Tourist Spots at Bhopal
Roopankar: Museum of Fine Arts
Laxmi Narayan Temple or Birla Mandir
Shaukat Mahal and Sadar Manzil
The upper lake and The Lower Lake
This is a unique multi art complex set up in February 1982 in state capital has been built and designed by the well known architect Charles Correa. The complex, set in a number of low buildings brilliantly woven around the bank of the lake, houses a museum of the arts, an art gallery, a workshop for fine arts, a repertory theater, indoor and outdoor auditoria, rehearsal room, and libraries of Indian poetry, classical and folk music.
Apart from being a center of pursuit of classics and traditions, Bharat Bhawan is a switchboard of innovative creativity and new cultural upsurge. It is also a center for the performing and visual arts. The countrywide renowned multi art complex has an art gallery displaying a permanent exhibition of the works of a number of contemporary Indian artists and sculptors apart from a tribal museum displaying the rich cultural heritage of Madhya Pradesh. Many distinguished artistes have performed here and among its directors are many of leading artistes of the country.
Merging in beautiful harmony with the landscape, the contours of the complex create a visual impact of spacious and national elegance. Bharat Bhawan is situated in the Shamla Hills. An independent trust founded by the Legislature of Madhya Pradesh, it consists of the following units:
Roopankar: Museum of Fine Arts
Roopankar – set up with a view to set up a historic assortment of urban, folk and tribal art – is the only Museum of Arts in India. It houses contemporary urban, folk as well as tribal art. Also, the museum has contemporary urban, folk and art of aboriginals, a ceramic workshop, litho workshop and facilities for stone craft and metal casting.
The Mahal, situated behind Shaukat Mahal on the banks of the Upper Lake, is one of the some beautiful buildings built during the long rule of the Nawabs and their Begums. It is in fact an exquisite architectural blend of Hindua and Mughal styles. Kudsia Begum, also known as Gouhar Begum, built this place in 1820.
Lying in dilapidated state, this very significant palace of the state capital received attention from INTACH on an invitation from the Ministry of Textiles and Madhya Pradesh Handloom and Handicrafts Vikas Nigam (MPHHVN), resulting in drafting and execution of a restoration and reuse proposal. According to proposal, the palace is being converted into an Urban Haat where handicraft and handloom works of the artisans of the state are put on display and sale.
Jama Masjid was built by Kudesia Begum in 1837 and it stands tall in the centre of the main bazaar of the city. The mosque is a well-preserved monument, with gold spikes crowning its two huge minarets, which can be viewed from a great distance. The mosque has three bulbous cupolas. Nevertheless, the interior of the mosque is where a magnificent example of Islamic architecture lies.
The mosque contains a series of alabaster-white columned arches, and the inner sanctum of the mosque is built out of marble. There is a small pond in mosque complex. The Jama Masjid has been renovated extensively after Independence.
It is said that centuries earlier, a queen of King Upayadita Paramara (1059-80 AD), grandson of Raja Bhoja, established a temple here known as Sabha Mandala in 1184 A.D.
Laxmi Narayan Temple or Birla Mandir
Situated on Arera Hills, Laxmi Narayan Temple gives bird’s eye view of Bhopal. The temple is named also as Birla Mandir, for one of the leading industrial families of the country, Birla, have built it. The temple has a museum attached to it that houses an assortment of sculptures from Raisen, Sehore, Mandsour and Shahdol districts of the state.
The temple is built in honour of the Hindu Goddess of Wealth, Lakshmi, and her divine consort, Vishnu, the Preserver of the Universe, who is also known as Narayana. Besides, the temple as well has a resplendent idol of a reclining Shiva with his wife, Parvati. The Vaishnavite temple gives views of the city from over the lakes to the old town.
The sandy-yellowish temple has an old-worldly appeal about it, having a huge turret on one side of the building. One enters the temple through a magnificent archway, and the extensive lawns that encircle the complex lend it a scenic charm.
The Birla Museum contains a small but very discerning collection of local sculptures, dating mainly from the Paramana period. The stone sculptures are in main of Vishnu, Siva and their respective consorts and incarnations. The museum also houses a small selection of terracotta exhibits from Kausambi and a reconstruction of the Zoo Rock Shelter from Bhimbetka.
Built by Sikander Begum in the year 1860, Moti Masjid is a small but imposing mosque with two dark-red minarets crowned by golden spikes. The mosque is an important landmark of the Muslims in Bhopal and resembles Delhi’s Jama Masjid as for the architecture. The mosque has a marble-white façade with two small cupolas atop it, and it has two huge black minarets on either side of it.
Ravindra Bhawan is the only Air-conditional fully equipped Auditorium in the town for various kinds of cultural and social activities and functions. The auditorium has seating capacity for 700 viewers.
The auditorium complex has an open-air stage and there is abundant space available for holding exhibition. Ravindra Bhawan has been renovated and upgraded year after year to match the expected contemporary changes.
Ravindra Bhawan is now one of the most important centers of the state for performance and presentation of various activities related with Art, Culture, Literature and Cinema.
Shaukat Mahal and Sadar Manzil
These two structures, located at the entrance of the Chowk area, are an excellent example of fusion of both oriental and occidental styles of architecture.
The Shaukat Mahal, supposed to be designed by Frenchman who claimed to be a descendant of Bourbon dynasty of France, is quite different architecturally from rest of the structures in the town. The mahal has a charming combination of Gothic and post-Renaissance styles. The unique feature of the palace is that it is a beautiful alabaster-white building having a series of intricate triangular-shaped arches on its roof. The Mahal has eco-friendly appearance, all due to carving of exterior with exquisite floral patterns.
The elegant Sadar Manzil, which served as a Hall of Public Audience during the period of Nawabs, flanks Saukat Mahal. This is brick red structure with an ostentatious appearance and surrounding gardens makes the manzil even more prettier.
Taj-ul-Masjid is one of the largest and most graceful Muslim mosques in Asia. The construction of this soaring edifice was initiated by Shah Jehan Begum (1868-1901) but was accomplished after her death. The construction process was, obviously, characterised by sporadic bursts of activity alternating with spans of inactivity during the reigns of successive Begums. The monument was never completed for want of money, and after a long lay-off, construction was took up again in 1971.
The Taj-ul-Masjid is a huge pink mosque having two massive white-domed minarets and three white domes over the main building. A three-day Ijtima congregation, the largest Muslim congregation of the world, is held here annually which draws people from all over the country and abroad. The mosque has an impressive main hallway with attractive pillars, marble flooring and a spacious courtyard. The courtyard has a large tank in the center and there is an imposing double storied gateway with 4 recessed archways and 9 imposing cusped multifold openings in the main prayer hall. The Quibla wall in the prayer hall is carved with 11 recessed arches.
The upper lake and The Lower Lake:
The Upper Lake is divided from the Lower by an over bridge and is 6 sq. kms. in area. Madhya Pradesh Tourism’s Yacht Club on the Upper and Lower Lakes provide facilities for exciting trips by sail, paddle and motorboats. These two beautiful lakes have given Bhopal its title as the “City of Lakes”. The Upper and Lower lakes (designated as Bhoj Wetland) are urban water bodies. Upper lake is a major source of potable water for the people of the city of Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India. Raja Bhoj created the Upper Lake in the 11th Century by constructing an earthen dam across the Kolans River. Lower lake was constructed much later on the down stream of the dam of Upper Lake. The Lower Lake is surrounded from all sides by human settlements.
The name of the city Bhopal has been derived from Bhojpal or the bund of King Bhoj. King Bhoj (who is said to have) had a great talent and interest in city planning and architecture also created several other large reservoirs with a view to provide his subjects with abundant water throughout the year as well as to create an aesthetic environment. A beautiful royal garden (Kamla Park) was laid on this bund. The natural surface drainage of Kolans river which originates near the town of Sehore, used to flow from southeast to east and pass through the valley formed by hills namely Shamla and Idgah and subsequently Patra drain and finally join the river Halali, which runs a course of about 50 Km up to Kamla Park. In Bhopal, topography is generally flat but there are several hills scattered around the lake and the highest of them is in Singarcholy near Lalghati, which rises to nearly 625m.
Over the year the quality of water in the Upper Lake has deteriorated due to inflow of wastes and sewage from human settlements and siltation. The causes of siltation are manifold, namely agricultural residues, soil erosion, human activities in catchment area, inflow of silt and waste etc. The gradual increase in pollution of the lake has become noticeable not only from the visible changes but also from the water quality tests. Natural phenomena such as soil erosion and siltation cultural activities such as immersion of idols and Tajias during festivals and inflow of untreated sewage and wastewater from the human settlements etc. have led to the deterioration of this once beautiful lake.
The quality of water in the Lower Lake is worse than that of the Upper Lake. Surrounded by the congested city on all sides, the Lower Lake receives its water mainly from eight nallas (drains) carrying untreated wastewater from the human settlements in various parts of the city. Washing bays or laundry houses exist along the periphery of the lake in large numbers and as a result, besides the domestic and human wastes coming from these dwellings, soap, caustic soda and detergents etc. used for washing of clothes adds to the pollution problem.
This safari park is located on a hill adjacent to the Upper Lake. Wildlife watchers can view a variety of herbivorous and carnivorous species, in these natural surroundings.
Open everyday, except Tuesday, from 7-11 am and 3-5.30 pm. This 445 hectares park is more of a zoo than a safari park, despite the promise of ‘natural surroundings’. Luckily, if you are in the north during the monsoon, when all the national parks are closed, it’s good to know you don’t have to completely miss out on tigers, lions and crocodiles.