Population : 1,278,030
Altitude : 523m
¤ Bhopal -- The State Capital
of Madhya Pradesh
Madhya Pradesh is the largest state in India in terms of area, and
Bhopal, which is situated around two artificial lakes, is its state
capital. Despite its crowded commercial centre, Bhopal is an
attractive place to visit.
Enclosed by a masonry wall, the city stands on the northern bank of a
large lake with a bridge separating it from the lower lake. The name
of the city is reportedly derived from Raja Bhoj who created the
surrounding lakes by building a dam or pal. Hence, the city was
originally called Bhojpal. Over a period of time, this was shortened
to its present name, Bhopal.
¤ A Unique Blend of Hindu and Islamic Culture
The city of Bhopal is not too well endowed with monuments, but it
still has a unique character of its own. It presents a happy mix of
Hindu and Islamic cultures and delicately balances both North Indian
and South Indian influences as well.
Located on a gradient, the city has an amphitheatre-like quality,
with a fair sprinkling of landscaped gardens and lakes. Sitting on the
fringe of the Malwa Plateau, which comprises half-broken plains and
forests in equal measure, the city is surrounded by the Shamla and the
Idgah Hills. These hills offer the best view of Bhopal at twilight. As
you near the city, huge minarets of mosques appear on the horizon,
silently informing the visitor that Bhopal has arrived. Bhopal is also
known as the city of lakes, and when the waters of the lake reflect
the twinkling lights of the city at night, it is a sight to behold.
¤ The Begums of Bhopal
Bhopal, as we know it today, was founded by the Afghan adventurer,
Dost Mohammad Khan who ruled over the city from 1708-40 a.d. He fled
Delhi after the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, died in 1707. Later, Dost
Mohammad met and fell for Queen Kamalapati, and ultimately extended
his sway over the entire region. Bhopal survived a fearsome Maratha
onslaught in the late 18th century, and finally signed a treaty with
the British in 1818, to secure peace.
Bhopal is a city that is unique in the sense that powerful Begums
ruled over it for over a century (1818-1926). In fact, John Lord who
chronicled princely India labeled Shah Jahan Begum as the First
Lady of India.
¤ Modern Bhopal
Modern Bhopal presents a dual personality, a mixture of the old and
the new. In the heart of the old city lies the Chowk, lined with old
mosques and havelis (mansions) which are reminders of a bygone era.
The most prominent of these mosques are the Taj-ul-Masjid, one of the
largest mosques in the country, the Jama Masjid and the Moti Masjid.
The architecture of the city is an amalgam of both Islamic and Hindu
styles, with the odd European-style monument thrown in as well. The
Shaukat Mahal combines both Gothic and post-Renaissance styles to
produce a charming effect. In sharp contrast to this is the new city
with its well-laid out verdant parks and gardens, broad avenues and
modern offices. In short, Bhopal has the ability to accommodate
change, and yet remain the same.
¤ Main Attractions
Bhopal - The Cradle of Art and
Bhopal is also the house of art and culture in Madhya Pradesh, and
the Bharat Bhavan which sits atop the Shamla Hills, is a prime example
of that. Designed by Charles Correa, the museum houses an art gallery,
a repertoire company and libraries of poetry, classical and folk
music. and since Madhya Pradesh has a large concentration of adivasis
(tribals), a visitor at the Tribal Habitat in Bhopal gets a feel of
village life in the state.
However, the most interesting facets of the district are the
spectacular cave paintings at Bhimbetka, a short distance away from
the city of Bhopal. Etched in rock, some of the work is more than
30,000 years old, while the more recent ones belong to the medieval
period. The cave paintings are valuable, not just for their artistic
merit but also because they constitute a treasure trove of information
on the pre-historic age.
Other Tourist Attractions
Bhojpur that is just a few miles away from the city. Bhojpur houses
a magnificent Shiva Temple, and apparently was also the site of a huge
lake that was destroyed by Hoshang Shah, the ruler of Malwa in mid-15th
century. 6km north of Bhopal is Ashapuri which has some old Jain
temples. and about 45km from the city is the marvellous Chiklod Palace
Culture & Cuisine
Although Bhopal is not considered to be as culturally evolved as
Gwalior, the city is bursting at the seams with history, and walking
down its narrow alleys is like sitting in a time machine and going
back into the past.
The citys shops are famous for traditional Bhopali crafts; you
will find exquisite silver jewellery, beautifully-fashioned beadwork,
sequined and embroidered velvet purses and cushions. The city is a
great place to visit for non-vegetarians, thanks to long years of
The chief delicacies are the spicy achar gost (pickled lamb), the
sumptuous keemas (minced meat), the delectable rogan josh (mutton
dish) and a variety of pulaos (aromatic rice) enough to make
even the most fastidious eater lick his lips. However, the culinary
delight that the city is most famous for is the Bhopali Paan (betel
leaf) which both men and women chew with relish.
The Bhopal Gas Tragedy
of course, a write up of Bhopal cannot be complete without a reference
to the Bhopal Gas Tragedy which occurred on the 3rd of
December, 1984, and is considered to be one of the worst industrial
The toxic gas, methyl isocyanate, leaked out from the multi-national
Union Carbides insecticide plant on the outskirts of the city,
leaving more than 5,000 people dead and over 100,000 suffering
life-long illnesses, according to a conservative estimate. Union
Carbide agreed to pay 470 million dollars in compensation in an
out-of-court settlement to the victims, but for its critics, this was