In the search of spirituality, since decades people have considered Varanasi as a place of intense holy culture in India. A top priority on the ‘must visit’ list of foreign tourists, the city has always been high on tourism, and a desire for many in the past and the future. But, somewhere in the state of Madhya Pradesh, still exists a mini Varansi, replicating the colors, the fragrance, the holiness, the sadhus, the ghats and the unparalleled belief in lord shiva – all in an Om shaped island OMKARESHWAR.
Across the holy River Namrada, The Shri Omkar Mandhata that serenely stands out in white is a highly revered Shiva Temple, which has made Omkareshwar a prime destination on the pilgrim’s trail of many devotees. Enshrining one among the twelve Jyothirlingas (Phallic manifestations of Lord Shiva) in India, the darshan in the temple is considered highly auspicious, although more popular amongst the Indian Hindus.
As the legend goes, “The Shiva Linga in this temple is believed to be a swayambhoo (a self manifested figure) and is not affixed to the cupola, as it is encircled by water. Devotees who circumambulate the holy shrine are supposed get divine blessings.”
The ghats of Omkareshwar are certainly amongst its most exotic sights, a common fascination of some of the most sacred holy places in India. Owning to the rituals the ghats are meant for – for holy dips and the last burnings, they are also one of the most crowded areas, specially during the auspicious festivals. Although still being untouched with a lot of tourism, the ghats of Omkareshwar has managed to retain its innocence in time with less people and instead peaceful and lively simple activity.
The most colorful part of the town are the women who can always be found sitting amid the mountains of flowers, that are bought by the visitors as offering to the Shiva Linga inside the temple. Beautifully composed on the bunch of fresh green leaves, every plate of flowers you buy looks like an explosion of fresh bright colors, with the fragrance of a multitude of different flowers, that makes the place even more bright in its origin.
The place is at its holiest best, with the saffron color coming through the murtis of lord Hanuman and also the saffron clad sadhus, which both fill the streets with this spiritual hue at regular intervals, making one feel that they are actually having a walk in the Land of Gods! Traditional culture of worship and auspiciousness is as if preserved in Omkareshwar, not touched by man or nature.
Not just a place for pilgrimage, but also a place to shop, the colorful lanes are also markets where one can easily find a bunch full of souvenirs to take back for family and relatives. Little bracelets made out of beads and yarns, the rudrarksh malas, photos frames of gods, miniatures of shiva lingas, and also the endless variety of semi precious stones for pendants, all highlight the vibrant beauty of this place.
A house for poor sadhus and even the passing by beggars, in contrast to the Indian metropolitan cities, the town offers shelter to the needy and the homeless, a trait of India that is still remaining to be rectified. A good sight for some, and a poor upsetting for others, while people sit in cues waiting for help, they are on the happy side also the essence of Omkareshwar, who have been part of this land since times immemorial, and a little chat with any one of them will only help a traveler learn more about the place’s culture in its true form.