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Bhopal Travel

The capital of Madhya Pradesh, Bhopal was built on the site of the 11th century city of Bhojapal. It was founded by the legendary Raja Bhoj who is credited with having constructed the lakes around which the city is built. The present city was laid out by the Afghan chief Dost Mohammed Khan, who was in charge of Bhopal during Aurangzeb's reign, but took advantage of the confusion following Aurangzeb's death in 1707 to carve out his own small kingdom. Today, Bhopal has a multifaceted profile. There's the old city with its crowded market places, huge old mosques, and the palaces of the former begums who ruled over the city from 1819 to 1926. To the north sprawl the huge industrial suburbs and the slums which these developments inevitably give rise to. The new city with its broad avenues, sleek high-rise offices and leafy residential areas lies to the west. In the centre of Bhopal are two lakes which, while providing recreational facilities, are also the source of its plagues of mosquitoes. The city is also famous as the site of the world's worst industrial disaster. On the right of 3 December 1984, 40 tonnes of deadly methyl icocyanate, a toxic gas used in the manufacture of pesticides by Union Carbide, a US-based multinational company, leaked out over the city of Bhopal. Carried by the wind, this deadly gas soon enveloped the sleeping city.

Jama Masjid:
Gold spikes crown the minarets of this beautiful mosque, built in 1837 by Qudsia Begum . It is said that centuries earlier, a queen of King Udayaditya Paramara (1059-80 AD, a grandson of Raja Bhoja), founded a temple here known as sabha Mandala in 1184 AD.

It is a huge pink mosque with two massive white domed minarets and three white domes over the main building . Said to be the largest mosque in the country, the building of this towering edifice was begun by Shah Jehan Begum(1868-1901) but was incomplete on her death . This great queen, Bhopal's eighth ruler, left many monuments in the city . After her death, lack of funds prevented the completion of the Masjid and construction was resumed only in 1971.

Bharat Bhawan:
One of the most unique national institutes in India, Bharat Bhawan is a centre for the verbal, performing and visual arts, designed by the well-known architect Charles Correa and opened in 1982. It is now regarded as one of the most important centres in the country for the preservation of traditional folk art.As well as the workshops and theatres here, there's the Roopankar, the impressive art gallery that 'shows you what is sadly missing from the folk art churned out for tourists', as one reader put it. Bharat Bhawan is in the Shamla Hills and is open daily except Monday from 2 to 8 pm.

Moti Masjid:
The Moti Masjid was built by Qudsia Begum's daughter, Sikander Jahan Begum, in 1860. Similar in style to the Jama Masjid in Delhi, it is a smaller mosque with two dark-red minarets crowned by golden spikes.

Tribal Habitat:
An open air exhibition of tribal house types located on Shamla Hills, the Tribal Habitat is a presentation of actual size dwelling houses typical of contemporary tribal cultures in various states of India. The surroundings have been reconstructed to match some of the interesting environmental features of tribal villages.

The Chowk:
In the heart of the old city, the Chowk is lined with old mosques and havelis, reminders of a bygone, princely lifestyle. The shops in its narrow alleyways are treasure troves of traditional Bhopali crafts.

Shaukat Mahal and Sadar Manzil:
Situated in the heart of the walled city, it is an architectural curiosity. Shaukat Mahal is an architectural curiosity, its mixture of style, in Occidental idioms, setting it apart from the predominantly Islamic architecture of the area. It was designed by a Frenchman, said to be a descendant of an offshoot of the Bourbon kings of France.

Upper and Lower Lakes:
The larger Upper Lake covers six sq km. The Upper Lake is divided from the Lower by an over bridge and is large in area. Madhya Pradesh Tourism's boat Clubs on the Upper Lake provided facilities for exciting trips by sail, paddle motor boats. The booking office is at the bottom of the driveway leading to the Wind & Waves Restaurant.

Van Vihar Safari Park:
This 445 hectares park is more of a zoo than a safari park, despite the promise of 'natural surroundings'. But 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. The park is open every day except Tuesday from 7 to 11.30 am and 4 to 6 pm.

Lakshmi Narayan Temple & Birla Museum:
There are good views over the lakes to the old town from the Lakshmi Narayan Temple, also known as the Birla Mandir. Beside it on Arera Hill is an excellent museum, containing a small but very selective collection of local sculptures dating mainly from the Paramana period. The stone sculptures are mainly of Vishnu, Siva and their respective consorts and incarnations. There is also a small selection of terracotta exhibits from Kausambi and a reconstruction of the Zoo Rock Shelter from Bhimbetka.

Government Archaeological Museum:
A fine collection of sculptures are on display here, from various parts of Madhya Pradesh.
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