Bhopal: “If, fifty years from now, you see a couple performing Narmada Parikrama and you find that the husband, with broom in hand, is cleaning the ghats and the wife is throwing away the rubbish, be sure that they are Kanta (my wife) and me in our next birth,” said Amritlal Vegad in a documentary, based on a long interview with him.
Vegad, a painter, a writer, an environmentalist and a traveller, who passed away in Jabalpur on Friday morning, aged 90, was passionate about nature – and Narmada. For him, the river was ‘Saundarya Ki Devi (goddess of beauty).
Way back in 1977, much before Narmada Parikrama became a fashion – and a political statement – Vegad had circumambulated the river, covering a distance of 4,000 km on foot. At that time, he was 50. He was the first artist who did the Parikrama and he continued his trips till he was 88.
As for his Parikramas ‘in his current birth’, Vegad said that he was just ‘tuning’ himself with the river, ‘like artistes tune their instruments before a performance.’ “The real thing will come in the next birth.” Vegad studied at Visva Bharati University at Shantiniketan and was trained under able teachers like Nandalal Bose, during the years 1948 to 1953, from whom he learned to appreciate nature and its beauty. He was trained in water colours but he also painted in oil colours.
After returning to Jabalpur, he joined as a teacher at the Institute of Fine Arts there. His story written as a student’s project, while studying at Shantiniketan – “Introducing Ahimsa to the Battlefield” – was made a part of famous book “Gandhi-Ganga” published in 1968.
He has written four travelogues on his Narmada Parikramas including ‘Saundrya Ki Nadi Narmada’, ‘Amritasya Narmada,’ ‘Teere – Teere Narmad’ and ‘Narmad Tum Kitni Sundar Ho.’. The books are published in Hindi, Gujarati, Marathi, Bangla, English and Sanskrit. He had also been a trustee member of Bharat Bhavan.
The Narmadaputra described the felling of trees on Narmada banks as ‘suicidal’. “The river is already dying and you are going on cutting trees. It is like giving her a double pneumonia,” he said. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh in tweet, said “Amritlal Vegad was an eminent litterateur, who expressed the immeasurable form of Maa Narmada in colours and words. His death is a great loss for environment, literature and Narmada Sevaks, besides the country. May god grant peace to the departed soul.