Located at the meeting point of Narmada and Kaveri rivers, the Omkareshwar temple is home to the fourth of the famous jyotirlingas.
History Behind the Omkareshwar Temple
The Jyotirlinga of Omkareshwar is located in Madhya Pradesh along the banks of the Narmada River. The eminent ‘Shikhara of Omkareshwar’ stands tall and proud in the sky as if overlooking the entire earth. The temple is mentioned in sacred Hindu texts like the Vedas and Puranas. The island of Omkareshwar has a total of 6 pilgrimages and 33 deities making it a must-visit place for spiritual seekers.
A symbolic manifestation of “Om” formed by the curves of Narmada makes the sacred site even more ethereal. Omkareshwar is an epitome of the years-old Hindu traditions and timeless religious influence of Shiva on his devotees. This temple is the only place where Lord Shiva appeared in an Omkara Swaroopa.
The religious importance of Omkareshwar finds mention in the Skanda Purana, the Shiv Purana, and the Vayu Purana. It is believed that whoever worships Omkareshwar with an unshakeable faith in Mahadev will attain respite from all the evils present on earth.
Many couples visit Omkareshwar temple and perform various rituals to get healthy offspring’s and lifelong happiness in blessings from Bholenath (Lord Shiva). According to the temple priests, if you do a Parikrama (circle around) of the temple, it will lead you to a promising future in life and Moksha (salvation) after death.
The Birth of the Temple
There are several stories associated with Omkareshwar, as mentioned in ancient Hindu texts. According to one, once Narad Muni (a traveling Vedic sage) visited the Vindhya Mountains and got enraged because there was no home for Lord Shiva in the region. So, the God of Vindhya Mountain started Tapasya (non-indulgence) to repent for this mistake.
He meditated on Lord Shiva in the form of the earthly lord. His faith and patience impressed Mahadev (Lord Shiva) who told the mountain god that he would reside on the island as Pranava Linga. And it would be divided into two parts- Mamleswar and Omkareswar. While Mamleswar was an earthly linga, Omkareswas was a Jyoti Linga (column of light). Since then, the place was named as Omkareswar, and a temple was built to worship the Jyotirlingam.
Another story goes that King Mandhata of the Ishvaaku dynasty (the one to which Lord Rama belonged) did extreme penance here. Impressed by his faith, Shiva blessed the king and appeared in this place in the form of a Jyotirlinga, referred to as Omkawareswar.
The third story from Hindu scriptures states that once there was a fierce war between Gods and Danavas(Demons), in which Danavas won. Fearful of the result of their victory, the Gods prayed to Lord Shiva who emerged in the form of Omkareswar Jyotirlinga and defeated the Demons.
The holy scriptures present in the temple indicate that the Omkareswar temple existed since at least 5500 years ago. The temple gets a mention in many Puranas (ancient Hindu texts) that talk about its significance and origin. Historians believe that the Paramara Kings of Malwa built the temple in the 11th century. After Paramara kings, the temple remained under the administration of Chauhan rulers.
Like many other ancient Hindu temples, Omkareswar underwent brutal destruction and loot at the hands of Muslim invaders like Mahmud Ghazni in the 13th century. However, even after the invasion, Omkareswar was one of the few temples in the region which stood intact without much damage. During the entire Mughal rule, the temple stayed under the Chauhan Kings, but not much renovation was done in the temple.
Later on, in the 19th century, Holkar rulers (mainly Rani Ahalya Bai Holkar) rebuilt the temple and restored it to its present glory. Eventually, the temple came under British rule till India’s Independence in 1947. After that, the ASI (Archaeological Survey of India) shouldered the responsibility of the temple with the help of the Khandwa administration, which continues to date.
The temple follows the Nagara style of architecture, which features high spires, elaborate frescos, and detailed sculptures. You will find large verandas encircling the shrine with huge columns carved in squares, polygons, and circles, which add to its visual appeal. The soft stone used to construct the temple has a surprising degree of detailed work, with frieze figures on the upper portion and intricately carved stone roof.
There is a spacious sabha mandapa in the temple, which is about 14 feet high and is supported by 40 massive pillars decorated with Yakshi figures. The temple has five stories in total on which different deities are installed viz; Shree Omkareshwar, Shree Mahakaleshwar, Shree Siddhanath, Shree Gupteshwar, and Dhwajdhari Shikhar Diety in the bottom to top order.
You will also find the revered shrines of Panchamukhi Ganesha and Annapoorna Devi in the temple complex. Lord Krishna, Devi Narmada, and Lord Shani are also worshipped in the temple.
The Jyotirlinga is installed in the sanctum sanctorum on the ground floor, partially immersed in water. One unique feature of the Omkareshwar temple is that the Jyotirlinga is not under the Sikhara of the temple but on the side.
Unique Facts About the Omkareshwar Temple
- Omkareswar island on which the temple is situated has two lofty mountains, and a valley divides the island creating a shape of “Om” (sacred Hindu symbol)
- Worshippers believe that Lord Shiva himself visits the temple every night to sleep and that is why the Shayan Aarti is performed.
- Many Hindu saints believe that worshipping the Omkareswar Jyotirlinga is equal to worshipping Panch Kedars and Kedarnath (famous Hindu pilgrimages).
- Archeologists claim that the Jyotirlinga was originally inside a small ancient temple surrounding which a larger complex was built.
• Swami Gajanand Saraswati, a renowned Hindu scholar, states that the temple was first built 7,99,25,105 years. He based this information backed by the mention in the Prabhas Khand of Skand Puran.
• Another fascinating fact is that from the place where the Somnath temple is presently based, there is no land between its shore and Antarctica. The Somnath temple is constructed on the Indian region that is the first point on land in the north till the south-pole, on that particular longitude.
• As per the Skanda Purana, there have been 6 Brahmas so far and the present era one is the 7th Brahma who is known as the Shatanand. Lord Shiva states that in the 7th Yuga, the name of the temple is Somnath while in the last one it was called Mrityunjaya.
Many pilgrims who visit will also perform a full parikrama around the Omkareshwar Island. The circular path around omkar hill is parikrama path, its aproximate 7KM with several points with stairs going up and down. Along the parikrama path there are several temples and ashrams on the way. The confluence of two rivers is also on the path.
Some important shrines along the path are the Gauri Somnath mandir, Omkareshwar Matt, Patali Hanuman mandir, Rin Mukteshwar Temple and the Shiva Pratima Mandir. Also make sure to bath at the confluence of rivers of the Kaveri and Narmada.