Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh
Bhopal, the capital of Madhya Pradesh, holds a mesmerizing fusion of nature's creations and historical artifacts. It is known as the City of Lakes for its natural and artificial lakes. Bhopal is located amidst two artificial lakes and is filled with natural magnificence galore. This city of Madhya Pradesh has woody forests, breath taking landscapes and splendid hills. In addition to its natural splendour, the city offers pleasant atmosphere with the beauty of the man-made lakes. Besides its beauty, the city is well known for its historical past of Nawabs. The affluence of the city carries rich forms of art, custom and traditions all these features of the place attract travellers from all over the world. The city was ruled by the Begums for many centuries and this fact along with others contributes to its uniqueness. The imprints of their rule can be seen in the majestic mansions and mosques built at that time. Presenting a perfect blend of Hinduism and Islam, the city also shows a mix of the traditions of Northern and Southern India.
Being an important travel destination, Bhopal is well-connected to other major Indian cities by air, road and rail. Bhopal Airport is located about 13 km northwest of the city centre and is well-connected to other major cities of the country like Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Raipur, Chandigarh, Ahmedabad and Mumbai by regular flights. Regular state run and private bus services connect Bhopal to Ahmedabad, Kota, Jodhpur, Nagpur, Shirdi, Pune, Jaipur, Amravati, Vadodara, Surat and Nashik. Bhopal Junction is the largest railway station in the city and is a major junction on the Delhi-Chennai main line and the Central railway route from Delhi to Mumbai.
The soaring summers hit the city from month of March and remains till the month of May. The climate remains hot during this period. The highest temperature goes up to 47°C. The lowest temperature remains around 24°C. The day time of the summer season is a little difficult for travelling and exploring the city. The nights bring some relief as the temperature goes down significantly. The month of June brings heavy rainfall at the place and it remains till the month of September. It is always a much needed relief for the people of Bhopal. The humidity in this period is quite high. The winter season is chilly with the temperature in December going quite low. The weather remains as it is till the month of February. The lowest temperature remains around 8°C and the maximum temperature around 23°C. The cold atmosphere is quite apt for tourists to explore the beauty of the place.
Upper Lake: Upper Lake is a natural attraction of the place where people can explore nature. The beauty of the serene lake brings together people to spend some time at peace here. The sunrise and sunset at the place is quite superb.
Lower Lake: Lower Lake in Bhopal forms an integral part of the city. Also known as Chhota Talaab, the lake was constructed in 1794, under the commission of Chote Khan, a minister of Nawab Hayat Muhammad Khan Bahadur. From weekend trip to evening stroll, from morning walk to a touristy escape, the lake creates an idyllic setting for every mood. The lake is located to the east of Upper Lake with a catchment area of 9.6 square km.
Gohar Mahal: Located on the bank of Upper Lake, Gohar Mahal is standing tall as a testimony to the cultural legacy of this city of Nawabs, it is actually a beautiful mansion built in the year 1820 in the form of a palace, representing an excellent blend of Mughal and Hindu styles of architecture. This magnificent palace is named after the first woman ruler of Bhopal, Qudisiya Begum, also popularly known as Gohar Begum who was not only an efficient and unbiased head of the state but, also a great patron of art and architecture. The exteriors and interiors were constructed with great attention to detail and were adorned with stunning designs, motifs and religious patterns. Cultural fairs, tribal art exhibitions, handicraft workshops and other interesting events are regular affairs here, which are a great draw for both locals and tourists who throng here in great numbers to spend an eventful day. The annual Bhopal Mahotsav held in January-February every year at the Gohar Mahal is also a huge crowd puller, attracting not only tourists and art lovers but, also many artisans, craftsmen and folk performers from all over the state of Madhya Pradesh to showcase their art and talents to the public.
Shaukat Mahal & Sadar Manzil: Located in the vicinity of the Gohar Mahal is the 180 years old architectural marvel of Bhopal, Shaukat Mahal. Built in 19th century during the reign of Sikander Begum, daughter of Gohar Begum, the mahal is famous for its distinctive design that showcases a unique blend of Indo-Islamic and European styles of architecture. Conceived and designed by a French architect who perfectly combined Post-Renaissance and medieval Gothic styles with an effortless ease in its construction, no wonder, the palace in those times, became a cynosure for art & architecture patrons. The aesthetical appeal of the palace, complete with heavy use of white alabaster and featuring a series of intricate triangular shaped arches on its ceiling, was further enhanced by exquisite exteriors adorned with delicate floral patterns providing it an eco-friendly appearance. A flamboyant red brick building Sadar Manzil surrounds Shaukat Mahal. The bright red of Sadar Manzil perfectly complements the milky white construction of Shaukat Mahal and the lush gardens here further add that touch of greenery to the postcard perfect setting of these two beautiful buildings. The backdrop of beautifully lit Shaukat Mahal provides that magical feel to the whole atmosphere.
Moti Masjid: Also known as the Pearl Mosque because of its sparkling white marbled floor, Moti Masjid is built in 1860 under the rule of Sikander Jehan Begum, one of the most liberated women in the history of Bhopal who worked towards progression of the city by building several monuments, roads and bridges. Remarkably resembling the architectural style of Jama Masjid in Delhi, though relatively small, Moti Masjid is still considered an important pilgrimage destination for Muslims and people travel here from far and wide to offer their prayers. The 19th century old mosque stands impressively tall in bright brick red colour flanking the white marbled edifice that is crowned by two small cupolas. On each side of the mosque, stand the two dark red minarets adorned with golden spikes on top.
Rani Kamlapati Palace: The wife of Gond tribal ruler, Nizam Shah, Rani Kamlapati was known for her luminous beauty and unmatched charm. Rani Kamlapati Palace was the official residence of this beautiful queen in Bhopal, who once ruled in the hearts of her subjects owing to her irresistible poise & grace and extraordinary talents. Built around 1680 on the banks of the Lower Lake, the palace was a gift to the queen by her husband, Nizam Shah and it is said that she spent full moon nights floating on the lake adjoining the palace in a lotus shaped vessel. Today, the beautiful palace is flanked by a lush park called the Kamla Park and is maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India. Since a part of the palace is submerged under the lake, so, to provide a clear idea of the entire structure, digitized images of the palace have also been put on display for those interested in archaeological research and studies.
Bhimbetka Caves: A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Bhimbetka Caves is one of the ‘must-visit’ sightseeing places in Bhopal. Located just at a distance of about 45 km. from the main city, on the foothills of the Vindhya Mountains, the place was accidentally discovered by a renowned archaeologist, Dr. Vishnu Wakankar in 1957-58. Stocked with pre-historic rock paintings dating back to the periods between Palaeolithic and Medieval ages, these caves are no less than a splendid art-gallery providing a deep insight into development of human race with time. While there are almost over 600 natural rock shelters in the area, scattered amidst thick forests of Sal and teak, only about 12 are open to public and are properly marked with numbers to enable visitors not to get lost in the confusing maze.
Sanchi Stupa: Nestled in the Raisen district of Madhya Pradesh, Sanchi is an important historical and archaeological site, located at a distance of around 46 Km from Bhopal. It is known for its ancient Stupas and other incredible Buddhist structures dating back to the Mauryan era between 3rd century BC and 12th century AD. Most significant of all the archaeological recoveries in this small town is the Sanchi Stupa, the oldest stone structure in India built during 3rd century BC on the orders of then Mauryan Emperor, Asoka. Carved out from a single semi-circular rock, the sacred stupa is known to enshrine the old Buddha relics. The eye-catching design and splendid architecture of this stupa displays an austere grandeur of its times.
Raisen Fort: Located 23 Km from the city centre of Bhopal, Raisen Fort sits on a hilltop in Raisen town near Sanchi. Built around 1200 AD, the fort served as the seat of power to many dynasties in the region, ranging from Rajputs to Mughals to Nawabs of Bhopal. Inside the fort, one would come across ruins of many buildings including temples, palaces and wells. Few 15th century old cannons also adorn the inner fort walls. A 12th century old Shiva Temple in the fort opens its gates for devotees only once in a year on the occasion of Maha Shivratri and pilgrims in great numbers swarm here to tie a piece of cloth on the temple’s gate to get their wishes fulfilled. The shrine of Hazrat Peer Fatehullah Shah Baba who was a famous Muslim Saint is also a great attraction in the fort and is visited by people from all religions. The hills surrounding the fort also abound in historic rock shelters adorned with centuries-old paintings.
Van Vihar National Park: Spread over an area of approximately 445 hectares, the ‘Van Vihar National Park’ is one of the most popular national parks in Central India. The park is located just adjacent to the ‘Upper Lake’ and attracts loads of nature lovers, wildlife enthusiasts and nature photographers throughout the year. This park gives a completely different experience of spotting the herbivores like chital, blackbucks and sambars roaming about freely in their natural environs. Besides spotting animals, the ‘Van Vihar National Park’ also provides you with ample opportunities to see and admire the stunning birdlife of the park. The presence of adjoining ‘Upper Lake’ wetlands in the park helps draw numerous colourful birds including pied kingfishers, spoonbills, pintails, spot bills, herons and teals. In winters, many beautiful feathered creatures also migrate here from Siberia, Japan and parts of Europe to enjoy the warmer weather of India.
Bhojpur Temple: The ancient ‘Bhojpur Temple’, also known as ‘Bhojeshwar Temple’ was built in 11th century AD during the reign of Raja Bhoj. Dedicated to lord Shiva, the temple is located in the heart of the archeologically important site of Bhojpur, just 28 km from the city of Bhopal. The religious significance of this ancient temple is such high that it is often referred to as ‘Somnath of the East’ and pilgrims from different corners of the country travel here in huge numbers to pay their homage to the god. The Shivlinga at this temple is the largest stone structure in the world and is carved from a single rock, measuring 7.5 ft. in height and 18 ft. in circumference. Standing on a 21 ft. tall platform, devotees are only able to access the Shivlinga by climbing an iron staircase. It was built in accordance to the principles of Vastu Shastra and is decorated with an intricately carved arch at the entrance. The design is in a square shape, complete with four pillars and a huge stone dome supported on them. The walls, façade and dome, all adorn several beautifully carved stone sculptures of various Hindu deities and pantheons.
National Museum of Mankind: Also famous as the ‘Tribal Habitat Museum’, the ‘National Museum of Mankind’ was established in 1985. Spread over an area of 200 acres of land, close to the ‘Upper Lake’ amidst Shamla Hills in Bhopal, the museum is the only one of its kind in India and is world-famous to house an excellent collection of pre-historic rock shelters dating back to the early stone-age era that prevailed on the Indian sub-continent in bygone times. Another interesting highlight of this beautiful museum is its open-air exhibit of life-size dwellings of various ethnic tribes of India, complete with their signature styled interiors, building materials and other related objects. A display of a classic Rajasthani desert village and a Himalayan village also captures the attention of many. Yet another eye-opening attraction of the tribal museum is its ‘Mythological Trail’ section where one can see an exquisite collection of traditional crafts and paintings related to myths and religious beliefs of different Indian tribes; and each tribe exhibits its own specialty in terms of artistry and craftsmanship.
Archaeological Museum: This Archaeological Museum has a very unique collection of sculptures gathered from all parts of Madhya Pradesh. The artifacts on display give a good account of the history of the state. The collection of artifacts has sculptures of Buddha, Lakshmi; paintings and images of Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu.