Sahastradhara, one of the most mesmerizing tirthasthalas of Maheshwar is best accessed by boat from the heart of the ancient city. 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 to form myriad water cascades of unimaginable splendour.
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 volcanic rocks is a visual spectacle.
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