Situated at an altitude of 1065 mt. at the meeting point of the Vindhya and the Satpura mountain ranges amongst sylvan surroundings, Amarkantak is a great pilgrim center for the Hindus, and is the source of the rivers Narmada and Sone. While the Narmada flows Westwards from Amarkantak, the Sone flows towards the East. Amarkantak is indeed blessed by Nature.
Holy ponds, lofty hills, forested surroundings, breathtakingly beautiful waterfalls and an ever-pervading air of serenity make Amarkantak a much sought-after destination for the religious-minded as well as for the nature-lover.
Among all the sacred rivers of India, the Narmada occupies a unique place. Legend has it that Lord Shiva blessed Narmada with unique purifying powers. Whereas to purify himself, a devotee requires to take one dip in the Holy Ganga, seven days' prayers on the banks of Yamuna and three days prayers on the banks of Saraswati, the mere sight of Narmada is enough.
Amarkantak is situated in Madhya Pradesh in India at 22.67°N 81.75°E. It has an average elevation of 1048 metres (3438 ft). Roads running through Rewa, Shahdol, Anuppur, Jabalpur, Katni and Pendra connect it. The nearest railway stations are Anuppur and Pendra Road (43 km) via Keonchi and only 28 km via Jwaleshwar. The nearest Airport is Dumna Jabalpur (240 km).
As well as the Narmada, the Son River, initially referred to as Jwalawanti of Johila, the Narmada and the Amadoh, which is a major early tributary of the Godavari, all rise from the Amarkantak plateau.
The beauty of the plateau can well be gauged from the fact that it lies 1000 metres a.m.s.l. in the midst of a moist sal and mixed forest.
A little distance from Gaumukh, the source of the Narmada, is Kapildhara, where the Narmada leaves Anuppur district and enters Dindori sistrict by cascading more than 20 metres down a sheer basalt rock.
Four kilometers from Amarkantak is Kabir Chabutara, the exact junction point of Dindori, Bilaspur and Anuppur districts.
As the source of the Narmada, which is more than 150 million years older than the Ganges and is considered by many Hindus to be the most sacred of all the rivers of India, Amarkantak itself is sacred to the Hindus and is deemed to be a door-way to ‘nirwana’. In these hills dwell some of the most primitive of the Madhya Pradesh tribals, the Hill Korwas and Pandavas.
The flora and fauna
The temperate climate and the equitable distribution of rain make Amarkantak an ideal plateau for dense vegetation cover. Amarkantak is classified as central Indian sub-tropical hill forests with 635 identified species, including 612 angiosperms, 2 gymnosperms and 21 pteridophytes.
The forest is sal-dominated, there are associate species such as Mallotus Philipensis, Buchanania lanzan, Ougeinia oojeinesis, Terminalia chebula, Bauhinia spp, Grewia spp, Gardenia latifolia, Anogeissus latifolia, together with climbers and shrubs such as Bauhinia vahilii, Dioscorea, Smilax, Celastrus painiculata and such ground flora as Desmodium, Moghania, Sida, Crotalaria, Leucas, Pogostemon benglaensis, Strobilantihes, Setaria, Oplismenus etc.
Amarkantak has some extremely valuable medicinal plants, which are now gravely endangered.
Narmadakund and temples, origin of Narmada River
Amarkantak situated on the western edge of ancient Kingdom of Kalinga is a place of worship for all the three worlds.
Gods and Gandharvas (Celestial beings), Asuras (demons), Saints and Sages have all achieved great spiritual powers here. It is believed that who ever dies at Amarkantak is assured of a place in heaven.
Also if a lady makes offerings of fruits and flowers will gain the respect of her husband, and no doubt she will also achieve a place in heaven.
Amarkantak is a Sanskrit word the literal meaning of which is immortal (amar) obstruction (kantak). The place was abode of Gods but was disturbed by the hindrances of Rudraganas and hence called Amarkantak.
The poet Kalidas has mentioned it as Amrakoot. Myth is that the dense forests of this region were full of mango (amra) trees. So Kalidas named it as Amrakoot, which later became Amarkantak.