At the ghats of Narmada

Bhedaghat, on Narmada, is no less than a poetry in itself. One that nature sings. As the clear turquoise blue waters of Narmada flows through the lofty marble cliffs on both the sides, one cannot but fall in love with the serenity and the beauty. The marbles themselves, mixed with volcanic rocks, differ variably in their colors – from pinkish to sparkling white( or Surf Excel white as our boatman calls) to even greyish blue in colour.

On the next morning of my arrival, I set off for the famous boat ride. I had heard of the proclaimed boat ride even before I would come to Bhedaghat. Back in Pachmarhi, as I told the family with whom I shared the jeep safari, the lady beamed at me with sparkle in her eyes, “You’ll love it.” Most of the tourists combine Bhedaghat and Pachmarhi in a single trip, and the family themselves had just come from Bhedaghat.

She wasn’t wrong. The water looked cool and refreshing as I descended down the flights of steps leading to the ghat. Multiple vendors lined them calling to get names written on marble. As I sat in the first boat that ferried that day, and dipped my hands in the water, it felt cool and pleasant, a refuge from the scorching heat of the sun. The boatman was a young jovial guy who was still under training. The entire duration of the boat ride was accompanied by a poem that the boatman recited, as he continued to point out shapes in the marble, recount of movie shoots and joke about abandoning the tourists in the middle of the ride. In fact, the poem and the chirpy nature of the boatman captured us so, that it matched, if not overtook, the beauty of the ride. As an elderly Bengali lady requested the boatman to allow to video shoot the whole thing to take back home, the boatman politely declined, saying that this was their USP. And when the boat ride was almost over, we crossed another boat, with the other boatman shouting the same lines of the sing-a-song description.

A little further from Bhedaghat were the scenic falls of Dhuandhar. As the name suggested, the whole area was ever-engulfed in mist, as the gushing water fells on the rocks. The peaceful and tranquil river had become tumultuous all of a sudden. The water, as it fell, turned a frothy milky white. A cable car took me right above the falls offering a splendid front view even as there were platforms on the edges were so close, that time and again, a gush of wind would carry along the mist and spray it at the overlooking tourists. One such platform was built right over the waters, and as I walked, though knowing that it has carried the weight of thousand tourists, I felt excited and daring.

The major industry there being the marble sculpting industry, the streets were lined with number of shops selling trinkets to  statues of Gods and Goddesses to be worshiped in temples. While the shops near the ghat offered to carve names on marble, the bigger shops had a wide variety and imported marble from as far as Karachi.

No river bank, specially the ones considered holy, can be without its share of temples. Chausath Yoginis (64 female ascetics) temple stood lofty on the banks of Bhedaghat. Built in the 9th-10th century A.D. it was an ode to the 64 yoginis who held command of the 64 forms of art. The particular form of temple, believed to be a part of Tantrism, disappeared more or less over the turn of century. The temple, like numerous other temples, was attacked in the Mughal era, and only 10 idols survived. The temple pujari informed that while there were numerous Shiva temples in the country, devotees came from far and wide to the temple to witness the very rare scene of Shiva and Parvati’s wedding.

My stay at Bhedaghat had come to an end, but I could not get enough of seeing Narmada flow so elegantly. I imagined how dreamy it would be in the boat ride on a moon-lit night, with the moon light reflecting off the white marble rocks. On the brighter side, missing that, only gives me an excuse to visit the beauty of Narmada again!

How to Reach:

Bhedaghat is only 15 kilometres away from Jabalpur. Jabalpur is well-connected to major cities through rail and air. To Bhedaghat, the public transport is not very good. It took me well over 45 minutes. However, if you have to, take the tempo, a larger version of an auto. It’ll save you the waiting time for the bus to fill in ,along with the bother of changing transport.

Where to Stay:

Motel Marble Palace is an excellently located 3 star hotel owned by M P Tourism. While prices are on the higher side, the facilities provided and the lack of better places in the vicinity makes this the obvious choice. The Upper and Lower Circuit houses with the most scenic view in the area are restricted to MPs and ministers, but the guard may let you in. The only catch is you may have to sneak in like a thief after 8 and vacate early morning!

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