Places covered: Van Vihar, Bada Talab and Machli Ghar in Bhopal, Bhimbetka, Bhojpur, Sanchi Stupa and Archeological Museum in Sanchi
Time of Travel: April 2014
2nd and 3rd April 2015 were Govt. holidays apart from being Thursday and Friday, this was too good to resist for the travelers inside us. So we started planning and finally settled down with a full-fledged family trip to Hindustan ka Dil-Madhya Pradesh for 7 days. To and fro journey was via Train, so we got it booked in advance. Saturday morning we began our journey from New Delhi Station via Bhopal Shatabdi. We boarded the train early in the morning, though it was scheduled to arrive in Bhopal around 2 PM but got delayed for one and half hours. Breakfast was fine in the train, but lunch was still been pathetic as ever. Weather was very hot in the middle of afternoon, when we arrived at Bhopal station. Bhopal has good availability of app based taxi services, so it’s a good way to escape from the loot of local taxi walas, who may make fool of tourists. We hired a taxi to reach our hotel and decided to take some rest before our evening visit plans.
Van Vihar is a place which lies somewhere between two extremes -caged Zoo and reserved Forest. So it is kind of mini forest, where animals are securely kept in and segregated with help of metal hedges and trenches. Van vihar is not very far from the main city, you can easily get an auto to reach at this place. Since there is a long road (for about 2 km) inside the premises, it’s better to use some vehicle inside. It has entry ticket per head plus the entry ticket for the vehicle. We reached there just 1 hour before the closing time of 7 PM. We took the auto inside the vihar. The habitats of animals are on the right side after you enter the gate, the big lake (Bada Talab) of Bhopal is on the left and both are divided by a concrete road, in total a beautiful landscape.
First we saw lion, from a distance of course, who was sitting comfortably behind a tree and was busy in eating. Bear, wild buffalo, dear, crocodile, tortoise etc were other animals, we saw in the vihar, but watching tiger here was something I cannot forget. I haven’t seen this animal from so close, before. Animals seem to be in good health and conditions.
There is a snake park also inside the vihar, which has various types of snakes including king cobra and Ajgar. It was very interesting to see snakes in such a huge quantity. Few of the snakes kept in the cells with small water ponds, plants, fan etc., whereas many others were kept in deep wells, cover with thick metal see through sheets. Since we reached late, we missed a presentation/lecture about snakes by some snake expert. They hold such sessions in Van Vihar on daily basis. While coming back from vihar, it was very soothing to see dears on the other side towards the lake.
By the time we were out from the Vihar, it was little dark and weather was very pleasant. Bhopal has two famous lakes, Big and small. The Big lake of Bhopal was at walking distance from Van Vihar. Lake was surrounded by many small eating joints, some with live music as well. We kept standing near the lake to capture the beautiful view of the lake after sunset. Actually we were in the dilemma, whether to go for the boating at that time, or come again next day. It was dark, the lake was very big, there were no life jackets and we had a small kid with us, were few points were pondering upon. Finally we took decision to go for the boating in slow rowing boat at around 7.30 PM. It was amazing experience in all; we could feel the cool breeze on our faces, while looking at the blinking lights on the state highway, everything else was black, seems like we are alone in the water. There were many huge fountains on the lake, and whenever our boat goes near to them, drizzles make you feel refreshed. It was nice experience, but we would have felt safer, if there were life jackets compulsory on the boat.
It was enough for the day, so after the boating we took an auto to reach back to our hotel and we retired to our beds. Next day, we planned our day to cover Bhimbetka, Bhojpur and Sanchi. We hired a local taxi for the full day and started our journey to Bhimbetka. It took around 2 hours to reach to that place. I must admit that MPTDC is doing a good job in terms of maintaining decent tourist properties across MP, in fact adjacent to every good tourist place. I found their hotels/motels, neat and clean, with helpful staff, lots of greenery and good kid’s swings. Just before Bhimbetka, near the railway line, there was a MPTDC Motel for rest and refreshments of tourist. Since we were waiting for the railway gate to be opened, the swings inside the motel was calling my daughter to come and play. So we stayed there for some time, while she was enjoying the swings, we took information about other tourist places in MP. At each MPTDC property, you will get loads of pamphlets about other interesting places you can visit.
After crossing the railway track, it’s a kind of jungle, where even feeding animals, lighting up fire etc, are completely restricted. This jungle has some 750 ancient painted rock shelters, which have been used as habitats by men of early ages. Out of all, only 15 are open for the tourists. This place appears in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It was fascinating to see and imagine how men use to live in the Stone Age with animals all around. You can see many small and big paintings on the walls of these caves. Most of the paintings were about the hunting of animals by men or group of men using stone tools.
There were concrete walking tracks (including staircases at some places) across the shelters with lots material to read on boards about the history and evolution of men from Stone Age. This place is on little height, so while moving from one shelter to another, we spotted a place, from where we could have a good view of the whole jungle, and there we found a strange looking rock (we named it as turtle rock).
It took about 2 hours to see all 15 shelters. Since the temperature was getting up, so could afford to spend any more time here. We then headed for Bhojpur, ‘Raja Bhoj ki Nagri’. It is near to Bhimbetka and took just 0.5 hour to reach. It is famous for its Shiva temple, which is being left in semi-constructed stage. The Shivling here is being considered as the biggest in India, and people across MP come here to worship Lord Shiva. Though the Temple is incomplete, but you can still see the craftsmanship, the way the stone being carved out into beautiful architecture.
The USP of this place was its location. The site of the temple was at good height (but accessible by car) and the temple is also situated up above, where you need climb up few stairs. The view was just awesome and the cherry on the Cake was the lovely weather. We could see from the top, large wheat farms everywhere with gentle cool wind making the scenery more beautiful.
The next destination was Sanchi Stupa. By the time we reached Sanchi, it was lunch time. As I mentioned before, MPTDC maintains good properties near to each tourist place, so before visiting the stupa, we had delicious lunch at MPTDC hotel near Sanchi. Sanchi Stupa is the oldest surviving stone structure in India made by King Ashoka. Its center was a simple hemispherical brick structure built over the relics of the Buddha. As we all know, Ashok Chakra in our Flag and national Emblem of India, have been taken from here only. After entering the premises, we could see how well it is being restored and maintained by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). Amazing location with lots of greenery and pleasant weather added more charm to this visit.
Apart from main Stupa, there were many things one can see here, like remnants of an old monastery, Stupa No. 2, which requires a good amount of stairs to be climbed down, big pillars commissioned by Lord Ashoka etc.
After having good time watching all above, we moved to the left side of the premises, to see if there was anything left. And there found a small handicraft shop, a tiny farm where white pigeons, rabbits and ducks are being kept and an astonishing view point, from where we could see whole of Sanchi’s wheat fields. It was completely mesmerizing. Now we know where wheat for the flour in our kitchen comes from. MP is famous for its wheat farms, and cultivates one of the best quality wheat in India.
We spent about 15 minutes watching this, and then rushed only after knowing that the ASI museum will be closed, if we get late. We reached there in the last minutes, but it was still worth. Many parts of the stone structure of Stupa, which have either been conked out from the main structure or found elsewhere were kept here. The main attraction was the big (more than 6 Feet) statue of four tigers, which is now our nation emblem, carved out in hard stone. It must be centuries old, but these stone statues always remains fine as ever. Also here we could see the history and culture of Sanchi and its Stupa. We read about how it has been built and restored. While visiting Sanchi, one should not miss the visit to this museum. Photography inside was restricted, so no pictures.
While coming back to Bhopal, we saw the board ‘Tropic of Cancer’. It is the place from where the imaginary Tropic of Cancer crosses the state. We got down here to click few pictures.
Now, it was time to retune to our hotel in Bhopal, where our night halt was for that day, but we still had some time in hand, so we decided to visit Machli Ghar. What I realized after my few recent trips is, every city is divided into two parts, the new city, where the roads are wide and clean with planned infrastructure, and the old city, where you can find the old charm and authentic culture of that place coupled with narrow encroached roads, dirt and unplanned development. Be it Delhi, Jaipur or Jabalpur, so Bhopal was also no exception. The place where our hotel was situated was new Bhopal, so on the first day; we were impressed with civilized development of this city. On the next day when we had to spend good 25 minutes to cross a distance, which could have been done in just 5 minutes, we realized it’s everywhere, there is no escape. We took the route via Old Bhopal to reach Machli Ghar, which turned out to be wrong decision, and landed us at the place just 10 minutes before the closing time. We just glanced through the fishes there. This two story place is not very big, so at max you require 30 minutes to watch all in detail. My daughter was thrilled to watch so many water creatures. We took few pictures there and winded up for the day.
On the next day we began our journey to Satpura ki Rani- Pachmarhi. This is covered in Hindustan Ka Dil Dekho (M.P. Trip) Part 2