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MADHYA PRADESH

FortMadhya 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 centuries.

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

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 consort.

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 prayer hall.

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

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 very presence.

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 of stone.
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.

PANCHMARHI

PanchmarhiNestling 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 attractions.

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.

UJJAIN

UjjainTempleOne 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 architecture.

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 anxieties".

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 place.

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 life.

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 use.

INDORE

IndoreIndore 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 indefinite number.

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 armour.

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.     

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