Friday, June 05, 2009

Marble Rocks of Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh, magnificient

Jabalpur Marble Rocks
Think of beauty immortalized in marble. The first picture that springs to your mind is probably that of the Taj Mahal of Agra. Instead think of a more natural setting where Nature has liberally used marble to create a captivating environ. It is Nature’s creativity unleashed over a river. The Marble Rocks of Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh epitomizes a natural splendor that leaves you breathless and awed by its sheer grandeur. Even the legendary Raj Kapoor was mesmerized by this locale and he used it to ample advantage in one of his acclaimed movies.

We had come to Jabalpur, a city girdled on all sides by low-lying hills, to visit friends. On arrival we were surprised to see the still unmistakable impact that the British had left on the city. The leafy cantonment area, barracks and high roofed imposing residences were all quite reminiscent of the colonial times. After a day of catching up on all the news and refreshing old memories, our hosts suggested that they take us the next evening to visit Jabalpur’s famed Marble Rocks. They disclosed, that the rocks are not like the Makrana marble used in the Taj but a much softer version of the limestone deposits that result in marble from metamorphosis. This little fact did little to dampen our enthusiasm for the celebrated 'Marble Rocks' that rise on the either side of the holy river Narmada.

Our fascinating marble excursion actually began in the late afternoon. We first reached Bhedaghat, which is about 23 km from Jabalpur. The place apparently gets its name from the entire stretch of rocks, which from a distance resembles grazing ‘bhed’ or sheep. Bhedaghat, the town is actually quite small and quiet except for the continuous chiseling sounds made by the artisans carving the local marble and limestone into intricate and beautiful artifacts. Much as we were tempted to buy these, our friends advised us to postpone our purchases till the end of our trip, as these artifacts are quite fragile.

The flowing Narmada River bordering the rocks makes for a very charming sight. Most of the rocks have interesting names based on what they appear to look like. As kids we would look often look at the clouds in the sky and try to delineate shapes. Here too we found the tourist guide pointing to different rocks and spouting names of animals with stories et al. Some of the animal shapes we identified were those that resembled a deer and a cow. The shadows of the rocks are reflected in the waters of the river. There is a local legend that the monkey God of Hanuman actually set foot on one of these rocks on the way to Lanka. It is said that on a moonlit night the rocks dazzle in the celestial illumination. We were hard put to keep up with the prolific description of shapes our guide was telling us about with enthusiasm. All our imagination was put to good use as we tried conjuring up images in the rocks.

We next headed towards the Waterfall portion of the river. The beautiful Narmada River after winding its way through the Marble Rocks, narrows down and rushes forth with some force into a waterfall, several meters in height. Here the river forgets for a while its placid tunes and instead of flowing quietly makes its way forward with unbridled abandon. Dubbed "Dhuandhar", from the smoke-like mist that arises from the plunging waters, these natural waterfalls generate a roar that can be heard from quite a distance. The Dhuandhar Falls, showcasing the power of the cascading Narmada River turned out to be a truly unforgettable sight.

Experiencing the beauty of the marble rocks and the Dhuandhar Falls had left us wanting to see more of this marble marvel. The highlight of our trip therefore for us was the time we spent just boating along the Narmada. Our friends had told us that on weekends and on full moon nights the place was packed with tourists, as the marble appears even more stunning in the moonlight. For us though the scene even in daylight had us riveted. However on the insistence of our friends we decided that the expedition would be deemed incomplete without a moonlight jaunt on the river. As our boat began to glide over the river waters, we discovered that the Narmada River valley is the only place in the world where the river is dammed on both sides by marble rocks.

The sight of the marble cliffs rising on either side of the river was almost ethereal in beauty, with the last rays of sunshine flickering over the white cliffs rendering them with a unique glow. As our boat went forward, moving almost effortlessly due to the pace of the flowing river, we were awestruck. The rocks soared to a height of almost a hundred feet on either side of us. We were all lulled into a very pleasant feeling akin to being on another planet.

Our silence was broken only by our involuntary exclamations of marvel at the splendor of the creamy white marble. Adding to its beauty the cliffs appeared to be underlined in places by green and black volcanic rock. Suddenly to our surprise the river narrowed down. This stretch of the river is popularly known as Bandarkudni, a literal translation of the fact that the river here narrows down to an ex tent that even a monkey can jump easily from one bank to the other.

Having seen the Marble Rocks in all their hues, tints, and moods, we were left wondering why we had not visited this place earlier. Captain J. Forsyth summed up the beauty and tranquility of the marble rock experience of Jabalpur best when he described it in the his Highlands of Central India: - “The eye never wearies of the ....effect produced by the broken and reflected sunlight now glancing from a pinnacle of snow-white marble reared against the deep blue of the sky as from a point of silver, touching here and there with bright lights the pominences of the middle heights and again losing itself in the soft bluish greys of their recesses..."

The boat ride over the beautiful Narmada River, the rays of the golden sun bouncing off the white rocks, and the gushing falls – The marble rocks of Jabalpur are inde ed a geological wonder.

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