East of the main river crossing at Barwaha, the Narmada River dips southwards, sweeps north again to form a wide bend, and then forks around a 2km-long wedge-shaped outcrop of sandstone. Seen from above, the island, cut by several deep ravines, bears an uncanny resemblance to the “Om” symbol. This, coupled with the presence on its sheer south-facing side of a revered shivalingam, has made Omkareshwar, 77km south of Indore, one of central India’s most sacred Hindu sites.

Since ancient times, pilgrims have flocked here for darshan and a holy dip in the river, while the town’s remoteness and loaded religious feel also long made it a favourite with hard-core Western and Israeli dope-heads – though the town’s modernization has made it less attractive to that crowd in recent years. Despite its changes – and the contentious Omkareshwar dam (completed 2007), which led to the displacement of many thousands of people from nearby villages, the place manages to retain an authentic atmosphere among its temples, wayside shrines, bathing places and caves, which are strung together by an old paved pilgrims’ trail.

 

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

India features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Budget trips: 20 of the cheapest places to travel

Budget trips: 20 of the cheapest places to travel

That ever-growing travel wish list might be putting some pressure on your pocket – but there are plenty of destinations where you'll get more bang for your b…

11 Oct 2017 • Emma Gibbs camera_alt Gallery
19 places to get utterly lost

19 places to get utterly lost

One of the great joys of travelling is stumbling across unexpected places, wandering without a single destination in mind and embracing the journey. These place…

12 Sep 2017 • Keith Drew camera_alt Gallery
The most beautiful country in the world – as voted by you

The most beautiful country in the world – as voted by you

There's nothing like an amazing view to inspire you to book your next trip, whether you're drawn by rolling countryside, isolated islands or soaring mountain …

30 Aug 2017 • Rough Guides Editors camera_alt Gallery
View more featureschevron_right

Weekly newsletter

Sign up now for travel inspiration, discounts and competitions

Sign up now and get 20% off any ebook