Omkareshwar Part 2 - The Parikrama





The importance of Omkareshwar lies not just in its temples, but in the island itself. The island is a hilly area, and resembles the Hindu symbol “Om” (`) when viewed from above. This not only gives the island the name “Omkareshwar’, but this is what has drawn holy men to this site from time immemorial. Over the ages, so many temples were built on the island that at some point in time, a circumambulation of the whole island gained fame and was performed by many as an offering to the lord.  Known as the Omkareshwar Parikrama, this circumambulation covered all the temples on the island, and was considered part of the pilgrimage to Omkareshwar. With the passage of time, many of the temples collapsed and so did the Parikrama path. Now, the Madhya Pradesh Tourism Department (MPTDC) has made an effort to revive the ancient Parikrama.

When I first heard about the Parikrama, I was all excited about it, but there was very little information available. All I was able to find out was that the path was about 9 Kms long, and that it took a little more than 3 hours to complete it. Again, I was able to find out about the many temples on the island, but was unable to find out how to visit them. The only people who had written a blog about the Parikrama were a group of young trekking enthusiasts who had made the trip sometime back, but they had not mentioned details. Add all this lack of information to the fact that the members of our family ranged from 6 to 70; and that I have a weak ankle which swells up at the slightest provocation, and I had all but given up the hope of doing the Parikrama or seeing all the temples on the island.

For a short while, I wondered about the possibility of going around the island by boat, but two factors pointed against it – the fare asked seemed too high (Rs.500/- in a motor boat); and our resort manager, who informed us that boats were not allowed on the dam side of the island. That seemed to settle things once and for all, and finally, my father-in-law decided that we would go ahead with the Parikrama on foot, no matter how long it took!!! Thanks to him, a trip which seemed blighted, especially with our experience at the Omkareshwar temple the last evening, turned into one of the best experiences of my life!!!!

Let me take you on a visual tour of our journey around the island……….

We started on our walk at sunrise, wishing that the dam wasn’t there to impede the view of the river and the mountains.










Once we crossed the bridge, it was easy to find the Parikrama path. MPTDC banners showed the way at every turn!















The dam on the Narmada has succeeded in stemming the flow of the river. It was a sad sight to see the plight of the river which was once known as a turbulent one which frequently flooded these areas.




A Temple on the mainland..





One of the true inhabitants of the island....





The path goes on....



An ancient temple, now decrepit....



Occasional shops like this one sell pilgrims the basic necessities such as water and snacks.




A glimpse of the river is all we get as we climb higher.....



An Indian Treepie - one of the many birds we saw during our walk....



The only wildlife sure to be present wherever you go in India....



The path turns downwards, towards the sangam 



Another ancient temple..



... which is being renovated...



Donkeys carrying loads.... they have the right of way here...



The river in sight again!



Some variety of pigeon or dove...Can anyone help in identification???



The common myna on an uncommonly high perch!!!!


The river Kaveri (actually, it is just the Narmada which gets divided into two streams at the other end of the island. In an effort to make the confluence holier, the tributary has been given the name Kaveri)....



The confluence of the two branches of the river.. Samhith is trying to get the best of two worlds - collecting stones.... and having a dip in the water too!!! Now my house is full of stones!!




Stones piled up on the banks of the Narmada. This is a custom here, and it is believed that it will grant prosperity and help one in building a house.




Another temple - this one is quite intact, since the deity promises to rid devotees of all their sins from previous births!! An offering of Chana Dal (chick peas) is special here, and there are enough people who come this far just to make an offering. The shopkeeper had Chana dal, but no flowers, and when we asked him, he simply plucked a few flowers from a nearby tree and handed it over to us!!







Back on the road....


The sign seems as old as the gate it refers to.... according to it, the gateway ahead is called the "Dharmraj Dwar", and dates back to the 13th century.






We seem to have reached a sort of plateau, for there is a valley on the right, and on the left is the river. We are now on the other side of the island, and the road just seems to wind along....












Donkeys again!!


We finally see some kind of a settlement... There are quite a lot of people who live here.. All of them are sanyasis and these are like small ashrams. They make their living selling beads and such stuff to those who manage to come all the way here...



.... and these boards are an initiative of MP Tourism. These stones have been engraved with verses from the Bhagvad Gita and placed all over the path. It is certainly a good idea, but unfortunately, we Indians are known for our lack of care for public amenities, and already many of the slabs have been broken and are in shambles...

Now the path climbs up again...... This is the most difficult part of the journey, and we were most thankful for a chap selling fresh buttermilk at the summit. He was a real lifesaver!!!!


At last, we were at the Gori Somnath Mandir!! I had read about this temple,and wanted to visit it, but had no idea it was on the Parikrama path!



This temple has an interesting legend associated with it. Apparently, this temple housed a pure white lingam (thus the name - Gori Somnath; Gori- white). It is believed that anyone looking at the lingam could see his past life and deeds in it. According to legend, Aurangzeb came to this place, and as soon as he stood in front of the lingam, it turned jet black, and so it stands today!!!!






Another gateway, but this time a new one!



A new shrine... this time under a psychedelically coloured statue of Shiva! This is the statue that we could see from our room!





This is the institution responsible for the new temple  - and it was a real surprise to see that they have also built a small hospital, a free mess, school (yes, there are people who live here with their families too....) as well as free old age home here!!!



Back on track.... the road goes on...


More temples.... actually ruins of temples....














......and another gateway in the distance...


the road takes a sudden turn... downwards....



we are now at the centre part of the 'OM'




here's what the road looks like... work is still in progress....



passing through the gateway we saw earlier....the road moves upwards again.....



Another temple in the distance... this time on the mainland....




another relic of an era gone by....



Looking back at the path we came by..........


Yet another gateway...........




with once-beautiful sculptures now in ruins.....





remnants of a glorious past......




pieces of sculptures and pillars lie all around.....



the road moves straight ahead.....



...............past another gateway.........



...and tree lined avenues...


The Siddhanath or Siddheshwar temple



This is believed to be the oldest temple on the island, and lies in ruins today........






Few of the elephants which support the pillars are intact today.........






It is only the main shrine containing the deity which stands intact. Here, we found a family of devotees who were busy offering prayers. They had brought not only all the articles of puja, but also the priest along with them! In spite of the condition of the temple, this was the most beautiful and certainly the most divine part of our trip!









Relics spread all over..... this is part of the ASI work here...












On towards the river...





At last, a view of the Narmada (with water!!!)







The path downwards..... and towards the end of our journey...



Here is what this path looks like, from the other end......


Back to walking along the river....



A group of birds perched on a wire... I wonder... are these swifts???




A monkey watches us from his post......



Our destination in sight........



the final stretch......





... along the river.....



We reached the bridge exactly four hours after we set out, after spending quite a lot of time resting along the way or appreciating a bit of nature or a piece of sculpture by the wayside..... It has not been an easy walk, but not too hard, considering that both, Samhith(6) and my father-in-law(70) are tired, but not exhausted! As to me, I am the second-youngest in the group, but I am the one whose ankles are swollen up! However, the pain doesn't really matter, since I have had the best walk I have ever had. This is one journey I would like to take again, and again..........



Comments

  1. What a lovely post.. I really envy you!!

    The pics are amazing.. the place looks beyond imagination..

    ReplyDelete
  2. The birds look beautiful particularly the tree pie. And the sunset was gorgeous!

    ReplyDelete
  3. @ Pat: Well, it was beyond anything I had imagined either! thanks a lot!

    @ Mridula : there was a full flock of treepies there, but this was the only one i managed to capture.... there were also some bee eaters and drongoes (the only birds i could identify), but again, couldnt take their pix,

    ReplyDelete
  4. Stones piled up.....for prosperity......thats new for me.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Wow wonderful..It seems as if I was walking along the ruins. I somewhat find myself attracted towards the ruins, let it be temple or fortresses. I am not a religious person but still culturally inclined.

    Dam might have stemmed the flow, but it was necessary, old must give away to new order..it is the law of nature..

    A very nice post..

    ReplyDelete
  6. a great post...
    you've shown every part of the place..
    great shots too..

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thanks a lot for the visual trip to Omkareshwar. So many temples!

    It feels so sacred even to read this. I wish they could maintain this place better and promot good tourism.

    Our land has got so much to offer , much of wich are either left to rot in mud or in carbage.

    The phots are visual treat! Even I have seen the piling up of stones in the way to Tirumala by walk. It must have been really tiresome for the whole family to walk. Glad u ppl have made it!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Wow...quite an extensive post i must say.. it was almost like i was walking with u..hope ur ankles are alrighty now.. take care!

    i've been wanting to go to Thiruvanamalai, that itself long due... :) Tirupati was good fun, me and 2friends walked it up abt 2yrs ago...

    ReplyDelete
  9. @ Tarun : Thanks a lot... I also enjoy old ruins and monuments more than new buildings, however beautiful they may be....

    While I do agree that dams are part of the change these days, I cant help thinking that there are better ways to store and plan our water supply than building dams all over the place.... the condition of most of our rivers is pitiable, and soon there will be no water in the rivers at all!

    @ Sri : It is thanks to the initiative of MP tourism that we were able to make the trip.... and this was just a 9Kms walk.. the tiruvannamalai girivalam is 14 kms, and the trek to kedar is also 14 kms, but up the snow covered hill... by the grace of God, I have been able to do both.....

    yes, there is so much India has to offer... but it is own people who are unaware of these,and also dont know their value... what a pity!

    @ AAarti : thanks... my ankles are ok... about 8 yrs ago, i fell off a cycle and tore a ligament.. since then, it swells up evry now and then... am used to it.... and have walked tiruvannamalai with it too... this one is much shorter than the tiruvannamalai trek...

    ReplyDelete
  10. @ Aaarti : i have climbed up the tirupati hill as a kid, when the steps were just being laid.... have to go again....

    ReplyDelete
  11. @ Haddock : the stones were a first for me too...... and they were there all over the place, which just shows how little we know!!!

    @vacation deals: thanks a lot

    ReplyDelete
  12. Great post and insight into our rich history...Some of those relics and carvings look fabulous...

    ReplyDelete
  13. next time you are here lemme know, we'll do tirupati :)

    Today was telling mom n granpa abt this trip of yours and they mentioned they've seen this place on tv in some prog.. passed on the link to mom- she wanted to read :) Mom also mentioned something abt Sringeri swamigal n omkareshwara or ujjain...!! :)

    ReplyDelete
  14. Very nice blog. You can check my blog at : http://www.travelingbeats.com/blog

    ReplyDelete
  15. You have a nice blog with beautiful presentations and lovely pictures.you can visit my blog and give ur comments.

    ReplyDelete
  16. @ Sankara : thanks a lot.... yes, it was such a surprise to see all those wonderful peices of history tucked away in a place far away from such a famous temple.... where few people would ever see them!!

    @ Jeet : thanks a lot.... your blog is great too.....

    @ Aaarti : hey, that would be just great!!! lets see when we can plan something out!
    we too saw the parikrama once on TV , ages ago... and my mother-in-law remembered it.... but i dont know about the sringeri swamigal's visit.. pls ask your mom and tell me....

    @ kitchen queen : thanks a lot..... yours is great too.... i am checking out some of your wonderful recipes....

    ReplyDelete
  17. @ Aastha : Yes, India is indeed great!! there is so much to see and explore..

    ReplyDelete
  18. Very brave of you to do the Parikrama with a weak angle. Hope you recovered fast.
    Sad to see a barely flowing Naramada.

    The stone-piling custom is there in Thiruvilwamala temple (Lord Vilwadriantha) near Palakkad. We did this one year. Before we went there next year, we had booked a house. The year after that, before we went to the temple, the construction was complete. Don't know if it's divine intervention or destiny. :)

    ReplyDelete
  19. @ Bindhu : At first it used to be a problem walking long distances with my ankle in the state it was, but over the last few years, I have learnt to cope with it, esp since my hubby and in-laws love to take such trips, and i hate to opt out of them!!
    yes, the state of the narmada was really bad! but they tell me it is better once the dam is opened.. who knows...

    and your info was really interesting.. we hadnt heard of this one.... shall certainly go there when we go to kerala.... and yes, i too wonder about divine intervention and destiny when things work out after we offer prayers somewhere.... but sometimes things really seem to work out and we are left wondering!!

    ReplyDelete
  20. That was a nice parikrama.wonderful photos and description too.

    ReplyDelete
  21. OMG, I missed the read Siddhinatha temple, as the real one I see in your pics. What a pity, though I asked every local there and no one seemed to know the real temple. If I would have seen your blog earlier, I could have seen that temple, but alas!, now I need to go again there, but don't know when......

    ReplyDelete
  22. used your 'my travel maps' tab and clicked on the pin and came here! very useful tool... do use it for as many of your travel posts as possible!

    this post is lovely and will use it as reference when i visit..
    thank you

    ReplyDelete
  23. I am really impressed on the detailed description given by Anuradha Shankar with the marvellous photographs. I made up my mind to visit this parikrama marg on this Sunday ,17th March 2013.
    Thanks alot.
    R.K.GUPTA,Indore

    ReplyDelete
  24. Dear Anu,

    Great work.

    Can we go to Parikrama Path with Shoes on in our foot or is it bare-foot?

    Vijay Kumar

    ReplyDelete
  25. Lovely post. My wife and myself are avid travelers ourselves. We just finished visiting the 12 jyotirlingams + 2 (aundha and Parli) and wished we had read your blogs before we had gone there. Not that we missed out anything but -----. Also inspired to write about our trips which I stopped more than a year ago on padutravelogue.blogspot.com. Keep it coming anu.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Thanks so much for stopping by. Please leave a comment for me so that I will know you have been here....

Shareaholic

LinkWithin

Blog Widget by LinkWithin