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Home» Book Review» Book Review» Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder

Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder

Sudhirendar Sharma | March 01, 2014, 12:30 PM IST
beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder

New Delhi :

As the boat plies upstream through the glittering splendor of the marble cliffs, the tranquility of river Narmada reflects the changing moods of nature at the picturesque Bhedaghat. The river and the rocks rival each other in beauty, yet try to come closer at ‘Bandrakudni’ – where a monkey could perhaps jump across the river – and challenge each other at the majestic Dhuandhar waterfalls.  For the ordinary mortals, that is all about the holy river.   

Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, though. Narmada river is a living museum of art, more than what remains adorned in its archeological past. If Bandarkudni reflects her modesty and self-restraint, the thunder at the Dhuandhar symbolizes its splendor and exuberance. All along its 1,312 kilometers journey from its origin at Amarkantak until it empties into the Gulf of Khambat, the river leaves its artistic impressions as it cuts through mighty rocks, tugs along dense forests and passes human dwellings. Much of it has been captured by Amrit Lal Vegad, who completed his circumambulation of the river at the ripe age of 70 by foot, however, undertaken in parts over a 22 year period. His irresistible story-telling style blends geography with astronomy, art with the environment, and literature with philosophy    

“On the banks of the Narmada I saw both the supreme grandeur of nature and the simple beauty of humanity’, reminiscences Vegad. While over the millennia innumerable devotees have undertaken the hardship of religious parikrama of the river which is traditionally completed in 3 years, 3 months and 13 days, much of their travails and triumphs has been perceptibly captured by the author in what he calls ‘a cultural parikrama’. Trained as an artist under the watchful eyes of the legendary Nandlal Bose at the Santiniketan, Vegad draws attention to the finer details of the journey with interesting reflections on encounters with the ‘self’. The writing vividly captures the simplicity and devotion of those who live by the Narmada, and the hardships of those who undertake its parikrama.  

Through his stubbornness to walk along the banks of the river, Vegad demonstrates his flame of determination – proving that only by overcoming trouble can the spirit be lifted to a higher level. Writes Vegad, ‘I learnt an important lesson on this journey: if our mind and reason try to stand in the way of realizing our dreams, as indeed they sometimes do, we must not hesitate to dodge out of the way….there is so much more to cold reason and logic’. River of Joy is a narrative on grit and determination, as much on appreciation of art and aesthetics.

Translated from Hindi by Marietta Maddrell, a British national who has not only adopted the Indian way of life but has renamed herself ‘Mira’, the translation captures the original spirit of the writer. With the holy river facing unprecedented damming for water diversion, it is quite unlikely if the tradition of river circumambulation would last long.

Narmada: River of Joy
by Amritlal Vegad
Banyan Tree, Indore
Extent: 220 pages, Price:  Rs 300


Sudhirendar Sharma

Sudhirendar Sharma

Trained as an environmental scientist, Sudhirendar Sharma efficiently performs multiple roles of writer-commentator, academic, activist and development strategist. Having varied interests and rich experience gained from travelling all over the world, he enjoys playing with words and sharing ideas. 


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