Bhopal, the City of Culture! was my new destination.I love to travel not to escape life but to make sure that life does not escape me. On my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to just go. I think I have some gypsy blood in me and I travel for travel’s sake. The end result is to keep moving. I was born and lived all my life in the same place but the travel bug was always there.It was buried under family and other obligations, all these years but now its time to spread my wings and soar into the skies.
I was an armchair traveler; literally. I read a lot about cultures and people and my husband used to take me on a virtual trip around the world whenever I mentioned I wanted to travel! I want to make up for lost time and travel as much as I can now. My recent foray was to BHOPAL. I wasn’t going just to rediscover the city but was going to attend a wedding. But then I had to make the most of the opportunity and explore too.I love traveling by train but was on a train after ages. Things have changed for the worse; the Indian Railways really need to do something about the coaches! Tiny roaches and dirty toilets were disgusting even after coughing up thousands.
I visited Bhopal a number of times as a kid but I can only recollect my aunt’s house with the chicken coop and guava tree. Then when my sister-in-law, Dolly, married into the family the visits became frequent and then my brother moved there and I visited him a number of times.
I always wondered why Bhopal looked pathetic although it was the capital of the state of Madhya Pradesh. I remember watching a movie in a decrepit theater and the roads were narrow and lakes were neglected. But this time it has been quite a while and I found that the city and its environs have taken a change for the better.
I like cities with ancient architecture and feel that it gives the city a certain character; with a vibrant history. Strangely, Bhopal was ruled by begums for the best part of the 19th and 20th century and they were very dynamic rulers.They did not follow the purdah system and advanced the emancipation of women, promoted education and established a modern municipality in 1903. I wonder what went wrong when the men took over the reins.
The city is a blend of old and modern architecture. Known as ‘CITY of LAKES’ it is also considered the ‘Greenest city in India’. Bhopal is said to have been founded by King Bhoja of the Paramara dynasty and the original name Bhojpal, was named after him.another school of thought says that the name was derived from the name of King Bhupal.
Upper Lake or Lake Bhojtal is in existence since the 11th century, is considered the biggest lake in the state. The water of the lake is believed to have curative powers and helps to cure skin conditions. The manmade lake in the heart of the city has a small island at the center. The boat club here offers you the facility to cruise on rowing boats, paddle boats, and speed boats and various water sports competitions too are conducted here. I passed the lake a few times but it is at its best at sunset. I was spellbound by the spectacular view and tried to capture it in my lens. The imposing statue of King Bhoja looks majestic at the lakeside and I caught some birds perched on his royal crown.
I drove around the city soaking in all the old and the new structures.Split by a pair of lakes, Bhopal is like two cities within a city and has two starkly contrasting cityscapes. Towards the North, you have the old city, a fascinating area of mosques, serpentine alleys, chowks, milling crowds, exotic Havelis and crowded bazaars. I am familiar with this side of the city and find it really fascinating as I visited the Idgah Hills side. South of the two lakes is the new Bhopal. With wide boulevards, upmarket shopping complexes like DB city mall, Ashima Mall, Century21 Mall, Crown Mall, The Great India Palace Mall, Aura Mall and plush hotels and restaurants nestled comfortably in the Arera and Shamla Hills, which overlook the lakes . I have no interest in shopping in malls and had to be literally dragged into DB Mall by my shopaholic Bhabhi! The central part of the city is known as New Market. But frankly, I still prefer the old Bhopal with its rustic charm.
The Masjid , Zoo, museum are places I have already been to and I gave them a miss. Instead, I drove down the countryside. The lush green fields, flowing brook were soothing to the eyes. I saw a wayside grotto under a tree dedicated to a Horse! Now that is surely a first.I have never seen a horse being worshiped before; India and its beliefs! 🙂 I watched a rural kabaddi match taking place, which had many people cheering the teams. I am sure there must have been huge stakes involved.
I am a food blogger and when I am traveling, food is top priority. India is a vast country and the food habits keep changing with the topography. It fascinates me to see the unusual and diverse foods in every city. My sister-in-law dished out some sumptuous uttapam, sandwiches for breakfast and when my brother took me out to dine at the new Manohar Dairy which is a very famous eatery. My nephew ordered for this unusual fusion of a Schezwan noodles spring roll stuffed in a Dosa and believe me it was a gastronomic delight; south Indian cuisine meets Chinese schezwan cuisine to become an awesome Chindian dish! Another fusion dish was a Samosa sandwich, which had a unique taste of its own. Panipuri is something that I have everywhere I go! I like to have Pan and asked my brother for it. He drove us to a famous panwala who used some exotic betel leaves. While my nephew was getting the pan made, I strolled around the pavement stalls with bright earthen lamps and color. It was Diwali festival time and the vibrant colors were captivating.
I also happened to visit the famous Raju Chai shop and found to my surprise that they sold more sweets and savories than Chai. I found this mawa jalebi, which I had never heard of before. There were huge cauldrons of oil and the cooks were rolling our samosas and kachoris. I watched while sipping my black ginger tea.
Bhopal charms you with its rich history and natural beauty. I wish I had more time to check out some theater shows but then maybe next time. Visit the city if you like architecture, culture and of course good food. This brings me to the end of my Bhopal diaries and onwards towards another favorite city of Nawabs-Lucknow.