Legends tell the story of Devi Narmada in the most interesting manner. She is the personification of the river – Narmada situated in the states of Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat. Her alternate name is Rewa and she is considered as one of the daughters of Lord Shiva. She was very beautiful and her body slim. Lord Shiva got her married to the sea god, Varuna. Although, she was desired by many gods and demons due to her pleasing features.
Goddess Narmada was famous for her hiding acts. She used to hide and dodge anyone who was in proximity with her to avoid them. Finally, she surrendered to Lord Shiva and he blessed her to become a holy river and always being full of water.
There are many stories to tell of the birth of the river Narmada. One story suggests that two tears fell from Lord Brahma’s eyes and those became two rivers, Brahmputra and Narmada. It is said that Ganga bathes in the Narmada river in the form of a black cow and is considered an auspicious day. Another famous birth story suggests that Lord Shiva’s deep meditation caused him to perspire. His sweat was accumulated in a tank which later started flowing as Narmada river.
Mythology tells a few more stories of the birth of the Narmada river. Lord Shiva sitting on the peak of Amarkantak Hills (origin place of the River) went into a trance and is believed to have given birth to a female form who came to be known as Narmada. She had been the reason he felt the feeling of tenderness in his heart and hence she was named Narmada originating from the word Namra. Gods tried to capture and she slipped from her fingers by taking the form of river Narmada. She is also known as Shankari, daughter of Lord Shankar.
Kapila Muni, Markandeya Rishi, Bhirgu Rishi are some of the rishis whose ashramas were situated on the banks of the Rewa. Rewa Khanda of Skanda Purana describes multiple stories of the Narmada river. Pandavas during their exile lived on the banks of river Narmada as well.
There are many temples and pilgrimage sites situated at the banks of the river. Narmada Parikrama is one of the very famous pilgrims amongst the Hindu culture in India. Foot journey is considered to be one of the great sources of attaining your spiritual goals. In Parikrama, pilgrims cover a distance of 2600 km on foot. The starting point of the journey is in fact the starting point of the river – Amarkantak (Madhya Pradesh). The journey takes a halt at the Bharuch in Gujarat.
In order to get the benefits of the yatra, the river must always be kept on the right. There are very strict rules and a number of restrictions. One could take up to 4 months to complete this journey. There are several alternatives to foot journey now with public transport or cars. People are motivated to take up this journey for bringing spiritual growth and peace into their lives. River Narmada is considered to be one of the holy rivers and is prayed to even today.