Central India: Weekend Escapes

Bhojeshwar: A spiritual and architectural delight

Bhojpur’s temples draw many a devotee, and the dam offers quiet spots away from the city’s bustle.


Bhojeshwar located about 28 km from Bhopal, the capital of Madhya Pradesh, draws its name from Raja Bhoj, the legendary Parmar king of Dhar, (1010-1053 CE), a patron of arts and learning and credited with founding the city of Bhojpur.



Bhojeshwar Temple (Photo by Fabulousfabs)


The once magnificent city today is but a one horse town with an incomplete Shiva temple, the nearby Jain shrine and the cyclopean dam on its periphery as its claim to fame. The Bhojeshwar temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Built on a high ground and visible from a distance, the temple has earned the epithet of Somnath of the East. It exemplifies the best of temple architecture of 12th and 13th centuries. Constructed atop a square plinth measuring over 32 feet by 24 feet, it has an exterior dimension of 66 feet. An existing mud ramp to the rear of the temple indicates the method used in carrying the stone slabs to construct the dome. Within the sanctum and atop a massive platform of three limestone blocks stands the lingam – a fabulous synthesis of solidity and lightness.


With its enormous circumference of over 17 feet and a commendable height of 7.8 feet the Lingam is reputed to be the tallest such structure in India. A Jain temple nearby is famous for the magnificent 20 feet-high statue of Mahavira and two statues of Parsvanath.


There are three images of tirthankaras as well inside the temple. The temple is situated close to the Bhojeshwar temple. The style and architecture of both the temples is quite similar, pointing to the fact that both the temples were built during the same period. The Cyclopean dam was a marvel during olden times; the great dam now lies in ruins on the western side of Bhojpur. The dam was built on a vast lake, no more there. Huge hills enclosed the entire area from all sides, but two big gaps were there that were blocked by different dams. As one wanders around the temple complex area, one comes around the blue print of the temple complex, incised on the rocky ground. The reasons for non construction, like the incomplete temple, lie buried in the pages of history and the sands of time.



Bhojeshwar Temple (Photo by Nagarjun Kandukuru)



Getting There
Bhopal is well-connected by air, train and road to all major cities. Bhojeshwar can be reached by hiring private taxis from Bhopal. There are also bus services to the temple.


Where to Stay
Accomodation for various budgets are available at Bhopal. A visitor to Bhopal can also visit Bhimbetaka and Sanchi besides Bhojeshwar as these are located in and around Bhopal and are easily accessible.


Bhopal to Bhojeshwar
28 km




Kerwa Dam: Amidst the greens

The lull after a good shower with the sound of the water dripping onto the tin roof is a pleasure. The calm and peace of the surroundings is broken by the cacophony of warblers and bulbuls accompanied by the occasional raucous caw of the peacock. These are the only sounds one is likely to hear at Kerwa.



An aerial view of the natural beauty of the place which overlooks the Kerwa Dam


Sky and land washed by the monsoon, droplets suspended in time gently drip to the ground as boughs swaying in the breeze give the visitors at the hangout something to revel in. Wonder who notices these nuances. For the fun-loving youngsters the rain adds an element of joy to their fun. Enjoyment marked by leaps and bounds encrusted by the yelps of frolicking families wringing the dupattas and shirts in vain only to be drenched again.

For the hardcore picnicker, ready with baskets and bags of goodies and umbrellas, waiting for the opportune moment to see another shower, Kerwa is the perfect destination.

M.P. Tourism’s efforts to make the place a perfect getaway from the crowded city are commendable. To kill the hunger, you can eat yummy manchurians and noodles and chowmein. With an entry of 5, one can sit and enjoy the beautiful environs around the dam and the sunset sipping a piping hot cup of tea. Watchful eyes of the grandparents keep a vigil on the little ones swinging in full vigour as lovers get a breather lost in the crowd. Wonderfully affordable, this hangout has a lot more to offer. After a languid time one can easily take a brisk walk along the dam wall and visit the tiny temple inside the dam campus.

For those who want some time away from the crowd, just a stone’s throw away is the Eco Tourism Centre, with a rundown restaurant providing water and tea. It is best to visit the place with one’s own supply of food and soft drinks. Otherwise, the place is pretty as a picture as the whole terrain opens up facing the Kerwa dam. Soon to be made public are the adorable tiny tree houses still under construction. Come ready with a good assortment of bats and balls for a wonderful active outing.

Round the year, through all seasons, Kerwa has been the most loved and visited picnic destination of Bhopalis. Shrouded with a green canopy of deciduous vegetation, this has been a favourite haunt for the tiger families as well. Hence, every now and then the boards keep warning the adventurous to pack up well before twilight sets in.

Getting There
Kerwa is 15 km from Bhopal off the Kotra Sultanabad road. It can be approached from the Kolar road as well as from the Kaliasot dam side.

Must Do
Boating at Kerwa dam for Rs 50 per hour
Carry binoculars for watching the beautiful species of birds including the grey hornbill.
Carry lots of snacks along with bags to bring back the left overs.

Bhopal to Kerwa
15 km




Burhanpur: An off-beat retreat


The picturesque Tapi river, historical monuments, a thriving textile industry, Burhanpur has a lot to offer. Despite its many attractions such as the picturesque bathing ghats on the Tapi river, a medieval era gurdwara, a historic fort and a thriving textile industry, Burhanpur somehow seems to have escaped being noticed by the tourists.


The city, it is noteworthy, also has important historical associations. Spiritual leader Guru Nanak is known to have visited the Tapi shores at Burhanpur; Mughal emperor Shah Jahan spent a considerable time here; his wife Mumtaz Mahal is believed to have been buried at Ahukhana, the pavilion of the begums, before the Taj Mahal in Agra was built.


There’s a lot to indulge in here. Early morning you can hire a boat at the Tapi. The view of the grand fort and the gurdwara at that hour is mesmerising. The gates of the fort is largely in ruins but quite a lot remains of the Diwan-i- Aam (place for public audiences) and Diwan-i- Khas (hall of private audiences). The best preserved site in the fort is the hammam (the royal bath), built by Shah Jahan for his wife Mumtaz Mahal. The moulded ceilings are embellished with beautiful mosaics and murals. Some of it seems to have influenced the architecture of the Taj Mahal as well.


center august tapi river




The walk from the fort to the Jama Masjid, built by the Emperor Adil Shah, is a short one. The mosque, believed to have been built in 1590, has 36 m high minarets towering over its structure. It has a spacious courtyard leading to the main prayer hall which has beautiful arched granite columns. Its construction gives an echo effect to the voice of the Imam when he delivers the holy sermons. Interestingly, this mosque has messages inscribed in Sanskrit.


The hamman Khana (public baths), an excellent example of water harvesting, is yet another of Burhanpur’s notable monuments. These hammams were fed through water harvesting and channelising systems called khuni bhandars which used the Tapti water effectively for public works in the town. About three kilometers from the heart of Burhanpur lies the Dargah-e-hakimi, a sacred place of pilgrimage for Dawoodi Bohra Muslims. This is the mausoleum of Syedi Abdulqadir Hakimuddin who is known to have come to Burhanpur in 1729 to spread the word of the Prophet. It is a well maintained complex. The gurdwara which Guru Govind Singh (the tenth Sikh guru) visited in the 17th century was rebuilt in the 20th century. It is an important place of Sikh pilgrimage and there are a number of textile units nearby.


Getting There
Devi Ahilyabai Holkar airport at Indore,181 km away, is the nearest. The distance from Indore to Burhanpur can be easily covered in three hours.


Where to Stay
Hotel Ambar and Holiday Resort
Tel: (+91-7325-251197, 255154)


Indore to Burhanpur
181 km


Mandu: Poetry In Stone

Don’t come to Mandu for its ruins but for the story of unparalleled love of Baz Bahadur and Rani Roopmati. It is the story of an extraordinarily beautiful village belle with a divine voice and of a handsome Sultan, a lover of music and poetry. Mandu’s ruins still narrate the tragic war between Akbar and Baz Bahadur and the suicide of Rani Roopmati to save her chastity. Mandu, however, continues to remain a poetry in stone and an architectural marvel.


Monuments in Mandu


The Jahaz Mahal with its Persian wheel for hot and cold water; the Hindola palace with its perceptible tilt of walls that give an illusion that it is swaying; the air-conditioned walls of Champa-Baondi and the Royal Palace…The amalgam of Hindu, Islamic and Jain architecture clearly reflects in the monuments. Close to the Royal Palace are the Jami Masjid and Hoshan Shah’s Tomb. The former is said to be modeled along the lines of the great mosque at Damascus. Its western wall is adorned with marvelous carvings and there is a beautiful ornate marble pulpit next to the central niche. There are many beautiful monuments in Mandu.


Royal Palace of Mandu


Hoshang Shah’s marble tomb, few know, is said to have inspired none other than the Taj Mahal. The Roopmati Palace along with a few other monuments is located at the Sagar Tal. There is a Dai ka Mahal (nurse’s palace) and the Dai ki Bahen ka Mahal, a picturesque little eight-sided structure. The Malik Mughith Mosque, built in 1432, has an ingeniously made front porch and copious Hindu temple pillars inside. One must visit the Echo Point here — a testimony to the brilliant acoustic systems of the 15th century!


Adjacent to the Tal is the palace of Baz Bahadur. Some meters away stands the pavilion of Rani Roopmati, the place from where she used to offer prayers to river Narmada. The elegant contours of the caravanserai, the enormity of the Hathi Mahal, the Gada Mahal and numerous others nameless tombs promise to capture anyone’s imagination with their anonymity and streaks of history trapped in them.



Getting There


Nearest airport is at Indore (99 km). Regular bus services connect Mandu with Indore and Bhopal. Convenient rail-heads are Ratlam (124 km) on the Mumbai-Delhi main line and Indore (99 km).


Best Season To Visit


Throughout the year


Where To Stay


Malwa Resort (Tel: 07292-263235; email: mresortm@mptourism.com); Malwa Retreat (Tel: 07292-263221; email: mretreatm@mptourism.com)


By Reema Bhalla