Ujjain, Omkareshwar and Maheshwar Yatra

  • By Sanjeev Nayyar & Aparna Sharma
  • June 2017


Omkareshwar, the sacred island, shaped like the holiest of all Hindu symbols, 'Om', has drawn to it hundreds of generations of pilgrims. Here, at the confluence of the rivers Narmada and Kaveri, the devout gather to kneel before the Jyotirlinga (one of the twelve throughout India) at the temple of Shri Omkar Mandhata. And here, as in so many of Madhya Pradesh's sacred shrines, the works of Nature complement those of man to provide a setting awe-inspiring in its magnificence

The island comprises two lofty hills and is divided by a valley in such a way that it appears in the shape of the sacred Hindu symbol 'Om' from above. Between the precipitous hills of the Vindhya on the North and the Satpura on the South, the Narmada forms a deep silent pool which in former times was full of alligators and fish, so tame as to take grain from human hand.

Shri Omkar Mandhata:

The temple stands on a one-mile long, half-mile wide island formed by the fork of the Narmada. The soft stone of which it was constructed has lent its pliable surface to a rare degree of detailed work, of which the frieze figures on the upper portion are the most striking. Also intricately carved is the stone roof of the temple. Encircling the shrine are verandahs with columns which are carved in circles, polygons and squares.

There are five levels of temples, lowest is Omkareshar, next Mahakaleshwar, Siddheshwar & Manshadevi, Gupteshwar and Dhwajeshwar.

Behind the temple is king Mandhata’s palace.

The old pool is 270 ft below the cantilever type bridge constructed in 1979. The bridge has enhanced the scenic beauty of the place, making it look exceedingly picturesque. The new bridge was made before the last Simhastha. Very impressive indeed.

Mamleshwar mandir is before you cross over to the island. Real name is Amleshwar, it is an ancient temple i.e. referred to in ancient texts. Devotees make it a point to go there.

Also see:
1. 24 Avatars: A cluster of Hindu and Jain temples, remarkable for their skillful use of varied architectural modes.
2. Satmatrika Temples: 6 km from Omkareshwar, a group of 10th century temples.
3. Kajal Rani Cave: 9 km from Omkareshwar, this is a particularly picturesque scenic spot, with a panoramic view of the broad acres and gently undulating landscape that stretches in unbroken harmony till the horizon

We walked through the streets to reach the temple. The pillars of the temple are made of stone and seem very old. The temple structure seems to be of recent origin. Also intricately carved is the stone roof of the temple. Encircling the shrine are verandahs with columns which are carved in circles, polygons and squares. The temple is situated on a hillock. The linga is a Swamayambhu. We had darshan pretty quickly. The temple is well organized and pathways clean.

Since the temple has five levels we saw the other levels as well. At each level is a mandir i.e. Omkareshar, next Mahakaleshwar, Siddheshwar & Manshadevi, Gupteshwar and Dhwajeshwar. Being a 6 footer getting into some of the temples can be quite a challenge.

We crossed the river through the old bridge where we met a Sadhu whose body was full of Rudraksh. After a ten minute walk we reached the Nagar Ghat to bath in the holy Narmada.

The Nagar community has recently constructed this very beautiful and clean ghat. At Nagar ghat a Dwar was constructed in the water. It was like some sort of a boundary beyond which devotees should not go. I had a 30-minute bath in the holy Narmada on this ghat. Water current is very swift so if you are not careful you could get swept away.

From the Nagar Ghat we took a boat ride to the main temple. Very enjoyable, loved it. I have realized that one of the best ways to see an island is to see it from water. It gives you a different feel. Boat ride cost Rs 75/.

Next we visited Mamleshwar mandir i.e. about ten minutes away from Omkareshwar. The temple looks ancient although no board gave the date.


Maheshwar was a glorious city at the dawn of Indian civilization when it was Mahishmati, capital of king Kartivarjun. This temple town on the banks of the river Narmada finds mention in the epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata. Revived to its ancient position of importance by the Holkar queen Rani Ahilyabai of Indore. Maheshwar's temples and mighty fort-complex stand in quiet beauty, mirrored in the river below.

Today, Maheshwar is also known for its distinctive hand-woven saris called Maheshwari.

Peshwa Ghat, Fanase Ghat and Ahilya Ghat line the river Narmada, flights of steps lead down from the sandy banks to the river and through the day a kaleidoscope of rural India can be seen here, in the pilgrims and holy men who sit here in silent meditation; in the rows of graceful women, who carry gleaming brass pots down to the holy, life giving river; in the ferry loads of villagers who cross and re-cross these surging waters. Lining the banks too, are poignant memorials in stone to the satis of Maheshwar, who perished on the funeral pyres of their husbands.

Maheshwari saris were introduced into Maheshwar 250 years ago by Rani Ahilyabai, and are renowned throughout India for their unique weave. Woven mostly in cotton, the typical Maheshwari sari has a plain body and sometimes stripes or checks in several variations. The mat bordered designs have a wide range in leaf and floral patterns. The pallav is particularly distinctive with 5 stripes, 3 colored and 2 white alternating, and running along its width. Maheshwari has a reversible border, known as bugdi.

Rajgaddi and Rajwada:

A life-size statue of Rani Ahilyabai sits on a throne in the Rajgaddi within the fort complex. This is the right place to begin a tour of Maheshwar, for this pious and wise queen was the architect of its revived importance. Other fascinating relics and heirlooms of the Holkar dynasty can be seen in the other rooms, which are open to the public. Within the complex is an exquisite small shrine, which is a starting point of the ancient Dussehra ceremony, which is carried out even today. The image on this day is installed reverently in a splendid palanquin and carried down the steep fort road to the town below to receive the yearly homage of the people of Maheshwar.

Most people are unaware that the current Kashi Vishwanath Mandir was made by Ahilyabai Holkar. She also made a temple at Somnath around 1780. Since a new Somnath temple was made after Independence the one made by her is not as well known. There is an Ahilyabhai Ghat at Varanasi.

With their soaring spires, the many-tiered temples of Maheshwar are distinguished by their carved overhanging balconies and their intricately worked doorways. Kaleshwar, Rajarajeshwara, Vithaleshwara and Ahileshwar are the temples to be seen.

Handloom weaving Ahilya Fort Maheshwar – is organized by Rehwa Society who have 110 looms in Maheswar. “Handloom weaving has an ancient history dating back to some 1500 years. This tradition owes its resurgence to Maharani Ahilyabai Holkar, who ruled Maheswar, Indore State from 1765 to 1795 and under whose patronage the weavers prospered. They were also supported by other wealthy local families who promoted the fine textiles by gifting these to people throughout India.

With the coming of India’s independence in 1947, this patronage disappeared leaving the weavers unable to find new markers. With a grant from the Indian Central Welfare Board in 1979, the Holkar heirs established their non-profit Rehwa Society in response to the need to revitalize this industry.

Take a guide and visit Rehwa Society in Ahilya Fort to see how the women of today use traditional power looms to weave exquisite saris/salwar kurtas.

To see pics of Maheshwar Click here

And so ended a wonderful and short trip.

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