One of the most revered places in Mandla is Sahastradhara, located at a little distance from the heart of the town. Sahastradhara derives its name from the Sanskrit words sahastra which means thousand and dhārā which means streams or watercourses.
According to the Puranas, Ravana, Lord of Lanka chanced upon the serene waters of the Rewa River while travelling in his Pushpaka Vimana. Ravana was drawn to the enchanting beauty and sanctity of this place and decided to offer prayers to Lord Shiva. Unbeknown to Ravana, Raja Kartavirya Arjuna or Sahastrabahu Arjuna (the thousand-armed one) was engaged in jalakrīḍā (sporting or gamboling in water) with his wives nearby.
Suddenly, much to the astonishment of Ravana, the Narmada River ceased to flow and the bed became dry. Ravana despatched his soldiers to find the cause for this. The soldiers found Raja Kartavirya Arjuna had stopped the flow of the Narmada River with his thousand arms to the delight of his wives. The soldiers reported this astounding incident to Ravana who could scarcely believe his ears.
Ravana rushed to where Raja Kartavirya Arjuna was frolicking with his wives and challenged him to a duel. A fierce battle ensued which resulted in Raja Kartavirya Arjuna making Ravana his prisoner. On hearing the plight of his mighty grandson, Pulastya Maharshi requested Raja Kartavirya Arjuna to release Ravana who had been humbled by the strength of this great warrior. Raja Kartavirya Arjuna consented to the request of Pulastya Maharshi and bid them farewell with love and respect.
It is in this place that Sahastrabahu Arjuna stopped the flow of the Rewa River causing it to flow in thousand streams. The Narmada River splits into thousand watercourses and flows into a massive pool which has a huge round rock at the entrance.
Legend has it that Lord Shiva seated himself in this place to drink the holy water of the Narmada. Two ancient Shiva Temples have been built between the thousand streams of the Narmada River by the Gonds.
The Sahastra Arjuna Bhagawan Temple also known locally as Prachin Shiva Mandir is situated in the middle of the Narmada River. A bridge has been constructed to help devotees have darshan of this sacrosanct temple. However, the bridge and temple become inaccessible when the Narmada River is in spate.
The Panchamatha Temple is located at a little distance from the streams of the Narmada River and has five shikharas that are suggestive of the Indo-Islamic style of architecture. The Uttarmukhi Shiva Temple can be seen from the point where the thousand streams enter the deep kund. The eleven Rudras are consecrated in different postures in this temple.
It is best to visit Sahastradhara right after the rainy season as the Narmada River will be full. The white waters of the Rewa gushing forth through thousands of deep narrow channels in the rocks made of magnesium, limestone and basalt is a visual spectacle.
Mandla is a part of the Narmada Parikrama and thousands of devotees come to Sahastradhara and the ghats nearby to meditate and offer prayers to the holiest river on earth.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
* Photos are only symbolic (Taken from public domain/internet and any copyright infringement is unintentional and regrettable)