Earlier known as Reva and Mahakalasuta, the Narmada is also referred to as the lifeline of Madhya Pradesh. Originating in Amarkantak, the highest peak of the Vindhya Range, it flows westward through Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat before finally ending its journey in the Gulf of Khambat. The 1300km long Narmada is the fifth longest river in India, and the oldest. Kalidasa, the 4th century poet, writes about the Narmada in his love poem, Meghdoota, which is about a yaksha (tree spirit) who was banished to Madhya Pradesh. The yaksha sent messages to his beloved in the Himalayas through the clouds.
Two of the most well-known historical cities along the banks of the Narmada are Mahismati (present Maheshwar) and Tripuri (present Tewar in Jabalpur district). Archaeological findings in these regions indicate that human habitation existed here in very ancient times.
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.