Best Places to see in Bhopal

There is enough to see and do in Bhopal to keep the visitors busy for atleast a week. The old city, with it’s mosques and palaces, is a history enthusiast’s heaven, while new Bhopal is home to the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahakaya as well as several other museums, the famous Van Vihar National Park and the splendid lakes.

The Best Places to visit in Bhopal are :

Taj - ul - Masjid - The name of this Masjid literally translates to the “Crown of Mosques”,and it is easy to see why once you visit this monument, which is the pride of Bhopal and a popular tourist site. The Taj-Ul-Masjid was a dream project of Bhopal's third female ruler, Shajahan Begum, who wished to build into the worlds largest mosque. The present structure can hardly be called the largest in the world, but it does have the distinction of being the biggest place of worship for Muslims in India. The work originally began in 1877, but was stopped in 1901 owing to paucity of funds. Construction finally resumed in 1971 and so this mosque took a 100 years to complete. Boasting a pink facade, the mosque has two octagonal minarets,with huge marble domes. The three domes,an impressive main hallway with high ceilings,carved pillars and glossy marble flooring are all beautiful example of Mughal architecture. In accordance with Islamic rules, carvings of human and animal figures are forbidden. However, the prayer alcoves are adorned with elaborate calligraphy that indicates the direction of the holy city of Mecca. The mosque’s courtyard is thronged by the devout every day, who are required to wash their hands, face and feet before entering the prayer hall. The tank in the courtyard is used for this purpose. There is no entry fee for the mosque. Do cover your head when you enter the complex. Women are allowed inside the main prayer hall.Timings sunrise till 3 PM but open only till 1 PM during the month of Ramadan.

Chowk - The cacophonic chowk,north of the lower lake, is the nucleus of the old city and its most famous shopping area. Here you will find shops, stocking silver jewellery,bead work,embroidery and sequin work.Stop stop to admire the fretwork on a balcony – bearded,warmly smiling owners will immerse from within to offer you tea.The marketplace has the atmosphere of a medieval souk. This is where to look for Bhopal’s famous beaded batuas ( purses ). Crafted by skilled muslim artisans, these come in a a variety of colours. Do shop around for great bargains on collector’s items such as silver jewelry, tussar silk, welvet cushions & more. The Jama Masjid is also located here. It was built in the year 1837, by the erstwhile ruler Qudsia Begum.Made of white marble,this beautiful structure is crowned with gold spikes atop minarets. With its old haveli’s and domed mosques, this area is also a photographer’s haven. The shops in the chowk are closed on Sundays.

Shaukat Mahal - Although striking in terms of its architecture, Shaukat Mahal is easy to miss because it blends in so well with the cityscape - a mix of Islamic architecture and the more contemporary buildings. Situated at the entrance of the bustling Chowk area, Shaukat Mahal was the Palace of the Nawab of Bhopal, who commissioned a descendant of the world renowned Bourbon dynasty of France for its construction. This fusion of Islamic and European architectural styles is reflected in the palace’s design. The palace is constructed out of white alabaster and features a series of triangular arches on the ceiling. The exterior walls are beautifully decorated with floral patterns. Beside this palace is the red-brick Sadar Manzil, which served as the hall of public audience.

MOTI MASJID - In the middle of the Chowk’s chaos is the beautiful Moti Masjid or “Pearl Mosque”. The warren of narrow lanes can be confusing, so it is sensible to take an autorickshaw that can sneek its way to the building through the maze. The mosque was built in 1860 by Nawab Sikander Jahan Begum, daughter of Nawab Qudsia Begum. She reigned from 1844 to 1868, dressed like a prince, rode horseback, and was the first ruler to be officially accepted as Regent by the British in 1859. Moti Masjid is accessed by a steep flight of stairs. You are required to remove your shoes at the entrance before you step into the large courtyard. Here too is the obligatory shallow pool to cleanse one self in. The white mosque is in the centre, with three corridors around it. Those who have seen the Jama Masjid in Delhi will be able to draw similarities in the architectural styles of both these mosques.

GAUHAR MAHAL - This was the first palace to be built in Bhopal by the Nawab’s. Enjoying an unviable location on the banks of the Upper Lake,it derives it’s name from Qudsia Begum, also called Gauhar. The Palace is fairly large and includes the Nazar Mahal,Bibi Ka Masjid,the rectangular courts of the Diwan-E-Aam and Diwan-E-Khaas as well as the residential complex. Back in the day, Gauhar Mahal served as the residence of the Nawab’s. Today, it has been turned into an office complex. Occasionally, Handicraft stalls are set up in the courtyard here.You may need official permission to take a tour of the palace. However, sections of the complex remains closed to visitors during the monsoon since rains further weaken the already dilapidated building.Considering this, visiting the Gauhar Mahal may seem like a daunting task. But with a little effort,you will be able to tour the palace and it will be worth your while.

Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya - Located between the two lakes on the Shyamla Hills, this sprawling anthropology museum showcases the tribal art and culture of India. One of the largest museum complexes in India, the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya is spread over an astounding 200 acres. Then again,how many museum complexes can boast such a gorgeous setting, covering the entire span of a hill. This “Museum of Mankind” traces the history of man and of the numerous Indian tribes. There is so much to see here, considering man has been around for about 2,00,000 years. Representations of language, art, culture, religion – almost everything that is related to human civilization can be found here.Unlike most other such facilities, which house artifacts discovered during excavations, this is a museum of communities rather than objects. The museum website also states that communities were actively involved in the development of their respective exhibits. The museum comprises a tremendously vast area so be sure to devote at least 5 to 6 hours to it. The complex is divided into several exhibits – an indoor museum called Veethi Sankul, numerous open air displays of coastal, desert, and Himalayan villages, rock art, huts showcasing traditional technology and temporary expos. The most striking of these is the tribal habitat, which features life size dwellings built by the numerous tribes of India. Veethi Sankul feels like the inception of museum’s - exhibit within an exhibit, placed in a room inside the large room. You start at the very beginning of mankind and move onto a room that is dedicated entirely. With television screens explaining, in English, how human DNA and cell division works, massive charts listing and the various theories of evolution and even depictions of how the solar system was formed, this section seems like an excellent science lesson, specially if you were not paying attention to your teachers in school. Among the numerous displays you see here, there will be some truly memorable ones that might leave a lasting impression on you, such as the footprints engraved in volcanic ash that were found in 1978 and are supposedly at least 3.5 million years old, an assemblage of stone tools, a room dedicated entirely too brightly coloured masks from West Bengal and Vishnupur, displays of beautiful Madhubani paintings and traditional costumes. A section called the Island Cultures of India will give you an insight into the lives of tribes from the Andaman Islands. Here you will find stationed or traditional boat from the Deori tribe of Majuli, with various fishing implements collected from Lakshadweep, the Andamans and Andhra Pradesh. This is just the beginning, as communities and tribes from almost all Indian states have been painstakingly represented here. This Indoor museum has approximately 16 levels and boasts quite a few unique features. Not everything here has been en closed behind a glass window. One of the many best features of the Manav Sangrahalaya is that you can walk into several models and exhibits to see the interiors. There are some sections even have information in Braille. Kiosks with screens are placed in some of the halls, where you can watch interesting clips on the existing tribal settlements around the country. You will not need a guide here because all the exhibits are properly labelled and self explanatory. If you feel lost and do not know which way to head next, look down on the floor. Small printed arrows guide you to each individual exhibition. The open air exhibition is spread out over a vast area and requires a lot of walking and climbing uphill. Clusters of life size dwellings are the most striking feature of this part of the museum. They have been constructed with the same materials that are used by the tribal communities is to build their hutments. The clusters are divided by terrain and include a tribal habitat, a coastal village that is aptly situated near the lake, a desert village and a Himalayan village. There is even a mythological trail and a traditional technology park. Visitors keen for further exploration can head deeper into the the Shyamla Hills to discover the rock shelters displaying Cave art. En route, they will come across the museums store that houses numerous knick knacks - brass statues,beaded purses, miniatures of monuments and lots more. Entry Fees : Rs 10 for adults & Rs 5 for children Timings : Summer : 11 am to 6.30 pm Winter : 10 am to 5.30 pm Monday closed.

Regional Science Centre - The Regional Science Centre, located on the Bainganga Road on the Shyamla Hills, was set up as one of the constituent units of the National Council of Science Museums in 1995, with aim of popularizing science and technology among students. The Centre has more than 250 exhibits on subjects ranging from mechanics, energy and sound to light and the atmosphere. Most of the exhibits involve participation from the visitors, which makes for a great, enjoyable learning experience. The Centre is divided into three galleries. In the Fun Science Gallery, visitors can see pendulums in action, tricky magnets, rings that defy gravity and many other such interactive contraptions. All these are accompanied by explanations that facilitate learning as well as lend a historical context to inventions and discoveries. The fun Science Gallery is extremely popular with children, primarily because of the Virtual Reality exhibit, where they get to jump around to their heart’s content. Head upstairs to find the other two galleries. The Hall of Energy is a well laid out exhibit on the various sources of energy,with helpful charts on its production, practical applications and, perhaps most importantly in these times, environmental issues associated with the strain on energy production. The gallery Atmosphere the Umbrella at puts into perspective the importance of the atmosphere for the sustenance of life on earth. Clearly, these exhibits target audience are school students but they also act as an excellent refresher course for adults, who often forget the implications of their actions in daily life. Several interactive displays that show the effect of man made machines on the atmosphere are chilling,. However, the installation of the twin globes placed next to each other, to illustrate the harmful effects of greenhouse gases on the planet is the most captivating. The Centre also has a couple of shows for groups. Taramandal is a mini planetarium that can accommodate 20 people at a time for a 30 minute session on different stars, constellations in the night sky. Entry : Rs 10 per person Timings : 12.30 pm, 3 pm & 5 pm. Also on site is a 3-D science show that can seat 50 at a time for film screenings. Entry : Rs 20 per person Timings : 12 pm, 2 pm & 4 pm. Apart from all this within the Centre, you can also visit the Science Park outside, which is spread on a lush area of 3 acres. It has several interactive and working exhibits that teach visitors various scientific principles. The Centre is a great place for kids who may have tired of the temples, mosques and museums in the city. There is enough scientific entertainment here to last all day.

State Archeological Museum - This museum was opened in November 2005 at it’s present location atop Shyamla Hills, on the road that leads to the Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya.Many of the artifacts displayed come from private collection of Shah Jahan begum who, in the 19 century, started accumulating rare historical and artistic objects from across the globe. These objects were to be displayed in a museum set up by her daughter in the building that currently houses The Central Library. After 1947, the museum exhibits were moved to their current location and the collection has expanded immensely since then. Today, there are a total of 15 galleries in the State Archeological Museum displaying an eclectic stockpile of paintings,sculptures, manuscripts and coins, not only from Bhopal and it’s surrounding area’s, but from across the country and also from a few far-flung nations that had trade and diplomatic relations with several kingdoms in the Indian subcontinent. The museum can be a bit overwhelming at first, with the many galleries spread out over several floors and annexes of the main building. But they are properly divided and reasonably well explained.The sculptural galleries are specially breathtaking,with the evolution of Buddhism,Jainism,Shaivism,Vaishnavism as well as Tantricism and Shakti worship,splendidly expressed in the thematically arranged stone and bronze sculptures. The sculptures date from the Sunga and Gupta periods, all the way down to the Pratiharas, Kalacharis, Paramaras,Chandelas and Kacchapaghatas. Do not miss the spectacular 85 cm tall structure of Kartikeya, with extended earlobes, holding a cockhen in his hand. Look out for the Yakshi engraved in a Lotus medallion, dating to the 2nd century CE - an excellent example of Sunga art. The entire collection is stunning, but some notable exhibits include the 6th century CE Lajja Gauri from Mandsaur and the ghastly looking Chamunda figure from 10th – 11th century CE, originally found in Shahdol.. The museum’s small but substantial gallery of bronze images comprises the 87 Jain sculptures that were discovered by a farmer in Dhar district in 1992. These rich images of the Jain tirthankaras where made in the 11th & 12th centuries CE using the lost wax technique. The RoyalCollections Gallery showcases art objects that were acquired by the many Nawabs of Bhopal. These comprise artifacts from outside the Indian subcontinent, including a metal sculpture of a carpet seller, which is considered an early form of “advertising” and is the highlight of the gallery. The Archives Gallery features important documents collected from the period of the Nawabs to colonial times. A prime example is the Treaty of Burhanpur 1804,which was an agreement of alliance between the East India company and Maharaja Daulat Rao Scindia ( 1794 – 1827 ). The textile gallery is a nice break from the other galleries, featuring beautiful weaves and prints, including specialities synonymous with Madhya Pradesh – Chanderi, Maheshwari, Zari & Bagh prints. The Miniature Paintings Gallery features several examples of the quintessential Mughal style of miniature art, along with some splendid specimens from Persia. In addition, there are also some unusual galleries that may well be unique to this archaeological museum, such as the Arms and Armaments Gallery as well as an interesting gallery displaying rare musical instruments. Make sure to also visit the Inscriptions Gallery, which includes some stellar examples of Persian and Nagari inscriptions.

Tribal Museum - The newest addition to the rich array of museums in Bhopal, the Tribal Museum was many years in the making and was inaugurated in 2013.In sharp contrast to the displays at the State Museum next door,the tribal museum aims at, and is successful in, immersing the visitor in the traditions of the different tribal communities of Madhya Pradesh. Instead of just observing objects displayed in an enclosure or behind a glass case, visitors can walk through doorways and into rooms,past wedding celebrations, and survey pots and pans and musical Instruments up close. The first thing to greet you after reception, in the first gallery, is a giant banyan tree,with branches and roots extending throughout the gallery, providing shelter, as it were, to the many different kinds of huts and homes. Re-creation of the settlements of the Gonds,Bhil,Bhumia,Korku and several other tribes and several other tribes reveals both differences and similarities in construction, structure and adornment of homes. The life-size houses are a treat to peek into and walk around in, and it might well be and in imitable experience. The Tribal Aesthetic Gallery is mesmerizing, where the museum authorities have taken every day objects, local art and sculptural forms and blended them excellently with the vast space that this gallery affords. The eye catching display of musical instruments installed in a tree, hundreds of pots stuck to the wall, the many, many figures intricately painted - not only are these exhibits beautifully arranged, but since they have been created by tribal artists, there seems to be a genuine attempt to explain different ways of living and customs without exorcising them. Also illustrated are ways life ranging from marriage traditions to origin myths. It will be hard to miss the wonderful marriage pavilion,a two storey structure in the middle of the gallery that affords a great view of all the other displays. Among these is the intricate and fantastic Kangan, or the ceremonial, which is the gigantic re-creation of the traditional bangle given to a new bride in the Bhareva,Ghadawa and Jhara communities of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. The bangles is adorned with standing crops, trees and other symbols connected with fertility. It is said that the new bride must prepare the seeds for sowing for the next season while wearing this bangle to aid the harvest. Further ahead, in the Tribal Spiritual world Gallery there are depictions of funerary as well as religious structures as defined and constructed by the different tribal communities. The fantastic Gallery dedicated to the guest state Chattisgarh is a must see in this museum. It is heartening to see that despite being a state-sponsored museum, the authorities have nevertheless recognized the close links that communities across artificially created state lines continue to have. These shadow lines not with standing the traditions of the adivasi communities of the entire region have been explained as comprehensively as possible. As you step outside the main galleries and walk around the museum, do take a closer look at the wonderful mural paintings that adorn the interior walls of the building as they would the houses of Rajwar women - pioneers of this art form. There is also an exhibition hall where playful images have been painted on the walls using terracotta, hollows of dried gourd,hemp and papier mache to show the leisurely activities and games in communities such as Baiga, Gond, Saharia and Kol. In the centre of the complex, next to the staircase, is a beautiful garden garden with a pond where you can find ducks waddling about. It is a pleasant area to relax. Before heading out, make sure to visit the small gift shop, located opposite the reception, where you can pick up miniature versions of the sculptures in the gallery at reasonable prices. The galleries have been equipped with signboards for nearly every exhibit, clearly explaining the community the art work is related to,as well as its history and context. The explanations are only in English, but a brochure in Hindi can be picked up at the reception. Entry Rs 10 for Indians Rs 100 for Foreign nationals Timings Noon till 8 pm Closed on Monday’s and Government holidays Photography charges are Rs 50

Bharat Bhavan - The Centre for the performative and visual arts is located on J Swaminath Marg on Shamla Hills,facing the Upper Lake.Inaugrated in 1982 by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, the Bhawan was envisioned as a space for the advancement of contemporary arts in all its forms : dance, theater, film, painting and sculpture. The complex includes a gallery of Indian painting and sculpture, and open air amphitheater ( Bahirang ), a studio theatre ( Abhirang ), an auditorium ( Antarang ),a museum displaying tribal and folk art ( the first of its kind and reasonably impressive ) and libraries of Indian poetry, classical music as well as folk music. Besides this,Bharat Bhavan also host various artists and writers under it’s artist-in-residence programme. Check for more formation on for information on the latest dance, film and theater performance. Entry Rs 10 Timings Nov – Jan 1 pm to 7 pm Feb – Oct 2 pm to 8 pm Closed on Mondays and government holidays Photography is prohibited.

The Lakes - Bhopal is popularly known as the city of lakes,and rightly so. The Upper and Lower lakes were created by building a dam on the Kolas river,and continue to define the map and mood of the city.The breezy upper lake area is delightful place for an evening rendezvous. Separated from the lower lake by an overbridge, the Upper lake also has the dargah of Shah Ali Shah, a maulvi. The MP Tourism boat club offers an array of adventurous activities such as kayaking, rafting,canoeing and boat cruises.

Laxminarayan Temple - This temple, dedicated to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, has been built by the Birla family and is known locally as the Birla temple. The temple also pays obeisance to Lakshmi’s consort Narayana,an avtar of Vishnu, and includes an idol of reclining Lord Shiva with his companion, Parvati. Located on the highest point of the Arera hills, it was constructed between 1960 and 1964 and 1964 and covers an area of about 1.75 acres. The temple complex includes a long walkway with a pretty fountain. Inside the temple, carved wooden doors open into the sanctum where,on an elevated platform,are the aforementioned tall marble images of Lakshmi and Narayana Timings Summer 5.30 am to 11.30 am & 4 pm to 9 pm Winters 7 am to 12.30 am & 3.30 pm to 8.30 pm There is the museum next to the temple, which has a small but spaciously displayed collection of medieval sculptures.which is a very small collection of hundreds of years of medieval history of the state.

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