Updated: Jul 11
The river island of Mandhata in Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh, is home to the Omkareshwar temple that enshrines one of the twelve Jyotirlingas, the Omkareshwar Jyotirlinga. Read about the story behind the origin of this Jyotirlinga and its name.
Once the divine sage, Mahamuni Narada, worshipped Gokarna Shiva with the utmost devotion. Afterwards he went to meet the respected mountain, Vindhya. Vindhya is the deity who depicts the Vindhyachal mountain range. Vindhya welcomed Narada and worshipped him with respect. However, as they started talking, Vindhya said, “O Mahamuni Narada, I have everything. I lack nothing.” Narada found Vindhya’s attitude proud and became very silent, breathing a deep sigh. Vindhya noticed this and asked, “O Mahamuni, what made you take a deep breath? What do I lack? What deficiency did you find in me?”
Narada replied, “O Noble Vindhya, you have everything. But Meru (the sacred five-peaked mountain) is so high that his peaks touch the heavens. He is thus counted among the gods. You are not that high, and you do not have that kind of status.” Narada went away, leaving Vindhya regretting his lack of eminence. He was very distressed at the thought of not being lofty or special enough. Vindhya decided to pray to Lord Shiva, the supreme power, and started a severe penance. He went to Mandhata Island and constructed a Shivalinga out of mud and started praying to it.
Vindhya prayed to Lord Shiva for six months with great dedication and discipline. Finally, Lord Shiva was appeased and appeared to him in a form that is not seen even by ascetics and yogis. “I am pleased with your penance, O Vindhya. You may ask for what your heart desires. I fulfil the prayers of my true devotees,” Lord Shiva said. Vindhya replied with folded hands, “Oh Lord, you are ever so kind to your devotees. If you are pleased with me, give me a boon that gives me success to all that I do. Give me the intellect that helps me to realize whatever I aim for.
Shiva immediately realized that if he granted him this boon, Vindhya may use it for harming others, because he is not a good-minded being. However, Lord Shiva granted him this boon as promised and said, “Dear Vindhya, whatever you want will happen that way.” By this time, all the gods and sages came to know that Lord Shiva was with Vindhya at Mandhata. They all came to pray to Shiva and pleaded with him to stay there forever. Lord Shiva, who is always kind to his devotees, agreed to their request. He split into two Shivalingas. One form of Shiva, the Pranava or Omkar form, entwined with the mud Shivalinga, and came to be known as the Omkareshwar Shivalinga. The other form is called Sadashiva or Parameshwar, and it is enshrined in the Amareshwar or Mamaleshwar Temple nearby at the bank of the River Narmada. It is believed that the permanent residence of Lord Shiva nearby ensured that Vindhya would not use his powers for any wrong purposes.
Om, also called Pranava, is the most divine and sacred sound in Hinduism. Omkareshwar means “Lord of Omkara or the Lord of the Om sound”, while Mamaleshwar means “Immortal Lord” or “Lord of the immortals or the devatas”.
The small river island, Mandhata or Shivpuri, on which Omkareshwar Temple is built, is believed to have the shape of the Devanagari letter “Om”. Omkareshwar and Mamaleshwar temples are located in the Khandwa district of Madhya Pradesh.
The Omkareshwar Temple is counted with the Mamaleshwar Temple as one manifestation of Shiva, and one of the twelve revered Jyotirlingas.