Located in the heart of India, the
state of Madhya Pradesh can be said to be a historical and cultural microcosm
of the country. The state is probably one of the oldest human inhabited areas
of the sub-continent. The prehistoric caves found at Bhimbetka (near Bhopal) are home to
paintings that have been dated by archaeologists to Paleolithic times. Ruled
over by a succession of Hindu, Mughal and Rajput dynasties, the state’s culture
and architecture bears the imprint of their influence. Numerous national parks,
former Rajput capitals, medieval towns and pilgrimage centers make Madhya
Pradesh an ideal tourist destination.
This confluence of cultural and natural
landscapes is best showcased by Madhya Pradesh’s state capital, Bhopal. Two lakes, the
Upper and lower, dominate the city and form its nucleus. It was in the 18th
century that the Afghan soldier Dost Mohammed (1708-1740) lay the foundations
for the modern city of Bhopal.
This new city was itself built on the site of
the 11th century city of Bhojapal
(said to have founded by the legendary Raja Bhoja). While the Old City teems
with beautiful mosques and bustling market places while modern Bhopal is a
model of progressive urban planning – wide avenues, verdant parks and gardens
and modern edifices.
The famous Khajuraho temples were built
by the kings of the Chandela dynasty (who claimed a lineage from the moon).
These UNESCO World Heritage temples have been described as poetry in stone –
the sculptures draw inspiration from Hindu mysticism, contemporary life (there
are many household & marriage scenes), the royal court and Indian
The Sanchi Stupa (another UNESCO World
Heritage Site) was built by emperor Ashoka as a homage to Gautama Buddha. It
was in the forests of Chitrakoot (95 km from Khajuraho) that Lord Rama and his
wife Sita spent 11 of their 14 years of exile. The history of ancient Ujjain is replete with
tales of sackings and despoilings, yet the temples still stand. The temple of Shri Omkar Mandhata in Omakareshwar
houses one of the 12 jyotirlingas. And lest we forget, the Old City of Bhopal
is teeming with beautiful mosques and quaint palaces.
The state of Madhya Pradesh is home to
some of the most extensive national parks in India. Kanha (165 km from Jabalpur) is a Project
Tiger Reserve. The Bandhavgarh
National Park is one
place where you can be almost certain of seeing a tiger in its natural habitat.
The Pench Tiger Reserve inspired Rudyard
Kipling’s famous work, The Jungle Book.
What we now know as the state of Madhya
Pradesh, was just a loose cluster of Rajput states in the medieval period. The
Gwalior Fort left such a strong impression on Babur that he called it ‘the
pearl amongst the fortresses of Hind’. Rani Ahilyabai Holkar’s vibrant Indore wears its Rajput
architectural heritage with pride. Mandu is a tribute to the poet-prince Baz
Bahadur and his beautiful consort, Rani Roopmati. Home to magnificent palaces
and pavilions, the glory of Mandu lives on – in its palaces, mosques, legends
Though Madhya Pradesh is not a very
popular tourist destination in India,
the state presents a fascinating glimpse into our culture. Its variegated
landscape, different cultures, syncretic communities and the sheer size are an
invitation for those looking to get off the beaten path.
of the state
Orchha, Gwalior, Mandu, Bhimbetka, Bhopal, Chanderi
& Wildlife: Kanha, Bandhavgarh, Panna, Pench, Shivpuri, Bedhaghat
Sanchi, Maheshwar, Amarkantak, Chitrakoot
- hide more about Madhya Pradesh