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Marble marvel

Chitra Ramaswamy | Updated on: Mar 24, 2011
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We can hear its thunderous roar a good distance before we actually reach it. From the sounds I presume its tumble must be ferocious and I can barely wait to get to it. We pass a few marble quarries on our left before our rented vehicle gingerly makes a final leap over a couple of natural speed-breakers and comes to a halt. We have reached our destination!

It is the early hours of a December morning and we are visiting the Dhuandhar (meaning ‘smoky') Waterfalls and the Marble Rocks at Bhedaghat, Jabalpur's most famed and oft visited tourist spots. A wintry mist teasingly swirls about, playing hide and seek with our view.

We are the only visitors at this early hour. I'm doubly happy to enjoy the tranquil beauty of my surroundings in silence that is broken only by the sounds of the raging falls. A narrow platform with railings takes us close to it. I sit comfortably on the edge of its stone structure, dangle my legs and allow my feet to touch the water. My feet waltz in gay abandon as I revel in the fury of the frothy avalanche, unmindful of the December chill. The sun on the horizon is slowly but surely emerging and the sky is a brilliant splash of yellow-orange.

The aqueous drama that is unfolding mesmerises, with the Narmada assuming several traits and shades in moments — calm, placid and innocuous now, tempestuous, menacing and lethal in seconds.

I soak in the calm radiance of the place as jet sprays from the gushing waters gently caress my face, creating a tingling sensation. The pleasure of lazing thus, away from worldly cares and work pressure, is beyond comparison. The seconds pass into minutes and the minutes would probably have passed into hours if not for my colleague Bharati who shakes me out of my dreamy state. She offers me a steaming cup of adarak chai bought from a young chai-wala who has probably just appeared on the scene and is ready to take on another day. By now the place is abuzz with visitors and hawkers selling a variety of wares, especially artefacts made from soapstone.

Reluctantly we move on to the next spot on our agenda — the Chausat Yogini Temple, located on a hillock between the Falls and the Marble Rocks. With monkeys accompanying us, we climb a long flight of steps to reach the 10th century temple dedicated to Goddess Durga. The main sanctum is surrounded by a wall that displays sixty four beautifully carved idols of the Goddess. From here the rolling and crashing of the Narmada against the rugged rocks is spellbinding. After savouring the sight of the river from here, we head to our final destination — the Marble Rocks.

Scintillating canvas

The Marble Rocks at Bhedaghat, originally called Bhairav Ghat, less than a couple of kilometers away, is Nature's scintillating canvas. There is a long queue of tourists at the pier, waiting to hop on to a boat for a cruise along the river between the gorgeous marble cliffs.

Raju and Gopal, who have been chauffeuring us around on this jaunt, jump into the waters to sanctify themselves while Bharati and I go for the boat ride.

The rocks, glistening under the noon sun, rise spectacularly to about a hundred feet on either side of the Narmada, piercing the cobalt blue sky. The winter sun casts its mellow rays on the jagged protrusions and this play of sun and shade on the rock faces is hypnotising, creating a profusion of tones in green, grey, black and blue.

As we warm to the boat ride, our chatty boatman Mohan narrates tales of courage of several Bollywood heroes who had entertained their viewers with histrionics aplenty, leaping from the towering cliffs of white-cream limestone seamed by veins of green-grey volcanic rock. As we cruise along a narrow channel of the mighty river, the flanking rocks appear to almost touch each other, earning them the nickname Monkey's Leap.

“Madam ji, you know that song, Raat Ka Nasha from Ashoka was picturised at this very spot,” gushes Mohan. No sooner does Mohan “win” our confidence than he tells us in conspiratorial tones, “Madam ji, these waters can be very deceptive! You just can't predict when you could get caught in a whirlpool!”

Bharati and I exchange nervous looks. We don't want any more chatter from Mohan lest he embarks on doom stories of how hapless tourists turned victims of vicious water currents. Fortunately, a change of subject happens as we spot a couple of boys desperately waving in our direction. “Oh, these youngsters will jump from the rocks for small sums of money,” says Mohan. We are relieved when the boat makes a turn and returns to the safety of the shores.

We look heavenwards to see the fiery ball repair for the day. The sunset is a flood of glory and the sky is awash with a beautiful peach-pink-orange hue as the sun goes down serenely in the sparkling waters of the Narmada. No matter how many sunsets and sunrises I see, each time the experience is akin to first love and …

Published on March 24, 2011
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