Madhya Pradesh Travel Guide: Travel information and advice for trips to Madhya Pradesh, India. Best places to see, things to do, how to reach, where to stay, FAQs and tourist spots in Madhya Pradesh recommended by travellers.

 

   

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Last Updated:25 May 2009

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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 sensuality.

 

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 and songs.

 

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.

 

Highlights of the state

 

Heritage: Khajuraho, Orchha, Gwalior, Mandu, Bhimbetka, Bhopal, Chanderi

Hill Stations: Pachmarhi

Nature & Wildlife: Kanha, Bandhavgarh, Panna, Pench, Shivpuri, Bedhaghat Marble Rocks

Pilgrimage: Ujjain, Omkareshwar, Sanchi, Maheshwar, Amarkantak, Chitrakoot

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