12/5/2007, 12/10/2007 to 12/11/2007 | India , Madhya Pradesh

Ujjain, Maheshwar, Omkaheshwar: Holy Rivers, Holy Cities

While Varanasi may be the most famous and holiest of India’s riverside cities, there are a number of venerated places along India’s extensive network of rivers.  I made my way to three of these revered cities in Madhya Pradesh, stopping first at Ujjian, and then Maheshwar, and Omkaheshwar.  In the absence of any festivals there are only was trickle of pilgrims who visit these cites on any given day, nevertheless in each city I managed to find something to keep my interest for a day.  In Ujain there was the elephant riding swami, amidst a dancing procession, tossing bananas to the crowd of onlookers as he road through the streets of Ujjain.  Later I came across some sort of ceremony at the ghats (steps leading down to the river) where people were being wearing so many garlands there necks were completely obscured by the flowers.  I was given a garland as well, I guess so I didn’t feel left out.  Meheshwar is a smaller town than the larger city of Ujain.  Its ghats are beautifully set beneath a dominating fort with temples peaking out over the walls, making for one of the prettiest backdrops of the three holy sites.  It was here where I was also invited to join a friendly family from the nearby city of Indore for a sunset picnic by the ghats.  My final visit, before heading to Delhi and a rendezvous with my sister and brother-in-law, was Omkaheshwar, a river island which is revered for its similarity in shape to the most sacred of Hindu symbols, the Om.  In addition to the bathing ghats there are a number of old ruined temples on the island as well a more than a few hash smoking sadhus which made for an interesting enough walk.

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