Bhopal: The Lake City

sanchi-stupa Bhopal

Bhopal is the capital city of the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh and although it has been in the news for the wrong reasons, it has many places of interest for visitors and residents alike. The city was witness to the world’s worst industrial accident in which almost 25,000 people died and many are still suffering. The leaking of toxic gases in lethal amounts which initially killed 9000 people at once and many more later has perhaps cast a grim shadow over a city that has much to offer in the form of education, culture, sports and many attractive places.

Places of Interest
Upper Lake: This is one of the two water bodies present in Bhopal and was constructed by Raja Bhoj during 1005-1055. The king was also responsible for establishing the city of Bhopal and the lake still provides almost half the drinking water that is supplied to the city. A dam was constructed on the south-east corner of the lake that is named Bhadbhada dam and controls the outflow to the river Kalisote. The lake is unique in nature since it not only supports almost 500 fishermen families but also provides water for agriculture to almost 87 villages in the catchment area. Moreover there is a Boat club which provides recreational activities such as kayaking, canoeing, parasailing, and water skiing. The lake is adjacent to the Van Vihar National Park which makes it a scenic and attractive place.

Van Vihar National Park: This is a small national park covering an area of about 5 square kilometers and was declared a national park in the year 1983. Located near the Upper Lake, this place was initially illegally used as a stone quarry; however the government stepped in and created the national park which now houses many mammals and bird species. Captive animals include the leopard, lion, bear, crocodiles, hyenas, and alligators. These are kept captive using modern methods of zoo management. There are numerous free ranging animals as well which are only enclosed by the outer compound and include the cheetal, blackbuck, sambhar, and the blue bull or Neelgai. The easy access provided by a road is one of the features which makes the park popular among tourists as well as residents.

Bharat Bhavan: This is an unparalleled multi-arts complex in Madhya Pradesh that has an art gallery, libraries of Indian poetry, outdoor and indoor auditoria, and a repertory theater. The edifice itself is constructed overlooking the Upper Lake and provides a scenic and beautiful view for visitors. Many tourists throng the place to take a closer look at performing arts including folk music and classical music.

Bhimbetka Rock Shelters: Located about 20 miles from Bhopal are the Bhimbetka Rock Shelters which are believed to have been inhabited by man for almost 100,000 years. There are numerous paintings on rocks and some of them date back to the Stone Age 30,000 years ago. Most of the paintings are of animals and are colored red; however, some are also yellow colored. Apart from animals some paintings also depict the everyday life at that time, religious rites, ceremonies, and even childbirth. This is an archeological gold mine where numerous paintings which date back to different times are still preserved. The most interesting painting is a red colored one of a man being attacked by a beast and a huge rock which is also called “zoo rock” has paintings of various animals such as elephants, bison, and sambhar. There are almost 700 such shelters and almost 243 of them are located in Bhimbetka Rock shelters which makes this place a must visit location for tourists.

Sanchi: Located about thirty miles from Bhopal is a small village called Sanchi and is famous for its old Buddhist temples. The village has temples that date back to 2nd century BCE and is an important place for Buddhist pilgrimage. However, Sanchi is famous for its “great Stupa” which was commissioned by the emperor Ashoka in third century CE. The Stupa is a simple hemispherical structure made of brick and has a parasol-like structure on top of it symbolizing high rank intended to honor and shelter the relics of Buddha inside the Stupa. There are gateways which were built after 70 century BCE and although made of stone, they look like they are made of wood.

There are many places of worship in Bhopal and the city is dotted with temples and mosques. However the most famous temple is the Birla temple located near the New Market and one of the biggest mosques in Asia, the Taj-ul-Masjid, is also located in the city. Other attractions in the city include the New Market, Lal parade ground, museum of Natural History, and the Aquarium Building. Even though the city has many places of interest, it would perhaps take some time for people here to recover from the physical and mental scars that the horrendous industrial accident at Union Carbide (Subsidiary of DOW chemicals) in1984 has left behind.