(Last Updated on : 20/01/2009)
The course of River Narmada starts with its origin at a small tank called Narmada Kund located on the Amarkantak hill (at an height of 1057 m above sea level) in the Shahdol district of eastern Madhya Pradesh. The river flows down from the Amarkantak hill range at the Kapildhara falls over a high cliff and meanders down the hills flowing through a twisting course and crossing the rocks and islands up to the ruined palace of Ramnagar. The river flows further between Ramnagar and Mandla 25 km in the direction of southeast. The river course of Narmada is comparatively straight with deep water and there are hardly any rocky obstacles.
The Banger joins River Narmada from the left. The river then runs northeast in a narrow circle towards Jabalpur. Close to this city, Marble rocks stand as a popular tourist attraction. This river after a fall of some 9 metre called the Dhuandhara or the fall of mist, it flows for almost 3 km in a deep narrow channel across the magnesium limestone and basalt rocks called the Marble Rocks; from a width of around 90 metres above, it remains compressed in this channel of 18 meters only. After this point up to its emptying into the Arabian Sea, the Narmada enters three narrow valleys in between the Vindhyan Scarps in the north and the Satpura range in the South. The southern extension of the valley is much wider at certain places. The closely approaching line of the scarps and the Satpura hills separates these three valley sections.
Emerging from the Marble Rocks, river Narmada enters its first productive basin, this fertile land extends about 320 km with an average width of 35 km in the south direction. In the north the valley is limited to the Barna-Bareli plain, the execution of which is at Barkhara hills opposite to Hoshangabad. However, the hills again reduce in size and density at the Kannod plains. The fertile banks rise about to 12 metre high. It is in the first valley of the Narmada that many of its significant tributaries from the south join the river, and bring the waters of the northern slopes of the Satpura range. Among them, the prime tributaries are the Tawa (biggest tributary), the Sher, the Dudhi, the Shakkar and the Ganjal. The Hiran, the Choral, the Barna, the Karam and the Lohar are the main tributaries joining from the north.
Below Handia and Nemawar to Hiran fall (also called the deer's leap) the river is surrounded by hills from both sides. In this stretch the character of the river often changes. The Omkareshwar Island, sacred to the Lord Shiva, is the most important river island in Madhya Pradesh. At first the descent is rapid and the stream, quickening in pace, rushes over a barrier of rocks. The Sikta and the Kaveri join it below the Khandwa plain. The Mandhar, about 40 km below Nemawar, and Dadrai, 40 km further down near Punasa are the two points where, the river falls over a height of about 12 m
A few kilometers further down near Bareli and the crossing ghat of the Agra to Mumbai road the Narmada enters the Mandleshwar plain. This convergence is on the National Highway No 3; the second basin is about 180 km long and 65 km wide in the south. The northern stretch of the basin is only 25 km. The second valley section is broken only by Saheshwar Dhara fall. The early course of about 125 km up to Markari falls is met with a succession of cataracts and rapids from the elevated table land of Malwa to the low-level of Gujarat plain. Approaching towards the west of this basin the hills draw very close but soon decline down.
Below Makrai, the river flows between Baroda and Nandod and then meanders through the rich plain of Bharuch district of Gujarat state. The banks are high between the layers of rich alluvial deposits, hardened mud, gravels like limestone and sand. The width of the river spans from 1.5 km at Makrai to 3 km near Bharuch. The width from this spot to the estuary is around 21 km at the Gulf of Cambay. An old channel of the river, 1 to 2 km south from the present one, is very clear below Bharuch. The Karanjan and the Orsing are the most significant tributaries in the original course. The former joins at Rundh and the latter at Vyas in Baroda district of Gujarat, opposite each other and form a Triveni (confluence of three rivers) on the Narmada. The Amaravati and the Bhukhi are more two tributaries of importance. A large drift called Alia Bet or Kadaria Bet, lie opposite to the mouth of the Bhukhi.
The tidal rise is felt up to 32 km above Bharuch, where the neap tides rise to about a metre and spring tide is almost 3.5 metre. The river is widely navigated for vessels of the burthen of 95 tonnes or 380 Bombay candies up to Bharuch and for vessels up to 35 tonnes (140 Bombay candies) up to Shamlapitha er Ghangdia. The small vessels that weigh around 10 tonnes, voyage up to Tilakawada in Gujarat. There are sand bases and shoals at mouth and also at Bharuch. The nearby island of Kabirwad, in the Narmada River, there is a gigantic Banyan tree, covering almost a hectare.