On the first day of our stay at Bhopal, we decided to see the important places within Bhopal and use the last day to visit Bhimbedka and other sites outside Bhopal.
Our first stop was at Taj-aul-masjid, one of the three largest masjids in the world, the construction of which started in 1887 during the time of Nawab Shah Jahan Begum.
From there, we went to Hanuman Tekre, a small hillock on top of which a beautiful Jain temple had been built. One could either drive the car all the way to the top of the hill or use the rope car. We used the latter.
From Hanuman Tekre, we took a public bus to People’s Mall, probably one of the latest entertainment centres in Bhopal. For a small entry fee of Rs.50 one could spend the whole day here. We were quite impressed about the mall, with its exquisite entrance hall, multiplex theatres, various miniature replica of several important structures from all over the world – Taj Mahal, Red Fort, Eiffel Tower, British Parliament, Statue of Liberty, and so on. The accompanying pictures will speak it all, no need to describe them.
From People’s Mall, we took another bus to the famous Birla Mandir. On the way, we were caught in a terrible traffic jam which lasted for more than 2 hours around the areas closer to the railway station, Hamidia Road, Nadra Bus Stand. And these areas form the border of the old and new Bhopal. Eventually, we learnt that traffic jam was a regular feature in Bhopal in these areas. Hardly any police was there to solve the problem. There was complete chaos and ‘free for all’ traffic. I also noticed that in such a sensitive place with several side roads, junctions, markets and shops on either side there were very few traffic signals to regulate the traffic. The behavior of the public, driving cars and two wheelers compounded the problems, for the most part.
As it got very late after visiting the Lakshmi Narain Temple we were mentally tired and so returned back to the hotel hoping that we would be visiting the two important ‘talab’s (lakes) the next day, which, unfortunately, didn’t happen.
On the last day of our trip to Madhya Pradesh, we had arranged for a taxi to take us from Bhopal to Sanchi, Udaigiri Caves, Bhojpur Shiva Temple, and Bhimbedka Rock Shelters. All these places were stunningly beautiful in their own way.
Sanchi Stupa belongs to the 3rd century, commissioned by the Emperor Asoka.
Udaigiri rock caves represent some of the oldest surviving rock caves, belonging the Gupta period of 5th century CE.
In Bhojpur, the Bhojeswar Temple dedicated to Lord Siva belongs to 11th century. The temple commissioned by the King Bhoja is incomplete and houses the 18 feet tall Shivling. The temple, its location in a vast expanse of open area, and Shivling were very impressive. A lot of tourists and devotees were seen in and around the temple.
At a short distance from the Bhojeswar Temple there is another historic Jain temple.
As we were in a hurry to reach Bhibedka before it got dark we didn’t visit the Parvathy cave and remains of Bhoja’s royal palace.
When we reached Bhimbedka, it was past 4 pm. In fact, the urge in me to visit Bhimbedka rock shelters only culminated in our visit to Madhya Pradesh. I had read on the internet that these rock shelters belong to the ‘paleolithic’, ‘mesolithic’ and ‘historic’ periods. They exhibit the earliest traces of human habitation in the Indian Subcontinent. Containing more than 750 rock shelters spread over 10 kilometers there are evidences that they were home to the ‘homo erectus’ some 100000 years ago. On some of these rock shelters there are cave paintings which are at least 30000 years old. These paintings represent themes like animals, early hunting, and dancing.
As you enter the area you will find yourselves in the ‘auditorium’ cave, a significant structure, and the largest one. We walked through quickly some 12 rock shelters of different shapes and sizes.
I felt that probably we should have come to Bhimbedka Rock Shelters first and reversed our route - Bhopal to Bhimbedka to Bhojpur to Udaigiri to Sanchi and then back to Bhopal.
We boarded a late night train – Hazrat Nizamudeen to Chennai Duranto - which came a full 4 hours late due to delayed start from Nizamudeen on account of fog in Delhi. We whiled away our time in the Upper Class Waiting Room in the railway station in the meanwhile.
Await my concluding remarks tomorrow.