Country: India State: Madhya Pradesh District: Shahdol
In central India lies the state of Madhya Pradesh. Amarkantak is in the eastern district of Shahdol, Tehsil: Pushparajgarh, and located at 212.67* N and 81.75* E. It has an average elevation of 1048 meters (3438 feet).
Madhya Pradesh is also called the heart of India because it has borders with five other states - Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, and Uttar Pradesh. It is also enriched with the cultural heritage of Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism and Jainism, with temples, stupas, palaces and forts. The state also boasts of mountain ranges, rivers, plateaus, forests and wildlife. Bhopal the state capital is 530 km from Amarkantak. Amarkantak borders the state of Chhattisgarh, with Bilaspur as the most convenient railhead.
Best October to March
Spring mid-March to April
Summer May and June
Monsoon July to September
Autumn October and November
July to September Heavy rainfall
October to mid- December Warm to cool
Mid-December to January Cold with little winter rain
February Freezing Cold and Dry
March to April Warm
May and June Hot
Amarkantak Brief Background
With a population of 7074 (2001 Census), Amarkantak lies 1048 meters or 3438 feet above the Mean Sea Level, in the middle of a moist Sal and mixed forest. Beautiful meadows, streams, and waterfalls add to the scenic beauty of this hamlet and the surrounding areas, prompting the great poet Kalidasa to romantically paint Amarkantak hills in his epic poem Meghadutam.
Amarkantak is a Sanskrit word, where the literary meaning of Amar is immortal, and kantak is hindrance. Also called Teerthraj or king of pilgrimages, the surrounding areas of this pilgrim town Amarkantak is a traditional religious site located within a unique biosphere reserve. Situated in the south-eastern part of Maikal mountain range, it is the meeting point of Vindhyas and Satpura ranges, and originating point of River Narmada and Sone.
River Narmada, said to be 150 million years older than River Ganges, is considered by many Hindus to be the most sacred of all Indian Rivers. Religious believe that as Narmada was blessed by Lord Shiva with purifying powers, the mere sight of the river is enough to purify oneself.
In this connection, the great yogi Lokenath Bramhachari is believed to have narrated his own experience. During one of his Narmada parikrama, he noticed that every day before sundown, a cow takes bath at the river, during which her color changes from black to white. Out of curiosity, the great yogi meditated to find that the cow was none other than Mother Ganga. She comes for a dip to cleanse her own self from human sins.
Holiest of the holy, sadhus, sages, and the devout, all undertake 'parikrama', a mode of pilgrimage along both banks of the entire Narmada River. This traditional start, and end, takes place every year in around October - November full moon day or Guru Purnima. If the rules are strictly adhered to, this 2500 km pradakshina takes upward of 3 years to complete. (Nowadays however, a parikrama is popularly undertaken by car in 3 weeks, and absence of austerity turns it into a boastful sightseeing trip.)
The Myth is that Vindyachal region was part of the Kingdom of Ayodhya, and had ashrams of famous saints like According to Hindu mythology, Narmada was born of Lord Shiva's sweat when he performed his cosmic dance, and emerged from the Lord's throat. Highly revered as a Goddess and one of India's seven sacred rivers, Narmada flows westward for 1,247 kms to empty herself in the Arabian Sea at Bhrigu Kutch, geographically known as the Gulf of Khambhat, off the Gujarat coast near Bharuch. The religious believe that TTthKapil Muni, Rishi Markendeya, Rishi Patanjali and Bhrigu Rishi.
In recent history, the Chhedi rulers were succeeded in the 10th and 11th centuries by Kalchuri dynasty, the Baghel rulers, and from 1808 AD came under the Bhosales of Nagpur.
The eco-system of Amarkantak is truly unique, as they are very similar to that of isolated valleys. In Amarkantak, if a particular plant becomes extinct, the genus itself dies because it fails to live through any of its variant species. Therefore, every genus in Amarkantak is of great botanical interest, and makes the region important as a natural heritage site.
Amarkantak is also home to a variety of medicinal plants, some of which are now endangered. Two of the most well-known are Gulabkawli, and Kali Haldi. Gulabkawli extract cures eye ailments, and Kali Haldi is used as an anti-inflammatory drug to treat sprains and bruises.
In the dense forests of Sal, Mahua, and Tendu dwell some of the most primitive tribals like the Hill Korwas and Pandavas. Baigas and Gondhs inhabit the region in large numbers. Tigers, leopards, bears, snakes, bison, deer and a variety of animal and bird life abound in the forests surrounding Amarkantak.
The natural setting of Amarkantak attracts all, be it the pilgrim, the nature lover, the adventure seeker, and those in search of spirituality.
Recommended stay is for 3 days and above.
Amarkantak How to Go By Air
In Madhya Pradesh, Jabalpur is the nearest Airport, 228 kms away. Raipur, in Chhattisgarh is the nearest airport at a distance of 230 kms.
Intending tourists wishing to reach Amarkantak on the same day must arrive at the airport latest by noon, and proceed directly for Amarkantak on a pre-arranged rented cab.
Amarkantak How to Go By Road
Amarkantak is well connected by road from both Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. The most convenient road head is Bilaspur in Chhattisgarh. The road is extremely picturesque, and for the most part runs through Achanakmar Sanctuary.
Some of the important road routes with distances are given below:
Railway - Road Connections
Amarkantak How to Go By Bus
Amarkantak is well connected by bus with different places. But the services are not very frequent. The central bus stand is also quite far from Amarkantak temple. Autos and Sumo type vehicles may be required for transportation. There are direct buses to and from Rewa, Allahabad, Mandla, Katni, Jabalpur, Seoni, Raipur, Bilaspur, Shahdol and Chitrakoot.
The most convenient railhead is Pendra Road railway station. From here, Amarkantak is a 2 hour road journey. Many cars and buses frequently ply on this route.
The most convenient road head and railhead is Bilaspur. Taxis and buses are available in plenty for Amarkantak.
For car Hire to Amarkantak or sightseeing, it is best to contact Manager, Holiday Homes, Madhya Pradesh State Tourism Development Corporation Ltd., Amarkantak. Phone: (07629) 269416.
(OR) Manager, Chhattisgarh Tourism, Railway Station, Bilaspur: Phone (7752) 657050, Mobile 09300208677, E-mail:
Luxury buses are also available from Jabalpur at 0500, 0600, 0800, and 1430 hours. Luxury night buses on Bilaspur - Allahabad route, and Raipur - Allahabad route also stop at Amarkantak.
Amarkantak How to Go By Train
The most convenient railhead for major trains is Bilaspur in Chhattisgarh state. It is also best connected with Amarkantak by both roadways and railways.
Bilaspur Railway Station has excellent Restaurants and Cafeterias. It is best to have food at the station before proceeding for Amarkantak.
The next most convenient railhead, mainly connected by passenger trains, is Pendra Road (45 kms). Anuppur is another railhead (132 kms).
Train route: Kolkata - Bilaspur - Mumbai (via Nagpur) Arr: Bilaspur
2810 Howrah - Mumbai Mail from Howrah 0710 hrs
2809 Mumbai - Howrah Mail from Mumbai 1740 hrs
2102 Jnaneswari Express from Howrah 0920 hrs
2101 Jnaneswari Express from L Tilak (Mumbai) 1610 hrs
8030 Shalimar - Lokmanya Tilak Exp from Shalimar (Kolkata) 0420 hrs
8029 Lokmanya Tilak - Shalimar Exp from L Tilak (Mumbai) 2205 hrs
2152 Howrah - L Tilak Samarsata Exp from Howrah 1055 hrs
2151 L Tilak - Howrah Samarsata Exp from L Tilak (Mumbai) 1610 hrs
Train route: New Delhi - Bilaspur
2442 Delhi - Bilaspur Rajdhani Exp. - New Delhi 2040, Bhopal 0440, Nagpur 1015, Bilaspur 1650 hrs.
2441 Bilaspur - New Delhi Rajdhani Exp. - Bilaspur 0830, Nagpur 1450, Bhopal 2130, New Delhi 0605 hrs.
Train route: Chennai - Bilaspur
2852 Chennai - Bilaspur Exp. - Chennai 2110, Vijaywada 0400, Warangal 0643, Bilaspur 2005 hrs.
2851 Bilaspur - Chennai Exp. - Bilaspur 0845, Warangal 2133, Vijaywada 0125, Chennai 0855 hrs.
Train route: Indore - Bilaspur
8233 Indore Bilaspur Narmada Exp. - Indore 1700, Bhopal 2325, Jabalpur 0625, Anuppur 1300, Bilaspur 1800 hrs.
8234 Bilaspur Indore Narmada Exp. - Bilaspur 0940, Anuppur 1340, Jabalpur 2050, Bhopal 0425, Indore 1035 hrs.
Train route: Bilaspur - Pendra Road
8234 Narmada Exp / Passenger - Departure: Bilaspur at 0940 hrs to reach Pendra Road at 1200 hrs. Returns from Pendra Road at 1420 hrs to reach Bilaspur 1800 hrs.
The 8477 Utkal Kalinga Express leaves Bilaspur at 1540, and reaches Pendra Road at 1725, and Anuppur at 1840 hrs. It returns via Anuppur at 0715, Pendra Road at 0855, and Bilaspur at 1100 hrs.
2823 CG Sampark Kranti Express leaves Bilaspur at 1420, to arrive Pendra Road at 1552. It returns via Pendra Road at 1050, to reach Bilaspur at 1245 hrs.
City Train nos
Ahmedabad 2834, 2906
Varanasi 5159, 8201
Amarkantak Visiting Season
Amarkantak, having a temperate climate, can be visited around the year. However, for pilgrims, the nature lover, and the adventure seeker, the best season to visit is from October to March. April, May and June are hot but strong winds make early mornings and evenings pleasant. During the real monsoon months of July, August and September, there is equitable distribution of heavy rainfall in the sub-tropical hill forests of Amarkantak region.
As Amarkantak is primarily a traditional centre for pilgrimage, all major Hindu religious festivals are observed here. Amarkantak is revered as Lord Shiva's abode, a place which saw a manifestation of His fire-within.
Narmada Jayanti or the birthday of Narmada is celebrated in January around Makar Sankranti. Shiva Chaturdashi in the Indian month of Falgun, or February/March. A big fair is held at Amarkantak, and sadhus from all parts of India assemble to take part in religious festivities, and bless the devout. The other special holy day is Nag Panchami, which generally falls during Bhadra-Ashvina, or August - September. During this period too, a big mela is held. On Kartiki Purnima in October - November, groups of sadhus start their - 'parikrama' - the pilgrimage on foot, around River Narmada.
Amarkantak Where to Stay
Pin Code: 484886 STD Code: 07629
Holiday Homes, Madhya Pradesh State Tourism Development Corporation Ltd. Amarkantak. Phone: (07629) 269416. E-mail:
(Just before temple, take left turn, and after 100 yards located on hill top)
TARIFF effective from 01November 2009
Air Conditioned 6 rooms at Rs. 990 + taxes.
Air Cooled 4 rooms at Rs. 690 + taxes.
Family Rooms 2 rooms at Rs. 790 + taxes.
AC Tents 10 nos. at Rs. 990 + taxes
Tourist Bungalow : Phone (07629) 269446
Tourist Cottage of Special Area Development Authority (SADA), 1.5 km from temple.
Sarvodaya Vishram Griha : Phone (07629) 269519
Ashrams and Dharamshalas
Ahalyabai Dharamshala, among the oldest dharamshalas
Markandeya Ashram, a legendary place - 1 km from temple
Ramakrishna Mandir of Ramakrishna Mission, Belur Math - 2 km
Many such accommodations are available, mostly against charges in the form of donation.
Amarkantak Where to Eat
Non-vegetarian food and liquor is banned in Amarkantak. Only vegetarian food is available.
Holiday Homes of Madhya Pradesh Tourism has a restaurant cum dining hall serving Indian, Continental and Chinese vegetarian food. In comparison to other food joints in Amarkantak, the prices here are quite expensive. Many of the ashrams and dharamshalas serve simple but good food at reasonable prices, normally against prior orders.
There are a few big roadside eateries opposite to the taxi stand near the temple, like Mahavir Bhojanalaya, Bajrangbali Bhojanalaya, Srimata Sadan, etc. with very ordinary standards of cooking. Also, never forget to ask prices and detail of items, before placement of orders.
Maharaja Hotel at Mandir Road is a most un-assuming eatery, but among the best in Amarkantak. A small simple dhaba type food joint, it is extremely clean and serve freshly prepared food at cheap prices. Their cooking is homely and very good, and their behavior is extremely cordial.
Amarkantak What to Eat
Only vegetarian food is available at Amarkantak. Generally the preparations follow North Indian style. South Indian food like dosas, idli, etc is also available.
Fruits are available in plenty. There are a couple of stalls selling fruit juice.
Amarkantak is one of the rare places where tribals from the surrounding forests come with their produce to sell. Most of the vegetables on offer are grown at their back-yard, without using any chemical fertilizers. These fresh vegetables, when cooked at your place of stay, or in any eatery lining Mandir Road, give un-comparable taste.
Milk and milk products like paneer, ghee, etc are also very good.
ALCOHOL: Amarkantak is a dry area. Therefore, alcohol is not available.
Amarkantak What to Do
Visit the various temple complexes, the historical ashrams, the waterfalls, the forested surroundings and the source of rivers. Cherish the all pervading serenity and the sublime atmosphere of Amarkantak. Amarkantak region is famous for medicinal plants, and it is said that the air at Amarkantak has medicinal properties which cleanse our respiratory tract. So, if you have nothing to do at Amarkantak, simply relax and feel good.
Amarkantak Places to Visit
NARMADA UDGAM Best: Early Mornings and Evenings
According to recent history, the source of Narmada River was re-discovered by the Maratha King Second Peshwa Bajirao the First. It was in the form of a kund or pool of water, and hidden among bamboo groves in the Maikal Hills.
The walled Narmada temple complex of around 6 acres has 16 major stone temples, and 23 statues of deities. The main entrance to this large enclosed area was built by the King of Rewa in 1939.
In the central position is an eleven corner Kund of about 500 running feet in length. This is the holy Kund from where the river emerges, and takes the name of Narmada. Markandeya Puran calls the river - Reba. As it flows from the Maikal Mountains, she is also known as the daughter of Maikal or 'Maikalsuta'. The eleven cornered Holy Kund or Udgam is known as 'Bisha Yantram'.
On its west is a narrow channel known as 'Gaumukh', for the Kund water to flow into a smaller Kund revered as the 'Kotiteertha'. Beside 'Kotiteertha' are two more Kunds called 'Gayatri' and 'Savitri' formed by two streams - Savitri, flowing from the north-east of Narmada Udgam, and Gayatri, running along the north-western side. This is called the 'Trikuti Yantram'.
From Kotiteertha, Narmada flows under the ground, and across the Narmada Udgam Complex for about 30 meters, to resurface and flow westwards to the Arabian Sea. The place where the river re-surfaces has been converted into a bathing kund for the devotees.
On the northern side of the eleven corner Narmada Udgam is built two temples with their Garba Grihas facing each other across a small corridor. Shiva and Parvati are on the right, adoring their daughter Goddess Narmada on the left.
The aarti of Lord Shiva and Goddess Narmada is simultaneously done by two priests and are unique of Amarkantak.
MAI KI BAGIYA
It literary means Mother's Garden. Around 5 kms from Narmada Udgam and within the forested surroundings is a natural garden, dedicated to Narmada as Mai Ki Bagiya. The medicinal plant Gulabkawli thrives here. This plant also releases a lingering sweet smell.
According to a legend, failed love made Narmada go west as Sone flowed north-east - for 800 kms to meet with River Ganges near Patna. The river was named Sone because tiny granules of gold are found in its waters.
The source of river Sone is called Sonemura, and lies in the eastern edge of Amarkantak hill top. The source, a small pond, has now been converted into a Kund of about 2 square meters area, and a meter deep. A thin source of water emerges from the Kund and flows through a small opening into a nullah.
For 300 meters, it gathers strength from other streams, before plunging sharply down the cliff-like hillside into a wooded valley far below. From a platform atop the cliff, the waterfall with the wooded valley down below and the horizon at a distance, presents spectacular views. If not disturbed, the monkeys at Sonemura do not disturb visitors.
KARNA MANDIR COMPLEX
South of the Narmada Udgam Complex and situated on the rise of a hill are ancient stone temples built by the Kalchuri rulers in late 1200 A.D. The biggest and the oldest temple of Amarkantak is on the top of the hill. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the 'Trimukhi' is popularly known as 'Karna Mandir', after Chhedi King Karnadeb Mahachandra, who built it.
A little distance below, and towards Narmada Udgam are the other four temples, much smaller in size. The Shiva Lingam at Pataleswar Mahadeb rests in a hollow of about 8 feet deep. It is believed to be connected with Narmada Kund by an unknown channel, as the hollow overflows with the Kund water on certain days.
The other temples are Rang Mahal, Keshava Narayan with a deity of Lord Vishnu, and Mathchendranath - the guru of Mahayogi Gorakhnath.
Archeological Survey of India has taken up temple restoration work from 2007. Unfortunately, there are no boards displaying the name and history of these historical temples. The people of Amarkantak are aware of the Karna Mandir and Pataleswar Mahadeb, but are mostly ignorant about the other three.
Named after the sage Kapil Muni who had his ashram here, this is the first waterfall of River Narmada. For a distance of 7 kms from Narmada Udgam, the road runs west through a breathtakingly beautiful forested countryside. The lean Narmada River, joined by two streams named Erandi and Kapila gathers strength to hurtle down 100 feet as a roaring waterfall.
On the opposite bank of the river, adjacent to the waterfalls, is an ashram where Kapileswar Shiva and a footprint of Kapil Muni are worshipped.
The second waterfall of River Narmada, Dudh Dhara derives its name from the milky white appearance of its foaming water.
After Kapil Dhara, a narrow pathway weaves down through difficult terrain amid dense forests for 1 km before ending at a mountain spring. A further 200 feet over slippery boulders of the spring is the 20 feet high waterfall Dudh Dhara. Bathing is possible at the bottom of the falls. There is a cave where the sage Rishi Durbasha is believed to have meditated. Beside this cave is the mouth of a dark and muddy tunnel, length unknown, and home to a variety of snakes and lizards.
One type of Shiva Lingam, known as 'Bana Lingam' is naturally formed in these waters.
Advisory: It is recommended to take advice of the local hermits at Kapil Dhara before proceeding for Dudh Dhara. Only those fit and courageous should proceed beyond Kapil Dhara. Even the adventure seekers should avoid June to October, as the trail becomes very slippery. Movement during darkness should be strictly avoided because the surrounding forests are full of wild animals.
Interestingly, locals say that there are no known animal or snake attacks on pilgrims even when they face the animals. They, the devout and the pilgrims believe this miracle to be possible because of the grace of Mother Narmada, as also for the blessings of the hermits and sages who follow this path for their parikrama.
A kilometer from Narmada Udgam, Markandeya Muni was blessed by Lord Shiva and was directed to chant Reba, another name of Narmada, as also to propagate the holiness of Amarkantak. The devout therefore believe that the pilgrimage to Amarkantak remains incomplete without a visit to this ashram.
When Lord Shiva destroyed the demon Tripurasur along with their abode Tripur, one of the three parts fell near Narmada Udgam, and turned into a seat of Lord Shiva. This black Shiva Lingam is worshipped as Jwaleswar Mahadev.
The temple of Jwaleswar Mahadev lies on the north-east of Narmada Temple. Ten kms from Amarkantak off Shadol Road, a 1 km steep down-hill lane ends at the temple gate. Pilgrims bring water from Narmada Udgam to bathe the Shiva Lingam inside the small white temple.
The 8 km way to Bhrigu Kamandal skirts Karna Mandir and a few distant villages, across a jungle of elephant type grass before ending at the edge of a level field, and dense forest starts. The semblance of a pathway weaves up and down the forest before reaching Dhuni Pani, formed by a hot spring believed to be the great sage Bhrigu - s fire urn.
Half a kilometer deeper into the forest, a small climb takes one to a cluster of giant boulders on a cliff side. One giant boulder with a 6 inch diameter circular opening at the bottom, has an unknown source of water probably from an underground spring, which at times overflow through the opening, while at other times can be felt by putting a hand inside. The rock formation looks like a Kamandal or water pitcher, and is believed to have belonged to Maha Rishi Bhrigu. Many believe that the water inside Bhrigu Kamandal seeps through the mountainous terrain to re-emerge at Narmada Udgam as River Narmada.
Advisory: Only those fit and courageous should proceed to Bhrigu Kamandal. Even the adventure seekers should avoid June to October, as the trail becomes difficult. Movement during darkness should be strictly avoided because the surrounding forests are full of wild animals. Forget about tourist car drivers from other places, not even many from Amarkantak know the correct road for Bhrigu Kamandal. A local village guide is an absolute must inside the forest for correct jungle trail and for safety.
5 kms from Amarkantak on way to Bilaspur, Kabir Chabutara is a sacred place. The great saint Kabir achieved salvation here. Footwear of the saint are kept at a small temple. A beautiful serene place, the chabutara is a small shallow pond. Every day between 9am - 10am, a white smoke screen spreads in the water, an unbelievable scene. The faithful says it is milk. The legend goes that River Narmada washed the feet of saint Kabir with her waters, and the waters turned into milk. I have personally sighted this phenomenon. A must see destination.
Amarkantak Local Transport
There is no local government transport at Amarkantak. Private vehicles are used for tourist trade, and are frightfully expensive when used for local movement. A few autos are also available, but they move according to their own whims and charges. The best way to see Amarkantak and cover short distances within the town periphery is by walking.
Amarkantak Shops and Markets
There are a few shops on Mandir Road and the small bazaar near temple, mostly selling groceries. Big and small shops mainly dealing with religious items are to be found near the temple entrance. The tribal people with their back-yard vegetables make the weekly bazaar an interesting place for city folks.
Amarkantak Things to Buy
Religious photographs and items are available in great variety. Madhya Pradesh Government has their Horticulture Garden, and Medicinal Plants Garden, 2 kms from the temple on road to Dudh Dhara. There is a sales counter for herbal medicines and beauty care products. Plant saplings can also be bought from the Horticulture Garden.
There are numerous phone booths with STD and ISD facilities including arrangements in most hotels. Most mobile connections are operative.
Amarkantak Practical Information
There is a lack of proper medical care and medicines
Mosquito Repellent creams and coils are a must for tourists.
Torches or Emergency Lamps are a must because of failure in supplying uninterrupted electricity, and also for movement after dark. Also carry a candle and a match box for your room.
During summer, drink salt and lime drinks to keep fit.
Tourists should try visit Amarkantak during off-season.
The people of Amarkantak are fiercely proud, god-fearing, gentle and comparatively honest. But there are unfortunate exceptions among those involved in the tourist trade. So be clear in all dealings.
Like all other tourist and pilgrim places, beware of touts.
Hard bargaining may save a lot of money, especially on off-seasons.
Amarkantak nearby Places to Visit
Situated in the foothills of the Maikal mountains, Achanakmar was notified as a sanctuary in 1975 with a total area of 551.55 sq. km, with average elevation of 362m - 720mm, and temperature varying between 4*C - 43*C.
The mountainous park has mixed sal and bamboo forests with Manyari River forming the lifeline. The fauna consists of Tiger, Leopard, Cheetal, Gaur, Wild Boar, Fox, Jackal, Mouse Deer, Snakes, etc. The road from Bilaspur to Amarkantak runs through the sanctuary.
For Stay at Forest Bungalows: Call Div. Forest Officer Bilaspur: 07752-226082 or Superintendent, Achanakmar Wildlife Sanctuary, Kota-Kangri Rd, Dist Bilaspur. Phone: 07752-226082.
Forest Bungalow at Achanakmar - 57 kms from Bilaspur and 63 kms from Amarkantak.
Forest Bungalow at Chhaparwah - 67 kms from Bilaspur and 53 kms from Amarkantak.
Forest Bungalow at Lamni - 94 kms from Bilaspur and 26 kms from Amarkantak.
The bungalows are of pre-independence period and beautiful located, but suffer from poor maintenance, non-helpful chowkidars and non-cooperative forest staffs. You must have your own transport - full time. There is no electricity, no food, and at times no water. Only at Chhaparwah, a few shacks on the highway operate as eateries. Prepare for difficult living. Purchase cooking materials, candles and torches, from Bilaspur or Amarkantak, and do your own cooking. Chhattisgarh Forest Department is however renovating the accommodations for a better stay. New Bungalows have also been constructed. But all difficulties considered, staying at the Forest Rest Houses of Lamni built in 1916, and Achanakmar of 1912, are an experience of a lifetime.
The Dutta Gupta family is proud to be a part of the rich and diverse heritage of India