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Sunday, 12 September 2010

A Touch of Narmada

ma rewa.......
ma rewa tharo paani nirmal ...............khal khal behto jaaye re

Amarkanth se nikli O rewa
jann jann kari rayo thaari sewa
sewa se sab pawe mewa,
aso ved puran batayo re

ma rewa.......
ma rewa tharo paani nirmal ...............khal khal behto jaaye re

The Indian Ocean song incessantly played in my head as we lazily rowed in the mighty Narmada. The Sun was near the water, and the nets of fishermen were gleaming golden. The oar was making gentle splashing sound as Narmada Shankar Kevat steered us a little far from the shore. In the far distance some motor boats carried other tourists; but my heart was more than joyous having found a lone boat which hadn’t put motor behind its back!

The 1.5 km broad stretch of the river at Maheshwar is probably the broadest the river ever gets through its course from east of India to the west, before submerging itself unto the Arabian sea. Narmada is 5th largest river in Indian Subcontinent and its over 1000 kms of stretch in M.P. feeds innumerous rich farms along the way. No wonder the river holds a devotional value attached to it since the ancient times.

There was a girl, Roomati, who used to sing beautifully. When Baz Bahadur, the then emperor of Mandu heard her voice – he invited her to adorn his royal court and live there. But Roomati, a firm devotee of Narmada, put forth a condition: only if she gets to see Narmada every day, she would join the court. Baz Bahadur then built a palace for her at the capital - Mandu, 55 kms away from Maheshwar from where she could see the Narmada; and pray every day.

As her fame grew, the praise of her voice soon reached Akbar. He asked Baz Bahadur to send Roomati to adorn his court; an offer to which Baz Bahadur responded by asking Akbar to visit Mandu whenever he wished to listen to Roomati. Scorned, Akbar retaliated by marching to Mandu with 40,000 foot soldiers and 10,000 horsemen. The great fort of Mandu, 2nd largest in India - immensely strategic for being built over a raised plateau and covered by ravines from all sides was breached. Result: Baz Bahadur fled, Roomati died a royal death by drinking poison (the thought of separation from Narmada was unbearable to her) and all that Akbar dreamed of before the battle was lost during the battle – forever. Yet again a woman caused a great many things which were to be remembered for long.

I put my hand in the Narmada, folding them as if praying to Allah to draw out a handful of water. I poured back the water against the gleam of the Sun, my head filled with chants and bells which spoke of the centuries of cultural and devotion attached to the river as the last golden drops left my fingers...

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