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The Narmada (Devanagari: नर्मदा, Gujarati: નર્મદા) is a river in central India and the fifth largest river in the Indian subcontinent. It is one of only three major rivers in peninsular India that runs from east to west (largest west flowing river) along with the Tapti River and the Mahi River. It is the only river in India that flows in a rift valley flowing west between the Satpura and Vindhya ranges although the Tapti River and Mahi River also flow through rift valleys but between different ranges. It flows through the states of Madhya Pradesh (1,077 km (669.2 mi)), Maharashtra, (74 km (46.0 mi))-- (35 km (21.7 mi)) border between Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra and (39 km (24.2 mi) border between Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat and in Gujarat (161 km (100.0 mi))..
The Periplus Maris Erythraei (c. 80 CE) calls it the Nammadus .Narmadā is a Sanskrit word meaning "the Giver of Pleasure".
The source of the Narmada is a small tank called Narmada Kund located on the Amarkantak hill (1,057 m (3,467.8 ft)), in the Anuppur District of eastern Madhya Pradesh. The river descends from the Amarkantak hill range at the Kapildhara falls over a cliff and meanders in the hills flowing through a tortuous course crossing the rocks and islands up to the ruined palace of Ramnagar. Between Ramnagar and Mandla, (25 km (15.5 mi)), further southeast, the course is comparatively straight with deep water devoid of rocky obstacles. The Banger joins from the left. The river then runs north--east in a narrow loop towards Jabalpur. Close to this city, after a fall of some (9 m (29.5 ft)), called the Dhuandhara, the fall of mist, it flows for (3 km (1.9 mi)), in a deep narrow channel through the magnesium limestone and basalt rocks called the Marble Rocks; from a width of about 90 m (295.3 ft), above, it is compressed in this channel of (18 m (59.1 ft)), only. Beyond this point up to its meeting the Arabian Sea, the Narmada enters three narrow valleys between the Vindhya scarps in the north and the Satpura range in the South.
There are many fables about the origin of the Narmada. According to one of them, once Lord Shiva, the Destroyer of the Universe, meditated so hard that he started perspiring. Shiva's sweat accumulated in a tank and started flowing in the form of a river -- the Narmada. Another legend has it that two teardrops that fell from the eyes of Lord Brahma, the Creator (*of the Universe, yielded two rivers -- the Narmada and the Sone..
Legends also say that for Lord Shiva, the Hindu God, the river is especially sacred on account of its origin, and it is often called Shankari, i.e., daughter of Shankar (Lord Shiva). All the pebbles rolling on its bed are said to take the shape of his emblem with the saying, "Narmada Ke Kanker utte Sankar" (a popular saying in the Hindi belt of India), which means that 'pebble stones of Narmada gets a personified form of Shiva'. These lingam shaped stones (cryptocrytalline quartz), called Banalinga also called (Banashivalingas) are much sought after for daily worship by the Hindus. The Brihadeeswara Temple in Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, constructed by Rajaraja Chola, has one of the biggest Banalingas. Adi Shankara met his guru Govinda Bhagavatpada on the banks of river Narmada.
Narmada is also said to have been in love with the Sonbhadra, another river flowing on the Chota Nagpur Plateau. According to the Puranas, the Narmada is also called the Rewa, from its leaping motion (from the root 'rev') through its rocky bed.
Important religious places and Ghats along the course of the river, starting with its origin at Narmadakhund at Amarkantak hill, are a) the Amarkantak (in Sanskrit: Neck of Shiva) or Teerathraj (the King of Pilgrimages), b) Omkareshwar, Maheshwar, and Mahadeo temples, Nemawar Siddeshwar Mandir in the middle reach of the river -- all named after Shiva, c) Chausath Yogini (sixty four yoginis) temple, d) Chaubis Avatar temple, e) Bhojpur Shiva temple and Bhrigu Rishi temple in Bharuch. The Narmada River is also worshipped as mother goddess by Narmadeeya Brahmins.
The importance of the Narmada River as sacred is testified by the fact that the pilgrims perform a holy pilgrimage of a Parikrama or Circumambulation of the river. The Narmada Parikrama, as it is called, is considered to be a meritorious act that a pilgrim can undertake. Many sadhus (saints) and pilgrims walk on foot from the Arabian Sea at Bharuch in Gujarat, along the river, to the source in Maikal Mountains (Amarkantak hills) in Madhya Pradesh and back along the opposite bank of the river. It is a 2,600-kilometre (1,600 mi) walk.