The historical city of Nemawar in the state of Madhya Pradesh situated on the banks of the holy river of Narmada is a treasure trove of heritage, art, culture and spirituality. Nemawar or Naabhipura as it used to be known was a famous commercial centre during the Mahabharat era. The kings who ruled over this region later changed its name to Naabhaapattam because the ‘naabhi’ or navel of Narmada river is here.
Legend has it that the four Paramarshis namely Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanatkumara and Sanatsujatha installed the Shiva Linga in the ancient Siddhanath temple in Satya Yuga and since then this temple came to be known as Siddhanath. This temple lies in between the sacred Jyotirlingas of Omkareshwar on the upper side and Mahakaleshwar on the lower side.
It has been said by devotees that when water is offered at Siddheshwar Mahadev Shiva Linga, the primordial OM manifests. A very fascinating observance is that in the early hours of the morning, footprints are visible on the sand near the temple and people suffering from leprosy apply this sand on their bodies praying to be relieved of the disease. Locals say that there are great saints and yogis residing in the caves inside the hill and they come everyday to take a dip in the Narmada river. There are several old temples of archaeological interest around this place.
According to the Archaeological Survey of India, the shikara (spire or summit) of this temple is about 3094 years old. Locals say that this temple was built in the Dwapura Yuga by the Kauravas and was actually east-facing. The story goes that one time the Kauravas and Pandavas challenged each other to build a temple in one night. As the Kauravas were greater in number, they successfully finished building this temple while the Pandavas were unable to finish theirs. Poking fun at the Pandavas inability to rise to the challenge, the Kauravas taunted their lack of skill and commitment. Angered by the words of the Kauravas, Bheema using all his strength turned the temple which was east-facing, west-facing. The unfinished temple of the Pandavas lies exactly in that condition even today at Manigiri mountain near the main temple.
What is truly extraordinary about the temple built by the Kauravas are the exquisite carvings, intricately detailed sculptures and exemplary artwork revealing their mastery. Historians and scholars have emphatically stated that such beautiful work has never been found in any temple anywhere in the world. Shiva, Yamaraja, Bhairava, Ganesha, Indrani and Chamunda have been skillfully engraved adding to the magnificence of this temple.
This temple has been mentioned several times in Hindu and Jain scriptures and is considered to be one of the many places to destroy all sins. This temple was renovated in the 10th and 11th century by the Chandelas and Parmara dynasty who have added their own unique touches to this spectacular example of architecture and sculpture. There are lovely elephant figures and decorated pillars with ornate brackets. It is probably the addition of the Parmara dynasty that is more visible as this temple architecture in the bhumija (earth-born) style is similar to Udayeshwara temple at Udaipur. There is a Nandi pavilion that appears to be added much later and has a domical roof suggesting some Mughal influence.
Devotees come in large numbers on the auspicious occasion of Maha Shivaratri, Makara Sankranti, eclipse, Amavasya and others to bathe in the Narmada and have darshan of Lord Shiva. This temple is considered to be one of the most sacrosanct places in the scriptures.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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