Bhopal, the capital city of Madhya Pradesh, is a fascinating amalgam of scenic beauty, old historic city and modern urban planning. It is the 11th century city then known as bhojpal, founded by Raja Bhoj, but the present city was established by an Afghan soldier, Dost Mohammed (1707 – 1740), a general of Aurengzeb.
The two lakes of Bhopal still dominate the city, and are indeed its nucleus, Bordered along their shores stand silent sentinels that testify to the growth of the city. Bhopal today presents a multi-faceted profile; the old city with its markets and fine old mosques and palaces still bear the aristocratic imprint of its former rulers and among then the succession of powerful Begums who ruled Bhopal from 1819 to 1926. Equally impressive is the new city with its verdant and exquisitely laid out parks and gardens, broad avenues and streamlined modern edifices. It is greener and cleaner than most cities in the country.
Taj-ul-Masjid is the largest mosque in the country. The building of this mosque was begun by Shah Jehan Begum (188-1901) but was incomplete on her death and was completed only after 1971. The most impressive features of the mosque are its main hall with inter-arched roof, board facade, spacious courtyard, and smooth marble flooring.
Bharat Bhawan (daily except Monday) is one of the most unique national institutes in India. This is a centre for the performing and visual arts. The renowned architect Goan Charles Correa designed Bharat Bhawan. There is a museum of the arts, an art gallery, a workshop for fine arts, a reparatory theatre, indoor and outdoor auditoria, rehearsal room and libraries of Indian poetry, classical and folk music.
Museum of Man (daily except Monday) is an open air exhibition of tribal house types located on Shamla Hills. The exhibition highlights the architectural features and has elaborately displayed interiors. The surroundings have been reconstructed to match some of the interesting environmental features of tribal villages. One can visit the zoo next door. Bhopal’s two main shopping areas are the new market area in the New Bhopal and the old market at Chowk in the old Bhopal. Jari made shoulder bags are a specialty of Bhopal.
About 45 kms northeast from Bhopal is the Buddhist’s city of Sanchi. After being accidentally discovered by a British army officer in 1818, the city was restored to its glory by 1919 and since then it has been one of the most sacred Buddhist’s sites in world. Around the Great Stupa built by Ashoka during third century BC, lies a complex of ruined temples and monasteries. One can also visit Vidisha about 10 kms from Sanchi, the targets town of the area in 2nd-3rd century BC.
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