In the Reva Khand of Skanda Purana, Sage Suta enlightened a Congregation of Rishis about a query of Yudhishthar (of Pandavas) to Maharshi Markandeya about the origin of River Narmada. Several Holy Persons and Brahmanas approached King Pururava to let a Holy River descend from Heaven so that various religious activities aimed at Devas and Pitras by human beings were facilitated and the King performed relentless Tapasya to Parama Siva who in turn asked Narmada Devi to descend.She desired to have a strong base to do so and Siva asked Paryank, the son of Vindhya, to bear the brunt. As Narmada descended, there were floods of water and the Deities requested her to diminish her size and taught Pururava the details of the Rituals to perform tarpans to his ancestors which were followed by generations thereafter.But since Narmada was a virgin, she did not allow her divine touch to Deities and therefore agreed to marry King Purukutsu, who actually was Samudra Deva but was cursed by Brahma to become a human being as the King Purukutsu also learnt from Narmada about the rituals to liberate his ancestors. It was stated that Narmada ‘Snaans’ at various points of Her Course cutting the Vindhya Mountains and peaks every where on way were not only refreshing and cool but are Sacred and divinely and those who perform the baths, especially of early hours of a day, secure Punya of several Snaans of Ganga! The Sacred Snaans at that time are instant destroyers of sins committed in the current and previous lives.On the northern side of the River is situated Anantapur where Anantasiddhi Linga is popular and is stated to be the hub of Maharshis like Saavarni, Kaushik and Aghamarshan performing Vratas and Tapas. Sage Valmiki is also stated to have lived here for long till attainment of Moksha. Another important Tirth named Dipeswar or Vyasa Tirtha is known for Vrishabha daan (Charity of a bull) on Kartika Krishna Paksha Chaturdasi bestowing Swargavaas after life. At the Narmada- Varangana Sangam is popular to wash off physical ailments and nearby the Sangam is situated the Siva kshetra where rituals of ‘Snaan and Daan’during Solar Eclipse award the same impact as at Kurukshetra; this is the abode of Narmada, Siva and Vishnu the latter being called Utpalaavarta having thousand heads! It is the belief that even flies and birds here reach Haridhaam, let alone human beings. Tripuri Kshetra is noted as a popular and powerful Tirtha where eight Swayambhu Lingas manifested on their own, where any act of Virtue would have manifold fruits of life. Sage Markandeya recalled an interesting happening about the Tripuri Kshetra: Swayambhu Manu-the first Manu-heard at Ayodhya while sleeping the remote sounds of bells and Vasishtha explained to Manu that those sounds were heard from Tripuri on the banks of Sacred Narmada, from the aeroplanes taking off from the roofs of virtuous human beings destined to celestial worlds like Kailasa, Vaikuntha and Indra loka. Swayambhu Manu immediately left for Tripuri and performed several rituals including Aswamedha Yagna and prayed to Devi Narmada who blessed the Manu that in his lineage one famous Bhagirath would be borne in Treta Yuga and would succeed bringing Pavitra Ganga to ‘Aryavarta’ from the Celestial Worlds! In the Tripuri Kshetra itself, Sage Bhrigu prayed to Trilochan Siva being desirous of the darshan of His Third Eye and as Siva obliged with His appearance, the Sage asked for the boons of obtaining Siddhis, formation of Bhrigu Tirtha with His presence always, manifesting Eight Rudras in the Bhrigu Tirtha named Bhrigu, Shooli, Ved, Chandra, Mukha, Attahaas, Kaal and Karaali; and granting benevolence to visitors of Bhrigu Tirtha as a sin-destroyer. Similarly Bhagavan Soma (Chandra) prayed to Siva to set up Soma Tirtha as the Sangam of the three Rivers viz. Ganga, Jamuna and Narmada. Narmadapuri on the bank of Narmada was indeed worthy as Sage Jamadagni prayed to Maha Deva and secured a Kama Dhenu and King Kartaveeryarjuna being jealous of the prized possession, took away the Holy Cow by force after killing Jamadagni and the Sage’s son Parasurama not only killed the most powerful King of the Time but also uprooted the concept of Kshatriyas and Kings by waging twenty one battles; he set up a Memorial named Devadroni (Kapila Dhenu) where Pinda daanas continued to be performed to Jamadagi and ancestors.Sage Markandeya narrated the renowned happening of a ‘Nishad’ (Hunter) to Yudhishthar about the formation of Trinetra Kund as the high devotee of Siva Linga discovered that the Third Eye was missing on the Linga, cut his own eye as a replacement to it by resisting extreme pain and flow of blood and pasting it on the third eye position of the Siva Linga; Maha Deva appeared before Nishad with blind faith, extreme sense of sacrifice and unnerving devotion and granted him ‘Siva Sayujyam’ (Attainment of Oneness with Siva). Sapta Sarasvat Tirtha came into being since a Gandharva, who was an excellent singer of hymns extolling Parama Siva, got into the habit of drinking and Nandi cursed that the singer be born to a Chandala. The Singer became extremely repentant and entreated Nandi to show a means of reversing the curse; the Chandala had luckily retained the memory of his earlier birth as Gandharva and reached the banks of Narmada and sang hymns of Siva at ‘Shankarasthandil’or Siva Vedi when a Siva Linga appeared by name Sapta Sarasvata and the Chandala regained the earlier life as Gandharva. Shandileswar Tirtha was formed after the famous Sage Shandilya (the Founder of the Shandilya Gotra) whose Tapasya to Maheswara in his hermitage on the banks of Narmada was exemplary; along with two other Lingas viz. Pancha Brahmeswar and Pushpeshwar, the Shandileswar was well known as among the ‘Tirtha Traya’where worship of the Lingas and Pitru Tarpans / Pinda Pradaanas were performed. Markandeya narrated to Yudhishtar the story of Chakravarthi Mandhata, who performed Yagnas near Amarakashtak Mountain and prayed to Omkareswar. He was a gift of a powerful Yagna by his father, King Yavanashva, who drank by mistake the ‘Mantra Jala’meant for his wife.Yuvanashva got pregnant instead and delivered a boy by the opening of his belly. Devas and Indra visited the child and wondered as to who might feed milk to the boy; Indra said: ‘Esha Maa Dhata’ and fed Amrit-like milk by inserting his middle finger in the baby’s mouth and hence the child’s name became Mandhata. As the boy grew he became a model King of virtue, valour and justice.Omkareswar appeared in response to Mandhata’s prayers and gave the boon of naming the Mountain of Vaidurya as Mandhata. Jaleswar or Bana Linga was the manifestation of Siva; Banasura, the son of Bali Chakravarti, meditated to Maha Deva for thousand divine years and obtained the boons of impregnability of his City by any body excepting Mahadeva Himself and also flying mobility along with him and to those whom he chose any where. As Siva gave the boons, Vishnu and Brahma too bestowed the same kind of boons and Banasura thus emerged the Great Mighty King of ‘Three Puras’ or as the dreaded ‘Tripurasura’, who came to attack Deva Lokas and Bhuloka. Sages, Devas, Brahma and Vishnu were all alarmed and approached Siva, who decided to fight the Demon by Himself and smashed him with His Aghora astra which could absorb its heat and force by Narmada only after its attack. Banasura was badly hurt and realising his foolishness prayed to Maha Deva once again. The most lenient and gracious Bhagavan granted that Banasura would not have another birth and that a Siva Linga would be manifested as Bana Linga or Jala Linga. Another instance narrated by Markandeya to Yudhishthar related to the memorable King Indradyumna who performed Maha Yagna on the banks of Narmada, had darshan of Omkareswara Linga and visioned a radiant spectacle of an Inner Linga of Maha Deva in the central portion of the Principal Omkareswar Linga; he also had a special visualization of Bhagavan Vishnu in His full resplendent and ornamented form with four hands with Shankha, Chakra, Gada and Lotus at the top portion of Omkareswara Linga and prayed to Him; the King also invoked various Holy Rivers especially Ganga to join the Mahanadi Narmada at the bottom of the Linga; and to Narmada to manifest Seven Branches from the north to south to facilitate Daanas, Homams, Vratas, Tarpans and Pinda Pradaans to Pitras and other rituals.The King’s prayers were all granted adding to the magnificence of the entire Region in which the Sacred River Narmada flowed.
Rudra Stuti: While elaborating the implication of the word OM, Markandeya told Yudhishthar that when a person breathed last reciting that single ‘Akshara’, he or she would surely reach ‘Paramagati’:
Omithekaksharam Rajan! Vyaaharan Samanussmaran,
Vah Pragati thyajan deham sa yaati Paramam Gatim.
Gayatri, the Mother of Vedas, manifested from Omkara. In the single word of Om are firmly set up the Trimurtis of Brahma, Vishnu and Maheswara.Omkar is the base of Vedas, from which are spread the branches of Shriti forms. ‘Smritis’ and ‘Agamas’are the fruits, flowers and leaves. Just as Omkara is the root of all disciplines of knowedge, Siva is the origin of all Deities. The Three Sandhyas of morning, noon, and Evening, the Three kinds of Agni, the Three Lokas, the Three Vargas of Dharma, Artha and Kaama are all set in Omkara. In the initial phase of Satya Yuga, Demons named Kankola, Kalikeya, and Kaalak made Devas retreat from the banks of Narmada and the Devas approached Brahma and Siva for help. Then from the Mountains was manifested a blazing Linga cutting across Patala Lokas along with a resonant sound saying ‘Om Bhurbhuvah Swaha’. Then there was a furious look to destroy the Demons and a pleasant and cool look to protect the Virtuous.The Danavas were frightened and ran helter skelter and the Righteous proceeded to perform Siva Puja. Then Bhagavan Omkara bestowed the ‘Mantra Upadesh’ or The Counsel of Sacred Mantras to Brahma and the latter extolled Omkareswar as follows: Vyoma Samsthayi, Sarvavyapi Vyomahara, Ananta, Anaatha, Amrita, Dhruva, Shaswata Shambhava, Yogapeetha Samsthita, Nitya Yoga Yogi, Siva, Sarvaprabhava, Eshaana, Tatpurusha, Aghora, Vamadeva, Sadyojata, Kaalaatheetha, Avyaya, Buddha, Vajra dehopa- mardana, Adyaksha, Vidhu, Shasta, Pinaakini, Tridasha adhipa, Agni, Rudra,Hutasha, Pingala, Pavana, Hara, Jwalan, Dahan, Vastu, Bhasmaanta, Kshamaantaka, Apamrutyunhara, Dhata, Vidhata, Karta, Kaal, Dharmapati, Shasta, Viyokta, Anavama or Nyunatarahit, Priya, Nimitta, Vaarun, Hantha, Kruradrishti, Bhayavaha, Urdhva Drishti, Viruupaaksha, Damshtravaan, Dhumralochana, Baala, Atibala, Paashahasta, Mahaabala, Sweta, Virupa, Rudra, Deerghabaahu, Jadaantaka, Sheeghra, Laghu, Vayuvega, Bhima, Badaba mukha, Panchaseersha, Kapardi, Sukshma, Teekshna, Ksapantaka, Nidhisha, Raudravaan, Dhanvi, Soumyadeva, Pramardana, Anantapalak, Dhara, Pataalesha, Sadhumna, Shasvata, Sharva, Sarvapinga, Kaalavaan, Vishnu, Esha, Mahatma, Sukha, Mrutyuvivarjita, Shambhu, Vibhu, Ganaadhyaksha, Tryaksha, Divaspati, Samavaada, Vivaada, Prabha Vishnu, and Vivardhan. The above Rudra namaas are to be prefixed with ‘Om’. Brahma made the above ‘Stuti’ (Commendation), performed ‘Sashtanga’, ‘Parikrama’ and Mental Visualisation. As Siva was highly satisfied with the above, Brahma desired the boon from Bhagavan that whoever read, or heard or recided mentally the above Rudra Stotra would enjoy the best of this life and post life, and secures full contentment always.