Touring the 'Heart of India'

No other activity can rejuvenate me the way travel does especially if the destination is thrilling. Recently, my husband and I decided that we would visit all the tourist places in India in a structured manner, one State at a time. The first State that we picked was Madhya Pradesh (MP) - the heart of India, as per the MP tourism advertisements. There was no analysis behind choosing MP as the first State, my parents live in MP, so access is easier. So long, we have visited only a few places- Bhopal, Sanchi, Bhimbhetka Caves, Tawa Dam & Reservoir and Pachmarhi. 

Why did we like tourist locations more than the ones in other parts of India?
In a short & quick visit to my brother’s place in Bangalore, we made a quick call on Hampi, witnessing its multitude of temples & shrines, especially the Vittala Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. What we noticed was that the tourist places in MP are pretty well maintained. There is security at each site and guards ensure that tourists do not misuse the sites in any way. We found no litter lying around and were absolutely surprised to see that no one had proclaimed their love on the rocks of Bhimbhetka caves or those of Pachmarhi. This is definitely an extreme rarity in India where young lovers do not even leave the walls of holy places or sites of historical importance, to proclaim their love! Even the temples in Pachmarhi were absolutely clean despite the flowing water which could have caused a lot of sludge.

A quick guide to each of the sites we visited

Bhopal- Bhopal, the capital city of Madhya Pradesh, is by far one of the most beautiful cities I have seen in India. It is an amalgam of scenic beauty, historical charm and urban lifestyle. The two lakes in Bhopal dominate the city and one can find ample greenery in the busiest of the areas of Bhopal. Bhopal’s cultural scene is pretty active too- almost every evening, you can walk in to Rabindra Bhawan/ Bharat Bhawan and the likes for free to enjoy a cultural performance. Bhopal is well connected to the rest of India via air, rail as well as road networks.

Sanchi- Sanchi is located approximately 46 kilometres north-east of Bhopal and is known for the Buddhist Stupas. On the way from Bhopal to Sanchi, one also crosses the Tropic of Cancer. The Stupas at Sanchi is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and are well-maintained despite all the natural wear and tear. It is a good idea to hire a guide to see the Great Stupa.

Bhimbhetka caves- This is another UNESCO World Heritage Site in Madhya Pradesh. Located approximately 45 kilometres south of Bhopal, these pre-historic (more than 100.000 years old) rock shelters exhibit the earliest traces of human life in India. One can still see paintings and art on the rocks. Some of these paintings have eroded, so Archaeological Survey of India has used chemicals and wax to restore them.

Tawa Dam & Reservoir- Tawa Dam & Reservoir is a scenic escape from the busy city life. It is situated 35 kilometres from Itarsi (the nearest major rail-road junction). The views of the sunset and sunrise from the dam are enchanting. A boat ride of the lake reservoir, which takes one around the little islands dotting the reservoir and offer beautiful views of the Satpura range is a must-do here.

Pachmarhi- Pachmarhi is a hill station situated about 120 kilometres from Hoshangabad (the nearest major rail-road junction). It is also known as ‘Satpura ki Rani’. The name is believed to be derived from hindi words ‘panch’ meaning five and ‘marhi’ meaning cave. Pachmarhi has the famous Pandava caves, used by the Pandavas during their Agyaatvaas (exile in anonymity) and many other tourist attractions including water falls, caves, temples and scenic views.

The directions to the destinations are also marked on the highways so driving to them is not very difficult.  The upkeep of these tourist places is definitely paid attention to. I would like to believe that such initiative is also taken by other States in maintenance of their tourist attractions. Till then, I will go back to planning my next sojourn!

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