Nandaprayag is a small town located in Chamoli district of Uttaranchal. It is one of the Panch Prayag (five confluences) of Alakananda River. It is a confluence of the Nandakini River and Alakananda.
Ravana is said to have done austerities here and Nanda Maharaja, father of Krishna, is said to have performed a great sacrifice at this spot. Nandaparyag offers only a basic accomodation and there is really not much to see …but being the one of the prayags it won’t be missed by any pilgrimage because visiting all five prayags and bathing at the confluence of the rivers is considered very auspicious.
Altoug being just a small insignificant town this place is connected with one great legend…
The Recognition of Shakuntala (abhijñānaśākuntalam) is a sanskrit play, a masterpiece, composed by the great Indian poet Kalidasa. It is a story about king Dushyanta who, while on a hunting trip, meets Shakuntala, daughter of the sage Vishvamitra and the apsara Menaka, later adopted by the sage Kanva, and marries her secretly.
Dushyanta returns to the court and Shakuntala is left pregnant with their child at the forest. One day great sage Durvasa comes at the ashram of Kanva and being offended by Shakuntala, curses her to be forgotten by her husband Dushyanta. Eventually he will remember her after seeing the ring he has left with her. But on the way to the court she loses the ring and he is unable to recognize her. The ring is found by a fisherman who returns it to Dushyanta who then regains his memory of Shakuntala and travels to find her. While traveling through the forest one day he comes upon a young boy playing with a lion and counting its teeth. King is amazed by the boy’s boldness and strength. The boy introduces himself as Bharata, the son of King Dushyanta and Shakuntala. Dushyanta realizes that Bharata is his own son and the family is happily reunited.
- And how is this beautiful story connected with the small town of Nandaprayag? It is said that this is the place where Dushyanta and Shakuntala first met and where was the ashram of the sage Kanva.
The place is depicted also in Mahabharata : “In the midst of big trees, the sacred river Malini was flowing. The water of this river was sweet and sacred. This ashram was spread out on both the banks of river. In this sacred river different types of birds used to come and stay. Due to the tapovanam on both the sides, the ashram was even more beutiful. Here poisonous creatures and wild animals used to stay together in peace. On seeing this Raja Dushyanta was filled with joy and happpiness.”
Mālinī (Sanskrit: मालिनी) was the name of river that was flowing in the forest where the ashram of Kanva rishi was situated. Because of that some say that the ashram of Kanva rishi was not situated in Nandaprayag but in Kotdwara, also in Uttaranchal. It is not clear where the Mālinī was flowing…It is also mentioned in Ramayana (1.68) as the river flowing between the passing Aparatala Mountain and the northern end of Pralamba Mountain.
So is this legend about Shakuntala and Nandaprayag true, it’s hard to say. But while walking through Nandaprayag, seeing it’s groves, feeling the peacefulness of the place and thinking about Kalidasa’s descriptions of the deers at the hermitage, gardens full of jasmines, flower-strewn benches and moistened lotus leaves …you will somehow feel that Kalidasa must have visited this place before writing his Shakuntala.
The roots of trees are washed by many a stream
that breezes ruffle; and the flowers’ red gleam
is dimmed by pious smoke; and fearless fawns
move softly on the close-cropped forest lawns.