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Narmada (nərmŭˈdə) [key], river, c.775 mi (1,250 km) long, rising in Madhya Pradesh state, central India, and flowing W between the Satpura and Vindhya ranges through Gujarat state to the Gulf of Khambat. Because the river is turbulent and confined between steep banks, it is unsuitable for navigation or irrigation. However, the river is being developed for irrigation and hydroelectric power in a long-term project involving some 30 large, 135 medium, and 3,000 smaller dams and hundreds of miles of canals in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Gujarat. Gujarat will be the primary beneficiary of the irrigation aspects of the project. The project has been controversial both in India and internationally, in part because of the thousands of people who will need to be resettled. The Narmada, sacred to Hindus, is said to have sprung from the body of the god Shiva; a round-trip pilgrimage on foot along its entire length is highly esteemed. Many holy baths and sites line its banks; at Marble Gorge, whose 100-ft-high (30.5-m) walls bear inscriptions and sculptures, is a 12th-century temple.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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