Narmada Parikrama is a Hindu pilgrimage where the devotee has to complete a round of the river Narmada, which is a highly revered river by Hindus. Narmada is also known as Reva. This tradition has been ongoing since last thousands of years and there is no tradition of Parikrama around any other river other than Narmada. Parikrama means to go around a thing or a person in a clockwise direction starting from a point and stopping at the same point. Some people do Narmada Parikrama for spiritual reasons while some people do it to accomplish some earthly things like “mannat.” For some people it has become like a business for the donations they get during the Parikrama. The devotees doing the Parikrama are respected and given all possible help by the local people. Local people consider Narmada river as their mother. They call it “Narmada Maiyya” (Mother Narmada). It is one of the toughest Hindu pilgrimages in India. Some people die during this pilgrimage. If you die during the Parikrama, it is believed that you would get salvation.
The Parikrama should be started after the end of Chaturmas and should end before the next Chaturmas. If it does not, you have to stay nearby and wait for the Chaturmas to be over. There are a number of Asramas, Maths, and Dharmashalas on the way where you can stay and get food and water for free.
Narmada River originates at Amarkantak. Therefore, Parikrama should be started at Amarkantak which is in Madhya Pradesh, but now a day, people start the Parikrama from Nemawar, Kharighat, Omkareshwar, Nareshwar, Garudeshwar, or other place. People greet devotees by loudly uttering “Narmade Har.” This journey involves walking about 2624 km along the bank of the river.
Rules for Narmada Parikrama:
1. The devotee needs to take a bottle of Narmada water with him/her.
2. Anybody (ladies or gents) can do Narmada Parikrama. There are no restrictions of gender.
3. You have to take an ID card from where you start the pilgrimage and get it stamped from place to place in the way.
4. The devotee should not sit in anybody’s house, chair, or on a cot.
5. Non-vegetarian food and alcohol consumption is not allowed during the pilgrimage.
6. Celibacy needs to be maintained during the journey. You should not steal anything or quarrel with anybody. It is a spiritual journey and silence needs to be maintained as far as possible.
7. The devotee needs to shave the head and beard before starting the journey.
8. One should not use soaps for washing clothes or bathing in the water of Narmada. You are now allowed to spit, urinate, or any disrespectful act in the Narmada river.
9. A devotee should walk along the banks of the Narmada and should not cross it. Even a small channel should not be crossed.
10. A devotee should worship Narmada before and after the journey.
There are a number of other rules, which you would come to know once you reach there or you may ask any experienced person who has done the Parikrama.
It is the experience of millions of devotees that if you do the Parikrama loyally, Mother Narmada would always help you in any difficult condition. Just call her name and she will help you in some form.
It is also believed that you would meet Ashwatthama (An immortal person with a wound on his forehead who asks for oil) during this journey. It is completely a matter of personal experience. If you want to experience it, do Narmada Parikrama at least once in a life.