Narmada is one of the 3 main rivers in India that flows westwards into the Arabian Sea, the other two being Tapti and Mahi. It is the fifth largest river in the Indian sub-continent and the third largest of the rivers flowing entirely within India.
Narmada has its source at the Narmada Kund of the Amarkantak Plateau of the Bilaspur district of Chhattisgarh, and flows through Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat. The river flows for 1300 kms, before draining into Arabian Sea.
Narmada Kund, Amarkantak
One of the specialties of this river is that it flows through a rift valley, between the Vindhya and Satpura range. It is also one of those major rivers that doesn’t form any delta.
Narmada flowing through Rift valley
Narmada –names, legends and importance
Narmada means “that which gives pleasure”. It is also known as Rewa, meaning, “swift”, due to the swiftness of its water currents.
Narmada and Adi Shankara
Adi Shankara once calmed the raging waters of Narmada River, using his kamandalu, to save his Guru Govinda Bhagavatpada, who was immersed in dhyana, meditation at a cave nearby.
Adi Shankara calming the waters of Narmada
Adi Shankara glorifies Narmada in the Narmada Ashtakam, which he composed in the glory of Narmada Devi. The opening verse of this hymn reads,
Dvissatsu Paapa-Jaata-Jaata-Kaari-Vaari-Samyutam |
Tvadiiya-Paada-Pangkajam Namaami Devi Narmade ||1||
Salutations to Devi Narmada whose River-body illumined with Sacred drops of Water, flows with mischievous playfulness, bending with Waves.
Your Sacred Water has the divine power to transform those who are prone to Hatred, the Hatred born of Sins,
You put an end to the fear of the messenger of Death by giving Your protective Armour (of Refuge),
O Devi Narmada, I Bow down to Your Lotus Feet, Please give me Your Refuge.
Daughter of Rishi Mekla
In Purana, Narmada is mentioned as the daughter of Rishi Mekla, who lived and meditated at the foothills of Vindhya Mountains. Hence Narmada also has the name Mekalaa and Mekalakanya. The are other legends which point to Mekala being the mountain from where Narmada rises.
Life Line of Madhya Pradesh
The river is today known as the “life line of Madhya Pradesh” on account of its major contribution to the state.
One of the 7 holy rivers
In the Indian tradition, Narmada is of the 7 holy rivers, the others being Ganga, Yamuna, Sindhu, Kaveri, Sarasvati and Godavari. The ancient Indian texts like the Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Purana talk about this river. Like the Ganga, river Narmada is worshipped as a deity – Narmada Devi. The Vayu and Skanda Purana speak about the origin of this river in detail.
The connect with the Trinity
As per one legend, Narmada has her origin from the sweat of Lord Shiva, and is therefore also known as Shankari. Another legend states that the river was born from the tear drop of Lord Brahma. These legends also state that Narmada is older than the Ganga.
The Omkareshwar Jyothirlinga is located on the banks of Narmada River, at the Khandava district of Madhya Pradesh.
Narmada at Omkareshwar Omkareshwar Jyothirlinga
The resting place of Lord Shiva
Padma Purana states that Lord Shiva rested on the banks of River Narmada, before proceeding on his mission of vanquishing the Tripuras, the three aerial cities of the Asuras. The pebbles on the banks of Narmada are thus regarded to be highly sacred and are worshipped as lingam. These pebbled are known as Banalinga and are sought after for worship.
Natural Narmada Banalinga
One of the biggest of these Banalinga has been installed in the Brihadeeshvara temple, at Tanjavur in Tamil Nadu.
The battleground of Indra and Vrtra
The Bhagavata Purana states that the battle between Indra and Vrtra, happened on the banks of Narmada River.
In the Ramayana, it is mentioned that King Kartivirya Arjuna once picnicked with his wives on the banks of Narmada. Ravana also comes here at the same time, and in a battle between Ravana and Kartivirya, the former is humbled.
In the search for Sita, Sugreeva asks his Vanara army to conduct a search amongst the Vindhya mountains, where the Narmada river flows.
Pushkaram – The traditional festival
A festival, Narmada Pushakaram is held every 12 years here, in worship of River Narmada, and lasts for 12 days.
The Narmada basin covers a large area and is located between Vindhya and Satpura ranges, in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra and Telangana. It has one of the oldest teak hardwood forest in India. The Narmada eco region is home to 76 species of mammals and 276 species of birds.
The Bhimbetka rock shelters in the Narmada valley, in Madhya Pradesh contain many ancient paintings, that are 30000 years old. These 243 rock shelters at Bhimbetka have been declared as World Heritage Site by the UNESCO.
Bhimbetka rock shelters
Archaeologist have found evidence of Harappa settlements on the banks of Narmada. One of the excavated sites is located at Navadatoli on the south bank of the river, which has remnants of the earlier civilization. Another one was excavated at Mehtakhedi village, in Narmada Valley, Madhya Pradesh.
An ancient archaeological remains discovered at Narmada Valley
Bharuch is a sacred city located on the mouth of Narmada, and its name is derived from the great Rishi Brigu, the city’s original name being Brigukaccha. Rishi Brigu’s ashram was located on the banks of river Narmada.
As per the Purana, Rishi Brigu is one of the ten sons of Lord Brahma. Many Rishi like Markandeya, Shukracharya, Jamadagni belonged to the lineage of Rishi Brigu. Lord Parasurama was born in the 7th generation this Rishi.
As per the Skanda Purana, 55 tirtha Sthal, are located along the Narmada River. Bharuch is also a Jain tirtha Sthal.
Today, just like other rivers, pollution has affected Narmada. On December 11th, 2016, the Madhya Pradesh government launched the Narmada Seva Yatra to turn the river pollution free. It sought to create awareness about the conservation of the river.
Narmada is one of the major rivers in this country that has shaped the culture and tradition of this civilization, apart from support life for many a millennia. We need to preserve it, so that it continues to sanctify us for many more millennia.
Water And Food
June to September are the months when South and South East Asia get their monsoon rains.
The word “monsoon” comes from the Arabic word, “Mawsin”, meaning weather, which is why we have the word “Mausam” in Hindi for weather. Here, the weather turns to rainy season.
It is the rain that gives us Pushkaram, fertility which is why every temple tank is called as Pushkarni, that land which gives us fertility.
The purpose of this rain, the harnessing of these waters and creating fertility is to make food for humans, for animals, for plants and for the earth as a whole. For food, is the basic platform, annamaya kosha, on which life is built for all living beings. Different beings take to different foods based on availability, biological needs, suitability, taste and other such factors. Producing this food also needs water. Foods cannot be grown without enormous quantity of water. When we think of our needs of water, we think of only our daily ablutions and our drinking water needs.
We normally think of the few litres of water that we drink in a day. Have we ever thought how much water is required to make the fruit that is served in our plate?
We hardly think of the quantum of water that is needed which goes behind food production. Infact over 80% of the water that is used on the surface of this earth is for agriculture and other type of food production. Only about 10% is needed for industry and the balance 10% is for domestic and other uses. Infact domestic usage is a very small quantity.
The average consumption of direct water per person, per day is 3 litres.
To grow the amount of food that an average person consumes for lunch or dinner, 700 litres is required per meal. The chart here gives us the water needed to grow our food.
Here we see that the real consumption of water is in food production, agriculture. We see that for agriculture itself it is so much.
In the case of livestock, meat production, the need of water is manifolds times more because these animals also have to consume water, air, food for all their lives. At, the end of it, they offer only few kilos of meat.
Water needed to produce Food
|1 litre of beer||300 litres of water|
|1 ltrs wine||872 litres of water|
|1 cup of coffee||140 litres of water|
|1 litre of milk||800 litres of water|
|1 kilo of rice||3600 litres of water|
|1 kilo of wheat||1375 litres|
|1 kilo toor dal||1400 litres of water|
|1 kilo of chicken||4325 litres|
|1 kilo Mutton||5520 litres|
|1 kilo Beef meat||13000 litres|
Veg vs Non Veg
Daily average consumption of water by a vegetarian eater is 2500 litres where as for a non vegetarian eater is 8000 litres per day.
This insight into how much water is needed for a vegetarian meal as opposed to a non vegetarian meal clearly highlights to us as to which is more eco friendly.
With the world facing increasing water shortage that has come about due to the unsustainable practices of man rather than reduced rainfall, the only sustainable way of sharing the available limited quantum of water, the prudent option and a scientific one, is to be a vegetarian by choice.
That is the only way we can reduce our ecological footprint and leave the planet more sustainable for generations to come.
Consumerism to Conservation
Ecological footprint is what we use up, consume from our environment around us during our brief stay on this earth. It is the strain that we put forth on the resources of mother earth.
The generation next is talking about ecological footprint as the new buzz word but do their eating habits show their concern for the ecology?
For eating is what we do 3-4 times a day and that is by far the largest foot print that we leave or rather erase from this earth.
If we and our generation next have to survive, then the planet has to survive this phase of consumerism. This can happen only with a mind shift from consumerism to conservation. Conservation of Foodprints, Conservation of Footprints; it is saving water, conserving water, minimal usage of water. Moving from non- vegetarianism to vegetarianism is one of the key ways that we can contribute to this effort, four times a day, every day of our lives.
Taxing Time – The Way forward?
In the last couple of decades we have come to realize that smoking is injurious to health not just to the smoker’s health but as well as to friends colleagues and family around who have been termed as passive smokers. So, to reduce the habit of smoking, governments now levy additional tax on cigarettes and tobacco product to dissuade people from smoking, to make the environment cleaner and healthier.
Consumption of liquor is also a problem the world over. Excess liquor not only damages the liver of a person but also their lives. It affects the family as a whole and causes other collateral damages like road accidents, improper behavior towards woman, being uncouth. Recognizing this, the governments the world over have started levying additional taxes on liquor to put liquor out of reach for many. There are states where there is prohibition on liquor consumption.
Non Vegetarian Food
Through this article and by a series of others by other writers, it is becoming more apparent that consumption of non vegetarian food is making our environment unsustainable. It is evident that non vegetarian food eaters consume more of the ecological resources and leave behind a larger footprint than their vegetarian fellow beings.
Recognizing the extra strain that non vegetarianism is placing on the environment, the next step that the government should do is to impose additional tax on non vegetarian food so that vegetarians don’t have to bear the folly of others.
The additional tax could well be used to rejuvenate the environment and restore it to a sustainable state. Also, it would educate and motivate people to migrate from non vegetarianism to vegetarianism to make this world , our home, a sustainable one in the long run.
Eat Right & Be Merry
After taxing times come celebrations. Celebrations invoke the image of Carnivals.
A Carnival is a festival where all enjoy with merriment. The very word “carnival” conjures up images of rides, pageants, colorful decorations, unending food and flowing liquor.
Let us step back and look at the context in which this word “carnival” came to be. Its origins could be “Carne Vale” or “Carne Levare” which means “the act of abstaining from consumption of meat”. The word “Carne” is the root for words such as “carnal” denoting flesh and “carnivorous” for meat eating animals.
Such a practice does exist in many societies of Europe during the annual Lent period, a period when meat is strictly abstained from.
The Merry Goes Round
From then, to now, Carnival has become a festival where meat consumption is very high. What an interesting turnaround? A 180 degree turn from “Carne Vale”, “abstaining from meat” to becoming “Carnivorous”!
This shift has occurred between the medieval period to present times.
Is it not time now for another 180 degrees shift from the present to the future? From Non Vegetarianism to Vegetarianism?
A shift to celebrating, living without meat, for, life is a celebration – a sustained celebration if we know how to celebrate it responsibly.