Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.
– Theodor Seuss Geisel
This holds so true in my case. I was born and brought up in a tier two city of Madhya Pradesh called Jabalpur.
To give you a brief introduction to the city, it is probably at the centre of the map of India. As the campaign of Madhya Pradesh Tourism calls it, Hindustan Ka Dil, the heart of India, Jabalpur is probably the centre point of that heart.
A city which is important from every aspect of development in the state, Jabalpur is the third largest city of Madhya Pradesh. It houses the reputed High Court of the state. All major arms and ammunition and military supply factories including the Ordnance Factory, Gun Carriage Factory and Vehicle Factory are situated here.
During the British rule, because of its strategic location and convenience, a cantonment was also set up which enjoys a regal status even today. It is also a major educational hub with two of the most noted medical and engineering colleges of the state situated here.
With an amalgamation of Maratha and Mughal dynasties, the city has developed an immensely liberated cultural status. Culturally, Jabalpur is famously known as Sanskardhaani. Many talented artists and scholarly personalities have been born here like Subhadra Kumari Chauhan, Gulam Mustafa Khan, the actor Premnath and his brother actor Rajendranath, HarishankarParsai, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, classical vocalist Ajay Pohankar, film music director Aadesh Shrivastav and actor Raghuveer Yadav to name a few.
If we go by ancient texts, the city was named after sage Jabali, who meditated near the shores of the holy Narmada river.
That brings me to the most important aspect of the city. The presence of the Narmada in its full beauty! The city is famous for the iconic Dhuaandhar waterfalls, which literally means flow of mist in Hindi. The water falls from a great height leaving a trail of water droplets that look like a misty cloud hence the name. The Dhuaandhaar waterfalls are an agile, delightful form of the holy Narmada.
If you have listened to the interview of Manav Kaul in The Slow Interview, he mentions the time when he would jump into the river to fetch coins dropped by tourists, a very common sight in Dhuaandhaar! While the tourists and spectators hold their breath in awe, the little boys easily jump into the deep river to find the meager coins and feel proud of their stunts.
A little ahead,in Bhedaghat,the same Narmada becomes the epitome of calmness and serenity, as it trails through the high mountains of rare marble on both sides! When you sail down the river in hand rowed boats, yes we still have boatmen with oars, you can hear the sound of silence! This is probably where sage Jabali attained nirvana.
However, there is one more place, which till a while ago, stayed away from the limelight.It is one of the most pious places to visit – Gwarighat! It is a quiet riverbed. The place has a mention in the Garuda Purana and is recommended to mortals for all religious ceremonies. It is believed that if the last ritesof a person are performed in this ghaat, the soul is sure to attain a place in heaven.
Throughout my growing up years, I never valued these treasures of my hometown. Like any average Indian middle-class child, I had stars in my eyes and wanted to achieve a position in the big world of a metro city. Yes, I achieved all I had aimed for, a name in my career, a big house in a metro city like Mumbai and all the material pleasures I had hoped for. Today I am in Malaysia, miles away from not just my home-town but my country too. And today all I wish for is the calmness that my city gave me while growing up.
Last year during my visit to Jabalpur, I came to know about the newly started Narmada aarti and decided to attend it. Narmada aarti, thanks to the initiative taken by the authorities, has now been converted into a tourist attraction. And very rightly so!
Every evening, the ghat steps are washed and cleaned for spectators and devotees to sit on peacefully. Priests get ready with abhishek(consecration) & aarti rituals and the procedure begins sharp at 7pm. What starts with the recitation of a few mantras, moves on to the abhishek of Maa Narmada, followed by beautiful aartis played aloud while huge aarti lamps of ghee and wicks are offered to the bountiful and glorious goddess Narmada.
Right in the center of the river is the temple of Maa Narmada which is lit up to beautify the whole atmosphere.On the other bank is a beautiful and equally pious Gurudwara. Many tourists and photographers prefer going to the other side to watch the aarti from a frontal view. On my agenda for my next trip!
If one must draw analogies, then Gwarighat is to Jabalpur what is Assighaat to Varanasi! The holy sound of mantras fills the air and the holy fire of the aarti naturally cleanses the atmosphere. For half an hour, the divine spot echoes with chants and bells and one can easily feel the spiritual aura augmenting to its greatest height.
One does not have be deeply religious to enjoy the experience, the whole atmosphere is so serene that all one has to do is watch, close one’s eyes and naturally drift into tranquility. Can you imagine I have grown up with this happening in my backyard and never valued it???
Running after new aims is easy, chasing those dreams is tough but it is the toughest to slow down and appreciate what we have! Today when I am miles away and as a mother myself, I want to teach my daughter the importance of slowing down to respect and cherish the blessings we have around us in every circumstance.
This yearning of mine can only be best expressed with a couplet by the famous poet Nida Fazli saab:
“Nayi Nayi Aankho Ko Har Manzar Accha Lagta hai,
Saara Shehar Ghoom Aaye Ab Bas Ghar Accha Lagta Hai!”
Photos Courtesy: Prakash Iyer and Ankita Dubey
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