Visiting Omkareshwar in Madhya Pradesh and paying obeisance to the revered Omkareshwar Jyotirlinga has been on my travel list. Not a recent addition but for long.
I have been visiting and ticking the Jyotirlingas in India one by one since childhood. Some of these visits were planned, while others just happened due to divine intervention.
So, when I had an opportunity to visit the Omkareshwar Mahadev, courtesy of the Madhya Pradesh Tourism Board, I couldn’t but consider myself blessed.
Come with me, as I take you on a virtual guided tour of the Omkareshwar Jyotirlinga, located in Madhya Pradesh. Shri Omkareshwar is one of the twelve important jyotirlingas in India.
A guided tour of Omkareshwar Jyotirlinga in Madhya Pradesh
Before we embark on this virtual pilgrimage tour of Omkareshwar, let me answer a few questions that could help us in understanding the significance of the Omakareshwar jyotirlinga better.
What is a Jyotirlinga or Jyotirlingam?
In simpler terms, a Jyotirlinga is a manifestation of Lord Shiva( one of the main Hindu trinity) in the form of a ‘Jyoti’ or ‘light’. The lingam represents the beam of light.
Why did he manifest as a beam of light and what happened next forms the legend of all jyotirlingas temples, including that of the Omkareshwar…
The divine rituals being performed by the devotees at Omkareshwar temple
Legend around Jyotirlinga
The legend goes that once, a fight over superiority broke between Vishnu and Brahma. Lord Shiva played the role of a mediator in this fight.
Shiva transformed himself into an endless pillar of light that stretched across the three worlds, and, asked both of them to find the tag ends of this legion.
For this, Lord Vishnu took the form of a boar and went downwards to the other world in search. He gracefully conceded defeat when he couldn’t find the end of the light.
However, Brahma having taken the form of a swan flew in search upwards towards the north but lied about finding the end. Of course, Lord Shiva knew he was lying, as the beam of light into which he manifested was endless, the jyotirlinga.
Hence, Brahma was cursed by Shiva who manifested as a second pillar out of the first.
Difference between a Jyotirlinga and Lingodhbhava
The original fiery pillar of light is known as Jyotirlinga, a supreme formless reality, out of which Shiva appears as the lingodhbava.
Madhya Pradesh is blessed with two jyotirlingas. One is the Omkareshwar Mahadev at Omkareshwar while the other is the Mahakaleshwar jyotirlinga in Ujjain.
What is Dwadasa jyotirlinga?
According to ancient texts, there are 64 jyotirlingas, out of which 12 are supremely holy and sacred. These 12 jyotirlingas are known as Dwadasa jyotirlinga. And, Omkareshwar jyotirlinga is one of the 12 supreme jyotirlingas.
Here are two iconography representations of the Lingodhbhava from the times of the Cholas and Pallavas, of ancient southern India.
Where is Omkareshwar?
Situated on the banks of the westward flowing Narmada-holiest of the five Indian rivers, 78 km away from the cleanest city in India, Indore, Omkareshwar is a sacred town in Khandwa district of Madhya Pradesh.
Omkareshwar is home to Shri Omkar Mandhata temple, situated on the Mandhata island, which encloses one of the 12 jyotirlingas.
This pilgrim town with many ancient temples often brims with devotees throughout the year, while the devotee’s strength reaches its peak during the week leading to the yearly Mahashivrathri celebrations.
Stories around Omkareshwar Mahadev
Omakareshwar was supposedly ruled by Raja Mandatha of the Ikshvaku dynasty ( the same dynasty to which Lord Rama belongs). And, the island of Shivpuri, or Mandatha as it is called, used to dazzle like a gem during the Sathya Yuga.
Upon enquiring the reason by Narada ( a Hindu celestial demi-god) to Lord Shiva, the latter responded that the sheen of the island is relatable to the various Yugas.
Hence, it is bound to shine like a gem in Sathya Yuga, gold during the Tretha Yuga, copper during the Dwapara Yuga, and remain like a rock in the Kali Yuga.
A view of the Mandatha island from river Narmada
Legend around the Omkareshwar jyotirlinga
One of the backstories proclaims that Shiva appeared in the form of a jyotirlinga at Omkareshwar, pleased by the penance of King Mandatha, an ancestor of Lord Rama, belonging to the Ikshvaku clan.
And, thus, the island that got created due to the forking of the river Narmada into two also came to be known as Mandatha island. Sometimes the island is also referred to as Shivpuri.
A virtual pilgrimage to Omkareshwar Jyotirlinga temple
The main temple of Omkareswhar that is home to the Jyotirlinga is the Shri Omkar Mandhata temple, located on the Sanskrit OM shaped island.
A short walk on the suspension bridge over the revered Narmada marks an entrance to the island of Shivpuri. Of course, one could even opt for a short boat ride onto the opposite bank.
However, I suggest that you walk one way and opt for a boat ride for your return or vice versa.
Inside the Shri Omkar Mandatha temple
The Shri Omkar Mandhata temple also simply called the Omkareshwar mandir is a five-storeyed complex with stairs and columns.
While the main tower is built in the Nagara style north-Indian architecture with spires, the rest of the temple complex looks modern and has been extended and renovated over the years.
Adorned with granite pillars and sculptures, the interiors of the Omkareshwar temple is sure to take one back to a bygone era.
Although the original temple seems to have been smaller and compact, subsequent additions and expansions done by the rulers of Parmar, Chauhan, and Maratha dynasties have made sure that the temple complex is elaborate.
The alley leading to the Omkareshwar Jyotirlinga is flanked by colourful stalls selling fruits, flowers, incense sticks for the pooja and other rituals.
A glimpse of the Omkareshwar Jyotirlinga
Upon entering the premises of the main temple of Omkareshwar, a narrow path followed by a fleet of stairs downwards leads to the sanctum sanctorum.
It is here inside the confines of the sanctum sanctorum where Shri Omkareshwar blesses his devotees in the form of a sanctified rock on the floor resembling a sort of shiva lingam. One of the 12 Jyotirlinga!
The Omkareshwar jyotirlinga is perenially offered water through a pipe and its uniqueness lies in the absence of the cupola.
Above this jyotirlinga, a sacred silver figurine of the goddess Parvati is installed in a niche. It is a ritual to offer prayers to the Omkareshwar Jyotirlinga before taking a glimpse of Goddess Parvati.
However, a glimpse of the jyotirlinga is more of a ‘blink and miss’, due to the crowd of devotees, who swamp the sanctum sanctorum in huge numbers.
Yet, the interiors of the Omkareshwar sanctum sanctorum resonates with divinity and sacredness that is unexplainable.
On a Parikrama around the Omkareshwar temple
A pilgrimage to the Omkarjeshwar jyotirlinga is incomplete without a Parikrama (circumambulation) around the OM shaped island as well as a visit to the Mamaleshwar temple on the other side of the river bank.
A Parikrama of the Omkareshwar Jyotirlinga could be done either by foot or by engaging a boat. Of course, the latter is quicker than the former, as the Parikrama path is around 6-7km in toto.
However, the boat ride might take close to 30 minutes, wherein it also makes a short halt at the Sangam, before completing the rest of the Parikrama. A small stretch still needs to be covered by foot, due to the water currents in the river.
The Sangam at Omkareshwar
Sangam is the place where the two tributaries- Narmada and Kuberi ( sometimes also called Kaveri) meet. An idol of the goddess Narmada has been installed here, and devotees often take a dip in the river at the confluence and pray to the goddess. It’s said that a dip at the Sangam absolves one of all sins.
The ride in itself is serene and the waters of the river- cool and clear. These 30 minutes is nothing short of a river safari with bird spotting and the thrill of riding through a gorge!
Temples on the Mandatha island of Omkareshwar
Apart from the Shri Omakareshwar Jyotirlinga, there are other small shrines(mandir) that dot the island of Mandhata. Some of the ancient and famous among the local people are the Ruon Mukteshwar mandir, Gouri Somnath mandir,
The Siddhnath mandir with its medieval architecture and its intricate frieze of carved elephants is quite captivating.
Also, the Mandhata Palace is situated just behind the Omkareshwar temple. A fleet of around 80 steps takes one to the entrance of the palace, a part of which is open to the public.
Mamleshwar temple of Omkareshwar
The Mamleshwar 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.
It is on the mainland, unlike the Shri Omkar Mandhata temple that is located on an island.
My interactions with the local people like flower sellers and prasad(divine offering) vendors revealed the fascinating story of dual jyotirlinga.
They believe that the town of Omkareshwar is blessed with two jyotirlinga — one of Omkareshwar and another of Mamleshwar or Amareshwar.
It is the deity of Amareshwar who is prayed to inside the sanctum sanctorum of the Mamleshwar temple.
The Legend of Mamleshwar Jyotirlinga
One lore says that Mamleshwar is the Shiva lingam built by the Pandavas during their exile from the Mahabharata era.
While another popular Omkareshwar lore proclaims that the existence of Mamleshwar jyotirlinga goes back to Vedic times, when Shiva manifested himself as a jyotirlinga, pleased by the penance of the god of Vindhyas.
Owing to the huge crowd of sages and devotees who came to visit him after a lot of ordeals, Lord Shiva split himself into two on either side of the river Narmada.
While one Jyotirlinga on the island of Mandhata came to be known as Omkareshwar, the other on the mainland of Omkareshwar town came to be known as Mamleshwar, respectively.
This is the reason, why the Amareshwar jyotirlinga is also known as a Parthivlinga.
Although there are conflicting stories and claims, both the Omkareshwar and Mamleshwar temples are revered.
Also, it is widely believed that a pilgrimage to the Shri Omkar Mandatha temple isn’t complete without paying obeisance to the Amareshwar of Mamleshwar temple.
A glimpse of the Omkareshwar Dam
The Omkareshwar Dam was constructed between 2003 and 2007 on river Narmada near Omkareshwar to facilitate water supply for irrigation purposes and generate power to the districts of Khandwa, Dhar, and Khargone of Madhya Pradesh.
The Omkareshwar dam structure runs parallel to the two bridges that have been constructed on the River Narmada here at Omkareshwar already.
One is the old cantilevered bridge of 1973 that connects the island of Mandatha and the mainland of Omkareshwar, while the other bridge, a relatively new suspension bridge, constructed in the year 2003.
Practical information on visiting the Omkareshwar Temple
Here is some practical information on planning a trip to Shri Omkareshwar Jyotirlinga.
Omkareshwar temple timings
The Omkareshwar temple is open for devotees from 6 am to 8 pm every day of the week.
It is closed for darshan from 12 pm-1 pm during the day.
Check out the official Shri Omkareshwar temple website for further details. It’s completely in Hindi though!
Accommodation in Omkareshwar
There are good budget hotels in and around the town of Omkareshwar.
We checked-in for a few hours at the MPT Hotel, situated on the mainland of Omkareshwar. The rooms are well-maintained, and the in-house restaurant’s freshly cooked meals are to die for.
This resort is highly recommended, as it also has ample parking facilities.
Enquiries regarding the arrangement of a guided visit to the interiors of the Shri Omkar Mandhata Temple could be directed at the reception of the MPT Temple View Hotel. They would be more than happy to suggest various options and references.
Do cross-check the rates for the guide as well as for any pooja prior to your departure for a darshan of the Omkareshwar Jyotirlinga.
How to reach Omkareshwar
The nearest airport from the town of Omkareshwar is in Indore. The distance between Indore and Omkareshwar is 78 km), and Indore is connected by regular flights with Delhi, Mumbai, Bhopal, and other cities.
The nearest railhead to Omkareshwar Mahadev temple is Omkareshwar Road( 12km) on the Ratlam- Khandwa section of the Western Railways.
The town of Omkareshwar is well-connected by regular bus services with Omkareshwar road, Indore, and Ujjain.
Best Season to visit Omkareshwar
Omkareshwar is in Madhya Pradesh, which witnesses high day temperatures during the Summers. Hence, the best season to visit Omkareshwar would be from July to March.
My thoughts on the sacred town of Omkareshwar
Omkareshwar and a majority of towns and cities in Madhya Pradesh are sanctified by cleanliness for sure.
The wave of devotees who flood the sacred town of Omkareshwar in reverence has to be seen to believe. It is definitely crowded like any other ancient and sacred Indian town.
However, the Omkareshwar town oozes with rustic vibes and the sense of cleanliness among its people is incredible. The whole pilgrimage circuit reverberates with an unbelievable fervour and faith in Hinduism.
My belief in humanity was definitely revived upon seeing the pristine garbage-free river Narmada at Omkareshwar, and due respect is given to this elixir of life. If there is one place where God Shiva resides, then it has to be in the heart of India at Omkareshwar in Madhya Pradesh!
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