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A Special Paper on

Heritage and Tourism in Amarkantak

1. Background to the Paper


The Special Paper on Heritage and Tourism in Amarkantak is prepared to promote
Amarkantak as a striking tourist destination in India. The destination has been studied with a
vision to present an analytical view and to form a strategy for promotion of tourism in the
area. The study also evaluates the role of tourism industry in the economic development of the
region. A special emphasis is given to religious, adventure and eco-tourism based on the
current resource availability in the area. The place has a number of attractive destinations but
a selective approach has been adopted for the destinations to be promoted, due to the basic
reason that only such kind of approach can lead to a feasible promotion of a place. The other
sites should also have all kinds of basic features to attract for long duration stay.
2. Purpose of the paper
The Travel and Tourism industry in India accounted for approximately 6% of GDP and 30.5
million jobs (including direct and indirect) in 2008. The Travel and Tourism Competitiveness
Report 2009 brought out by World Economic Forum, ranks India as 11th in the Asia-Pacific
region and 62nd overall in a list of 133 assessed countries in 2009, up three places since 2008.
Tourism can have a tremendous economic impact on local economies. Economic benefits like
new businesses, jobs and higher property values, tourism add less tangiblebut equally
importantpayoffs. A well-managed tourism program improves the quality of life as residents
take advantage of the services and attractions tourism adds. It promotes community pride,
which grows as people work together to develop a thriving tourist industry. An area that
develops its potential for cultural and heritage tourism creates new opportunities for tourists to
gain an understanding of an unfamiliar place, people or time. With the arrival of visitors in turn
come new opportunities for preservation and conservation. Well-interpreted sites teach visitors
their importance, and by extension, the importance of preserving other such sites elsewhere.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of Tourism is that opportunities increase for diversified economies,
ways to prosper economically while holding on to the characteristics that make communities
special.
The state Madhya Pradesh is poor in attracting domestic tourists to its tourist destination when
compared to other states. Andhra Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh attract major chunk of the
domestic tourists having first and second ranks respectively. Madhya Pradesh is ranked as
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ninth and attracting only 2.6% of domestic tourist population. If we analyse the Foreign
Tourists Arrival (FTA) data Madhya Pradesh is nowhere in the top 10 states. Madhya Pradesh
has good connectivity with capital city Delhi; still it does not help in bringing more number of
foreign as well as domestic tourists.
Table 1: Top 10 States/UTs of India in Number of tourist visit
Domestic
SN

State

International
%Share

SN

State

%Share

Andhra Pradesh

24.3

Delhi

15.3

Uttar Pradesh

22.1

Maharashtra

14.6

Tamil Nadu

13.5

Tamilnadu

12.9

Rajasthan

7.2

Uttar Pradesh

11.3

Karnataka

4.9

Rajasthan

10.6

Uttarakhand

3.8

West Bengal

8.8

Maharashtra

3.7

Andhra Pradesh

5.9

West Bengal

3.5

Karnataka

4.1

Madhya Pradesh

2.6

Kerala

3.9

10

Gujarat

2.6

10

Goa

3.0

Total of top 10 States/UTs

88.2

Total of top 10 States/UTs

90.4

Source: Ministry of Tourism, Government of India

The purpose of this paper revolves around emphasizing the tourism potential of Amarkantak, a
city in Anuppur District of Madhya Pradesh in India. Existing situation of the sector is
analysed and based on the major issues identified, some recommendations have been suggested
in the paper.
3. Tourism: its impact on Local Economy
Tourism sector has a close relationship with the generation of employment. It generates short
term as well as long term opportunities based on the specific nature of tourism. The
beneficiaries may vary from local to global level as per the generation of demand by the sector.
The impact of tourism in economy can be easily envisaged by a most common say like an X
amount of employment is generated in A, B and C sector, which is expected to generate a Y
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amount of income for a specific group of community. It not only impacts the micro-economy,
but shows a multiplier effect at macro level of economy.
The local economy gets most impacted out of tourism activities. It bears the direct
consequences out of it. Sometimes the whole of the city is economically dependent on tourism.
In Indian context, almost all the four cities containing Dhams ( Badrinath, Dwarka, Jagannath
Puri & Rameshwaram) can be considered to be economically dependent on generation of
employment, taxes, etc. tourism sector. Its not always the benefits, sometimes a city has to
face negative impacts too. Such kinds of negative impacts may comprise of burden on
infrastructure, environmental degradation, socio-cultural clashes, etc.
Tourism activity lead to a lot of cost associated with it. Such a cost may be the direct cost
incurred by the business, government investments for infrastructure improvements as well as
congestion and related costs borne by individuals in the community. Thus a reasonable
decision at policy level is a must to balance the benefits and the cost involved in the sector. The
benefits must satisfy the local community requirement to minimize the scope of conflicts with
and among the local communities.
4. Amarkantak: an introduction
Amarkantak is a Nagar Panchayat located on the north- eastern boundary of Anuppur District
in the state of Madhya Pradesh. The total area of the town is 4,658.52 Ha which include
Amarkantak and Jaleshwar area. As per Census of India 2001, Amarkantak had a population of
7,082.
The historical importance of Amarkantak has emerged as the place of origin of two rivers
Narmada River and Sone River. Johila River also emerges from Amarkantak. The town has
been mentioned in the Puranas, Ramayana, Mahabharata, Vashishtha Samhita and Shatapatha
Brahmana. Amarkantak is a Sanskrit word which literary means immortal (amar) obstruction
(kantak). As per Hindu mythology Amarkantak was an abode of the Gods but was disturbed by
the hindrance of Rudraganas and hence called Amarkantak. The poet Kalidas named it
Amrakoot as the myth states that the dense forests of the region were full of mango (amra)
trees. The place is also popular by the name of Devanagari, a place of Gods.
5. History of Amarkantak
The history of Amarkantak has a traditional association with Puranas, Ramayana,
Mahabharata, Vashishtha Samhita and Satapatha Brahmana. The Puranic name of Amarkantak
was Riksh Parvat. The name Mandhata was given to it by the founder of the city, the
Suryavanshi Samrat Mandhata. Samrat Mandhata founded this town in the valley Riksh Parvat
about 6000 years back. After Mandhata his son Purukutsa became the king. The queen of
Samrat Purukutsa honoured the name of Narmada to the river. As the area got occupied by
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Mandhata, the descendants of Yayati (the Puranic king and the son of king Nahusha and a great
scholar of Vedas) moved from this area to west of Madhya Pradesh and settled on the banks of
Narmada River.
The area of Amarkantak was coming under Vindhyachal. According to tradition, this
Vindhyachal area was included in the Kingdom of Ayodhya. The history of the area highlights
a great association with famous Rishi-Munis. Kapila Muni, Bhrigu Rishi and Markandeya
Rishi had ashrams here. It is also said that Pandavas stayed here and gained spiritual benefits
during their exile.
After about 3000 years of Mahabharata the Adi Shankarachrya was born in 788 AD and
consecrated on the banks of Narmada River. He founded Pataleshwar Mahadev in Amarkantak
at the origin of Narmada from the bamboo clumps. This place is known as Surajkund today.
Now a days there is no bamboo clumps here.
In more recent history, this area was given in dowry to the Kalachuri King by the Chedi King
(10th to 11th century AD). The Kalchuri Maharaja Karnadeva (1042-1072 AD) had
constructed temples at Surajkund. In 1808 Amarkantak was ruled by the King of Nagpur and
later came under foreign rule.
6. Connectivity & Linkages
Connectivity and linkages of a place play a vital role in development of tourism sector in that
area. Tourists always get attracted if the place is well connected and convenient to reach by
some mode of transportation especially by road and rail. It supports a lot to promote a place for
international tourism if it is connected by air.
Amarkantak is at a distance of 230 Km from Jabalpur and 265 Km from Rewa by road and
around 105 Km from Shahdol. There are state owned transport buses from Pendra Road,
Shahdol and Bilaspur. Amarkantak is also connected by buses to Jabalpur, Rewa, Anuppur,
Allahabad, Sivni, Mandala and Chitrakoot.
Amarkantak is 71 Km from Anuppur, which is an important railway junction of the South
Eastern Central Railway. The nearest railhead to Amarkantak is Pendra Road at a distance of
48 Km from the heart of the city. Railway stations are located in Jabalpur, Rewa and Shahdol.
The nearest airport to Amarkantak is at Jabalpur, which is 230 Km away from city of
Amarkantak. The town also has a permanent helipad.
7. Flora and Fauna
The temperate climate and the equitable distribution of rain make Amarkantak an ideal plateau
for dense vegetation cover. Maikal Range has a number of Sal Trees and various types of
medicinal plants and trees some of the species found are endangered.
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From 1970 to 1976 H.O. Saxena, the Forest Botanist, State Forest Research Institute conducted
intensive studies on the flora of Amarkantak, which is classified by Champion as Central
Indian sub-tropical hill forests. He identified 635 species, including 612 angiosperms, 2
gymnosperms and 21 pteridophytes. 7 of these species were new for Central India and 14 for
Madhya Pradesh.
The vegetation in the biosphere reserve varies from place to place. The forest area of the
reserve represents the tropical deciduous vegetation and it can also be classified into Northern
Tropical Moist deciduous and Southern Dry Deciduous Forests. The reserve is rich in plant
diversity. The region provides shelter to various flora species that belong to the thallophytes,
bryophytes, pteridophytes, gymnosperms and angiosperms. More than 1000 plant species
representing over 151 plant families can be found in this reserve. Many species of grasses are
also found in the reserve. An insectivorous species names Drosera is also found in Amarkantak
and covers about 1 sq. km area that is named as Drosera Plateau.
More than 105 species of medicinal Plants are found in the reserve out of which 25 species are
considered rare. Amarkantak has some extremely valuable medicinal plants, which are now
gravely endangered. Two of these call for special mention, Hedychium coronarium, or
Gulbakavali and Curcuma caesiaRoxburghii, or Kali Haldi. Gulbakavali belong to the family
zinziberaceae. Gulbakavali grows on marshy land, with pure water and under dense shade on
deep soil.
According the 2004 census, The Achanakmar Sanctuary is home to 26 Tigers, 46 Panthers, 28
Bears, 1936 Cheetals, 1369 Sambars, 376 Barking Deer and 552 Bisons. Other important
species found here include the Black Buck, Chinkara, Wolves, Foxes, Jackals, Spotted Deer,
Sambhar, Wild Bores etc.
The reserve also provides a natural habitat to 170 bird species belonging to 51 families.
Achanakmar-Amarkantak Biosphere Reserve

A project document for designating the Achanakmar-Amarkantak area as Biosphere Reserve


(BR) was prepared by the State Government of Madhya Pradesh (undivided) through the
Environmental Planning and Coordination Organization (EPCO), Bhopal. On January 2005,
the Government of India decided to designate the proposed Achanakmar-Amarkantak area as
per the document as a Biosphere Reserve (BR).
The total area of the BR is 3,835.51 sq. km. It covers parts of Anuppur and Dindori districts of
Madhya Pradesh and parts of Bilaspur district of Chhattisgarh State. Out of the total area, an
area of 1,224.98 sq. km falls in Madhya Pradesh and the remaining area of 2,610.53 sq. km
falls in Chhattisgarh state. The entire area of 551.55 sq. km of Achanakmar Sanctuary falling
in Chhattisgarh State forms the core zone and remaining area of 3,283.96 sq. km surrounding
the core zone forms the buffer zone. The buffer zone of the BR falls in Amarkantak.
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The major zones of the Biosphere Reserve include the following:


1. Core Zone: The Core Zone of the BR will be kept free from all human pressures

external to the system.


2. Buffer Zone: The manipulation activities, which may be permitted in the buffer zone,

will be in conformity with general guidelines for the management of the biosphere
reserve.
3. Transition Zone: The State Governments will further demarcate the heavily populated /
disturbed areas of the buffer zone to be designated as transition zone/ restoration zone
for priority intervention to restore/improve the general condition in accordance with the
guideline.
8. Heritage & Tourism
8.1 Introduction

Heritages are the identity of a city. It reflects the cultural values associated with the city. All
the natural, cultural, monumental etc. kinds of heritages should be conserved to add immortal
values to the city.
Amarkantak is a meeting point of the Vindhyas and the Satpuras with the Maikal Hills being
the fulcrum as well as source of origin of three important rivers. The region has a unique
natural heritage and very rich biodiversity. The preservation of heritage areas with modern
development can serve the purpose of business and sustainability.
Historic urban monuments are getting decayed due to the following reasons:

Lack of proper policy


Lack of appropriate legal framework
Lack of awareness and appreciation towards heritage properties and
Lack of financial and technical resources

Amarkantak is a domestically famous place for religious tourism. It has a number of places of
scenic beauty. Simultaneously it is the source of three important rivers. Amarkantak is a great
pilgrim centre for the Hindus thus serves as a religious tourist destination as well as has great
potential for eco-tourism. A lot of scope is there to be exploited as the city can be promoted as
a popular destination for religious tourism. The scenic places should also be developed and
promoted for tourism.
A number of tourist places are located in the nearby areas to Amarkantak. The destination can
be developed as a national level tourist spot by providing economical and comfortable
accessibility to the town. Some of the tourist spots near to Amarkantak are:

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Table 1: Tourist Destinations near to Amarkantak


SN

TOURIST SPOT

DISTANCE (KM)

Achanakmar Abhyaranya

65

Shri Mahamaya Temple, Ratanpur

120

Bandhav Garh National Park

225

Jabalpur (Bheda Ghat, Dhuandhar)

240

Kanha National Park

250

8.2 Inventory of Heritage Sites

The major tourist destinations in the area include the following:


Table 2: Tourist Destinations in Amarkantak

2.

3.

5.

Mai ki Bagiya (Goddess garden): Mai ki Bagiya situated in a dense


grove of trees in dense forests located at a distance of 1 Km from the
Narmadakund. This is a natural garden with Mango, Banana and other
fruit trees with rose bushes and other flowers.

Natural

6.

Kapildhara (Kapil waterfall): Kapildhara waterfall of about 100 feet


high located at 6 Km north west of Narmadakund. The fall creates a very
scenic environment with the presence of mountains, dense forests and
caves.

Natural

4.

Religious

Narmadakund & Temples: The origin of the Narmada river, the open
pool known as the Narmadakund is a famous pilgrim site. Around the
kund there are numerous temples which include Narmada and Shiva
temple, Kartikey temple, Shri Ram Janki temple, Annapurna temple, Guru
Gorakhnath temple, Sri Shuryanarayan temple, Vangeshwar Mahadev
temple, Durga temple, Shiv Pariwar, Siddheswar Mahadev temple, Sri
Radha Krishna temple and the Eleven Rudra temple.
Sonemuda: The place of origin of Sone River is situated at a distance of
1.5 km from Narmadakund at the very edge of Maikal Mountain. The
Sone River cascades from the mountain in a waterfall hundreds of feet
long. From the viewing platform facing east, there is a panorama of
forested hills and valleys
Ancient temples of Kalachuri period: The ancient temples of Kalachuri
period are situated in the south of Narmadakund. These were built by
Kalachuri Maharaja Karnadeva (1042-1072 AD). The Machhendranath
and Pataleshwar temples are excellent examples of architecture. There is
also Keshav Narayan temple built by the Bhonsle ruler of Nagpur in the
18th century.
Shri Jwaleshwar Mahadev (the temple of Shiva): The Jwaleshwar
temple and the source of origin of the third river Juhila River is situated at
a distance of 8 km from Amarkantak on Shahdol road

Natural

1.

CATE
GORY

Religious

TOURIST DESTINATIONS & DESCRIPTION

Religious

SN

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TOURIST DESTINATIONS & DESCRIPTION

7.

Doodhdhara: At a distance of 1 Km from Kapildhara there is another


beautiful waterfall on the river Narmada called Doodhdhara

Natural

8.

Kabir chabutra (the platform of saint Kabir): It is an old belief that the
great saint Kabir performed austerities here and achieved spiritual powers.
It is therefore a holy place for the Kabir panth sect.

Religious

CATE
GORY

SN

Tourist inflow in the town is mostly domestic tourists. The city has a great potential to attract
foreign tourists also. All such potentials are to be harnessed.
Amarkantak has a number of places in addition to the destinations mentioned in the above
table. These places are:
1. Karan Math
2. Shri Shankaracharya Ashram
3. Bhrigu Kamandal
4. Faras Vinayak
5. Siddha Vinayak
6. Shri Barfani Ashram
7. Mai ka Mandap
8. Shri Markandey Ashram
9. Shri Gayatri Mandir
10. Shri Yantra Mandir
11. Swarnapani
12. Shanti Kutir
13. Shri Aadinath Jain Mandir
14. Dharampani/Kali Gufa
15. Durgadhara
16. Shri Kalyan Sewa Ashram
17. Pushkar Dam
18. Chandi Gufa
19. Shri Ramkrishna Kutir
20. Chakrateertha
21. Shambhudhara
22. Panchdhara
23. Shri Arandi Sangam
24. Shri Rudra Ganga
25. Bahgadhnala

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8.3 Fairs and Festivals

Being the domestically famous place for religious tourism, fairs and festivals of Hindu religion
plays a vital role in the city. Mahashivaratri is celebrated with immense festive spirit. To
celebrate the festival melas with various types of programmes are organized. Some of the
festivals celebrated in the town include the following

Makar Sankranti
Basant Panchami
Narmada Jayanti
Akshya Tirtha
Baisakhi Poornima Mela
Navratri
Dusherra
Somti Amavasya
Solar / Lunar Eclipse
Ganesh Puja

The various ashrams in the town have numerous religious programmes throughout the year that
attracts pilgrims on a daily basis.
8.4 Tourist arrival

As already discussed, the city has a lot of potential for religious, adventure as well as eco
tourism. But, currently the city is famous only for religious tourism and that also limited to
local level. The number of tourists visiting for other purposes is negligible. While considering
the number of tourists visiting Amarkantak, the trend shows a positive growth. The numbers
has increased over the years however in 1998 the annual growth fell to 6% and in 2001 it grew
to 9%. On an average more than 2000-3000 tourists visit Amarkantak everyday.

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Figure 1 Pilgrim Tourist Inflow

Table 3 Tourist Inflow in Amarkantak


YEAR
PILGRIM TOURIST INFLOW
% GROWTH
1995
623,000
1996
791,000
26.97%
1997
887,000
12.14%
1998
944,000
6.43%
1999
10,05,000
6.46%
2000
10,96,000
9.05%
2001
12,00,000
9.49%
Source: Amarkantak Development Plan, Amarkantak Nagar Panchayat

DAILY INFLOW OF TOURIST


1,707
2,167
2,430
2,586
2,754
3,653
4,000

8.5 Accommodation Facility

Availability of good quality and affordable accommodation facilities support attracting tourists
to the site. The accommodations available in Amarkantak are mostly in the forms of
Dharmshalas, Guest houses and hotels. Dharmshalas of various religious trusts dominates the
other kinds of accommodations available. The hotels present over their do not have
international standard facilities to attract international tourists. There are no star hotels
available in the town. The accommodations mostly cater to economy tourists that visit the town
for religious purpose. The number of ashrams present in the town provides basic night stay for
about 500 people. The total accommodation present in the town can cater to about only 5000
pilgrims. The accommodation facilities present in the town are:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.

Holiday Home
Sarvodaya Vishram Griha
Dak Bangla (PWD)
Van Vishram Griha & Nirikshan Kuteer
SECL Guest House
Tourist College (MP Tourism Nigam)
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7. Paryatan Dharmshala (SADA, Amarkantak)


8. Rambae Dharmshala
9. Shri Shivram Paryatak Niwas
10. Shri Kalyan Sewa Ashram
11. Shri Mrityunjay Ashram
12. Shri Raj Rajeshwari Mandir Ashram
13. Shri Barfani Ashram
14. Shri Shanti Kuteer
15. Shri Markandeya Ashram
16. Shri Giri Ashram, Sonemuda
17. Shri Tureeya Ashram (Mai Ki Bagia)
18. Shri Ramkrishna Vivekanand Sewashram (Mai Ki Bagia)
19. Shri Ramkrishna Kuteer (Kapil Dhara Road)
20. Falahari Ashram
21. Gurudwara, Amarkantak
22. Shri Shivgopal Ashram
23. Prince Paryatak Guest House
24. Shri Aadinath Jain Mandir
There is a requirement for high class accommodation facility in the city. If the place is to be
promoted as a national level tourist destination, international standard accommodation facilities
with supporting infrastructure provision is a must. While focusing on low and middle-income
tourists, the available accommodation facilities may be considered to be of good quality and
affordable, but the quantity of such accommodation need to be enlarged considering the future
demand.
8.6 Tourist Information Centres

Tourist information centre plays an important role in development of tourism industry. It


makes significant economic contribution by providing information to visitors that encourage
them to stay longer, spend more money, experience more attractions and revisit the region. It is
also associated with social benefits as it relies heavily on volunteer workforce and operates as
an important community facility.
The condition of Amarkantak is very poor in terms of tourist information system. There is no
tourist information site in the city that can provide basic information to pilgrims. There is no
provision to guide the pilgrims on the numerous religious sites and tourist locations. The
tourists depend on local billboards and information boards located in the town. In such a
situation tourists have to rely on the knowledge provided by local people, taxi/tempo drivers,
shopkeepers, etc. Such kinds of situation lead to lack of attraction for the site.

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9. Conclusion
Although having a high potential for tourism, Amarkantak needs a lot of developments to
harness it upto its maximum limit. Most of the sites are religious sacred sites that attract only
pilgrims. Natural beauty lovers can be attracted by providing supporting tourism infrastructures
like high quality accommodation, well developed sight seeing places, sitting areas, eating
joints, etc. Promoting the city with such a tourist destination will further add values to the
religious tourism. All the religious sites should also have all kinds of infrastructure present
over there. At present the sites are facing problem of littering due to such floating populations.
Appropriate steps should be undertaken by Nagar Panchayat to check such issues.
The Narmada is a sacred river however due to religious customs the water quality is not
preserved. A general environmental awareness is required.
The city level infrastructure development is a must to support the city population as well as
floating population. Currently there is shortage of water supply, inappropriate drainage system,
lack of sewerage system and inefficient solid waste management. There is also a lack of quality
accommodation facilities in the area. Good quality hotels like star hotels are required in the
area.
The condition of public transport system in the city is not favourable for tourists. Also the
existing roads require upgradation in terms of street furniture, signages, footpaths, etc.
Tourist information system plays most significant role in attracting tourists. At present, there is
no form of information system present in the area. A system ensuring its proper management is
to be implemented. The destination should be promoted with attractive packages for religious
and adventure tourism. The potential for eco-tourism should also be harnessed optimally.
A lot of investment needs to be done for this sector. Although the place is safe and there is no
threat for the tourists visiting the place, a special consideration may be required considering the
future arrival of tourists. A significant amount of investment should be towards environmental
upgradation of the sites and the city as a whole. Looking over the great tourism potential of the
area, private investors and religious trusts can be involved adopting various models of Public
Private Partnership.

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10. Tourist Places: a Snapshot


10.1 Narmada Kund & Temples:

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10.2 Sonmuda:

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10.3 Ancient temples of Kalachuri period:

10.4 Mai ki Bagiya:

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10.5 Kapildhara:

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10.6 Doodhdhara:

10.7 Kabir Chabutra

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Reference:
Dube Ashok; Amarkantak Darshan; Publication: Shri Ma Narmada Sahitya Sadan, Amarkantak, Dist.Anuppur (MP)
Dwivedi Swati; Amarkantak Paridarshan; Publication: Shri kalian Sewa Ashram, Amarkantak, Dist.Anuppur (MP)
Daniel J. Stynes; a paper on Economic Impacts of Tourism
http://www.indianetzone.com
http://www.envfor.nic.in
http://en.wikipedia.org

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