Madhya Pradesh was India’s largest state geographically until November 1,2000, when Chhattisgarh was carved out. The state’s capital Bhopal came into the limelight after the Union Carbide gas leak disaster which claimed the lives of thousands in December 1984. Indore is the largest city and the commercial capital of the state.
Madhya Pradesh has some of India’s outstanding Hindu, Islamic and Buddhist monuments at Khajuraho, Mandu and Sanchi. The city of Ujjain, popular for its Mahakaleshwar Temple, is also the venue of the Kumbha Mela held once in every 12 years on the banks of the Shipra River. The city called Ujjaini during ancient times served as the capital of the kingdom of Avantika, and finds mention in the Mahabharata.
It is impossible to take in all of Madhya Pradesh’s tourism attractions on a single trip. And deservingly, the state has many natural delights including 1000 metre-plus peaks, forests and waterfalls, hill station Pachmarhi, rock shelters in Bhimbetka and national parks.
Historically known as Malwa, Madhya Pradesh has some of the oldest inhabited parts of India. The fascinating rock paintings at Bhimbetka and Pachmarhi which are more than 10,000 years old stands testimony to the history of the region since Paleolithic times.
The region came under Buddhist emperor Ashoka of the Mauryan dynasty, in the 3rd century BC. The Mauryas were superceded by the Sungas and the Guptas. The region also constituted part of Harshavardhan’s empire. During the decline of the imperial power, small principalities created out of the province started fighting each other to establish their supremacy. The downfall of the imperial power saw the emergence of the Chandel dynasty, which later constructed the great temples of Khajuraho.
Between the 12th and 16th centuries, the region saw struggles between Hindu and Muslim rulers. The Mughals were finally overpowered by the Marathas. Later, Marathas were finally replaced by the British who entered into a treaty with the rulers of the princely states in the area and went on to gain power over them. After independence
the States Reorganisation Act of 1956 was implemented and accordingly, the state of Madhya Pradesh came into existence. In 2000 Chhattisgarh became a separate state.
Geography Madhya Pradesh is located in the geographic heart of India. Barring the valleys of the Narmada and the Tapti, Madhya Pradesh consists of a plateau with a mean elevation of 1600 ft above sea level, interspersed with the mountains of the Vindhya and the Satpura ranges. The Kashmir hills and the Vindhya range are situated in north and the west respectively. To the northwest side of the Vindhya range is the Malwa plateau, which rises up to 100 metres. The Bundelkhand plateau lies to the north ofthe Vindhya range. There is also the Baghelkhand plateau in the northeast, and the Madhya Bharat plateau in the extreme northeast. The hilly regions fall mainly on the Vindhya and Satpura ranges where tribals practice agriculture. During the rainy season the region witnesses a rich growth of vegetation. The black soil of Malwa bears rich crops.
Major rivers: Narmada, Chambal, Betwa, Tapti, Wainganga are some of the major rivers.
Climate: The climate of Madhya Pradesh is mostly tropical, and largely governed by the monsoon. From March to May it experiences a hot, dry and windy summer, with the temperature soaring to a maximum of about 49°C in some parts. From June to September comes the southwest monsoon, when the rainfall fluctuates from region to region. The total annual rainfall varies from 600 mm to 1200 mm. Winters (October-February) are usually pleasant.
Flora and Fauna: Madhya Pradesh has four important types of forests, that is tropical dry forest, tropical moist forest, subtropical hill forest and tropical thorn forest. Based on the terrain of the region, the forests are further classified into three types: teak forests, sal forests and miscellaneous forests. Bamboo, small timber, fodder and fuelwood also grow
in many areas. Madhya Pradesh is popular for its tiger population and is aptly known as the ‘Tiger state.’ It has 19 per cent of the tiger population in India, and 17 per cent of the tiger population in the world. Satpura, Bandhavgarh, Pench, Panna, and Kanha are the five project tiger areas in the state. The Ken-gharial and Son-Sardarpur sanctuaries are home to the mugger and gharial. Other common wildlife of the state include the panther, bear, chital, (spotted deer), wild buffalo, bison, sambar, black buck and many species of birds.
Festivals in Madhya Pradesh Besides the common Hindu, Muslim and Christian festivals, some of the important cultural festivals celebrated in Madhya Pradesh are as follows:
Tansen Samaroh: The famous Tansen Sangeet Samaroh is celebrated every year at the Tansen Tomb in Gwalior. During the 5- night festival, the contemporary classical music legends from all over the country deliver vocal and instrumental performances and offer their tribute to music Maestro Tansen. To be a part of this musical spectacle, plan your trip during the months of November and December.
Khajuraho Dance Festival: This Festival of Dances held in February/March, is a unique celebration of the best of Indian classical dance, in a spectacularfloodlit temple setting in Khajuraho. Nowhere else you can see a get-together of this magnitude of India’s most talented dancers performing Kathak, Bharathnatyam, Kuchipudi, Odissi, Manipuri and many more. The week-long festival is organised by the Madhya Pradesh State Tourism Development Corporation.
Tourist spots Hill Station: Pachmarhi (211 km from Bhopal)
Museums: Ramvan Museum (Satna), Archaeological Survey of India Museum (Sanchi), State Museum (Vidisha), Gujari Mahal (Gwalior), Hinglajarh Site Museum, Bhapura 8i Mandsaur Museums (Mandsaur), Jaisimhapura & Vikram Kirti Mandir Museum (Ujjain), University Museum (Jabalpur and Sagar), State Archaeological Museum (Bhopal, Indore, Jabalpur, Bilaspur, Raipur, Shivpuri and Panna).
Pilgrim Centres: Omkareshwar (77 km from Indore), Maheshwar (91 km from Indore), Ujjain (774 km from Delhi), Amarkantak (245 km from Jabalpur), Sanchi (52 km from Bhopal) and Chitrakoot (675 km from Delhi). Wildlife/Bird Sanctuaries: Kanha National Park, Bhandavgarh National Park, Ghatigaon WLS, National Chambal WLS, Gandhi Sagar WLS, and Pench National Park.
A Sketch Map not to Scale
Gobardhan festival: It is celebrated on the sixteenth day in the month of Kartika that is the day after Diwali. Gobardhan means ‘prosperity for cows’ and seems to have its origin in the Krishna cult.
Chethiyagiri Vihara Festival: This festival of the Buddhists is celebrated at Sanchi at the end of November, and it draws thousands of Buddhist monks and scholars. These people attend the festival to view the relics of Buddha’s two initial disciples whose remains were discovered in the third Stupa in 1853.
World Heritage Sites: Khajuraho Temples, Bhimbetka Caves and Sanchi Stupa.
Originally called as Bhojpal, the city got its name shortened much later. Dotted with a number of natural lakes it is referred to as the Lake City or City of Lakes. Bhopal, the capital and commercial city of India’s heart, is a nice blend of the Hindu and Muslim culture. The sight of the capital from the Shamla and the Idgah Hills, especially during the evening with lights, is a sight to behold.
The present city of Bhopal was settled by Afghan adventurer, Dost Mohammad Khan, who ruled over the city for thirty years. Muslims account for 40 per cent of the city’s population and interestingly Bhopal is the only region in India which was ruled for about 100 years by women.
Today Bhopal is a cocktail of architecture treasures, pilgrim destinations and comprehensive murals.
iljf How to get there
By Air: Bhopal airport, also known as the ‘Raja Bhoj Airport’ is located 15 km southeast ofthe main city center. Air India, Jet Airways operate flights connecting Bhopal with cities like Mumbai, Indore, Delhi, Gwalior and Chennai. Flights connect Bhopal with Delhi, Guwahati, Goa, Indore and Lucknow.
I life By Rail: Bhopal Is on one of the two major Delhi-Mumbai railway lines and is the main junction of the West Central Railways. It is also the terminus of the Shatabdi Express, which daily shuttles between Delhi and Bhopal. Various express trains ply between Bhopal and cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Agra, Gwalior, Indore, Gujarat, Jhansi and Ujjain.
By Road: Bhopal is known for its well maintained roads. The bus station is near the railway junction in Old Bhopal. Both the State government and private operators run extensive bus services to various places in Madhya Pradesh.
m Places of interest Mosques: The most exquisite attractions in Bhopal are its mosques which stand testimony to the Muslim rule in this city. The Taj-ul-Masjid, literally means ‘the crown of mosques,’ is not only the largest mosque of Bhopal, but of Asia. Built by Nawab Shah Jehan Begum, the mosque has a grand entrance, decorated with four sunken archways and nine baronial cuspidal multifold openings in the main prayer hall. The Qibla (place of worship) inside the mosque has 11 concaved intricately carved arches.
Moti Masjid: Also known as the pearl mosque is another important mosque here. Built by Sikander Jahan Begum in red sandstone, this mosque is like the Jama Masjid in Delhi. This mosque is smaller in size and has two dark red minarets crowned by golden spikes. Another mosque that you should visit is the Jama Masjid. Built by Khudsiya Begum in 1837, this mosque is adorned with golden stilettos on its crown. It is renowned for its much acclaimed interiors and intricate architecture. There is also a small pond inside the Masjid.
State Archaeological Museum: The State Archaeological Museum is another place where you can feel the past in the present. This museum houses a rich collection of sculptures and paintings. A colossal statue of Buddha and other Hindu gods and goddesses also find their place here. This museum is also a store house of tribal handicrafts and historic bronze images. A fine sculpture ofthe Khajuraho amorous couple is a major attraction of this museum.
Van Vihar National Park: Like other cities Bhopal too possess a wildlife sanctuary called the Van Vihar. Sprawling in an area of 445 hectares, the national park (calling it a zoo would be appropriate) houses many species of wildlife and birds. It is open from 7 am to 11 amand3pmto5 pm and closed on Tuesdays. The ideal time to visit is between July and September.
Upper Lake/Lower Lake: Two lakes surround the city and they are famous for their beauty. The Upper lake was created in the 11th century by Raja Bhoj, the founder of Bhopal. This man-made lake was a product of elaborate planning and strategy. Besides enjoying its scenic beauty, you can also engage in water sports. The Lower Lake on the other hand is best for sailing and boating. Positioned in the heart of the city, this lake is an ideal place if you want to catch a spectacular glimpse ofthe city. You can take a relaxing stroll around the lake or just sit and enjoy the beautiful surroundings.
Birla Museum: This popular museum displays the rich culture of Madhya Pradesh. An interesting collection of tools from the palaeolithic and neolithic ages along with the stone sculptures which have travelled 12 centuries are on display. Terracotta and old coins are another attraction ofthe museum.
Bharat Bhavan: If you are interested in Indian art forms, the Bharat Bhavan is a must- see place for you. The museum comprises four sections. There is the Rang Mahal for theatre movements. The house for classical music is known as Vagarth. There are more than 7,000 books here and a special collection on poetry. There is also an open air auditorium inside the premises. The hall for Indian art and sculpture or the Roopankar. Here you will find wonderful collections of tribal and art folk. Anhad, the library of Classical and Folk Music and the Ashram should not be missed.
Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya: This national museum of mankind on the Shamala hills, is the best way to learn about the life, culture and beliefs of India’s 450 tribes. It is the only museum worldwide to have numerous pre-historic painted rock shelters. A well-stocked library, audio-visual compendium, cybernated documentations and a wide collection of anthropological specimens make it one of the outstanding museums ofthe country