Madhya Pradesh is also called the "Heart of India" not only
because of its location; it has been home to the cultural
heritage of Hindhuism, Buddhism, Jainism and Islam.
Innumerable monuments, exquisitely carved temples, stupas,
forts and palaces are dotted all over the State. The largest
state in the Indian Union, Madhya Pradesh is the land of
Kings and primitive people, of rugged mountains, myth and
romance and is home to a large number of aboriginal tribes
like the Bhils, the Baigas, Marias and the Murias. 40% of
India's tribal population live here.
The natural beauty of Madhya Pradesh is equally varied. Most
of the state is a high plateau and together with Chhatisgarh,
it has the highest percentage of forest in India sheltering
a wide variety of wildlife including 22% of the world’s
tiger population. The State has everything. Spectacular
mountain ranges, meandering rivers and miles and miles of
dense forests offering a unique and exciting panorama of
wildlife in sylvan surroundings.
Madhya Pradesh occupies perhaps the oldest part of the
subcontinent. Close to Bhopal at Bhimbetka are the
pre-historic caves that preserve some fascinating paintings
dating back to Paleolithic times. This was perhaps one of
the earliest dwellings of human beings. In fact, the
excavations here have revealed a cultural sequence right
from the late stone-age to the early historical period.
During the ascendancy of the Guptas, the whole region came
under the domain of the imperial Guptas and subsequently
formed part of Harshvardhan's empire. With the decline in
imperial power the province was broken up into small
principalities contending forever to establish their
supremacy over one another. Chandels were one such dynasty
claiming descent from the moon, who carved out a strong
prosperous kingdom for themselves after the decline of the
great empire. There was a short spell of inspired
construction activity under the Chandels in the 10th to 11th
The magic of Madhya Pradesh lies in its exquisitely carved
temples, proud fortresses and a variety of wildlife.
Khajuraho is rarely missed by any visitor to Madaya Pradesh.
The fabulous temples in Khajuraho celebrate love, and men
and women couple in incredible erotic positions to present a
veritable Kamasutra in stone.
As the tours to Northern Madhya Pradesh are mostly combined
with North India tours, places like Khajuraho and Gwalior
have been included in the North India section of this
brochure for convenience.
Bhopal, capital of Madhya Pradesh combines scenic beauty,
historicity and modern urban planning. The founder of the
existing city was Afghan soldier Dost Mohammad (1708-1740).
Fleeing from Delhi in the chaotic period that followed
Aurangzeb's death, Dost Mohammad met the Gond queen
Kamlapati, who sought his aid after the murder of her
There is a saying in Bhopal that those who visit the city
once will always return. Bhopal was once a small, sleepy
picturesque town on the banks of an immense and beautiful
lake, with lush forests and leisurely days filled with
shatranj (chess), shikar (hunting), picnics, and quiet
fishing trips. The new Bhopal is an antithesis of the old.
One of the greenest cities of India, it has wide, clean,
well-lit roads lined with fiery, statuesque Gulmohar trees.
Even today, despite becoming the capital of the state at
Madhya Pradesh and the consequent influx of people, it
retains about it an almost ethereal quaintness and calm. The
two lakes of Bhopal still dominate the city, and are indeed
its nucleus. Bordered along their shores stand silent
sentinels that testify to the growth of a city.
Jama Masjid: Built in 1837 by Kudsia Begum, this
beautiful Jama Masjid has Gold spikes squat minarets. Moti
Masjid is architecturally akin to Delhi's Jama Masjid, this
imposing mosque was built by Sikander Jehan, daughter of
Kudsia Begum, in 1860.The Taj-ul-Masjid is one of the
largest mosques in Asia, built by Nawab Shahjehan Begum
around a courtyard with a large tank in the centre and with
an imposing double storeyed gateway with 4 recessed archways
and 9 imposing cusped multifoiled openings in the main
Gohar Mahal: Situated behind Shaukat Mahal on the
banks of the Upper Lake is Gohar Mahal, which is an
architectural gem dating back to the times of Kudsia Begum,
also known as Gohar Begum, who built this sprawling palace
in 1820. The Mahal is a magnificent expression of the fusion
of Hindu and Mughal architecture.
Bharat Bhawan: Bharat Bhavan is a showcase of Indian
art, folk traditions, sculpture and a centre for the
performing arts as well. Designed by renowned architect,
Charles Correa, the contours of Bharat Bhawan merge in
exquisite harmony with the landscape creating a visual
impact of spacious and natural elegance.
Laxmi Narayan Temple and Birla Museum: Also known as
Birla Temple, this beautiful temple on the Arera Hills has a
Museum attached to it which houses a collection of
sculptures from Raisen, Sehore, Mandsaur and Shahdol
districts of Madhya Pradesh. There are good views over the
lakes to the old town from the temple.
Van Vihar Safari-Park: This 445 hectare park is
located on a hill adjacent to the Upper Lake. With the
natural surroundings, wildlife watchers can view a variety
of herbivorous and carnivorous species. Van Vihar is well
worth a visit while on a trip to this city of lakes.
Upper and Lower Lakes: The Upper Lake is divided from
the Lower Lake by an overbridge. The exciting trips by sail,
paddle and motorboats facilities are available in Upper lake
which covers an area of 6 sq km.
Chowk: In the heart of the city, the Chowk is lined
with old mosques and havelis, reminders of a bygone era. The
shops in its narrow alleys are treasure troves of
traditional Bhopali crafts: silver jewelry, exquisitely
fashioned beadwork, embroidered and sequined velvet
fashioned purses and cushions.
State Archaeological Museum: Situated near the Lower
Lake, a fine collection of sculptures are on display here
from various parts of Madhya Pradesh. Highlights of the
collection are statues of the Buddha and copies of paintings
from the Bagh Caves.
Bhimbetka: 46 kms south of Bhopal, some thousand rock
shelters have been discovered. Most of them contain ancient
paintings depicting the lives of the prehistoric cave
dwellers in Neolithic age. Because of the natural red and
white pigments used by the painters, the colours have been
remarkably well preserved. There are everything from figures
of wild animals like Rhinoceros, Bears, Tigers, Buffalo to
hunting scene, communal dancing, drinking scene, child
birth, religious rites and burials etc.
Sanchi stands in testimony to the golden Buddhist age of
Emperor Ashoka. Today Sanchi is synonymous to the
masterpieces of Buddhist art revealed in the age-old stupas,
monasteries, temples, and monolithic pillars. The monuments
of Sanchi were built way back during the 3rd century BC to
the 12th century AD. Owing to their archaeological and
historical importance UNESCO has designated the stupas of
Sanchi in Madhya Pradesh as the world heritage site.
Sanchi has a place of its own in the Cultural as well as
Pilgrim tourist map of Madhya Pradesh. Even the historians
and the researchers get attracted to Sanchi that has been an
ancient seat of Buddhist learning. It has become a shrine
for the followers of Buddhism owing to the several
structures and sculptures that illustrate the Buddhist
legends. Amongst the many Stupas the most renowned is the
Great Stupa I which is also referred to as Ashoka’s Stupa
was built by the Great Mauryan emperor Ashoka. Ashoka built
a total of eight stupas at Sanchi in the 3 B.C. These Stupas
have the relics of Buddha like his teeth, hair and the
shoulder bones. It is noteworthy that in Sanchi there are no
figures of Buddha but his representation through symbols.
This is in keeping with the tradition of the early period of
Buddhism. The lotus is the symbol of the birth of Lord
Buddha, the tree of his enlightenment. The wheel symbolizes
his first sermon, the Stupa signifies his Nirvana or
Salvation and the footprints along with the throne imply his
Stupas: Sanchi has been famous for the Stupas which
were built on the top of a hill. The purpose of these stupas
was mostly religious. The most likely use of the stupas has
been said to keep the relics. Some of these stupas have been
found containing relics of disciples of Buddha. The stupas
date as early as the 3rd century and are built in brick made
The Four Gateways: The Four gateways constructed in 35 BC
are the best from of Buddhist expression one can find
anywhere in the world. Gateways or Torans as they are called
are covered with explicit carvings which depict scenes from
the life of Buddha and Jatakas, the stories relating to
Buddha and his earlier births. At this stage Buddha was not
represented directly but symbols were used to portray him.
The Ashoka Pillar: The Ashoka pillars are scattered
around and some of these are in broken shape. The most
important is Pillar no. 10 which is close to the southern
entrance of the Great Stupa. The Ashoka pillars are
excellent examples of the Greco-Buddhist style and known for
aesthetic proportions and exquisite structural balance.
Monasteries: The earlier monasteries were made from
wood which were exquisitely carved and tastefully decorated.
The present monasteries are not even the shadow of what they
were in the past. Sanchi had a huge bowl carved out of a
boulder called the Great Bowl. Grain used to be stored in
this bowl and was distributed among the monks.
Museum: The archaeological survey of India maintains
a museum which houses many items which were discovered
during the excavation of Sanchi area. Most prized possession
of the museum is the lion crown from the Ashoka pillar. The
museum has a sizeable collection of utensils and other items
used by the monks who lived here.
Nestling amidst the craggy Satpura ranges, Panchmari is
perhaps the loveliest hill-station in India. It is Madhya
Pradesh' most verdant jewel, a place where nature has found
exquisite expression in myriad enchanting ways. Peace,
seclusion and a quiet unobtrusive beauty are its prime
Perhaps the beauty and seclusion led people to believe that
Pachmarhi was a preferred place of the gods, for the area
around abounds in pilgrim spots. The Chota Mahadev, a narrow
point in the hills; Mahadeo, the second highest point in the
Satpuras, which comes alive during the annual Shivratri
celebrations; Chauragarh, where a pilgrim path leads to a
sacred summit with several images of Shiva, and the Jata
Shankar cave where Shiva is believed to have hidden himself
from the demon king Bhasmasur. This is a sacred cave under a
mass of loose boulders which resembles the matted locks of
Lord Shiva, hence the name. The caves in the Mahadeo Hills
also contains ancient rock paintings. Most of these have
been placed in the period 500-800 AD, but the earliest
paintings are estimated to be about 10,000 years old.
Priyadarshini Point, the point from where Captain Forsyth,
first caught a glimpse of Pachmarhi, is an oft visited spot.
Jalwataran or Duchess Falls is another important site and
one can trek to this picturesque waterfall that falls in
three distinct cascades. Pandav Caves where Pandav brothers
are believed to the spent 13 years of their exile in these
famous caves from which Pachmarhi takes its name.
One of the holiest pilgrimage centres, Ujjain is the modern
name for Ujjayini. Situated on the bank of the sacred river
Shipra, Ujjain is one of the holiest of Hindu cities. Though
most have been built upon ancient sites, none have survived
in their original splendour. While Mahakal is the presiding
deity of Ujjain, the other gods of the Hindu pantheon are
also well represented in the hundreds of other temples all
over the town. The most notable temples are the Bhaironath
(the liquor drinking deity) temple; Mangalnath temple,
situated at the place where the first meridian is said to
pass the earth; Chintaman Ganesh, the temple said to have
been established by Lord Ram himself; Har Siddhi Mata, the
family goddess of King Vikramaditya; and deep in the bazaar,
Gopal Mandir, a Krishna temple. The temples form an integral
part of the city and contribute to the continuity of
Ujjain's tradition of greatness.
The names of Kalidasa and Ujjayini are inextricably linked
together in the Indian traditions. “The town fallen from
heaven to bring heaven on earth" wrote Kalidasa about Ujjain.
He added, "If heaven is a magnification of Ujjain, then it
must be a very interesting place indeed”. This is the home
of Shiva as Mahakal, who allocates the existential time of
all cosmic manifestation. The river Shipra that passes
through Ujjain is held as sacred as the Ganges. Ujjain is
also one of the sites of the Kumbh Mela, the greatest
religious congregation of the Hindus.
Gopal Mandir: This huge temple is situated in the
middle of the big market square. It was constructed by
Bayajibai Shinde, the queen of Maharajah Daulat Rao Shinde
in the 19th century. It is a beautiful example of Maratha
Chintaman Ganesh: The Ganesh idol enshrined here is
supposed to be swayambhu - born of itself. The temple built
across the Shipra, is believed to be of considerable
antiquity. Riddhi and Siddhi, the consorts of Ganesha, are
seated on either side of Ganesha. The artistically carved
pillars in the assembly hall date back to the Paramara
period. The deity here is traditionally known as Chintaharan
Ganesh meaning "the assurer of freedom from worldly
Mahakaleshwar temple: The presiding deity of time,
Shiva, in all his splendour reigns eternal in Ujjain. The
temple of Mahakaleshwar, its shikhara soaring into the
skies, evokes primordial awe and reverence with its majesty.
The temple enshrines one of India’s 12 Jyoti linga -
naturally occurring lingam believed to derive currents of
Shakti (creative energy) within themselves.
Harsiddhi Temple: Built during the Maratha period,
this temple enshrines a famous image of goddess Annapurna.
Seated between the idols of Mahalaxmi and Mahasaraswati, the
idol of Annapurna is painted in dark vermilion colour. The
Sri Yantra, the symbol of power or Shakti, is also enshrined
in the temple. This temple occupies a special place in the
galaxy of ancient sacred spots of Ujjain. According to the
Shiva Purana, when Shiva carried away the burning body of
Sati from the sacrificial fire, her elbow dropped at this
Bhartrihari Caves: These caves are situated just
above the bank of the Shipra near the temple of Gadkalika.
According to popular tradition, this is the spot where
Bhartrihari, who is said to have been the stepbrother of
Vikramaditya, lived and meditated after renouncing worldly
Navagraha temple (Triveni): Situated on the Triveni
Ghat of the Shipra, the temple is located away from the old
site of Ujjaini town. It is dedicated to the nine planets,
attracts large crowds on new moon days falling on Saturdays.
Vedha Shala (Observatory): Ujjain enjoyed a position
of considerable importance in the field of astronomy. Great
work on astronomy such as the Surya Siddhanta and the Panch
Siddhanta were written in Ujjain. According to Indian
astronomers, the Tropic of Cancer passes through Ujjain. It
is also the first meridian of longitude of the Hindu
geographers. The observatory extant today was built by Raja
Jai Singh (1686-1743), who was a great scholar. Of the many
observatories built by him at Jaipur, Delhi, Varanasi,
Mathura, and Ujjain, the one at Ujjain is still in active
Indore lies to the extreme west of Madhya Pradesh on the
banks of the rivers Saraswati and Khan that unite at the
city centre. The bustling and vibrant city, 186 km from
Bhopal, derives its name from the 18th century Indreshwar
temple. The history of Indore is inseparable from the
history of the Holkar State. The founder of the House of
Holkars was Malhar Rao Holkar, born in 1693 AD. His
soldierly qualities brought him to the forefront under the
Peshwa and he was rewarded with the gift of territories
comprising the Indore region. Though Indore has nothing of
exceptional interest, the palaces of the Holkars provide a
beautiful glimpse into the life and times of this dynasty.
Kanch Mandir: A Jain temple surrounded by a colourful
bazaar, has been constructed entirely in glass. At the top
of the temple is a special glass chamber which multiplies
the three statues of Lord Mahavira installed there into an
Rajwada: This seven storeyed structure is an
interesting blend of the Mughal, Maratha and the French
styles of architecture. This old palace, standing in the
heart of old Indore, is an example of the pomp and splendour
of the Holkar dynasty. The lower three storeys of this
palace are constructed in stone and the upper four in wood.
Lal Bagh Palace: A beautiful example of the splendour
and lifestyle of the Holkar dynasty, the construction of
this grand palace was begun in 1886 and was completed in
three phases, in 1921. Apart of the palace has been
converted into a museum, which displays rare paintings and
armoury from the olden times.
Bada Ganpati: Better known for its size than
antiquity, this temple houses perhaps the largest Ganesh
idol in the world measuring 25 feet from crown to foot.
Created as a result of the dream of an Avantika (Ujjain)
resident, Shri Dadhich, it was built in 1875.
Central Museum: The Indore Museum houses the finest
collection medieval and pre-medieval Hindu sculptures. The
museum is also known for its collection of coins, arms and
Lal Baag Palace: It is one of the grandest monuments
the Holkar dynasty left Indore. A reflection of their taste,
grandeur and lifestyle, its construction began in 1886 under
Tukoji Rao Holkar II, and was carried out in three phases.
The final phase was completed in 1921 under Tukoji Rao
Holkar III. It has a total area of 28 hectares, and at one
time it had the reputation of having one of the best rose
gardens in the country.
Mandu: The extensive hilltop fort of Mandu is one of
the most evocative sights in central India. Each of Mandu's
structures is an architectural wonder.