from far and wide.
Historically and religiously significant, Omkareshwar has been a pilgrimage site since at least the 6th century C.E. Visitors are urged to seek the answers they seek by the pulsating sacred energy of Mandhata hill. As the sun sets over the Narmada river, the holy temple of Omkareshwar basks in a golden glow, reminding one of the divine presence that envelops this sacred island.
Just a short distance from Omkareshwar lies Maheshwar, a temple town boasting many must-see sights, including the prestigious Ahilya Ghat. Among the 28 ghats in Maheshwar, this one stands out as a royal ghat built in front of the Ahilya Fort and Temple. Named after the famed ruler Queen Ahilyabai Holkar of Indore, Ahilya Ghat is steeped in history and is a true testament to the town's rich cultural heritage. Take a stroll along the ghat and soak up the serene atmosphere of the Narmada river.
Located just below the Omkareshwar Temple is the ancient Sri Govinda Bhagavatpada Cave. The main hall and small sanctum with a Shivalingam are believed to be the place where the great saint Adi Shankaracharya met his guru Govinda Bhagavatpada. Take a moment to reflect on the spiritual significance of this ancient cave and its role in shaping the history of Omkareshwar.
On the plateau of Mandhata Island, just a kilometre away from Omkareshwar Temple, lies the revered Siddhanath Temple. This 13th-century Hindu shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva is a true masterpiece of Brahminic and Nagara architectural styles. The temple showcases the ancient Indian ingenuity and architectural prowess that still stand the test of time. Despite being attacked by Mahmud of Ghazni, Siddhanath Temple still stands tall as a symbol of strength and resilience. As you make your way towards the temple through the Omkareshwar Parikrama, take a moment to marvel at the skillful use of varied architectural modes that cluster around the temple.
The revered Mandhata Omkareshwar Temple is situated on a magnificent mile-long, half-mile-wide island surrounded by the Narmada river. The temple has intricate carvings. The grand Sabha Mandap stands on about 60 huge elaborately carved pillars. The five floors house temples dedicated to Lord Shiva, including Omkareshwar, Siddhnatha, Gupteswar, and Rajeshwar Mahadev temples. The structure you see today was constructed by Raja Bhoj in the 11th century A.D. Its shikhara was restored by Devi Ahilyabai Holkar. The circular Parikrama path around Omkar Hill has several temples and ashrams, and the temple hosts three regular pujas.
Opposite the Omkareshwar Temple, on the southern bank of the Narmada river, lies the famous Mamleshwar Mahadev Temple. Also known as Amleshwar or Amareshwar temple, it is located on the mainland, near the Gomukh ghat. The temple is located in a beautiful ancient temple complex surrounded by spotless small shrines dedicated to various gods and goddesses, adorned with carvings and sculptures.
Believed to be built in the 11th century AD, the Gauri Somnath Temple is one of the several shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva in Omkareshwar. Built by the Paramaras, the temple has three storeys and is constructed in the Bhumij style of architecture, resembling the Khajuraho temples. The sanctum sanctorum houses a gigantic six feet tall Shivalinga made of a black stone with a shiny black texture. The temple's high platform and rising curvilinear tower make it an architectural masterpiece. Its Shikhar top was reconstructed during the Maratha period. Visitors have to climb 200-odd stairs, arising from the ghat, to reach the temple. The temple is protected by the State Archaeology Department.
The meeting point of the mighty Narmada and the meandering Kaveri rivers at Omkareshwar is a sight to behold. The Kaveri, a tributary of the Narmada, runs 40 km long and covers a catchment area of 954 km. According to ancient Narmada Mahatmya texts, the Sangam of Narmada and Kaveri is a revered Tirtha, a holy place that holds great significance in Hindu mythology. The Puranas mention this majestic river, vividly depicting its tranquil beauty.
If you're seeking spiritual enlightenment and adventure, look no further than the Omkareshwar Parikrama. Embark on an epic boat journey that takes you on a circular path starting from the Omkareshwar Shiva Temple and back, covering a distance of approximately 10 km. The Parikrama is named after the Om-shaped path it follows, a symbol of spiritual harmony. But that's not all, as you venture forth, you'll come across the Sangam point of the Narmada and Kaveri rivers, a breathtaking sight that will leave you in awe of Mother Nature's splendour.