Madhya Pradesh is India's largest state and the geographical heartland of the country. Most of the state is a high plateau and in summer it can be very dry and hot, but it also has the highest percentage of forest in India, sheltering a wide variety of wildlife including 22% of the world's tiger population.
Virtually all phases of Indian history have left their mark on Madhya Pradesh, historically known as Malwa. There are still many pre-Aryan Gond and Bhil adivasis (tribal people) in the state, but Madhya Pradesh is overwhelmingly Indo-Aryan.
Madhya Pradesh is part of what is known as the Hindi belt, a region of northern India inhabited predominantly by Hindus.
One of the best things about Madhya Pradesh is its accessibility. Bordered by seven states, it is equally close to major tourist destinations in the north, south, east and west.
Fast Facts of Madhya Pradesh
Places to Visit
Bhojpur was founded by the legendary Raja Bhoj. It has the ruins of the magnificient Bhojeshwar Temple (dedicated to Lord Shiva), which has earned the nomenclature of Somnath of the East. The symbol of Shiva the Lingam, is a huge monolith.
In Bhimbetka, 46 km south of Bhopal, about 700 rock shelters belonging to the neolithic age, have been discovered. Over 500 caves have paintings depicting the life of pre-historic man, making the Bhimbetka caves an archaeological treasure.
This obscure village, a long way from anywhere, is on the world's culture map for its' 22 world-famous stone temples which were built by the Chandela kings between 950 AD and 1050 AD (originally there were 85 temples, but only these have survived). The most important are the Chaunset Yogini Temple dedicated to Goddess Kali, The Mahadev Temple, Chitragupta or Bharatji Temple with a lovely image of 11 headed Vishnu, Vishvanath and Nandi Temples, Lakshmana Temple, Visha Temple of Shiva (the largest and most typical of the temples). The Eastern group of temples consist of the Parasvanath Temple (the only Jain Temple surviving at Khajuraho), the Javeri Temple (dedicated to Vishnu), and other temples dedicated to Brahma, Yamuna and Adinath. Each temple, built of stone, is distinguished by carved spires and walls, where the subjects range from aesthetic depictions of major and minor deities and celestial beings to a variety of erotic sculptures.
The city of joy is famed for stories of the love of King Baz Bahadur, for his consort, Rani Rupmati. Originally the capital of the Hindu Parmar Kings in the 13th century it was later captured by the Sultans of Malwa. The ancient monuments include Hoshang Shah's Tomb, India's first marble edifice and one of the supreme examples of Afghan architecture, which served as a model for the masterbuilders of the Taj Mahal, centuries later. Also worth a visit is the Jami Masjid, inspired by the mosque of Damascus.
68 kms from Bhopal, Sanchi has the distinction of having the finest specimens of almost all Buddhist architectural forms: Stupa, Chaitya, Temples and Monasteries, dating from 3rd century BC. The Great Stupa, the oldest stone structure in India, has magnificently carved gateways or toranas. The Ashoka Pillar that lies near the southern gateway is one of the finest examples of Ashokan pillars. The 5th century AD Gupta Temple is one of the earliest known examples of temple architecture in India.
Shivpuri, in the state of Madhya Pradesh, was once the summer capital of the Scindia clan of Gwalior. Prior to that, its thick forests were the hunting grounds of Emperor Akbar. Today Shivpuri houses a wildlife sanctuary, the Madhav National Park, spread over an area of 156 square kms. The predominant species that inhabits the park is the deer, the commonest of them being the dainty chinkara, the Indian gazelle and the chital. Other common species are nilgai, sambar, blackbuck, sloth bear, leopard and the langur.
Ujjain is one of the holiest and oldest cities of India, was an important place during the reign of Ashoka. Famous for its Jyotirlinga shrine at Onkareshwar , it is one of the seven sacred cities of India. Once in 12 years, the mammoth "Kumbh Mela" festival is held here. The ancient shrine of Mahakala is one of its attractions.
The capital of the Bundela Rajputs, between 1531 and 1783, Orchha seems to have frozen in time. The palaces and temples retain much of their pristine perfection. Some of the palaces are decorated with painted murals which represent the finest flowering of the Bundela school of painting. Orchha's fort complex has three impressive palaces placed in an open quadrangle: the Jehangir Mahal, built to mark Emperor Jehangir's visit to the city; the Raj Mahal, built by Madhukar Shah, the religious predecessor of Bir Singh Ju Deo; and the Rai Praveen Mahal, built for the famous musician-poetess paramour of King Indramani. The Ram Raja, Chaturbhuj, and Laxminarayan temples are worth a visit. Orchha also prides itself on its lovely garden, Phool Bagh. There are 14 cenotaphs or chhatries (memorials) to the rulers of Orchha, by the banks of the Betwa river. The Shahid Smarak commemorates the great freedom fighter, Chandrashekhar Azad who lived and worked in hiding in Orchha.
Kanha National Park
This forms the core of the Kanha Tiger Reserve created in 1974, under Project Tiger. Kanha boasts of about 22 species of mammals. Some of the inhabitants of this park are the gaur, the largest of the world's cattle; the sambar, the largest Indian deer; and the chausingha, the only four-horned antelope in the world. Some 200 species of birds inhabit the park.
Bandhavgarh National Park
Set amongst the Vindhyas, Bandhavgarh is a small national park, but it has the highest known density of tiger population in India. This is also known as White Tiger territory - these have been found in the old state of Rewa for many years. The other species found in abundance in Bandhavgarh are the gaur or Indian bison, the sambar, the barking deer and the nilgai.
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