Monday, July 18, 2011

Madhya Pradesh Tourist Places, Madhya Pradesh Tourist Attractions, Madhya Pradesh Tourist Spots, Madhya Pradesh Tourist Destinations


Destinations In Madhya Pradesh

Madhya Pradesh, a central state of India is the prime cultural and religious hub of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Islam. Famous for Khajuraho temples - 'A World Heritage Site', exquisitely carved Jain temples, forts, palaces, the state is the glorious reminders of erstwhile era of Rajas and Maharahas. The medieval cities, wildlife sanctuaries and holy pilgrimage centers of Madhya Pradesh offer a memorable experience to the tourists. Some of the famous destinations of Madhya Pradesh include are Khajuraho, Bandhavgarh, Kanha National Park, Bhopal, Gwalior, Ujjain, Indore.

Gwalior Tourism

Also described as the 'pearl in the necklace of the castles of Hind ', this fort dominates the city's skyline with its massive and captivating structure. Its dazzling beauty, which is a blend of Hindu and Islamic architecture, has left an everlasting imprint on the minds of the people.

Lashkar - The New Town

Deriving its name from the word 'lashkar' (military base), this town was founded by Daulat Rao Scindhia. Home to the famous Jai Vilas Palace and Museum, the Moti Mahal, Royal Chhatris, and the Vishnu Temple among others, it gives us a very good idea about its history and the changes that have taken place in Gwalior over the year.

Bhopal Tourism

Bhopal -- The State Capital of Madhya Pradesh

Madhya Pradesh is the largest state in India in terms of area, and Bhopal, which is situated around two artificial lakes, is its state capital. Despite its crowded commercial centre, Bhopal is an attractive place to visit.
Enclosed by a masonry wall, the city stands on the northern bank of a large lake with a bridge separating it from the lower lake. The name of the city is reportedly derived from Raja Bhoj who created the surrounding lakes by building a dam or pal. Hence, the city was originally called Bhojpal. Over a period of time, this was shortened to its present name, Bhopal.

A Unique Blend of Hindu and Islamic Culture

The city of Bhopal is not too well endowed with monuments, but it still has a unique character of its own. It presents a happy mix of Hindu and Islamic cultures and delicately balances both North Indian and South Indian influences as well.
Located on a gradient, the city has an amphitheatre-like quality, with a fair sprinkling of landscaped gardens and lakes. Sitting on the fringe of the Malwa Plateau, which comprises half-broken plains and forests in equal measure, the city is surrounded by the Shamla and the Idgah Hills. These hills offer the best view of Bhopal at twilight. As you near the city, huge minarets of mosques appear on the horizon, silently informing the visitor that Bhopal has arrived. Bhopal is also known as the city of lakes, and when the waters of the lake reflect the twinkling lights of the city at night, it is a sight to behold.


 The Begums of Bhopal

Bhopal, as we know it today, was founded by the Afghan adventurer, Dost Mohammad Khan who ruled over the city from 1708-40 a.d. He fled Delhi after the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, died in 1707. Later, Dost Mohammad met and fell for Queen Kamalapati, and ultimately extended his sway over the entire region. Bhopal survived a fearsome Maratha onslaught in the late 18th century, and finally signed a treaty with the British in 1818, to secure peace.

Bhopal is a city that is unique in the sense that powerful Begums ruled over it for over a century (1818-1926). In fact, John Lord who chronicled princely India labeled Shah Jahan Begum as the “First Lady of India.”


 Modern Bhopal

Modern Bhopal presents a dual personality, a mixture of the old and the new. In the heart of the old city lies the Chowk, lined with old mosques and havelis (mansions) which are reminders of a bygone era. The most prominent of these mosques are the Taj-ul-Masjid, one of the largest mosques in the country, the Jama Masjid and the Moti Masjid. The architecture of the city is an amalgam of both Islamic and Hindu styles, with the odd European-style monument thrown in as well. The Shaukat Mahal combines both Gothic and post-Renaissance styles to produce a charming effect. In sharp contrast to this is the new city with its well-laid out verdant parks and gardens, broad avenues and modern offices. In short, Bhopal has the ability to accommodate change, and yet remain the same.

Main Attractions
Bhopal - The Cradle of Art and Culture
Bhopal is also the house of art and culture in Madhya Pradesh, and the Bharat Bhavan which sits atop the Shamla Hills, is a prime example of that. Designed by Charles Correa, the museum houses an art gallery, a repertoire company and libraries of poetry, classical and folk music. and since Madhya Pradesh has a large concentration of adivasis (tribals), a visitor at the Tribal Habitat in Bhopal gets a feel of village life in the state.

However, the most interesting facets of the district are the spectacular cave paintings at Bhimbetka, a short distance away from the city of Bhopal. Etched in rock, some of the work is more than 30,000 years old, while the more recent ones belong to the medieval period. The cave paintings are valuable, not just for their artistic merit but also because they constitute a treasure trove of information on the pre-historic age.

Other Tourist Attractions
Bhojpur that is just a few miles away from the city. Bhojpur houses a magnificent Shiva Temple, and apparently was also the site of a huge lake that was destroyed by Hoshang Shah, the ruler of Malwa in mid-15th century. 6km north of Bhopal is Ashapuri which has some old Jain temples. and about 45km from the city is the marvellous Chiklod Palace

Culture & Cuisine
Although Bhopal is not considered to be as culturally evolved as Gwalior, the city is bursting at the seams with history, and walking down its narrow alleys is like sitting in a time machine and going back into the past.
The city’s shops are famous for traditional Bhopali crafts; you will find exquisite silver jewellery, beautifully-fashioned beadwork, sequined and embroidered velvet purses and cushions. The city is a great place to visit for non-vegetarians, thanks to long years of Islamic rule.
The chief delicacies are the spicy achar gost (pickled lamb), the sumptuous keemas (minced meat), the delectable rogan josh (mutton dish) and a variety of pulaos (aromatic rice) – enough to make even the most fastidious eater lick his lips. However, the culinary delight that the city is most famous for is the Bhopali Paan (betel leaf) which both men and women chew with relish.


The Bhopal Gas Tragedy
of course, a write up of Bhopal cannot be complete without a reference to the Bhopal Gas Tragedy which occurred on the 3rd of December, 1984, and is considered to be one of the worst industrial disasters ever.

The toxic gas, methyl isocyanate, leaked out from the multi-national Union Carbide’s insecticide plant on the outskirts of the city, leaving more than 5,000 people dead and over 100,000 suffering life-long illnesses, according to a conservative estimate. Union Carbide agreed to pay 470 million dollars in compensation in an out-of-court settlement to the victims, but for its critics, this was chicken feed.

Orchha Travel Guide

Distance : 12Okm From Gwalior, 178km from Khajuraho
Temp : Summer: Max, 47oC, Winter: Min, 4oC
Best season : October-March
Orchha today is a sleepy little hamlet but it was once the capital city of the mighty Bundelkhand Empire. From time immemorial, Bundelkhand has been an important destination for all sorts of tourists and travellers.
The famous Chinese pilgrim, Hiuen Tsang, visited the area in the 7th century a.d. and gave a vivid account of the kingdom of ‘Jejakabhuti’, which corresponds to modern day Bundelkhand and a small part of Bagelkhand as well.
 Foundation of Orchha

Orchha as it stands today, was founded in the 16th century a.d. by the Bundela chieftain, Rudra Pratap. The Bundelas were a warrior tribe who traced their ancestry to a medieval Rajput prince who sacrificed his life for the mountain goddess, Vrindavasini. In return, the goddess proclaimed that henceforth, he and his descendants would be known as ‘Bundelas’, or ‘those who gave blood’. The Orchha Bundelas are said to be chiefs of the Bundela clan settled all over the plains of North India.


 Main Charms of The Town

Although Orchha was never really a very affluent place, that did not deter the fiercely proud Bundelas from undertaking ambitious projects. Orchha’s legacy has been captured in stone and frozen in time, a rich legacy to all ages.
The remarkable proportions of the exteriors are matched by the grandeur of the interior-rich repositories of Bundela art. The richness of its palaces, temples and cenotaphs is reflected in the gently flowing water of the Betwa River.


 The Picturesque Site of River Betwa

The beautiful River Betwa on whose banks the city of Orchha is founded, is a picturesque site, with its monuments dotting the landscape on either side of the river.


 Jahangir Mahal

The most notable is the Jahangir Mahal, a tiered palace crowned by graceful chhatris (domed pavilions).
From here, the view of soaring temple spires and cenotaphs is spectacular.
The richness of the Jahangir Mahal contrasts nicely with the austere beauty of the Raj Mahal, built by Madhukar Shah who was a religious-minded person.
The last of the trio of palaces which embellish the Orchha fort is the Rai Parveen Mahal, built in the 17th century for Rai Parveen, the talented and artistically inclined lover of Orchha’s king, Raja Indrajit Singh (see Rai Parveen Mahal under Places of Interest for more).


 Temple Attractions

of the three main temples, the Laxminarayan Temple is a curious mix of fort and temple architecture. Most of its walls are decorated with murals, some with secular themes. On the other hand, the Ramaraja Temple is unusual in that here, Rama, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu (the Hindu Preserver of the Universe), is worshipped as a ruler, and the building is actually a palace.
The holy triad is completed by the Chaturbhuj Temple that is adorned with lotus emblems and other religious symbols.
Other sites worth visiting in Orchha are the shrines of Siddh Baba ka Sthan, Jugal Kishore Temple and the Janaki and Hanuman Mandirs.
Two famous memorials also dot Orchha – Hardol’s Samadhi, which has a tragic mystique about it, and the Shaheed Smarak, which commemorates the freedom fighter, Chandrashekhar Azad, who lived and worked in hiding in Orchha in 1926 and 1927. On the outskirts of Orchha is the Jaraika Math Temple, dedicated to Laxmi, the Hindu Goddess of Wealth.

Art & Architecture

Orchha is known for its elegant architecture and its unique sequential development of domes, brackets, pillars, arches and ledges. The domes that crown the monuments of Orchha are primarily hemispherical, but in some buildings, one comes across palanquin-shaped domes.

The brackets are found mainly in two varieties: elephant-shaped ones that you can see in the Jahangir and Raja Mahals, and serpentine brackets with floral designs that are influenced by Islamic architecture.
The arches that decorate the monuments of Orchha are magnificent and greatly enhance the quality of the structures.
The earlier ones have horizontal lintels placed atop solidly constructed jambs, while the later fabrications have cylindrical-shaped trabeated openings united at the top to form a complex unit. The pillars are fairly plain with not much of ornamental work, but the Raja Mahal houses massive 12-faced pillars with inverted bases that are definitely worth a look.


 Bundela School of Painting

Complementing the noble proportions of the exteriors are the interiors that represent the finest flowering of the Bundela School of painting. For instance, in the Laxminarayan Temple, vibrant murals covering a wide variety of religious and secular themes bring the walls and ceilings alive.


 Literature and Poetry

In the medieval ages, Orchha also enjoyed a rich tradition in the fields of literature and poetry. Its most famous bard was Keshav Das who visited the courts of Birbal and the Mughal Emperor, Jehangir, in the 17th century a.d. His most famous disciple, Rai Parveen, was equally well known for her ravishing looks as well as her lyrical voice. Her enchanting beauty and her sharp repartees dazzled even Emperor Akbar.

Sanchi Buddhist Pilgrimage

Location : 47km NE of Bhopal
In 1989, Sanchi was included on the World heritage list and is a must-stop for the millions of devout Buddhists who come to India, from all corners of the world, every year for pilgrimage.

Buddha himself never came to Sanchi; however in the tranquil stillness of the place he seems closer than in any of the other famous places of religious pilgrimage which still follow Hinayana Buddhism, the original form of the religion or philosophy – whatever you prefer to call it. Sanchi offers a lovely view of the surrounding countryside and sitting under the trees in the bright sunshine, it is easy to understand why so many have gone away so moved and touched by this ancient village.
Even if religion isn’t your thing, Sanchi is good place to just unwind and relax, or explore if you should so wish, as comparatively few people venture here.
Sanchi can easily be visited by car for a ½-day trip from Bhopal. The road out of Bhopal runs along the railway and once in the countryside the Vindhya Hills lie bang to your right – the higher ground all covered in low scrub jungle, the flat lowland cultivated.

 History of Sanchi

Sanchi emerges from obscurity to take centrestage as a hub for, first travelling merchants and then, Buddhist pilgrims rather early in India’s history.
Sanchi had, even before it caught the eye of a certain king who made it famous, always been a bustling village, or rather traveller’s halt.
Because, about 7km away, is Vidisha which had always been a strategic trade centre and a thriving town throughout history.

In fact Sanchi’s ancient name was Vidishagiri, the hill of Vidisha.
In the ancient Indian times, majority of the merchants of Vidisha followed Buddhism.
It is easy to see why Buddhism might have appealed to the level-headed businessmen of Vidisha – it was a way of life that was not burdened by caste restrictions and gave to everyone the freedom to attain the respectability which comes with wealth and social mobility.
We are told that rich merchants and patrons from Vidisha opened their ample coffers to pour in the money to sustain the religious life and building activity at Sanchi, dated around 2nd century BC to 1st century AD. For the Buddhist monks too the location was ideal. They could live in the calm and peaceful sanctuary of Sanchi (also called Chaitya-giri, the hill of Chaitya prayer halls) and walk to Vidisha, according to the tenets of Buddhism, to beg for alms and their daily food.
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The Formation of The City
The story behind the making of Sanchi and its stupas is however nothing less than a fairy tale – and it’s a substantiated historical fact. When the merchants of Vidisha decided to convert Sanchi into a Buddhist retreat, they went to famous Mauryan King (then governor of Ujjaini of which Vidisha formed a part) Piyadasi Asoka (215 BC) – before he became the most famous convert to Buddhism – to ask him to grant them the land. Asoka not only agreed, but also decided to take a personal interest in the building activity.
Upto this point Asoka’s interest can be safely put down to a king’s (even a would-be) natural love for building and plain curiosity, but mark the sequel.
When he came to Vidisha, the prince fell in love with the beautiful Devi, the daughter of one of the most powerful merchants of Vidisha.
The love was returned and it is said that it is because of this connection that Asoka started to take a serious interest in Buddhism. To honour his ladylove’s faith the prince started playing an active role in the building of Sanchi, giving out generous grants in form of both money and kind.

The love story meanwhile continued against the backdrop of the building of Sanchi during which time Asoka also succeeded to the throne.
Although they had two children, Asoka and Devi never married as she refused to move to Patliputta (the king’s capital, now Patna in Bihar), choosing to stay in Vidisha instead.
She gave two reasons for this. Firstly because she preferred to stay out of the intricate royal politics of the centre and secondly, Vidisha was where her religious and community work was based and she was reluctant to abandon that. One suspects that the first might have been the real reason, because what with Asoka already having so many ‘suitable’ queens and Devi being an ‘outsider’, it’s hardly conceivable that she would have been warmly accepted as the chief queen in the capital.
Devi was wise to anticipate complex royal intrigue – and wiser still to choose to stay away from it all.

Many years later it was her children, Mahindra and Sanghamitta, who led the famous royal embassy that Asoka sent to the island of Sri lanka to carry the message of the Buddha.


 The Rediscovery of The Site

As the centuries rolled on, Buddhism was gradually absorbed back into Hinduism. and so for many years the site decayed and was eventually completely forgotten. In 1818 General Taylor, a British officer accidentally rediscovered the site – the year before Ajanta Caves were found.
However this proved to be almost its undoing, for in the following years amateur archaeologists and greedy treasure seekers did immense damage to Sanchi.
A proper restoration was carried out in 1881 and finally, between 1912 and 1919, the structures were carefully repaired and restored to their present condition by Sir John Marshall – the hero of the Indus Valley civilization.

Khajuraho - World Heritage Site of India

The Stones of Passion

Right through the Mughal invasion and the early British forays into India, Khajuraho temples in India remained unknown. Rediscovered in this century, they are fine reminders of India's glorious past.

To some, Khajuraho Temples are the most graphic, erotic and sensuous sculptures of India, the world has ever known. But Khajuraho has not received the attention it deserves for its significant contribution to the religious art of India – there are literally hundreds of exquisite images on the interior and exterior walls of the shrines.

Architecturally these temples are unique. While each temple in Khajuraho has a distinct plan and design, several features are common to all. They are all built on high platforms, several metres off the ground, either in granite or a combination of light sandstone and granite. Each of these temples has an entrance hall or mandapa, and a sanctum sanctorum or garbha griha. The roofs of these various sections have a distinct form. The porch and hall have pyramidal roofs made of several horizontal layers. The inner sanctum's roof is a conical tower - a colossal pile of stone (often 30m high) made of an arrangement of miniature towers called shikharas.

The famous Western group of temples are designated as the World Heritage Site and is enclosed within a beautifully laid out park. The Lakshmana and Vishwanath Temples to the front and The Kandriya Mahadev, Jagadami and Chitragupta Temples displays the best craftmanship of Khajuraho
Quick bytes
State :
Madhya Pradesh
Location :
The City of Khajuraho is situated in the forested plains of Madhya Pradesh in the region known as Bundelkhand and at a reasonable distance from most cities and town centers of the state
Watch Out :
Western Group of Temples Eastern Gropu of Southern Group of Temples
Look Out :
Khajuraho Dance Festival Held - 25 th Feb - 30 th Feb
World Heritage Site :
Western Group of Temples

 Major Groups of Khajuraho Temples

For the purpose of convenience, the village of Khajuraho has been divided into three directional areas in which are located the major groups of temples .

Western Group Temples
These groups of Khajuraho temples are entirely Hindu, and constitute some of the finest examples of Chandela art at its peak. The largest being the Kandhariya Mahadev, followed by a granite temple - Chaunsath Yogini. The Chitragupta Temple is dedicated to the Sun God, while the Vishwanath Temple sports a three-headed image of Brahma – the Creator of the Universe. The Lakshmana Temple is superbly decorated, while the Devi Jagdambi Temple is dedicated to Goddess Kali. Other temples in the Western Group include the Varaha Temple with a nine-feet high boar-incarnation of Lord Vishnu, the Matangeshwara Temple with a eight-feet high lingam, and the Brahma Temple.

Eastern Group Temples
This group of Khajuraho tempels comprises of two historic Jain temples – the Adinath Temple lavishly embellished with sculpted figures, and the Parsvanath Temple, the largest Jain temple, sculpted with charming detail. There are other shrines such as the Vamana Temple with apsaras in sensuous poses, and the Javari Temple that has a richly-carved doorway

Southern Group

This group has two impressive Khajuraho temples, mainly belonging to the 12th century – the Chaturbhuja Temple, with a massive, carved image of Vishnu, and the Duladeo Temple, one of the last temples of the Chandela era, dedicated to Lord Shiva.

Symbolising a medieval legacy, the Khajuraho temples of India are a perfect fusion of architectural and sculptural excellence, representing one of the finest examples of Indian art.


 Souvenirs from Khajuraho

Being one of the most visited places in India, many shops have developed which offers souvenirs at best of prices. There are number of stalls in front of these temples that presents array of articles which are worth buying.


 Khajuraho Dance Festival

Held every year from 25th February to 2nd March, Khajuraho Dance festival provides an exclusive platform to showcase the Indian classical dance forms like Bharatnatyam, Kathak, Odisi, Kathakali etc. For over 25 years now, the carved stones fills with life during the month of Feb.


 Getting to Khajuraho
Air : The airport is 5 kms from the city centre and is well connected by domestic flights to and from Agra, Varanasi and Kathmandu.
Train : Mahoba, Satna and Jhansi are the nearest railway stations. All of these are well connected by most of the major cities of India.
Road : Khajuraho is connected by regular bus services with Mahoba, Harpalpur, Satna, Jhansi, Gwalior, Agra, Jabalpur and Bhopal. Khajuraho is 590 kms from Delhi via Gwalior and Jhansi.


 Accommodation

Whether there are any good hotels in Khajuraho or not? Probably you don't have to worry much as there are number of hotels in Khajuraho. Ranging from budget to deluxe, hotels in Khajuraho offer good accommodation at your price.

Kanha Wildlife

Distanc : 65km from Mandla, 169km from Jabalpur, 330km from Nagpur
Altitude : 1,480 to 2,950ft (450-900m)
Temperature : Max 43o, Min 11o celsius
Rainfall : 1,250mm

 Rudyard Kipling Famous Novel -- The Jungle Book Was Created Here
Kanha became famous when the author Rudyard Kipling wrote The Jungle Book in 1894, setting his story in Kanha’s forests. While in Kanha, you will see the dramatic beauty of the forest and the immense variety of wildlife that must have fired the author’s imagination.

Even before Kipling, Kanha (like many other National Parks in India) was famous as a preferred hunting ground for rulers and viceroys. The first effort to conserve this area was in 1933, when about 250sq km of the forested Kanha valley was declared a Wildlife Sanctuary. Another 300sq km of the adjoining Supkhar Sanctuary was added to the original area, only to be de-notified within a few years, after which just the original 230sq km of wilderness remained protected.


 Declared National Park In 1955

oftentimes, unpleasant incidents have made us sit up and realise that certain forest areas needed to be protected. A famous cricketer in the early 1950s, Maharaja Kumar of Vijayanagram was allowed to shoot as many as 30 tigers in and around the Sanctuary for the sheer sake of sport. This incident was followed by a public outcry that forced the authorities to formulate a special legislation and declare the area a National Park in 1955.

The size of Kanha National Park increased to 318sq km in 1962, and again to 446sq km in 1970.
In 1976, Kanha became a part of Project Tiger that was launched in 1972, giving the Park its present area of 940sq km. This is surrounded by an additional buffer area of 1,005sq km. Project Tiger was essentially a conservation effort begun by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Its main objective was to ensure that the poaching of tigers stopped, and to secure the tiger’s habitat.


 Flora & Fauna
Mammals & Reptiles
Today, Kanha is one of the most famous Tiger Reserves in India, and it harbours a rich diversity of plants and animals. A photographer’s paradise, Kanha offers unlimited possibilities of capturing wildlife on film.
Kanha is often called Tiger Land, and visitors narrate innumerable and unforgettable instances of tiger sightings. Even in terms of conservation, the National Park has been a remarkable success, and has protected a number of species that might otherwise have been altogether extinct.


Kanha Vegetation
Vegetation in Kanha varies with altitude. The meadows, speckled with climbs of the great sal tree (Shorea robusta), are interspersed with larger areas of the great sal forests. In the higher reaches, bamboo becomes more prominent till the mixed jungle with almost 70 species of trees, replaces the bamboo trees.
Finally, the flat tops of the ridges, locally known as dadar, are covered with grasslands sparingly scattered with trees.

These forests are a treasure trove of wildlife. Kanha is home to as many as 22 species of large mammals commonly found in the Park, and almost 300 species of birds. Sightings of a common langur (long-tailed monkey), jackal, wild boar, chital (spotted deer), sambar (Indian stag) and blackbuck are not unusual. However, the Indian porcupine, sloth bear, hyena, jungle cat, leopard, chausingha (four-horned antelope) and nilgai (blue bull) are very elusive. Other sightings, such as those of the tiger, gaur (Indian bison), dhole (Indian wild dog), muntjac (barking deer), hare and mongoose need patience, time and luck.

Predators of The Park
In an ecosystem, the key indicators of the vitality of the system are the predators. A thriving predator population in a forest is indicative of an abundance of the prey species (like deer), and of the entire food chain.
Kanha has a variety of predators of all sizes, both from the cat family (like tigers and leopards) as well as from the dog family (like jackals, wolves and wild dogs). The tiger is the largest predator here, capable of killing the mighty gaur (Indian bison).
The fierce leopard is usually nocturnal and very elusive, so much so that a leopard sighting is even more rare than that of a tiger despite the fact that leopards outnumber tigers. Among the small cats, Kanha is home to the jungle cat and ratel that feast on small mammals, birds, eggs, lizards and carrion.

The Deadly Dhole
The dog family is also well represented in Kanha. The Indian fox, the jackal, the striped hyena and the dhole (Indian wild dog) are common in the Park. The dhole is perhaps the most misunderstood of all these predators. All predators kill to survive, but the dhole has a reputation of being a bloody killer. What has earned the dhole this reputation is the way in which it kills. Almost all other predators kill in terrain that has some cover. The dhole is a coursing predator that kills mostly in open terrain. It hunts in packs, (up to 40 dholes can form one pack) that synchronize their attack. The pack splits into two; one group chases the prey, flushing it towards the other half of the pack. The dhole pack runs after its unfortunate prey, biting off flesh from the animal until it falls. What follows the chase is not a pretty sight either. The prey is usually large, and since the dhole lacks the killing bite of the large cat, the only way to kill its prey is by biting off chunks of meat, thereby bleeding the animal to death. Large dhole packs can kill animals as big as the gaur (Indian bison), and incidents have been reported where a pack was able to kill a tiger.

All this had made the dhole a very dreaded predator. Until 25 years ago, it was seen as a pest and falsely accused for being responsible for the decline in the number of deer. It carried a bounty on its head and was indiscriminately killed. But fortunately, the dhole is now protected under the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act that forbids the hunting of this animal. More research is being done on the dhole, and for the first time, the focus is on the softer side to this animal.
The Barasingha’s Last Resort
The barasingha (swamp deer) is usually a very alert animal. Even while resting at the edge of a meadow, it is always wary of the presence of a predator. The barasingha is an extremely interesting animal to watch in the wild. Its antlers could have as many as 12 tines, which is why the deer is called barasingha (‘bara’ in Hindi means 12 and ‘singha’, antler). The barasingha’s large antlers are often adorned with tufts of grass, like streamers on a Christmas tree.

The sight that is likely to greet you in the morning in Kanha would be that of a large barasingha herd grazing in a chowd (open terrain). A nice way to start your day, but it wasn’t always like that. Once found throughout Central India, this subspecies of the barasingha (Cervus duvauceli branderi) is now restricted to Kanha. It was in Kanha that the barasingha was rescued from the brink of extinction. In the 1970s, the barasingha population had dwindled to a mere 66. Serious efforts were made by all concerned authorities, and the swamp deer population gradually increased. The efforts included the enlargement of the barasingha’s habitat through village relocation.

Deer
Deer thrive in open meadows and tall grasslands. Unfortunately, because of the threat from human beings and domestic cattle, the barasingha migrated from Kanha.
Even today, the population of this subspecies of swamp deer keeps fluctuating and continues to be a cause for grave concern.

Found in the northern part of India, the barasingha (Cervus duvauceli branderi) has a subspecies that is different from its northern counterpart. This ‘other’ barasingha (Cervus duvauceli duvauceli) has pointed and compact hooves that enable it to move with ease on the grassland’s hard terrain. It is not very fond of water and rarely moves into sal forests. Grasslands are vital to the barasingha not only because it feeds almost exclusively on grass, but also because tall grass provides protection to the newborn fawn that is unable to keep up with the herd.
Once the fawn is stronger, it will join the herd, but before that, it must stay well hidden from predators. Individuals of the same sex and age form separate schools, and sometimes large herds of almost 40 fawns can be seen frolicking around at one place, very much like children in a classroom.

The adults and fawns graze separately. often engaging in mock fights, the sub-adult males lock their antlers in a trial of strength. However, the more serious fights among the adult males from December to January, the crucial mating season, are a sight to behold.
The competing stags lock antlers with all their strength, kicking clouds of dust around them.
The females graze around them, seemingly unconcerned by the sight and the sound of the clashing antlers.
The young ones can’t help being a little curious, and watch the fight from the corner of their eyes. The winner, after having chased away the loser, basks in mud before reentering the herd.

There have been incidents when the antlers of the warring stags had got so intricately tangled that the animals were unable to detach themselves. Not being able to graze nor drink, the animals died a slow death. At times, human intervention failed to detach the barasinghas locked antlers even after the deer had died.

The Tiger in Trouble
If you are in Kanha, you are in Tiger Land. Chances of seeing a tiger here are good despite the fact that the sal forests can get quite dense at places. Seen in its natural habitat, the tiger is one of the most fascinating beasts in the world. It is also almost invisible, be it in greenery or in brown bush.
The tiger has this amazing ability to sneak up on its prey without the slightest sound, even while walking on dry undergrowth. But there’s a catch. While a tiger lies in the bush, it is almost impossible to see the animal – it stays perfectly still without a sound. Except for its tail, which it can never hold still, however hard it tries.

George Schaller, a well-known wildlife researcher, did a study in Kanha on the tiger and the major herbivores that form its prey. Conducted in 1967, this research is regarded as one of the best studies on Indian Wildlife, and has inspired other similar projects.

These studies show that at its best, Kanha can sustain a rather large tiger population, especially in the core areas of the reserve. But as is the case with other Tiger Reserves in India, the tiger is fighting a battle of survival in Kanha as well. Not only is the tiger being killed, its habitat is continuously being encroached upon and its prey being hunted down by human beings.

The Royal Hunting of Tigers
In the early 20th century, there were about 40,000 tigers in the Indian subcontinent. This was before royal shikars (hunts) became a cult for the princes of India. Perched safely on elephants and machans (observation towers), royalty hunted the tiger. Royal hunts were an experience in themselves. While Jim Corbett hunted his man-eaters with a rifle, camping in dense forests for days accompanied only by his dog Robin, the maharajas (kings) found another way to bag their game.

Each state had its own army, and with battles becoming a thing of the past, these troops were used to drawing out game. Hundreds of men armed with weapons, drums, pots, and pans would step into the jungles. Then would begin the noisiest ‘safari’ a forest had seen, the ultimate goal being to drive animals out to where royalty waited to blast away with guns.

Project Tiger - A Conservation Programme Launched
Project Tiger, a conservation programme launched in 1972 by India’s Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, adopted the Indian tiger. The project’s main objective was to safeguard the tiger from poachers, but by the mid-90s, the project had lost its initial drive.

The poaching of tigers continues, and each and every part of the dead animal fetches a high price in the international market, especially in China where it is widely used in traditional East Asian medicines. Tiger teeth, fangs and claws make exotic and much sought after pendants that are believed to keep evil spirits at bay. Tiger skin fetches an unbelievable price from collectors.

Birds
To a casual visitor, Kanha’s bird life might not seem impressive, but if you pay attention, you will find a lot of birds in Kanha. Bird watching is not very simple in Kanha, but is worth the trouble. Get ready to go bird watching with a pair of binoculars, an identification book (recommended: The Book of Indian Birds by Salim Ali, or Birds of the Indian Subcontinent by Grimmett) and patience, and you might be in for a field day.

The best time to go bird watching on the hills or in the meadows of Kanha is just after daybreak. The sal forest is not particularly rich in bird life, but the rest of the Park compensates for that. Prize sightings include the Malabar pied hornbill, paradise flycatcher, black vulture, red spurfowl, pied crested cuckoo, Eurasian kingfisher and rosy pastor, to name a few.

 Main Aerial Attractions

Common sightings include those of doves, drongos, pigeons, parakeets, woodpeckers, warblers, herons, teals, quails, swallows, shrikes, mynahs, babblers, flycatchers, pipits, sparrows, egrets and cormorants.
Among the birds of prey that rule the skies over Kanha are the serpent eagle, crested honey buzzard, white eyed buzzard, black-winged kite, nightjar, shikra, lagger and shaheen falcon, kestrel and a number of owls including the barn owl and brown fish owl, and owlets.
Kanha is also home to some species of vultures, of which only the white-backed vulture is commonly seen. The others like the black vulture, the Egyptian vulture and the long-billed vulture are evasive.


 When to Visit

The best time for viewing wildlife in Kanha is from January to June, but Nov/Dec is also a fairly decent time for sightings. The Park is closed during the monsoon and post-monsoon period (end June to beginning November) when most of the Park is inaccessible as the downpour usually washes away portions of the road.
Best time to visit : January to June
Closed : July 01 to October 31

Transport : Kanha is most accessible from Jabalpur (169km), Bilaspur (301km) and Nagpur (330km). The nearest town is Mandla (65km) with a branch of the State Bank of India that deals in foreign exchange.


Train : (To Jabalpur, 169km from Kanha)
From Allahabad: Ganga-Kaveri Exp, Howrah Exp
From Delhi: Mahakoshal Exp
From Lucknow: Chitrakoot Exp
From Nagpur: Varanasi-Tirupati Exp

Bus : Private buses are available from Khajuraho, Allahabad, Mandla, Bhopal, Nagpur, Varanasi and other important towns.
Connecting buses from Jabalpur to Kanha- If travelling via Jabalpur by a Madhya Pradesh Roadways bus, an overnight halt at Kisli is necessary. This could be avoided if you are travelling in a personal or hired car.


Best Time For Sightings : Dawn to 10 a.m.; 4 p.m. to dusk. Gypsys can be hired from Baghira Log Huts


Once in Kanha, you could go around in the Park either in a jeep or on elephant back. Both elephant and jeep rides are permitted only during the day. The best times for sightings are either in the morning from dawn to 10 a.m., or in the evening from 4 p.m. till nightfall, after which the Park is closed for visitors. Over time, wild animals have accustomed themselves to jeeps and elephants, and animal sightings are fairly common.

Many prefer tiger tracking and photography from elephant back, which often involves some systematic tiger tracking. Also, altitude increases visibility. Your guide during the elephant rides will be a mahout, the elephant driver and keeper. Most mahouts are expert trackers and would be able to identify all the possible signs that give away the tiger’s hideout.

A jeep can also be hired to visit the Park. A Forest Department guide must always accompany you on these trips. The meadows in Kanha are abuzz with animals like the barasingha, black buck and chital.

The best chances of seeing a gaur (Indian bison) is at Bamni Dadar, also famous for its beautiful sunset because of which it is locally known as Sunset Point. Other places to watch animals are at the waterholes. Animals visit these waterholes around midday, providing an enchanting view from machans (observation towers) that visitors are permitted to use.

 Shravantal --Dam

Situated in the central meadows of Kanha, Shravantal is a small but ancient earth bund (dam). This tank is important not only because it is the watering source for the area, but also because it provides a good habitat to a number of waterfowls in winter.


 Excursions From The Park

If you are interested in archaeology and look forward to monuments on each trip, then head towards Baihar, 15km from Kanha. En route are the ruins of old temples. These black structures are of an impressive architectural style with corrugated shikharas (temple spires).
 

Omkareshwar Tourism

Distance : 77km from Indore

The name Omkareshwar derives from the word Om, which signifies the most sacred Hindu symbol. This island is shaped like the Om and is about 2km long and 1km wide.
It is one of the holiest Hindu sites in India by virtue of the presence a jyotirlingam, one of the twelve in India. As you probably know by now, the lingam is the symbol of Lord Shiva and there must be simply thousands of them in India. The jyotirlingam or the lingam of light, however, is special. It is believed to derive currents of power from within itself as opposed to an ordinary lingam which is ritually invested with mantra shakti (power invested by chants) by the priests.

 The Location

Omkareshwar rests at the meeting point of the Narmada and the Kaveri rivers. It is divided north to south by a deep gully. The ground slopes gently along the northern edge but in the south and east there are cliffs over 150m high forming a gorge. The village spreads to the southern bank from the island, now linked by a new bridge, and the river between is said to be very deep and full of crocodiles.


 Sri Omkareshwar Mahadeo Temple

Also known as the Temple of Shri Omkar Mandhata, it enshrines the jyotirlingam.
The temple is made from a locally available soft stone which made possible intricate detailing in the fa├žade, especially in the friezes on the upper parts of the structure.


 The Siddnath Temple

A classic example of early medieval Brahminic architecture, this one is well worth a visit.

Its most eye-catching feature is a frieze of elephants over 1.5m high carved on a stone slab at its outer perimeter. Elaborate carved figures decorate the upper portion and the roof of the temple. The shrine is encircled by verandahs with columns carved in circles, polygons and squares.


 Other Places

Despite the damage done by Muslim invaders in the time of Mahmud of Ghazni (11th century), there are still many temples on this island, both Hindu and Jain. You can spot a huge Nandi Bull (the vehicle of Lord Shiva) carved in the hillside opposite the temple to Gauri Somnath at the western end of the island. Don’t miss the 24 Avatars, a group of Hindu and Jain temples, the 10th century Satmatrika Temples (6km) and the Kajal Rani Cave (9km), a lovely picnic spot with a great view.


 Facilities
Transport
The nearest railway station, Omkareshwar Road, is on the Ratlam-Indore-Khandwa line. Omkareshwar is a mere 12km from the station. Local buses ply on the Indore-Omkareshwar route (68km, Rs 20) at frequent intervals. There are many buses from Indore till 1030 hrs but only one early morning bus from Ujjain.

Accommodation
Don’t expect any plush hotels, the accommodation available is pretty basic.
Dharamshalas are aplenty but they are primarily for Hindus. Check out the Yatrika Guest House at Omkareshwar Mandir. Another good bet is the Holkar Guest House run by the Ahilyabai Charity Trust.

Chitrakoot Tourism

Distance: 175km from Khajuraho, 115km from Allahabad, 110km from Satna

 Chitrakoot Considered As Sacred Place of Hindus
One of the most important centres of Hindu faith and culture, Chitrakoot is known for its scenic beauty and its holiness.

The Ganges Valley, considered to be the seat of Hinduism, one of the most ancient religions of the world, is only 50km away from this small, yet important pilgrim centre.
Chitrakoot was considered to be a very sacred place in the Tretayuga, or the third epoch of the Hindu cosmogony. It is said that Rama and Sita visited Chitrakoot during their 14-year long exile. Lord Rama, an incarnation of Vishnu (the Preserver in the Hindu Holy Trinity of Creator-Preserver-Destroyer), is the hero of the great Indian epic Ramayana, written by Sage Valmiki.


 The Legendary Tale of Ramayana

According to the Ramayana, Rama was the eldest son of Dashratha, ruler of the kingdom of Ayodhya, the region around the present Gangetic Plains in the state of Uttar Pradesh.
Rama was married to Sita, the princess of Videha in northern Bihar. However, Rama was exiled for 14 years at the behest of his stepmother Keikeyi, who wanted her son Bharata to be the ruler instead of Rama.

Therefore, Rama, along with his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana, left Ayodhya to live in forests for 14 long years. But this was just the beginning of Rama’s woes.
After spending 13 years in hiding, tragedy struck the unfortunate trio in their final year of exile when Ravana, the 10-headed king of Lanka (Ceylon), abducted Sita.

The epic culminated in the battle of Good and Evil (symbolised by Rama and Ravana respectively) in which Good eventually triumphed over Evil. Ravana was vanquished and Sita returned to her husband. After his return to Ayodhya, Rama became a judicious ruler. Bharata, who had administered the kingdom during Rama’s exile, welcomed his elder half-brother. But that is another story in itself (see Ramayana under Know India: Ancient Scriptures & Folklore for more details).


 Attractions of The City

11 out of the 14 years of Rama’s exile were spent in the jungles of Chitrakoot. This is reason enough for pilgrims to flock to the place. Chitrakoot seems to sum up the religious ambience of the northern plains. It lies in the Vindhya escarpement, and is dissected by torrential rivers. Situated amidst nature’s bounty on the banks of the Payaswini River, Chitrakoot forms the tip of the district of Satna in Madhya Pradesh, the heart- state of India.

The Payaswini River flows around the base of the Vindhya Hills describing a circumference of 5km.

In the year 1775, the Bundela chief, Chhattarsal constructed a terrace here on which the pilgrims perform a ceremonial circumambulation. Be it the banks of the Payaswini, or the surrounding hills, the entire terrain of Chitrakoot is dotted with temples and shrines dedicated to various deities. Situated on the banks of the Mandakini, yet another important river flowing through this place, are Ramghat and Janaki Kund where devotees come to pray.


 Centre of Meditation and Peace

Chitrakoot’s atmosphere replicates the essence of the Hindu faith. Goswami Tuslidas, a contemporary of the Mughal Emperor Akbar (reigned a.d. 1556 to 1605), is said to have visited Chitrakoot to meditate and seek divine inspiration when he was about to begin Ramcharitamanas, his opus on the life of Rama.


 Temple Attractions

Centuries later, pilgrims find themselves inspired by the divine environs of Chitrakoot. One of the shrines even houses the idol of Tulsidas, Rama’s great devotee. Pilgrims visit the temples of Hanuman Dhara, Kamadgiri, Sati Anusuya. There are numerous other shrines around Janaki Kund, the tank in which Sita once bathed, and Sphatik Shila, the quartz rock.

Ujjain Tourism


Distance : 37km from Dewas, 45km from Indore, 55km from Ratlam
Location : Situated on the Malwa Plateau on the eastern side of the River Shipra that originates from the Kakri Bardi Range in Indore district, Ujjain forms the eastern district of Madhya Pradesh, the heart-state of India. The district of Ujjain is surrounded by the districts of Shajapur in the north, Ratlam in the east, Dhar in the west, and Indore and Dewas in the south.

 Most Holy City of Hindus
One of the seven sacred cities of the Hindus, known as Saptapurior Mokshapuri, Ujjain has been a prominent centre of religious activities for over 2,000 years. The township is particularly mentioned in the Atharva Veda, the last of the four Vedas(ancient Hindu texts written between 1,000 to 800 b.c.). Two parts of the Skanda Purana, another ancient holy text, are supposed to have been composed here.

The district of Ujjain along with its surrounding regions, was ancient Avantikawith its capital at Ujjayini, which literally means the glorious conqueror. Apart from being a religious place, Ujjain tourism highlights the city as a centre for astronomy,developed by one of its rulers, Jai Singh. Ancient Hindu geographers fixed the centre of the Earth and the first meridian here to make astronomical calculations.


 Buddhist Sites Found Here

Damaged sculptures and monasteries have been found scattered around Ujjain, leading to the belief that Buddhism flourished here in the 4th century. A profusion of these along with ruined temples and old remains of foundations of houses found in the district belong to the Mauryan period (4th to 2nd century b.c.). Ancient bones and skeletons, coins, terracotta figurines, beads and semi-precious stones were some of the other things discovered in Ujjain.


 Evidences of an Ancient Empire

The discovery of ancient silver and copper coins enables historians to reconstruct the basic pattern of administrative and kingship systems. In 326 b.c., the Greeks arrived in India led by Alexander the Great, who crossed into India and met King Porus on the banks of the River Jhelum. The Greeks stayed on for 18 months, after which they began their long march back. Alexander left behind ambassadors and vassals to rule the territories he had conquered upto Jhelum.
These regents who were responsible for administering Indian territories in Alexander’s name, eventually came to be known as Kshatrapas (vassals) and the Mahakshatrapas (senior vassals). This was around the Saka era in the 1st century a.d. From Saka coins found in Ujjain, it is believed that a Kshatrapa would succeed a Mahakshatrapa, indicating the influence of a foreign rule in Ujjain. A glass stamp inscribed with the name Asadevas, a lid with the name Nagabhudhis and an ivory stamp with the name Gothjastiscus were discovered in Ujjain as well. All carved, moulded, inscribed or stamped coins, rings and stamps are conserved in various museums in Madhya Pradesh.


 Attractions of Monuments

In addition to the ruins of antiquity, Ujjain tourism offers information on number of interesting monuments. such as the Jai Singh Observatory, the Choubis Khamba Darwazaand the Kaliyadeh Mahal, apart from the numerous temples in the periphery of the town. A dip in the holy river Shipra is supposed to pave the way to Heaven for human beings. The river flows north passing through the bathing sites of Mangalghat, Narsimhaghat, Ramghat and Siddhavat before reaching the Rana Pratap Sagar Dam and finally draining into the Chambal River. The adjoining terrain is interspersed with teak and cultivated farmlands.


 Modern Ujjain

Modern Ujjain is a major agricultural and textile trade centre, as well as the district headquarters. The fertile plains of Ujjain receive electricity from the Gandhi Sagar Dam on the Chambal River.
The district is fertile enough to produce sorghum, wheat, cotton, pulses, legumes and poppy. Cotton ginning and milling, oilseed milling, hand weaving and the manufacture of metal ware, tiles, hosiery, confectionery, strawboard and batteries are flourishing industries in Ujjain. In the suburb Bherugarh, aka Bhairavgarh, chippas or dyers and printers use vegetable dyes and hand-carved teak to print ancient designs and patterns on cotton saris, tapestries, hangings, bed sheets and mats.


 Fairs & Festivals

Festive occasions and fairs are an important part of the lives of people in Ujjain. An ancient religious centre, Ujjain is famous for the Kumbh Mela, a month-long fair attended by thousands of Hindu devotees. Locally known as Sinhast,the fair is held every 12 years, beginning on the full moon in the month of Chaitra (March-April) when Jupiter is in Scorpio and the Sun is in Aries.

The Ardha Kumbh(half Kumbh) is held every six years. Legend has it that a kumbh (pot) containing nectar arose from the depths of the ocean because of a tug-of-war between the gods and the demons. The ocean was churned with the help of the snake Vasuki, and Mount Meru.
A fight broke out between the gods and the demons over the pot of nectar. In the ensuing conflict, drops of nectar fell on the places that are now Prayag(Allahabad), Nasik, Hardwar and Ujjain.

The age-old festival of Shivaratriis dedicated to Shiva, the Destroyer in the Hindu Holy Trinity of Creator-Preserver-Destroyer. Devotees flock to the temples at dawn and make special offerings of berries and belpatra or leaves of the wood apple. The Shiva linga (Shiva’s symbolic phallus) is bathed with milk and honey and worshipped on Shivaratri.


 Centre of Cultural Activities

Madhya Pradesh tourism also promotes other cultural activities held in Ujjain. The state is the centre of cultural activities and festivals such as the Malwa Utsav, a festival of folk and classical music, and the All IndiaKalidasa Festival. These festivals are held annually in Ujjain by the government of Madhya Pradesh. Dedicated to the 4th century poet Kalidasa, the Kalidasa Festival honours the creative talent of authors, poets and playwrights.

Moreover, the Theatre Academy of Madhya Pradesh also has its centre at Ujjain.


Mandu Tourism


 A Perfect Honeymoon Destination

Distance : 40km from Dhar; 98km from Indore
Population : 5,000
Altitude : 634m

 Full of Scenic Splendor

For all those who head straight for the hills for that elusive whiff of romance, let me say that Mandu is the perfect honeymoon destination. It is the city of love and delight; after all one of its most famous legends is the love story of Baz Bahadur and Rani Roopmati.

The call of Mandu is strongest when the monsoon clouds shower it with cooling water that turns it lush green. Situated on an outcrop of the Vindhyas, the hillfort is separated from the surrounding plateau by a deep ravine called Kakra Khoh, which encircles it on the east, west and north. The ruins are spread over an area of 21sq km and are surrounded by luxuriant undergrowth and crystal clear lakes and ponds. Is it a wonder then that its Muslim rulers dubbed it Shadiabad or the City of Joy?


 Great History

The crown of the hill was fortified as early as in the 6th century BC, but Mandu gained eminence only near the end of the 10th century when the Paramaras formed an independent kingdom based initially at Ujjain and then at Dhar under Raja Bhoja and his successors. The Muslim Khaljis of Delhi in 1304 and the Hindu kingdom of Malwa became part of the Delhi Sultanate under Muslim governors.

However, the 1401 invasion of Delhi by the Mongols came as a blessing and Malwa seized independence under its Afghan governor. Then began an era of prosperity and fortune that lasted right through the Mughal invasion until the Marathas captured Mandu in 1732.

Dilawar Khan, a true-blue Afghan opportunist, decided to rebel against his overlords, the Khaljis of Delhi, when they were caught napping by the Mongols.
He made Dhar his capital and it remained so until his death. His son Hoshang Shah, the very same man who destroyed the dams at Bhojpur, soon shifted base to Mandu. Peace, calm and steady expansion were the hallmarks of Hoshang Shah’s reign. Some excellent monuments were erected from then on, among them the Jami Masjid, the Delhi Gate and his own tomb.

The next king in line, Muhammad Shah, ruled for a year before being poisoned by Mahmud Khan. Mahmud Khan I Khalji thus seized power and founded a new dynasty. He was a brilliant soldier-sultan, under whom Mandu gained both in territory and prestige.

He commissioned many beautiful buildings including his own tomb, the madrassa (school of Islamic education), and a seven-storey Victory Tower, of which only the base now remains.

Mahmud Khan was succeeded by his son Ghiyath-ud-Din in 1469 and another period of peace and prosperity followed, only to be disrupted when Ghiyath-ud-Din’s son, Nasir-ud-Din, found the old man going strong even at 80 and decided to speed up things a bit.
He poisoned his father and finally got to sit on the throne of Mandu.

But having done the wicked thing by his father, Nasir-ud-Din never found joy or comfort. Eaten up by guilt and afraid of his own shadow and of being alone, he maintained a harem of 15,000 women out of whom a 1,000 were his personal guards.
Nasir-ud-Din had a troubled reign and is believed to have died of guilt 10 years after usurping the throne.

His son who proved to be an ineffective and incompetent ruler succeeded him. Easily swayed by advisers, the kingdom slipped out of his hands when Bahadur Shah of Gujarat conquered Mandu in 1526. Later in 1534, Humayun seized control.
But Mandu did enjoy a brief resurgence under the rule of Baz Bahadur till 1561 when he fled from Akbar’s troops leaving Mandu at the mercy of the great Mughal. The curtain comes down on the history of Mandu at this point.

Amarkantak Pilgrimage in Madhya Pradesh

Altitude : 1065m
 A Pilgrimage Site For Hindus

Amarkantak is where the Vindhaya and the Satpura ranges meet. It is a pilgrimage for Hindus as it is the source of the rivers Narmada and Sone. This place is famous for the Amrkantak Shivratri Mela which is held here annually during the festival of Shivratri. The Mela is reputed to be about 80 years old.


 Sightseeing

There is a temple here called Narmada Udgam at the source of the river Narmada, situated just south of the main road. There are also several temple ruins and the Kapildhara and Dugdhdhara waterfalls about 12km away are worth a visit.
  
Bandhavgarh National Park

Altitude : 811m
Core Zone :105sq km
Buffer Zone :448sq km
Best time to visit : February to June
Temp : Max 42o; min 2o Celsius
Closed : July 01 to October 31
Rainfall : 1,500mm


This National Park is small compared to others, but its importance lies in the fact that it has a high game density. When originally notified as a protected area in 1968, the Park was only 105sq km in size. But in 1986, this area was extended to include large areas of sal (Shorea robusta) forests in the northern and southern ends of the Park. Today, the Park covers an area of about 448sq km and is home to a wide variety of animals, including carnivores, primates, ungulates, reptiles and birds.


 The Elusive White Tiger

The forests of Bandhavgarh are the white tiger jungles of the yesteryears. However, no white tigers have been reported from the wild in the last 50 years, and it is believed that less than a dozen have been seen in India in about a hundred years. and yet when white tigers were sighted, it was right here in Bandhavgarh.

Documents in the Rewa Palace record as many as 8 occasions on which white tigers had been sighted in and around Bandhavgarh during the first half of the 20th century. In 1951, Maharaja Martand Singh of Rewa captured an orphaned white tiger cub from the Bagri forest in Bandhavgarh (see Rewa & Land under Madhya Pradesh). The Maharaja domesticated this male white tiger and named him Mohan. The Maharaja was also able to successfully breed white tigers in Rewa and export the cubs to distant countries. As a result, all white tigers in captivity today are Mohan’s descendants. The species has thrived in captivity, with a number of specimens related to Mohan finding homes in zoos and circuses all over the world. Mohan was the last white tiger in the wild, and no white tiger has been reported ever since.

Before scientists undertook research projects on the white tiger, it was widely believed that the animals were albinos. However, it was discovered that the white tiger did not have pink eyes as albinos do. Instead, these tigers had black stripes and blue eyes, a result of genetic aberration that occurs due to mutant recessive genes in both parents.


 Maharajas of Rewa Claimed Bandhavgarh As Their Private Game Reserve

Reserve as a private property worked in favour, as well as against the interest of the wildlife in the area. While the forests were well protected and hunting rights remained in the hands of a selected few, the white tiger was still not safe from human agression.

Maharaja Venkat Raman Singh shot 111 tigers by 1914, a figure that was slightly above the auspicious number of 109 tigers that the Maharajas had intended to shoot. The figure of 109 might have been considered a good omen for kings, but for tigers it only heralded death and extinction. Had Project Tiger not been launched in 1972 with the aim of protecting the tiger and its habitat, the tiger may well have become a thing of the past. The killing of tigers in Bandhavgarh stopped in 1968 when the area was declared a National Park.

 Flora

Sal (Shorea robusta) trees dominate almost half the forest of Bandhavgarh. The sal tree is an important component of the deciduous forests of North and Central India. Sal forests were found throughout the northern parts of the Deccan, extending from Madhya Pradesh to Orissa in one continuous stretch. These magnificent forests have uniform and thick growths of tall and straight sal trees that have rounded leaves. The sal also provides precious timber and yields a resin that is used as incense. Over the years, legal and illegal logging has wiped out large parts of these forests, and it is only in places like Bandhavgarh that sal forests are still protected. On Bandhavgarh’s upper slopes, a mixed forest replaces the sal forest, while in the north are large stretches of bamboo and grasslands. The undergrowth in Bandhavgarh is not very dense.


 Wildlife Population

Mammals & Reptiles
The Forest Department has recorded at least 22 species of mammals and about 250 species of birds in the Park. Parts of the forest that were cleared for cultivation have now turned into grasslands where the chinkara (Indian gazelle), nilgai (blue bull) and (four-horned antelope) can be sighted. Groups of wild boar can also be seen moving around, digging their snouts into the ground. Occasionally, carnivores like jackals and foxes follow their prey into the forest. The sambar (Indian stag) and the muntjac (barking deer) inhabit the denser parts of the forest along with herds of chital (spotted deer). Gaur (Indian bison) herds can be seen in the Park only during the months of March and April when they move down from the higher hills to the meadows to graze.

A small population of blackbuck also exists around the fort area. The blackbuck population was reintroduced to the Park and is protected from predators by the old masonry walls of the fort. A number of smaller animals such as the ratel, porcupine, small Indian civet, palm squirrel, lesser bandicoot rat, or predators like the jungle cat, hyena and jackal, can also be seen during a drive through the Park. Reptiles including cobras, kraits, vipers, ratsnakes, pythons, lizards and turtles are more elusive.

A lot of action that takes place in Bandhavgarh is up on the trees, as two primate species, the rhesus macaque and the Hanuman langur inhabit the Park. These monkeys are easily visible and fun to watch. Large langur troops can be seen frolicking and feeding on trees. The langur feeds on leaves, some of which are so poisonous that even the most seasoned insects avoid them. Chital herds are often seen close to langurs, and both share a very special relationship. Perched on treetops and equipped with keen eyesight, the langur is a vital part of the alarm system that warns against approaching predators like the tiger and leopard. It is believed that for the most part, langur and chital alarm calls mean the presence of a predator in the area.


 Aerial Population

Bandhavgarh is a stopover for migratory birds in winter. A variety of waterfowls come here, but the absence of wetlands makes them congregate at small water bodies. These waterfowls are not the only visitors; others like the steppe eagle also visit Bandhavgarh in winter.
A number of small birds can be seen in and around the National Park, including some less common ones like the blue-bearded bee-eater, white-bellied drongo, Tickell’s blue flycatcher, white-browed fantail, Jerdon’s leafbird, gold-fronted leafbird, minivets and woodshrikes. Other prized sightings include those of the Malabar hornbill, paradise flycatcher and racket-tailed drongo.

The vegetation along the streams and marshes is also rich in bird life. The easily spotted ones are the green pigeons, parakeets, peafowls, little grebes, egrets, sarus cranes, black ibis, lesser whistling teals, white-eyed buzzards, black kites, crested serpent eagles, black vultures, Egyptian vultures, red jungle fowls, doves and kingfishers, to name a few.


 When to Visit

The best time to see wildlife in Bandhavgarh is in summer when the undergrowth has died out and the wildlife moves closer to the few water bodies that survive the heat. Winter is a good time as well, but sightings are rare during this season.


 Best time to visit February to June


 Safaris

Moving around inside the Park is possible either in a hired jeep or on elephant back. Jeeps with walkie-talkies and licensed guides are available outside the Park from either the White Tiger Lodge or Bandhavgarh Jungle Camp. The roads are usually in decent condition and wildlife sightings are common. The best time to drive through the Park is from dawn until about 10 a.m., and in the evening from 4 p.m. till dusk. As a precaution, entry into the Park after dusk is not allowed. Elephants belonging to the Forest Department are used for safaris into the Park. The mahouts (elephant trainer-cum-driver) are usually well informed about the movements of tigers, and the areas that are good for wildlife viewing in general.


 Accomodation

Bandhavgarh Jungle Lodge, near Park gate. 10 cottages & one 4-room house.
Jungle Camp near Tala Gate. For reservations contact Tiger Tops, 1/1, Rani Jhansi Rd, New Delhi.
Tiger Trails offers cottages near a lake & stream.


 Transport
Train : The nearest railway station is Umaria (35km).
Train from Delhi to Umaria: Utkal Express
Train from Varanasi: Sarnath Express.

Bus : Buses ply from Umaria, Tala and Satna. Jeeps can be hired from Tala (3hrs) and from Umaria (2hrs, Rs 10 per seat).

Pachmarhi Hillstation


Population : 14,700
 Attractions of The Town

A special mention must be made of the various Shiva temples in the area and the annual festival of Shivaratri which attracts lakhs of devotees and scores of trishuls which are offered to Lord Shiva.

Pachmarhi, like most hill stations and monuments of India, was rediscovered by a British officer, Captain Forsyth, in the year 1857. He obviously realized that the saucer-shaped valley would serve as an excellent retreat in the summer and truly peaceful environment for convalescing British soldiers.


 A Worth Tourist Destination

About 210km southeast of Bhopal, this sleepy hill resort stands at an altitude of 1,067m. Though foreign tourists rarely ever make their way to Pachmarhi, a vacation here can be quite rewarding.
You could simply drink in the beauty of the landscape etched to perfection with red sandstone hills, sal forests, bamboo clusters, jamun groves, pools and waterfalls.
The place is pockmarked with trekking and walking trails that either lead to a waterfall, temple or a cave painting in the Mahadeo Hills. 

Source : indiasite.com

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