Until I landed in Bhopal, I didn’t know that the city is also known as the city of lakes. Why, it has approximately 15 lakes, both big and small, scattered around various parts of the city. That it is also extremely well maintained was another discovery. Clean sidewalks, a lot of greenery all around, roads lined with flowers and plants, smaller cities are certainly better at conserving their natural wealth and charm. Thinking all these to myself, I wished we could have explored the city a little more. But we had only twenty four hours in our hands…and we had to make the most of it. Giving a detailed tour of the city a miss and shopping too, we singled out the following places and set about early the next morning…
Upper Lake: We went there straight after breakfast, hoping to beat the crowd. And we did. Resplendent in the winter sun, the serene waters, the many boats, anchored, refresh you almost immediately. Extremely big, we walked by the promenade for quite some time, soaking in the morning sun and the quiet. The residents of Bhopal, apparently, have an affair with the lake – every evening, the lake side draws people by the hordes, be it for the boat rides or for the music in the promenade or simply the walks and meeting friends. Since the boat rides had still not opened at that early hour, we promised our daughter that we’d be back during sunset…for a short ride underneath the crimson sky…
Sanchi Stupa: Sanchi is a little more than an hour’s drive from the heart of Bhopal. We suggest you leave early to beat both the crowd and the strong afternoon sun. An extremely beautiful drive, flanked by miles and miles of wheat fields, you will want to stop many times on the way just to run into the farms and click pictures. We also stopped by upon noticing a fully laden oranges orchard! And then there is also the Tropic of Cancer point. We were excited like kids to stand there and take a photograph!
The Sanchi Stupa, without doubt, is one of the most well preserved and well maintained heritage sites in India. I guess that’s what struck us first. In sprawling grounds, with layers and layers of history, the Stupa gives a deep insight into the life and times of the dynasties that patronised Sanchi from the 3rd century BC. It is advisable to take a guide here, since there is so much to see and learn. The guides charge about INR 500, which is the rate laid down by the authorities.
Bhimbekta Caves: The Bhimbekta Caves are on the opposite end from Sanchi, about 45 kms from Bhopal. We had a quick Biryani lunch at Hakeem in Bhopal, and sped to the Caves that date back to the Paleolithic age. That, is almost 100,000 years ago! Giant rocks and caves are scattered across a wide protected area with thick vegetation. The tour of the caves take about an hour. Here too, suggest you take a guide. We did, and were overawed by the stories he told us about early man, how they lived, ate and prayed. The rocks and caves are a treasure trove of early man paintings, and give a deep insight into the evolution of the art-form in the hands of the early man.
An extremely enriching, sort of education day it turned out to be, this brief Bhopal sortie. Make sure you follow suit in case there for 24 hours.