History & Mythology of Omkareshwar

Mythologically speaking, the river Narmada already bestows Omkareshwar with more spiritual street cred than many other ‘holy’ towns across the country. On top of this, the island on which Omkareshwar is located resembles the symbol for ‘Om’.

As a manifestation of the mystic syllable, believed to precede the creation of the universe, Omkareshwar represents the holiest of kshetras (sacred space). It is all the more holy as Shiva is believed to have been manifested here as one of the 12 jyotirlingas, or transcendent lingas of light.

The evidence of human settlement in the region dates as far back 7500 BCE. Much later, when the Hindu holy texts called the Puranas were being compiled, note was made of a city that was Mahishmati.

Although some historians believe that Mahishmati was indeed Maheshwar, there is some evidence that points Omkareshwar`s way as well. Inscriptions reveal that it was the Paramara Rajputs who controlled the region from the 10th to the 13th centuries.

The Paramara kings Jayasimhadeva and Jayavarman built several temples in and around Omkareshwar, some of which are still extant.

After the decline of the Paramara Empire, the region eventually passed on to the Mughals. Gradually, cracks started to appear in the Mughal state machinery with the death of Emperor Aurangzeb in 1707.

The political vaccum following his death resulted in the expansion of Maratha power across central India, including Omkareshwar, and the holy city eventually entered its golden age under the Holkar Queen Ahilya Bai.

Legends Of Omkareshwar Jyotirlinga Temple

  • Hindu mythology mentions a violent war that had broken out between the Devas and their evil counterparts, the Asuras. The Asuras had unfortunately defeated them and the powers of the Devas were weakening considerably.
  • The Devas were quite helpless. Seeing no other option of defeating the Asuras, the Devas offered prayers to Lord Shiva. Pleased with their prayers, Lord Shiva in the form of Omkareshwar manifested on earth and defeated the Asuras.
  • Another legend is the story of the Vindhya mountain, who was once provoked by sage Narada, who teased it that Mount Meru was more important. Vindhya was determined to prove Narada wrong and started observing strict penance with the aim of pleasing Lord Shiva.
  • Lord Shiva was greatly pleased by the devotion of Vindhya and granted him his wish of being greater than Meru. The lingam that was worshipped by Vindhya was split into two on the request of the Gods and sages.
  • One of the lingams is known as Omkareshwar which is located in the Omkareshwar temple on the Shivpuri hills. The other Lingam known as the Mamaleshwar is situated at the opposite bank of the Narmada river.
  • King Mandhata of Ishvaku clan worshipped Lord Shiva here, and the Lord gave him a darshan when he was pleased by his penance. Mandhata’s sons Ambarish and Mucchkund were also great devotees of Lord Shiva and used to perform ritualistic worship of Lord Shiva here. King Mandhata was also the ancestor of Lord Rama.