Can one actually see with naked eyes the holy Narmada flowing from any vantage point of Mandu, especially the Rani Roopmati Pavilion, which is at a distance of 26 kilometres? Or is the winding stretch, which appears like a long white serpent, just a mirage?
These doubts will soon be put to rest when the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) installs a telescope making it possible to actually view the holy river flowing. Tourists to Mandu as also local residents can currently just see a silvery white line. In fact for years now, people have believed that the white line they were seeing was the river.
Some even argued that the white line was just an illusion or mirage even when seen from the top of Rani Roopmati Pavilion, the highest point of Mandu plateau.
But legend has it that the beautiful Rani Roopmati began her day only after a ‘darshan’ of the holy river. Pandit Somnath, a resident of Mandu who has great interest in its history, told Hindustan Times of the romantic folklore about the ruler of Mandu, Baaz Bahadur and Roopmati. According to the lore, Roopmati, the daughter of Dharmapuri zamindar Than Singh, was well versed with classical music right from her childhood days. She had great command on Dhrupad, Raga Sarang and Raga Basant. Roopmati became a legendary figure and got nationwide recognition because of her rendition of Raga Basant.
It is said that Roopmati got inspiration from the river Narmada whom she considered her God. Once Baaz Bahadur was hunting in the forests of Dharampuri when he heard Roopmati singing sitting on the banks of the river. He was so impressed with her voice that he invited her to come to his palace and sing there. Roopmati’s father Than Singh also agreed but told him that Roopmati did not even eat anything before ‘darshan’ of the Narmada and Mandu being so far, seeing the Narmada from there would not be possible.
Baaz Bahadur agreed and decided to construct a structure at the highest point of Mandu from where the Narmada could be seen. This monument was later called Rani Roopmati Pavilion.
Pandit Somnath, however, admitted that there were contradictions regarding the visibility of the real Narmada from Rani Roopmati palace due to the limitation of human eyes.
Mhow-based ophthalmologist and eye surgeon Dr N D Tonpey too says that farthest which a healthy human eye can see is about four to six kilometers, and that too if it is a tall structure.
“When we stand at a high altitude, we feel a water body like thing at the end of our sight, which is either due to mirage or due to foggy conditions,” he says.
But now after, the initiative taken by the ASI Mandu circle office in installing a long-range telescope at the Roopmati Pavilion, people will ‘actually’ get to see the Narmada and other monuments and sites in and around Mandu.
ASI sources said this telescope is being installed at a cost of Rs 1.50 lakh of which Rs 80,000 will be spent on procuring telescope while the remaining Rs 70,000 are being spent on construction of base, transparent cabin for telescope.
The cost will be recovered by charging Rs 5 for each ‘darshan’. The telescope should be installed by next week.
ASI’s official guide and writer of ‘Mandu Darshan’ Vishwanath Tiwari told Hindustan Times that it was the long pending demand of the tourists and the pilgrims of ‘Narmada parikrama’ for installing a telescope.
Speaking about the religious importance of seeing the Narmada from there, Tiwari said that visiting Rewakund which is adjacent to Rani Roopmati Pavilion is considered mandatory for the pilgrims doing Narmada parikrama due to its mention in the epics such as Puranas.