A temple town on the bank of Narmada River, Maheshwar is situated in Khargone district of Madhya Pradesh.  This peaceful riverside town has long held spiritual significance – it’s mentioned in the Mahabharata and Ramayana under its old name, Mahishmati, and still draws sadhus and yatris(pilgrims) to its ancient ghats and temples on the holy Narmada River.

The towering temples of Maheshwar are well known for their superbly worked doorways and overhanging balconies. Some of the famous temples of Maheshwar are the Kaleshwar temple, Rajaraheshwar temple, Vithaleshwar temple and Ahileshwar temple. Other striking features of Maheshwar are its ghats.

Almost 2 km of the riverfront of Maheshwar has been paved in stone to give rise to a series of ghats. Of a total of the 28 ghats on the riverfront, the most important are Ahilya, Peshwa, Phanse and Mahila. Colourful boats lie moored on the ghats to take the visitors for a cruise on the waters of the Narmada. Most of these boats ply from the spectacular Ahilya Ghat, arguably one of the most scenic ghats in India.

While standing on the Ahilya Ghat, one structure that is bound to intrigue is a tiny little temple straddling an island right in the middle of the Narmada. Baneshwar Shivalaya, accessible only by boat and that too if the currents are just right, is of great cosmological significance. It is believed that this temple is located on the meridian connecting the centre of the earth with the mathematically significant Dhruva, or the pole star.

To the right of Ahilya Ghat is the much busier Mahila Ghat. On Mahila Ghat is the Chhatri of Lakshmi Bai constructed by Ahilyabai. A road leads straight from the city to this ghat. Apart from religious rituals, this ghat is used for everyday activities by the local people.

A little ahead of the Mahila Ghat is the Siddheshwar Ghat, supposed to be the dhyan sthal (place of meditation) of Ahilyabai. A pathway leads from here to the smaller Siddheshwar Temple.

Kashi Vishwanath Temple. The original Kashi Vishwanath Temple at Varanasi, one of the 12 jyotirlingas, was rebuilt by Ahilyabai in 1780. Built on an artificial terrace overlooking the Narmada, the mandapa of the temple houses an exquisitely carved Nandi. This temple is not as busy like its namesake in the holy city of Varanasi.

A short walk on a lovely, stone paved path from the Kashi Vishwanath Temple leads to Rajrajeshwar Shivalaya. This important shrine is said to stand on the site where King Kartyavirya Arjuna was cremated. The temple features ashtadhatu idols of Shiva and Parvati enshrined in its sanctum sanctorum. It also has 11 nandadeeps (holy lamps) which have been kept lit for centuries.

Beyond Kashi Vishwanath lies the Parashuram Ghat. From this ghat, a dirt track leads eastwards for about 2 km to the Jwaleshwar Mahadev Temple. Located on top of a small but steep hill, its white spire can be seen from miles away. At the base of the hill is a small ghat with seven shrines dedicated to the seven mothers (Brahmani, Maheshvari, Kaumari, Vaishnavi, Varahi, Indrani and Chamunda), popularly known as the Sapta Matrika.

Next to the Jwaleshwar Mahadev Temple is the sangam (confluence) of Narmada with the Maheshwar river. Separated by the sangam is another hill on top of which is a temple surrounded by high walls. The Kaleshwar Temple, as it is popularly called, is dedicated to the manifestation of Shiva as the destroyer.



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