The iconic city of Bhopal is known as the ‘city of the lake’ around the country, surprisingly has two cities inside a single city. At one side of the city is the old part that is famously lit up with various mosques that can be found on the tiny alleys crowded by the natives chirping and hustling their day away. The other side of the city is mostly known for hosting two of the most iconic lakes that are known to exist years ago. Unlike the olden side, this side is all about modernity. It has some of the most loved shopping spots, hotels, eateries that offer a beautiful view of the Arera and Shamla Hills, which overlook the lakes and the old city. The centre part of the city is called the New Market. A little unknown fact about the city is that the famous Bollywood movie Rajneeti of Katrina Kaif and Ranbir Kapoor was shot right here!
1.1 Day 1
1.1.1. Sanchi Stupa
Located 46 km away from the city of Bhopal lies the iconic architectural marvel of Madhya Pradesh, the Sanchi Stupa. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Stupas are one of the most ancient yet famous Buddhist structures of India. They were built in the iconic period of the Mauryan era, between 3rd century BC and 12th century AD by the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka. The Sanchi Stupa holds great religious significance among the Buddhist community who frequently visit here in huge numbers. The stupa has been carved out from a single semi-circular rock that is known to enshrine as a sacred burial space for the remains of Lord Buddha. The design of the Sanchi Stupa is beyond mesmerizing as it uniquely displays the magnificent statue of the epic Mauyryan dynasty era. It was originally built as a simple plain structure with half the diameter of the present hemispherical edifice. But it was during the reign of the Sunga dynasty that the stupa was stretched in size and was beautified with carved railings, stairways and harmika (red highlights) on the top. It was during the 1st century BC that the Satavahana kings renovated the stupa with four stunningly carved gateways, adding more grandeur to it. The carvings on these gateways depict scenes from the early life of Gautam Buddha, his seven incarnations and Jataka tales. Near the stupa, you will be able to spot ancient shrines, monuments and a museum that showcases artefacts from the twentieth century that are bound to leave you inspired.
1.1.2. Udayagiri Caves
Located on the North-Eastern corner of the city of Bhopal, the Udayagiri Caves are one of the most iconic archaeological structures of India. The meaning of the name Udayagiri is the mountain of the sunrise. The historical Hindu site is a massive accumulative structure of twenty rock-cut caves that are dedicated to Hinduism and Jainism sculptures from the Gupta Era. These structures have been dedicated to numerous Hindu divine beings such as Vishnu, Durga and Shiva. It also functions as a Jain pantheon that displays classical Gupta art on its walls. Out of the twenty rock-cut caves, nineteen are dedicated to Hinduism and the one to Jainism. Among these the most iconic part of the Udayagiri Caves to witness is the fifth cave. It is famous for hosting an anciently iconic statue of the Hindu deity, Lord Vishnu who has been depicted in the form of Varaha (boar) who is saving the Mother Goddess, Bhu Devi from drowning deep into the ocean waters. The inside of the cave has been inscribed thoroughly with Sanskrit inscriptions that date back to the reigns of Chandragupta II and Kumaragupta I. Located on top of these hills, these caves aren’t the only magnificent structures. Tourists will also be able to see some fine archaeological remains of Buddhist stupas and a couple of Hindu temples.
1.1.3. Bharat Bhavan
The Bharat Bhavan is a famous arts complex and museum of Bhopal. Established and funded by the Government of Madhya Pradesh, the Bharat Bhavan was inaugurated in 1982 by former and the only female Prime Minister of India, Smt. Indira Gandhi. The multi-arts complex inside the facility has been built to promote an interactive experience through verbal, visual and performing arts. It hosts the perfect space for artists across the state border to express their uniqueness, innovation, art, culture, dance form and the art of singing. Artists from across the country come here and use this platform to express their art and talent through their own significant performances. Visitors or performers get to relish and soak in the phenomenal interiors that have stunningly embarked beauty and charisma. The architecture of the Bharat Bhavan shines like a beautiful piece of creation that looks over the serene Upper Lake. The place also has an art gallery that hosts a number of art pieces that are bound to leave you inspired. You can also choose to take a lesson or two at the fine art workshops. Inside the premises consist of an open-air amphitheatre, a studio theatre and an auditorium to witness a live performance.
1.1.4. Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalay
The Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya is a popular national museum of Anthropology in the city of Bhopal. The museum sits magnificently on the beautiful Shamla Hills at the upper lakefront of the city. It spreads to a massive area of over 200 acres that was established as a motive of showcasing the diverse, traditional and cultural practices of the various tribal groups that India houses. Established in 1977, it is also famously known as the Tribal Habitat Museum, the National Museum of Mankind. In 1993, this museum was renamed as Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya, at the instance of the Ex-Prime Minister, Late Mrs Indira GandhiIt has been integrated as a great amalgamation of culture and evolution to ever exist. One of the most iconic parts of the museum is that it has been the only one to have painted rock shelters that has a post-colonial collection of tribal folk, art and culture. One of the most iconic parts of the museum is the audiovisual archives, an extensive collection of ethnographic specimens and computerised documentaries. The anthropological space inside the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya is created by the tribals to showcase their ancient lifestyle and mythological trail.
End this eventful day with a plate of delicious Achar Ghosht (a chicken or mutton dish that is cooked with many kinds of spices) or some Biryani Pilaf (rice prepared with some spices, meat, vegetables, cream, ghee, mutton or chicken).
1.2 Day 2
1.2.1. Upper Lake
Bhopal is famously adjudged as a significant spot of hosting the numerous lakes in India. That is the reason why it is commonly called the city of lakes. The western region of Bhopal hosts one of the most significant lakes of Bhopal out of which the most iconic includes the Upper Lake. The lake was built in the eleventh century. The lake serves around thirty million gallons of water that act as the primary source of potable water to the residents of the city. The waters of the lake were earlier named after King Bhoj who was responsible for laying the foundation of it to be built across the waters of the Kolans River. According to locals, the king constructed this massive lake to cure himself of a skin disease he had incurred. The lake holds great significance in the city of Bhopal where the locals easily address it as Bhojtal or the Bada Talab. The Upper Lake is also one of the most ancient man-made lakes in the entire country. The pillar on one side of the lake holds the humongous statue of Raja Bhoj. Agriculture is one of the main sources of livelihood for the people of Bhopal. Hence, the lake acts as the primary source of water for irrigation.
1.2.2. Lower Lake
Another great lake of the city of Bhopal is the Lower Lake. Famously called the Chhota Talab, it is separated from the Upper Lake by a bridge known as Pul Pukhta or the Lower Lake Bridge. Just like its significant counterpart the Upper Lake, the Lower Lake also was constructed in the same century, the eleventh century to enhance the beauty of the city. The construction of the Lower Lake took place under the guidance of Chote Khan who was a minister of Nawab Hayat Muhammad Khan Bahadur. This lake fell under the rulership of a various number of kings. Since the Lower Lake doesn’t have a source of fresh water, it receives a significant amount of water from the Upper Lake. Its existence together with the Upper Lake makes it to be termed as the Bhoj Wetland. Tourists planning to visit the Lower Lake in Bhopal offer a perfect spot for you to sit and relax. The surrounding of the lake offers a tranquil and peaceful sense of being. Though the surrounding is incredible, the lake suffers from a significant amount of pollution. However, the Government is taking some significant steps to resolve the pollution of the lake.
1.2.3. New Market
Every city has something unique about it. The cities or villages of India have a unique culture and talent that should be explored by any who plans to visit. The famous New Market in Bhopal is one of the most incredible spots around. The market is bustling at all times of the week. Many people term it as a heaven for shopaholics as a huge variety of handcrafted home decor items, clothing wear and footwear are sold in a huge amount of shops in the vicinity. The market is placed at one of the most perfect spots for the city. Hence, tourists will have a great time exploring around. The market has a vegetable corner too. Alongside it is some city loved Hindu temples and mosques, that are worth exploring and will make your time eventful. Don’t forget to unwind a tiring day by lunching at some of the restaurants nearby. One of the most famous places to try some delicious food as is the famous Hakeem. It is one of the greatest hotels for food that offers delicious Mughlai cuisine. The cost arena of the market is worth witnessing for its numerous old bookshops. The best part about the New Market is the not so costly rates at which the stuff is sold.
1.2.4. Van Vihar National Park
Established in the year 1979, the popular Van Vihar National Park is one of the most iconic and popular national parks of India. The national park stretches widely up to an area of 445 hectares. A must-visit for people visiting Bhopal, the park is a perfect spot for all nature lovers to visit and relax truly in the lap of nature and grab some of the most exquisite memories too. The Van Vihar National Park is located right next to the famous lake of Bhopal, the Upper Lake. The zoo is regarded for not only being a national park but all for being a perfect blend of both a zoo and wildlife sanctuary. One one side of the national park you will be able to see tigers, leopards, panthers, lions, bears and gharials enclosed by walls. On the opposite side of the park is a completely different side to experience. Animals such as the chital, blackbucks and sambars are allowed to roam free in the arena and are not forced to survive inside enclosed walls like their other carnivorous counterparts. One of the greatest highlights about the Van Vihar National Park is that they do not function like other zoos. Animals that you get to spot inside haven’t been forcefully brought by the authorities from forest areas. Instead, the animals residing here are those that have been left orphaned in other zoos of the country. They are given a good shelter here and are properly taken care of for their requirements. Besides providing a safe space for animals across the country, the Van Vihar National Park provides great opportunities to witness and admire the stunning birds flying around. Due to its proximity to the Upper Lake, the park is visited by several colourful birds including but not limited to pied kingfishers, spoonbills, pintails, spot bills, herons and teals. Many other beautiful birds from places such as Siberia, Japan and some parts of Europe.
1.3 Day 3
1.3.1. Lakshmi Narayan Temple
Located at the Arera hills of the city of Bhopal, the Lakshmi Narayan temple is one of the grandest scale temples to visit. The Lakshmi Narayan temple is commonly called the Birla Mandir that offers the perfect spot where one can witness the stunning view of the entire city of Bhopal. The temple has been built to honour goddess Lakshmi, who is a deity of wealth. Wife of Lord Vishnu, who is also adjudged as Narayan, the preserver of the universe. Hence, it is called the Lakshmi Narayan temple. Built under the known industrial family group called the Birla Group, the temple after being fully constructed was inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi. The temple has been surrounded by lush greenery that seamlessly merges with ancientness of the temple. The temple hosts the idols of both Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati that offers a wonderful site to seek blessings and solace to devotees. The temple has been built on a 7.5-acre space that is surrounded by luscious lawns, gardens, fountains, and sculptures. This is responsible for attracting thousands of devotees around the year especially Janmashtami and Diwali. The Birla Temple is also known to house the famous Birla Museum. It houses the famous collections of the twelfth century.
One of the must-try food items of Bhopal is its mouth-watering seekh kababs. Since the city has a larger influence of the Muslim era, the city offers many Mughlai and meat dishes. Top your meal with a Bafla (wheat cake made of refined flour and ghee) at the end of your meal.
1.3.2. Bhojpur Temple
The Bhojpur Temple is another popular place to visit while touring the city of Bhopal. Also known as the Bhojeshwar Temple, it was built in the eleventh century AD under the rulership of Raja Bhoj. The temple has been built to honour Lord Shiva, that lies 28 km away from the city in the area of Bhojpur which is regarded as the heart of archaeology. Due to its high archaeological and mythological importance, the place is often referred to as the Somnath of the East. The temple is visited by devotees in huge numbers from across the country. The Shivlinga at this temple is the largest stone structure in the world. It has been carved out from a single rock that measures 7.5 feet in height and 18 feet in circumference. It has been built on top of a 21 feet tall platform. Hence, in order to access the shiva linga, devotees will have to climb an iron staircase. The beautiful architecture of the building has been built under the guidance of Vastu Shastra. The beautifully arched entrance of the temple welcomes devotees. The temple has four pillars and a huge stone dome supported on it that have various beautifully carved stone sculptures of many Hindu deities and pantheons. A full architectural plan of the temple with architectural drawings can still be seen inscribed on a few of the rocks surrounding the shrine.
1.3.3. Bhimbetka Caves
The Bhimbetka Caves in the city of Bhopal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The caves are one of the most famous spots in the city to explore. A little over forty-five kilometres away from Bhopal, the caves lie on the foothills of the Vindhya Mountains. The Bhimbetka Caves were discovered in 1957 by a renowned archaeologist, Dr Vishnu Wakankar. While he did not intend to lead to the discovery of these caves, Dr Vishnu Wakankar spotted them while he was out for a walk around the area. The heritage site has been stocked with many prehistoric rock paintings that date back to the Palaeolithic and Medieval ages. Formed out of the natures unique phenomenon, the caves offer art lovers a deep insight into the development of nature eras ago. An interesting characteristic of these paintings is that they all have created while using vibrant colours like white, red, yellow and green. Hence, this has made many experts counter to the fact related to the intelligence and creative abilities of the prehistoric men. A combination usage of various natural elements such as leaves, vegetables, red sandstone and manganese have been used to produce different colours out of them. The caves are estimated to be around thirty thousand years old. Despite being ancient the paintings on the caves are still very much intact. Several historians and archaeologists have carried out their research on the lifestyle of the early human beings of the olden times. The caves are a great resource to adjudge the views of various mutual dances, hunting, celebrating and animal fights from the paintings that decorate the walls and the ceilings of the caves.
End your holiday on a perfect note by trying the unforgettably delicious Bhopali Paan. The paan forms an integral part of every native of Bhopal’s life and tradition.