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Bhopal

The city undulates on the banks of a vast lake spanning several square miles, which dominates its landscape and gives it a magnetic, mesmerizing quality difficult to resist. The tranquillity of the lake is perhaps, to a large extent, responsible for an air of almost deliberate indolence and complacency. It affects one unawares and stubbornly clings to the old fabric of a Bhopal that was-a small, sleepy picturesque town, a town with lush forests and leisurely days of shikars, picnics and quiet fishing trips. Even today, despite becoming the capital of Madhya Pradesh and the consequent conflux of people due to industrialization and growth, Bhopal retains about it an almost eternal quaintness and charm. Situated in the north-western part of Madhya Pradesh along the slopes of a sandstone ridge, the city of Bhopal was built by King Bhoj in the 11th century. The region remained the part of the Mughal Empire until the death of Aurangzeb in 1707. It was ruled by the Begums of the royal family for almost a hundred years. In 1926 Nawab Hamidullah, son of the third Begum, Nawab Sultan Jahan, ascended the throne. It was under him that Bhopal acceded to India in 1947.

Bhopal is quite hot during summers. The monsoons arrive here during the month of July-September. The winters are quite cool and pleasant and are the best time to visit the city.

Sightseeing:

Laxmi Narayan Temple:

Also known as the Birla Mandir, the Lakshmi Narayan Temple is situated to the south of the Lower Lake on the Arera Hills. Near the temple is located a museum that houses a collection of sculptures from Raisen, Sehore, Mandsaur and Shahdol districts of Madhya Pradesh. The stone sculptures are mainly of Shiva, Vishnu, and their respective consorts and incarnations.

Moti Masjid :

Built by Qudsia Begum/’s daughter Sikander Jahan Begum in 1860, the Moti Masjid is similar in style to Delhi/’s Jama Masjid. The mosque is smaller in size and has two dark red minarets crowned by golden spikes.

Taj-ul Masjid:

Taj-ul Masjid is one of the largest mosques in India. The construction of this mosque was started by Shah Jahan Begum during her reign (1868–1901) but it was never completed in her lifetime. It was only with the intervention of the government of India in 1971 that the construction of the mosque was completed. Today, this huge pink mosque with two massive white-domed minarets is used as a madarsa (religious school). A three-day annual Ijtima congregation held here draws a lot of people from all over the country.

Shaukat Mahal:

In the heart of the walled city, at the entrance to the Chowk area lies Shaukat Mahal. The building evokes archaeological interest as it is set in different European styles thereby setting it apart from the predominantly Islamic architecture of the area.

Sadar Manzil:

Near the Shaukat Mahal lies the elegant Sadar Manzil. It is supposed to be the hall of public audience of the former rulers of Bhopal.

Upper And Lower Lakes:

Covering an area of about 6 sq. km, the Upper lake is separated from the Lower Lake by an over bridge. You can hire motorboats for exciting trips on the Upper Lake. Adjacent to the Lake is the zoo called Van Vihar, where you can have a look at the tiger, leopard, lion and bear among other animals. Near the Lower Lake, you can visit an aquarium. The fish-shaped aquarium houses a number of fascinating species of fish.

Excursions From Bhopal:

Bhimbetka Caves :
Known for their prehistoric paintings, the famous Bhimbetka caves are located at about forty-six kilometres south of Bhopal. The caves, surrounded by the northern fringe of the Vindhyan ranges, are believed to have provided shelter to the primitive man. The caves or the rock shelters belonging to the Neolithic age number more than 600. Inside most of these caves are the paintings that depict, in vivid panoramic detail, the life of the pre-historic cave dwellers. The oldest paintings are believed to be up to 12,000 years old. The caves lying in the rocky terrain of dense forest and craggy cliffs have become an invaluable chronicle in the history of man.

Bhojpur:
Set in the Satpura Hills at a height of 1,067 metres above sea level, the hill station of Pachmarhi is located about 195 km from Bhopal. Legend has it that it is in the forests of Pachmarhi that Pandavas spent some part of their exile. The serene surroundings, tranquil forest glades, groves of wild bamboo and jamun, dense sal forests and delicate bamboo thickets make Pachmarhi an ideal retreat for those on look out for a change from urban chaos. Pachmarhi is also an archaeological treasure house. The cave shelters in the Mahadeo Hills, containing rock paintings believed to have been made during AD 500-800, are the prime attractions here.

Pachmarhi:
The ancient city of Bhojpur lies twenty-eight kilometres southeast of Bhopal. The city is famous for the immense Bhojeshwar Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. Also referred to as the Somnath of the east, this impressive temple overlooks a vast, now dried-up lake. One of the features of the temple is a massive lingam which is about 2.3 metres high and 5.3 metres in circumference. The temple was never completed and the earthen ramp used to raise it to dome-level still stands. The temple even today remains one of the best examples of temple architecture of the 11th-13th centuries.

Sanchi:
Located about 46 km northeast of Bhopal, the town of Sanchi is famous for the Buddhist works of art dating from the 3rd century BC to the 12th century AD. The ancient stupas, monasteries, temples, and pillars form a major source of attraction here. Of these, the most famous is the Sanchi Stupa 1, originally built by the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka.

Udaygiri:
Five kilometres from Vidisha are located the Udaygiri Caves, cut into a sandstone hill. The caves date from AD 320 to 606. An inscription in one of these caves states that it was produced during the reign of Chandragupta II (AD 382-401). Of the 20 Gupta caves, two are Jain and 18 Hindu. One can have a look at an image of Vishnu in his boar incarnation in the Cave 5. On the top of the hill are the ruins of the 6th-century Gupta temple.

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