Beautiful Bhopal, sprawls picturesquely around two artificial lakes on gently rolling hills. The city Bhojapal was named after its founder Raja Bhoja, the famous 10th century ruler of Parmar dynsty, who is believed to have built a dam (pal) across the Narmada river. The glorious city was destroyed in 15th century by Sultan Hoshang Shah of Malwa and the present city was founded by Dost Mohammad Khan, one of Aurangzeb’s Afghan governors who left the Mughal empire after Aurangzeb’s death and established his own dynasty – the Nawabs of Bhopal. Today, the city presents a multi-faceted profile, the old city with its teeming maket places, fine old mosques and palaces which bear the aristocratic imprint of its former rulers and the new beautifully planned city with wide avenues, parks and gardens, government buildings and residential areas which are functional, practical and aesthetic. Bhopal is also a perfect base to visit Sanchi, Bhimbetka and Bhojpur.
Despite its exciting marketplaces, grand old mosques, and lovely palaces, the capital of Madhya Pradesh is perhaps best known as site of the world’s worst urban industrial disaster (see box below). But most foreign visitors find themselves in Bhopal in order to visit nearby Sanchi, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of the most impressive Buddhist monuments in Asia. Architecturally unique and far from the beaten tourist track, the monuments and surrounding ruins are tranquil, free of hawkers and touts, and a worthwhile diversion from the more frequented destinations of Varanasi, Agra, Khajuraho, and Delhi.
If Bhopal’s few monuments, its market, and the glorious Buddhist monuments at Sanchi leave you with time on your hands, head for the caves of Bhimbetka, where red-and-black prehistoric drawings recall the antics of ancient dancers and hunters, sticklike in the company of tigers and charging bulls.
WHAT TO SEE & DO IN BHOPAL
No one spends much time in Bhopal itself, but the “City of Lakes” is not without its
charms, and a handful of sights are worth setting time aside for. Note that most places
are closed on Monday, and on Friday mosques are off-limits, unless you’re Muslim.
A visit to the Chowk (Bazaar), in the heart of the Old City, can be a wonderful
way to gain insight into the daily lives of Bhopal’s warm, friendly citizens. Its ramshackle
streets are lined with old havelis and atmospheric stalls; it’s impossible not to
get involved in the village vibe, where shopping, hard-core haggling, and gossiping
occupy one’s time. Shop around for embroidered velvet cushions, tussar silk, silver
jewelry, and intricate beadwork. While you’re in the Chowk, visit lovely Jama Masjid
(built in 1837, it features gold-spiked minarets, distinguishing it from the “Pearl
Mosque”) or Moti Masjid, farther south. Sporting three large white Mughal domes
and two soaring minarets, Taj-ul-Masjid , one of India’s largest mosques, was
started at the end of the 19th century by Bhopal’s eighth ruler, the great queen Shah
Jahan Begum, but was only completed in the 1970s.
Designed by the preeminent Indian architect, Charles Correa, the breezy, modern
Bharat Bhavan, overlooking Upper Lake, is one of the best
cultural centers in the country, showcasing some wonderful contemporary and tribal
If you’re set on seeing a white tiger, Van Vihar National Park is the place to do it.
Zoo conditions here are better than elsewhere in India, but it’s still a depressing place
to see a wild animal (Zoo Rd.; daily 7–11am and 3–5:30pm; carnivores are fed around 4pm).
Bhopal is a hilly (498m) but hot area, located on the Malwa plateau, and the land rises towards the Vindhya Ranges in the south. It is well connected through air, rail and road link to other important cities of India, viz., Gwalior, Indore Mumbai, etc.
The summer in these parts of India can be very warm with temperature reaching as high as 47.7°C. Proper care should be taken to avoid any kind of sickness during summer. In winter, the temperature drops to about 9.1°C. Hence, the winters are quite pleasant.
Bhopal was built on the site of an 11th century city, 'Bhojapal', founded by the Parmara king, Raja Bhoja, who had his capital a Dhar.
The existing city was developed by Dost Mohammed (1708-1740), one of emperor Aurangzeb's Afghan governors. His progeny, including efficient women rulers ruled Bhopal until 1947, when the state finally joined the Indian Union.
The majestic mosque is perhaps the largest in the country. Its construction was started by Shah Jahan Begum, but the work was not completed and was resumed in 1871. The main hall with inter arched roof, broad facade, specious courtyard and smooth marble floors are noteworthy.
The beautiful mosque has tall dark minarets crowned by golden spires. It was built in 1837 by Kudsia Begum, the devout wife of the ruler of Bhopal. The Moti Masjid is architecturally akin to Delhi's Jama Masjid. This imposing mosque was built by Sikander Jahan, daughter of Kudsia Begum, in 1860. The Taj-ul-Masjid is one of the largest mosques in Asia, built by Nawab Shah Jahan Begum of Bhopal around a courtyard with a large tank in the centre and an imposing double storeyed gateway with four recessed archways and nine imposing cusped multifoiled openings in the main prayer hall. The Quibla wall in the prayer hall is carved with 11 recessed arches, while the mimbar is made up of black basalt. The structure is enlivened by the limpid expanse of water in the tank outside the northern wall. The monumentality of this structure was much greater originally when it faced the towering bastions of the Fatehgarh Fort. A three-day Ijtima congregation held here annually draws people from all over the country.
Moti Masjid or Pearl Mosque
The majestic mosque was built by Sikandar Begum in 1860. It is architecturally inspired by the famous Jama Mashid of Delhi.
Shaukat Mahal and Sadar Manzil
This magnificent edifice is set at the entrance to the Chowk area in the heart of the walled city.
This prestigious multidimensional centre for performing and visual arts was established on 13th February 1982. The building set on the banks of a lake was designed by the famous architect Charles Correa and is an excellent illustration of modern architecture. The interesting sites here are – Rupankar, the only museum in the country where contemporary urban, folk and art of aboriginals are kept under one roof; Rangmandal, where country’s best stage talent and play writers take pride in performing; Vagartha, the centre of Indian poetry; Anhad, the centre for Indian classical and folk music. One of the unique national institutes in India, Bharat Bhawan is a centre for the performing and visual arts. 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. The centre houses a museum of arts, an art gallery, a workshop for fine arts, a repertory theatre, indoor and outdoor auditorium, a rehearsal room and libraries of Indian poetry, classical and folk music.
The chowk set in the heart of the old city is lined with old mosques and haveli’s. It is an excellent place for purchasing Bhopali crafts like silver jewellery, velvet pursues, embroideries and bead work etc.
It is an open air exhibition on the scenic Shamla Hills. The centre provides an insight into the tribal life in various states of India.
Govt. Archaeological Museum
Splendid sculptures, paintings of various schools and paintings from Bagh caves are exhibited here. Fine collections of sculptures are on display here from various parts of Madhya Pradesh. Highlights of the collection are paintings of various schools, copies of paintings from the Bagh Canves near Mandu, and the statues of Lakshmi and Buddha. The museum is closed on Mondays.
It houses an exhibition of photographs of Mahatma Gandhi and a Gandhi Museum.
This safari-park is located on a hill adjacent to the Upper Lake, with an area of 445 hectares. In these natural surroundings, wildlife watchers can view a variety of herbivorous and carnivorous species. It has a rich variety of animals and birds.
Upper & Lower Lakes
These two charming lakes are divided by an over bridge and are the most notable features of Bhopal. Tourists enjoy boating at the Lower Lake.
Bhopal Tour Information
Bhimbetka, a natural amphitheatre is surrounded by the northern fringe of the Vindhyas. The discovery of over 700 rock shelters (the largest group in the world) has brought Bhimbetka on the tourist map of the state. The rock shelters belonging to the neo-litchi age are an archaeologist’s delight and have paintings depicting the life of the prehistoric cave-dwellers. It has been recently recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
It was founded and named after legendary Parmark king Raja Bhoj (1010 – 53). The town also known as the ‘Somnath of North India’ is famous for its 11th century Shiva temple and lake built by Raja Bhoj. The temple enshrines an enormous ‘Shivalingam’, carved out of a single rock. Its walls are engraved with numerous Shiva images.
It lies on the Bhopal – Berasia road and is known for the palace built by Dost Mohammed Khan. The hammam of Chaman Mahal and Rani Mahal are worth visiting.
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 Gohar Mahal is indeed a magnificent expression of the fusion of the Hindu and Mughal architecture.
Lakshmi Narayan Temple and Museum
This beautiful temple on the Arera Hills has a museum attached to it, which houses a collection of sculptures from Raisen, Sehore, Mandsasur and Shahdol districts of Madhya Pradesh. The museum is open from 9am to 5pm every day except Mondays. There are many more museums in Madhya Pradesh.
Regional Science Centre
Basically a science museum, located on the picturesque Shamala Hills, the Regional Science Centre houses about 300 participatory exhibits distributed equally in 'Invention' and 'Fun Science' galleries, and a 'Taramandal, (Planetarium). The museum remains open from 10.30am to 6.30pm on all days except Mondays.
Lokrang Samaroh is organized every year in the month of January in Bhopal. This five-day festival is based on the rich tribal and folk tradition of India. It is focused on a single geographical and geo-cultural unit of the country.
Bhopal Distance Guide