Bhedaghat-Lametaghat in Narmada Valley
Permanent Delegation of India to UNESCO
Madhya Pradesh, India
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Bhedaghat, often referred to as the Grand Canyon of India, is a town in the Jabalpur district of Madhya Pradesh (India), around 25 kms from Jabalpur. One can experience the outstanding beauty of marble rocks and their various morphological glittering forms on either side of the graceful Narmada river which flows through the gorge. It has also been observed that the magical marble mountains assume different colours and even shapes of animals and other living forms as one moves through them.
Several dinosaur fossils have been found in the Narmada valley particularly in Bhedaghat-Lametghat area of Jabalpur. In 1828 the first Dinosaur fossil was collected from Lameta Bed by William Sleeman (Matthew T. et.al., 2010)
Alexander Cunningham stated it as a bathing place on the Narmada River while the village is located at the confluence of the Narmada and Banganga, which is the reason for its sacred and holy considerations. The perpendicular magnesium limestone rocks fringe the crystal-clear waters of the Narmada, providing a fascinating view. As referred by Captain J Forsyth about the splendour of these rocks, he says in his words, 'The eye never wearies of the effect produced by the broken and reflected sunlight, glancing from a pinnacle of snow-white marble reared against the deep blue of the sky. Here and there the Saccharine white limestone is seamed by veins of dark green or black volcanic rock; a contrast which only enhances, like a setting of jet, the purity of the surrounding marble.'
Dhuandhar fall waterfall gives the epic view of smoke coming out of the river. River Narmada narrows down on its way through marble rocks and plunges in a waterfall giving out the appearance of a smoke cascade. So powerful is the plunge that its roar can be heard from distance. The falls and the breaking of water volume at the crest present an incredible spectacle of nature's power unleashed, and one can witness the ultimate wonder of wonders. Bandar Kodini ("the monkey's leap") is a point where one finds the mountains at both sides so close while travelling through a boat between the marble rocks that monkeys can jump across them.
Justification of Outstanding Universal Value
Nominated property Bhedaghat is the part of River Narmada, one of India's holy rivers and considered a lifeline for millions of population in central India. Its religious, aesthetic importance also has significant evidence of geological process ongoing in the river valley, specifically at the nominated area.
The Narmada valley is considered extremely important from a geological, geotechnical, hydroelectric and palaeontological point of view; therefore, scholars from India and worldwide have studied diverse aspects of Bhedaghat-Lametaghat. Bhedaghat is the only site where Marble, Phyllite, BIF, Quartzite of the Mahakoshal group of Proterozoic age rocks have been recorded togeather.
Tectonically, the Narmada Valley is a graben, a layered block of the Earth's crust that dropped down relative to the blocks on either side due to the ancient spreading of the Earth's crust. Channel morphology of river Narmada indicates that it has changed its course and now flows at a different channel located in the nominated area. Geomorphological changes indicate how the Dhuandhar waterfall came into existence (Mallik et. al., 2019). At the nominated area, the river Narmada falls into a 30-meter deep gorge known as Duandhar waterfall. The river then flows for 3 km, in a deep narrow channel through the Dolomite known as Marble rocks.
Criterion (vii): The main centre of attraction for tourists at Bhedaghat is the aesthetic charm of lush green nature, inhibiting a beautiful valleys. No such example exists where a river flows freely splitting an enormous mountain of marble. Bhedaghat is exceptionally blessed where the colourful &divine Narmada river flows in her own strange styles. Somewhere its flow is turbulent and in other places as calm as Yogi (Saint). It seems as Mother Narmada is on an epic from its source at Amarkantak mountain where it meets the Arab Sagar (Arabian Sea).
The Narmada chattering over stony ways and weaving like a snake, reverberates with her surroundings in tremulous cadence. The chirping birds, drunk on the nectar of blissful music of the rippling river bring to mind the memories of melodious Gandharav raga of the music maestro, Tansen. It is at such moments that one feels the strong urge to move away from worldly crowds and cares and sojourns into the musical realms of nature, to dwell in its magical tranquillity. The azure water of Narmada, flowing swiftly among the silent and somber stones, around Bhadaghat area, sparkling in the golden sunlight and under the silvery moon, fill the human heart with gay abandon.
Criterion (viii): The nominated area has already in the list of India's geo heritage sites having several unique characteristics that make it unique. The site has an outstanding example of ancient ecology, archaeological structure and evidence, historical and cultural traditions. Bhedaghat-Lameta ghat area is a unique example of regional metamorphism in such a small area that makes it rare in the world.
The mighty Narmada River, often considered as the “life line of Madhya Pradesh,” flows between the Satpura and Vindhya Range. Most of the Indian rivers flow in the West to East direction, but Narmada along with Tapti, flows in the opposite direction. Narmada River originates at Amarkantak, in Western Madhya Pradesh (MP) and flows eastwards through a rocky terrain. Just South of Jabalpur the Narmada makes a mighty plunge and makes its way to the narrow gorges of towering limestone cliffs, an awesome spectacle of nature. The shear limestone rocks, rising perpendicularly out of the placid waters of Narmada River, creates a stunning spectacle. The towering cliffs are popularly known as marble rocks.
The inimitable marbles of the Bhedaghat area have different shades like white, grey, pink and bluish grey giving additional beauty to the marble rocks. Several mafic dykes, intruded into the bright marble of the Bhedaghat area, also have enhanced beauty of the area and have increased geological importance of the area. The Bhedaghat area is the only example of regional metamorphism within a short distance of 2 to 3 km which is very rare in the world. The area, here, falls in the eastern part of the E-W-trending Narmada valley. The Narmada valley is a graben bounded by two normal faults, Narmada North fault and Narmada South fault, parallel to the river's course. It is considered extremely important for geological, geotechnical, and paleontological studies in India. Fossilized crocodile egg nests are also found in this area (Srivastava et al., 2015), rare in the global context. In Bhedaghat, numerous gorges with acute ‘V’ shape are seen along the Narmada River. Dendritic drainage pattern is developed along the river Narmada. A paleochannel extends from Dhuandhar falls to Saraswatighat – a typical example of river capturing due to tectonic changes. The paleochannel can be identified by erosional features and deposited sediments in the remnant course of the river. Geomorphic features of fluvial actions like trinagular facets and hanging V-shaped valley over Quaternary alluvium can be seen along the banks of paleochannel. The paleochannel becomes active during monsoon when excess Narmada water flows through it.
Statements of authenticity and/or integrity
Nominated property Bhedaghat is part of the river Narmada Valley, one of India's largest and west flowing river. Bhedaghat is the only place in Narmada river’s course of about 1312kms, where the river falls into a 30-meter deep gorge and flows in between marble rocks. These different coloured marble rocks formed through a metamorphic mechanism of limestone. Integrity of the nominated property is associated with several factors, i.e. river flow regime (volume and velocity of water), habitat structure (width & depth of river channel, gradient, and bank stability) etc. Geological evidence supports the intactness of the nominated property. To protect the natural characteristics of Narmada river, the government of India has set up agencies like “Narmada Control Authority”, “Narmada Valley Development Authority", etc., to manage and maintain minimum water flow in the river. Narmada Control Authority is designated to handle matters related to the river Narmada. At the nominated property, a consistent and natural flow of water throughout the year is required. Water flow in the Narmada river is influenced by rainfall, catchment area, and groundwater inputs (Gupta & Chakrapani, 2005). The nominated area falls under the jurisdictions of the Chief Municipal Officer, Bhedaghat, for the protection and management. The nominated property is the best example to understand the ongoing geological process and the place where fossil records have been found, which is the interest of many scientists/geologists.
Comparison with other similar properties
The nominated property has unique geological features and represent the best example of fluvial geomorphology and regional metamorphism. The property is not comparable with any other World Heritage Site in India as there is no other site inscribed in criteria (viii) in India. However, globally the nominated property can be compared with Victoria Fall, Zimbabwe. Victoria fall is the greatest sheet of falling water and significant for its geological features worldwide. Though, the nominated property of Bhedaghat is similar to Victoria fall in terms of the deep gorge and fluvial geomorphic processes, it is however, different in terms of rock type. In Victoria fall river cuts the basalt rock to give rise to spectacular fall whereas in Bhedaghat the marble rock is cut by the river Narmada. Moreover, Bhedaghat is the best example of regional metamorphism in the world. The nominated site of Bhedaghat can also be compared with Nahannai National Park in Canada, however, the major difference in the two sites are the lithology. Nahannai National Park consist of Limestone rock whereas Bhedaghat consist of Marble rocks which are hard to cut.
There is no such site in India that witness such major and magnificent marble rock formations and such physiographic features along the riverside with all the holy and sacred faiths and beliefs attached to it. The natural phenomenon's, geomorphic process and incomparable beauty of waterfalls that one can experience here at Bhedaghat is way unique and excellent than the rest of the others. Bhedaghat has its natural formations and geological history, which is one of the most outstanding universal value.