Best Places to visit in
Madhya Pradesh can be said to be the microcosm of India, for the land reflects the glory of India in many ways. These can relate to the architectural grandeur of its palaces, temples and mosques, the natural beauty surrounding the Vindhyas and other regions, the prehistoric art at places like Bhimbetka, the pilgrimage centres of Amarkantak, Chitrakoot and others, and the adventure trail of the tiger sanctuaries to name a few. For those with a spiritual bent of mind and in the quest for peace and tranquility, the land of Sanchi can be an added attraction in the Madhya Pradesh tourism circuit.
Overlooking the busy Kajuri Bazaar lanes, the Rajwada Palace displays the influence of Mughal, Maratha and French styles of architecture. The Palace is an indicator of the rich heritage of the Holkar dynasty and today is a prime tourist attraction. The imposing entrance of the grand palace is from a busy road, making the contrast within even more evident. Enter from here to step into the courtyard through to the Ganesh Hall, the Holkar`s venue for state and religious functions.
On the first floor is the Durbar Hall, with its magnificent ceiling frescoes. A fire during the 1984 riots destroyed most of the rear section, along with one side of the front section, but it has since been renovated, the building around Tulsi Kund, along with the temple of the family deity Malhari Martand, was ruined in the fire. Conservation architects are restoring the ruins using the same materials and blueprint. Tulsi Kund has been converted into a gallery, which has displays relating to the Holkars. The other courtyard, Ganesh Kund, has been converted into an open-air theater.
Situated by the banks of River Khan, this palace still exudes the flamboyance characteristic of the Holkar dynasty. Spread across a vast area, Lalbagh Palace has been home to three of the ruling Holkars. It has now been taken over by the Government of Madhya Pradesh and serves a museum. The garden, once famous for its beautiful roses, has been created with a fusion of French, Mughal and English techniques of gardening. The grounds are open to the public from sunrise to 10 am.
Lalbagh Palace is an artistic blend of Renaissance, Baroquie and Paladin elements of architecture, with a generous use of stucco and marble for the fittings. Belgian stained-glass windows, extravagant chandeliers, reliefs of mythical beings and sumptuous Persian carpets add to the overall air of luxury. The ballroom with its wooden floor is another interesting feature. It is said that the floor was built to be extra springy – to give dancers that added verve.
Other features include an underwater tunnel that links the palace with the kitchen across the river, and a grand entrance gate, which is a replica of the one at Buckingham Palace. Note that photography is prohibited inside the building.
This museum has one of the best collections of ancient and medieval Hindu and Jain sculpture, dating from the reign of the Guptas to the Paramaras. The ground floor has the Inscriptions Gallery, the Coins Gallery and the Antiquities Gallery. The antiquities Gallery display prehistoric arte-facts from the region, dating to 5000-4000 BCE. It has arte-facts from western Malwa as well, including stone tools, quartz sickles, ornaments and items of domestic use. A number of relics from the excavated site at Azad Nagar, dating from 2100-1800 BCE are also on display here.
The staircase leading to the first floor has a model of the Bharhut Stupa on its left. On the right side is the Contemporary Art Gallery. This gallery has state medals of Indore and Bhopal, Italian sculptures and small statues dating from the 19th-20th century. This gallery then leads into the Paintings Gallery, which showcases landscapes and religious paintings dating from the 19th century, as well as reproductions of the paintings from the 5th century CE Bagh Caves.
The Arts Gallery has an impressive collection of Maratha, Rajput and Mughal swords, different sorts of guns and a couple of 17th-18th century cannons.
The open-air Sculptures Gallery is set in a courtyard outside the main building. The Paramara sculptures, characteristically well proportioned and ornate, have mostly been gathered from ruined 11th-12th-century temples at Hinglajgarh. Do look out for the particularly finely carved panels portraying Harihara, Shiva and Parvati seated on Nandi, a standing Parvati and a damaged Chamunda among the many displays.
Those who are interested in exploring ruins must not miss the Krishnapura Chhatris. Situated on the banks of the River Khan, a 20-minute drive from the Rajwada Palace, these Chhatris are a faint shadow of their glory of yesteryear’s. Akin to may of the other attractions of Indore, these Chhatris are also well-visited by locals, many of whom come here to snooze in the sunny grounds. At night, the Chhatris look especially ethereal and stunning.
The Chhatris are cenotaphs built on the cremation grounds of three Holkars – Krishnabai, Tukoji Rao II and Shivaji Rao II. The chhatri of Krishnabai has 33 sculpted pillars, from the entrance to the garbhagriha. The grabhagrihas of Tukoji Rao and his son Shivaji are connected by a mandapa and a pradakshina path. These contain statues of the rulers, but are kept locked and are unfortunately inaccessible to the public.
Close to the Krishnapura Chhatris is the Chhatri of Bolia Sarkar, a Maratha nobleman. This structure evinces a fusion of several styles of architecture; Rajput, Maratha and Mughal. The dome of this chhatri is influenced by the Maratha style, the lattice by the Mughal style. The garbhagriha has borrowed heavily from Rajput architecture. Opposite this Chhatri is the Gurudwara Shri Guru Singh Sabha, whose bright red colour and golden dome makes it stand out amid the rather mundane surroundings.
Bada (big) Ganapati is located to the west of the Kaanch Mandir. This small temple shelters perhaps the largest Ganesha idol in the world. Apart from limestone and bricks, this 8 m-high idol is made with a combination of unusual ingredients. This unique list features ingredients such as jiggery, fenugreek seeds, soil from seven holy Hindu pilgrimage sites, pancharatna or five powdered gems, namely diamond, topaz, pearl, emerald and ruby and holy water from pilgrimage sites. The metal frame is made of gold, silver, copper, brass and iron.
If you are visiting around the festival of Navaratri, then make it a point to visit the Temple of Bijasen Mata. Located further west to the Bada Ganapati, near the Devi Ahilyanai Holkar International Airport, this temple os set atop a hillock, and is the venue for the annual Navaratri mela. Even if you aren`t particularly religious, the stunning view of the city, especially at night, is well worth the effort.
You can also take the short drive to Gomatgiri and the 6.4 m-high statue of Lord Gomateshwar, built by the Jain Samaj. There are 24 marble temples here, one for each of the tirthankaras.
Built by a wealthy industrialist, this beautiful Jain temple is also located a short distance away from the Rajwada Palace. True to its name, the interior of this temple is made of glass (Kaanch), including the ceiling, floor, walls, murals and even the paintings, cut-glass chandeliers hang from the ceiling and ceramic tiles are visible through the glass floor. The special glass chamber on the top floor, strategically constructed, acts like a prism and infinitely multiplies the statues of the three Trithankaras.
Originally named King Edward Hall, this building was rechristened Mahatma Gandhi Hall post independence. Presently, it is referred to as Town Hall or Ghanta Ghar. This central domed clock tower is made of red sandstone. There are two-storied wings bracketed by other domed towers, while the terrace, the minarets and the cupolas are built in the Rajput style. The hall has a seating capacity of over 2,000 and is a popular venue for various events such as fairs, sales and exhibitions, throughout the year. The building also houses a library, a temple and a children`s park in the grounds.
Inspired by the Meenakshi Temple of Madurai, Annapurna Mandir is reminiscent of the Dravidian style of temple architecture in the southern part of the country. The temple has a beautiful, elaborate gopuram at the entrance, covered with intricate statuary, supported by four life-size elephants. The entrance leads to the main shrine or Annapurna Devi, located in the centre of the complex. The shrine is a colourful affair with its pink dome and vibrant reliefs from Hindu mythology embellishing its walls.
Inside the complex are other temples dedicated to Pashupati, Kal Bhairav and Hanumana. There is also a Veda Mandir that consists of a large hall and an altar on which five statues, one for each Veda and Shiksha, stand.
A short walk from the Annapurna Mandir is the dargah of Hazrat Ghaib Shah Wali Rahmatullah Alay, popularly known as Shahanshah-e-Malwa. It is claimed to be 700 years old, and a banyan tree, nearly as old, stands guard to the left.
Tucked away in a quiet part of the city, these Chhatris are less frequented by tourists. Ravaged by time and somewhat neglected, they are the final resting places of six members of the Holkar family, including the founder of the dynasty, Malhar Rao Holkar. Three stand on the left and three, with shikharas, on the right.
The entire area is enclosed in a fort-like wall. There`s a wooden door that separates the chhatri groups. Towards the right side of the door is a statue of Ahilya Bai holding a shivalinga. A Shiva temple, believed to have been built by Ahilya Bai herself, stands between the chhatris of Malhar Rao I and Male Rao. There is an akhandajyoti or eternal flame that is ablaze even today.
This college campus exudes a regal aura; indeed, at first glance, you might mistake it for a palace. Daly College has expansive lawns and grand white marble buildings. The two gates that lead into the campus are called Gyan Dwar (gate of knowledge) and Shakti Dwar (gate of strength). Visitors can enter through the latter.
The college is named after Lt. General Sir Henry Daly, who was instrumental in persuading the administration to set up a school for English education of the princes. The construction of the building started in 1882, and the college was opened by Lord Dufferin in 1885.
Initially called Indore Residency School, it was renamed after Henry Daly`s retirement. Both the Holkars and the Scindias of Gwalior heavily invested in the setting up of this school and donated the two student houses, known as the Holkar Boarding House and the Gwalior Boarding House respectively. The buildings of the college have grown over the years, of course, and the office of the Public Works Department now occupies the original building of the Indore Residency School.
The campus is home to two student houses, a temple, a mosque and the principal`s residence.
Old Medical College
Located near the MG Road, this red-and-white building, once a medical school looks, strangely enough, quite like a church. Built along the lines of an English parish church, the edifice comprises a porch, cathedral and hall, complete with Gothic arches and turrets. Sadly, this magnificent structure now lies abandoned, surrounded by overgrowth.
Churches of Indore
Close to the Nehru Stadium is a Catholic church, popularly known as the Red Church. Inside the main chapel are beautiful woodcuts depicting the crucifixion of Christ. Walk down to the neighbouring White Church, a building painted wholly with lime. Located next to the White Church is St Anne`s Church, central India`s oldest church. The agent of the Governor General at Indore, Sir Ribert NC Hamilton, built it in the year 1858.
Away from the bustling city, the Indore Zoo is a retreat for anyone seeking peace and quiet. This zoo, also called the Kamla Nehru Prani Sangrahalaya, is located a short walk away from the Central Museum. It is home to a variety of birds, mammals and reptiles. Among its main attractions are lions, tigers, hippopotamuses, sloth bears, alligators, crocodiles and langurs, while African parakeets, white peacocks and mandarin ducks comprise the bird enclosures. The zoo gets crowded in the evening, with visitors queuing for elephant, camel and buggy rides. There is also a restaurant and ice cream parlour onsite.
Ralamandal Wild Life Sanctuary
Once the hunting preserve of the Holkar Maharaja, this forested area was converted into a mature park in 1989. Ralamandal Wildlife Sanctuary is now prompted as an eco-destination by the Madhya Pradesh Ecotourism Development Board. Although it covers a mere 5 sq km in area, the sanctuary, with its hilly topography, is home to a large variety of flora and fauna.
The major animal species found at this reserve include black-bucks, leopards, sambars, cheetals, nilgais and barking deer, the sanctuary is also home to various species of birds, besides several migratory species.
End the day with a late evening visit to Sarafa Bazar or Chappan Dukan to enjoy the various delicacies available in the night only.