Omkareshwar is an island in the river Narmada in the Nimad region of Western Madhya Pradesh.
It is the place where Adi Shankaracharya met his Guru Govind Bhagavat Paada and took diksha. Sikh Guru Nanakdev came here for darshan and Parikrama. This is the fourth Jyotirlinga in the 12 Jyotirlinga circuit and is also known as Omkar Mandhata , Amareshwar and Mamaleshwar.
The story of Omkareshwar
Omkareshwar Jyotirlinga also has its own quota of stories. Three are prominent. The first story is about Vindhya Parvat (Mount).
Once upon a time Narada (son of Lord Brahma), known for his non-stop comic travel, visited Vindhya parvat. In his spicy way Narad told Vindhya Parvat about the greatness of Mount Meru. This made Vindhya jealous of Meru and he decided to be bigger than Meru.
Vindhya started worship of Lord Shiva to become greater than Meru. Vindhya Parvat practiced severe penance and worshipped parthivlinga (A linga made from physical material) along with Lord Omkareshwar for nearly six months. As a result Lord Shiva was pleased and blessed him with his desired boon. On a request of all the gods and the sages Lord Shiva made two parts of the lingas. One half is called Omkareshwara and the other Mamaleshwar or Amareshwar. Lord Shiva gave the boon of growing, but took a promise that Vindhya will never be a problem to Shiva’s devotees.
Vindhya began to grow, but did not keep his promise. It even obstructed the sun and the moon. All deities approached sage Agastya for help. Agastya along with his wife came to Vindhya, and convinced him that he would not grow until the sage and his wife returned. They never returned and Vindhya is there as it was when they left. The sage and his wife stayed in Srisailam which is regarded as Dakshina Kashi and one of the Dwadash Jyotirlinga.
The second story relates to Mandhata and his son’s penance.
King Mandhata of Ishvaku clan (an ancestor of Lord Ram) worshipped Lord Shiva here till the Lord manifested himself as a Jyotirlinga. Some scholars also narrate the story about Mandhata’s sons-Ambarish and Mucchkund, who had practiced severe penance and austerities here and pleased Lord Shiva. Because of this the mountain is named Mandhata.
The third story from Hindu scriptures says that once upon a time there was a great war between Devas and Danavas(demon),in which Danavas won. This was a major setback for Devas and hence Devas prayed to Lord Shiva. Pleased with their prayer, Lord Shiva emerged in the form of Omkareshwar Jyotirlinga and defeated Danavas.
Omkareshwar is a 6 km long narrow stretch of an island in the river Narmada. It is connected by a bridge. But vehicles are not allowed. One can go by boat also.The Omkar Mandhata Temple or Omkareshwar Jyotirlinga is situated on this island. The mainland of Omkareshwar is a small aggregation of houses, bazaar, temples including Mamaleshwar Jyotirlinga and a bus stand.
The boat takes Rs.20 per person for to and fro journey. The river here is full of variety of fish. People enjoy feeding fish while going to island for darshan. From the Omkareshwar Ghat where boat brings a devotee the main temple is just 100 steps.
Omkar Mandhata Jyotirlinga Temple:
The main structure of the present temple complex was built by Maharani Ahilyabai Holkar of Indore. It’s a five storey temple. Main Omkareshwar Jyotirlinga is situated on the ground level. It is naturally installed there. There is always water around it. It is said that Narmada water flows invisibly under Jyotirlinga.
It is a tiny Jyotirlinga. The significance of this linga is that the linga is not situated below the cupola. The idol of Lord Shiva is situated on the top of the temple. On the backside of Jyotirlinga, one can see the idol of goddess Parvati. It is decorated by silver framing. Akhand Deepak is always seen in this temple.
The Garbhagriha is very narrow and can accommodate only 14/15 people at a time. However, the main exit gate provides immediate relief to the devotee after performing puja on the Jyotirlinga. The temple hosts 20 other shrines of various gods and goddesses. These include Panchamukhi Ganesh, Nandi, Ranchhodraji etc.
Like Mahakaleshwar temple in Ujjain where Omkareshwar temple is situated on the 2nd floor, one can also observe that Mahakaleshar temple is also situated on the 2nd floor of Omkareshwar Jyotirlinga temple. On the third floor is Siddhanath, on the fourth floor is Kedareshwar and atop the fifth floor is Gupteshwar Mahadev temple.
Sukhdev Muni Idol:
There is an idol of Sukhdev Muni at the entrance of Garbhagriha. It is said that Lord Shiva Parvati and deities come here to play chopat every night. There is an interesting story. Before independence, one English man tried to find out the truth and he hid behind the Sukdev Muni idol at night. Next day, his dead body was found in the temple.
Temple Administration, Darshan Timings and Puja:
The Omkar Mandhata temple is managed by Shri Omkareshwar Jyotirlinga Temple Trust. The temple opens daily at 5:00 am arti if performed thrice, in the morning, noon and evening.
The first one which is also called Gupt arti is from 5:30 am to 6:00 am. The second is from 12:30 pm to 1:15 p.m. and the evening arti is from 9:00 pm to 9:30 pm. The temple closes at 10:00 p.m.
The Omkareshwar Jyotirlinga is usually bathed with panchamrita having milk, water, curd, honey and ghee. The devotees also offer rice, turmeric and vermillion to the Jyotirlinga.
A devotee has no problem in performing pooja here. There are priests easily available. There are no fixed rates for puja. One can offer as per his wish. There is a special entrance which is known as VIP darshan gate. If you hire any purohit for such puja, he will bring you from VIP gate. As mentioned above, the garbhgriha is narrow. Hence here puja is wrapped up in 5 minutes. The rest of the rituals are performed outside the garbhgriha. The purohits are not the demanding type. They are rather helpful.
Mahashivaratri, holy Shravan and Kartik months attract huge crowds. Kartik Purnima has a big fair here.
Apart from the Jyotirlinga, the island of Omkareshwar is in itself a sacred site. Here river Narmada branches into two which forms this island. Interestingly, the island’s shape resembles the visual representation of the Omkara sound, Om. It is said that 33 crore deities,68 tirthas ,120 gupta rudralingas and 12 visible shivalingas are in Omkar Mandhata region. A Parikrama(circumambulation) of the island adds up to a walk of about 8 kms and it takes 4 to 5 hours including rest periods.
The parikrama starts from the temple. The first place is Khedapati Hanuman temple and the others are Omkarmatha,Ramkrishna matha,Mallikarjuna,Kedareshwar and Gayatri temple etc. Adi Shankaracharya did parikrama when he visited Omkareswar Jyotirling. Parikrma is regarded very important as during parikrama, Shankaracharya had met his Guru Shri Govindapaada who taught him Advaita thoughts of Indian philosophy.
The main places are Runamukteshwar temple where the devotee offers chanadal and it is said that the offering and darshan will free the devotee from earlier unpaid debts. The Siddhanath temple is also a must visit place. It is about 170 steps ahead of Omkar Mandhata Temple. The huge temple is a fenced structure protected by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
Gauri Somnath Temple also comes during Parikrama. This old temple can be reached by a long flight of steps cut into the hill-face west of the bridge.
It is the sacred meeting point of Narmada and Kaveri River. Here every stone is considered as Shivalinga. According to legends, in ancient times a yaksha called Kuber performed penance and pleased Lord Shiva. He got a boon from Lord Shiva to be always a king of yakshas. The devotees come to this place to offer tarpan to their ancestors. On the site there is a Narmada Kaveri temple.
Shankaracharya Caves and Gurudwara:
Just behind the Omkar Mandhata temple there is a cave of Adi Shankaracharya . An idol of Shankaracharya is also installed in the cave.
Founder of Sikh religion Guru Nanakdevji visited this place. It is said that a Muslim fakir Godadshah briefed Nanakdev about Omkareshwar Parikrama. Inspired by the fakir, Nanakdevji did a parikrama. Sikh devotees visit this place round the year.
Places in Omkareshwar:
The Omkareshwar Mamaleshwar Jyotirlingas are different. Many devotees tend to get a bit confused about this. Omkareshwar is undoubtedly main Jyotirlinga but another name which often comes in this context is Mamaleshwar. The temple of Mamaleshwar is situated south of the river Narmada, but both the forms of Shiva have been counted as one. This is the last spot in the mainland before getting boat for main Omkar Mandhata temple. It’s a peaceful 11th century temple complex with finely carved stones and material from old temples around it. The devotees also perform puja in this temple. The main linga is big and situated on the ground floor of the temple. Here, devotees can also find purohits to perform puja for them .
The dam built by Narmada Hydroelectric Development Corporation is also a place to visit. Boats are available which charge around Rs.60 per person for a two hour round in river Narmada. The 73.12 meter high dam is becoming a popular tourist destination.
Where to stay?
Omkareshwar is a small village and the entire economy of the village depends upon tourists. There are more than two dozen dharmashalas and most of them run along caste lines. However, recently few ashrams have been built in mainland of Omkareshwar. Gajanand Swamy (Shegaon of Maharastra fame) Ashram is a good . There are 3 Yatri Niwas complexes having more accommodation capacities. The rooms with attached bathrooms are clean and the canteen offers simple food. Other option is Narmada Resort run by MP Tourism, which is situated about 300m south west of the bridge, with pleasant views of the Narmada and the temple.
How to Go?
From Ahmedabad, 9309 Shanti Express is daily available for Indore. It departs at 7:45 pm from Ahmedabad and reaches Indore next day morning at 6:00 am. Indore is 537 km from Ahmedabad. It would be advisable to get down at Indore and take state road transport buses which are available at regular intervals. Private vehicles are also available from Indore. The distance between Indore and Omkareshwar is about 90 kms and it takes two hours by road.
In return Journey, 9310 Shanti Express departs from Indore at 10:00 pm and reaches Ahmedabad at 8:50 am.
Devotees who visit Mahakaleshwar in Ujjain normally also visit Omkareshwar near Indore. Popularly it is referred as twin Jyotirlinga yatra. The distance between Ujjain and Omkareshwar is about 145 km and it takes 3 and half hours by road.
One can also plan a connecting journey of Maheshwar, which is 60 km away from Omkareshwar. It is situated between Mandu and Omkareshwar. MP state Road Transport buses and private vehicles are available from Omkareshwar. It combines a wide and beautiful Narmada, very clean ghats, tranquil temples and scenic fort surrounded by pipal, neem and old banayan trees.
In Maheshwar there are places like Queen’s fort, Rewa Society and Rajrajeshwar temple. One can also buy famous Maheshwari Sarees,which are available in the range of Rs.800 to Rs.5000. It was Rani Ahilyabai Holkar of Indore, who built or renovated most of the temples and ghats in this area.
Vipul K Shukla