Myths, Legends and History
Madhya Pradesh occupies perhaps the oldest part of the subcontinent - called the Gondwana - the home of the Gonds.Close to Bhopal at Bhimbetka are the prehistoric caves that preserve some fascinating paintings dating back to paleolithictimes. Experts have concluded that these are at least as old as the specimen at Pyrnees. This was perhaps one of the earliest dwellings of human beings. In fact, the excavations here haverevealed a cultural sequence right from the late stone age to theearly historical period.
Madhya Pradesh occupies perhaps the oldest part of the subcontinent - called the Gondwana - the home of the Gonds. Close to Bhopal at Bhimbetka are the prehistoric caves that preserve some fascinating paintings dating back to paleolithic times. Experts have concluded that these are at least as old as the specimen at Pyrnees. This was perhaps one of the earliest dwellings of human beings. In fact, the excavations here have revealed a cultural sequence right from the late stone age to the early historical period. Madhya Pradesh is the richest state in the country in respect of painted rock-shelters, the majority of which have been found in the districts of Sehore, Bhopal, Raisen, Hoshangabad and Sagar.
During the ascendency of the Guptas, the whole region came under the domain of the imperial Guptas and subsequently formed a part of of Harshavardhan's empire. With the decline in imperial power, the province was broken up into small principalities contending forever to establish their supremacy over one another.
Chandelas were one such dynasty claiming descent from the moon, who carved out a strong prosperous kingdom for themselves after the decline of the great empire.There was a short spell of inspired construction activity under the Chandela in the 10th to 11th centuries. They are the ones who have left behind the cluster of matchless temples at Khajuraho, now a World Heritage Site.
During the ascendency of the Guptas, the whole region came under the domain of the imperial Guptas and subsequently formed a part of of Harshavardhan's empire. With the decline in imperial power, the province was broken up into small principalities contending forever to establish their supremacy over one another. Chandelas were one such dynasty claiming descent from the moon, who carved out a strong prosperous kingdom for themselves after the decline of the great empire. There was a short spell of inspired construction activity under the Chandela in the 10th to 11th centuries. They are the ones who have left behind the cluster of matchless temples at Khajuraho, now a World Heritage Site.
Chandelas were followed by Pratihara and Gaharwar Rajput dynasties claiming mythical origins relating their scions to the gods or heroes in the epics.
They lived and died by a difficult code of chivalry, wasted away scarce resources in an expensive feudal life style and could not ultimately keep at bay the expanding Muslim Power. Rulers of Malwa fought a running battle with the subedars of Gujarat or the commanders of the Sultan of Delhi throughout the sultanate period.
The grand Moghul Akbar succeeded in subdoing most of them and his sterner grandson Aurangazeb broke through the last pockets of resistance in this region.
Many of the smaller kingdoms trace their origins to the lands granted by the emperor at Delhi to those who had served him well.
Bir Singh Deo of Orchha was for instance installed on his throne by Jehangir who felt obliged to the Bundela chieftain for having removed a painful thorn Abdul Fazal, from his side. Abdul Fazal one of the nine Jewels of Akbar's court was murdered at his behest near Gwalior.
Some other principalities came into being with branching of families, internecine quarrels and the munificence of the Marathas who were indominable with the decline of the Moghuls. Rulers of Ratlam and Sitamau claim close relationship with the ruling house of Jodhpur in Rajasthan.
In course of time, the Marathas were replaced by the British who entered into treaty relationships with these princely states and established paramountey over them. This was the Raj period when the Central Provinces were left for the large part outside developments in British India. The Maharajas were free to indulge in their expensive whims much to the chagrin of their poor populace. This is the world evoked by Kipling in his Jungle Book and chronicled by F.M. Forster in the Hill of Devi. Jhabua, Nagod, Alirajpur, Sarguja Dewas Senior and Junior were quaint names of exotic places where eccentric Englishmen could strive to carve out a career or amass a fortune or simply drop de.
These were the destinations where the Prince of Wales or the Viceroy could be taken out for the treat of his life a tiger shoot, or to savour the extravagant life style of the Maharajas. Most of these blue-blooded gentry were content to be renowned for their prowess with a heavy gun or patronage of arts and crafts.
The stirrings of the national movement were slow in this region as most of the area was not directly ruled by the British. Undaunted freedom fighters carried Mahatma Gandhi's message to the masses and exhorted them to take up the battle against colonialism.
Independence of India in 1947 was followed by the merger of hundreds of princely states into the union and the Indian Republic was born on 26th January 1950. Soon afterwards the boundaries were rationalized with re - organization of the States with Madhya Pradesh becoming the largest one, covering a total area of 4,43,406 sq. kms. until 1st November 2000 when the new State of Chhattisgarh with a total area of 71,35,224 sq. km. was carved out of it.
Situated at an altitude of 1065 mt. at the meeting point of the Vindhya and the Satpura mountain ranges amongst sylvan surroundings, Amarkantak is a great pilgrim centre for the Hindus, and is the source of the rivers Narmada and Sone. While the Narmada flows Westwards from Amarkantak,theSone flows towards the East. Amarkantak is indeed blessed by Nature. Holy ponds, lofty hills, forested surroundings, breathtakingly beautiful waterfalls and an ever-pervading air of serenity make Amarkantak a much sought-after destination for the religious-minded as well as for the nature-lover.
This is a small National Park; compact, yet full of game. The density of the Tiger population at Bandhavgarh is the highest known in India.
This is also White Tiger country. These have been found in the old state of Rewa for many years. The last known was captured by Maharajah Martand Singh in 1951. This White Tiger, Mohan, is now stuffed and on display in the palace of the Maharajahs of Rewa.
Soaring in glittering splendour, the Marble Rocks at Bhedaghat rise to a hundred feet on either side of the Narmada. The serene loveliness of the scene is one of cool quiet, the sunlight sparkling on the marble-white pinnacles and casting dappled shadows on the pellucid waters. These white rocks with views of black and dark green volcanic seams are truly majestic, and produce a magical effect on moonlit nights.
The holy river flows by tranquilly flanked by the towering cliffs which reflect in it like a mirror the changing moods of nature. A little distance away, it becomes turbulent as it plunges in a mighty water fall known as Dhuandhar.
Surrounded by the northern fringe of the Vindhyan ranges, Bhimbetka lies 46 km South of Bhopal. In this rocky terrain of dense forest and craggy cliffs, over 600 rock shelters belonging to the Neolithic age were recently discovered. Here, in vivid panoramic detail, paintings in over 500 caves depict the life of the pre-historic cave-dwellers making the Bhimbetka group an archaeological treasure, an invaluable chronicle in the history of man.
Bhopal, capital of Madhya Pradesh combines scenic beauty, historicity and modern urban planning. It is situated on the site of an 11th century city, Bhojapal, founded by Raja Bhoja.
Bhopal today presents a multi-faceted profile; the old city with its teeming market places and fine old mosques and palaces still bear the aristocratic imprint of its former rulers; among them the succession of powerful Begums who ruled Bhopal from 1819 to 1926. Equally impressive is the new city with its verdant, exquisitely laid out parks and gardens, broad avenues and streamlined modern edifices.
The documented history of Chanderi goes back to the early 11th century and is a kaleidoscope of movement and activity prompted by its strategic location. On the borders of Malwa and Bundelkhand, the town dominated the trade routes of Central India and was proximate to the arterial route to the ancient ports of Gujarat as well as to Malwa, Mewar, Central India and the Deccan. Consequently, Chanderi became an important military outpost, prized by rulers with power or ambition, and repeatedly experienced the might of men who moulded the destiny of Hindustan.Chitrakoot
Chitrakoot, 'the hill of many wonders', nestles peacefully in the northern spurs of the Vindhyas, a place of tranquil forest glades and quiet rivers, and streams where calm and repose are all pervading. This loveliest of Nature's gifts is also hallowed ground, blessed by the gods and sanctified by the faith of pilgrims. For Chitrakoot's spiritual legacy stretches back to legendary ages: it was in these deep forests that Rama and Sita spent eleven of their fourteen years of exile; here that the great sage Atri and Sati Anusuya meditated; and here where the principal trinity of the Hindu pantheon, Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh, took their incarnations.
Steeped in the splendour of its past, the ancient capital of Gwalior has yet made a successful transition into a modern Indian city, vibrant and bustling. A multitude of reigning dynasties, of the great Rajput clans of the Pratiharas, Kacchwahas and Tomars have left indelible etchings of their rule in this city of palaces, temples and monuments. Gwalior's tradition as a royal capital continued until the formation of present day India, with the Scindias having their dynastic seat here. The magnificent mementoes of a glorious past have been preserved with care, giving Gwalior an appeal unique and timeless.
This, then, is Gwalior : where a rich cultural tradition has been interwoven into the fabric of modern life. Where a princely past lives on in great palaces and their museums. Where a multitude of images merge and mix to present to the visitor a city of enduring greatness.
Planned and built by Rani Ahilyabai, the brave Holkar queen, Indore lies to the extreme west of Madhya Pradesh on the banks of the rivers Saraswati and Khan which unite at the centre of the city. The bustling and vibrant city, 186 km from Bhopal, derives its name from the 18th century Indreshwar temple.
The history of Indore is inseparable from the history of the Holkar State. The founder of the House of Holkars was Malhar Rao Holkar, born in 1693 AD. His soldierly qualities brought him to the forefront under the Peshwa and he was rewarded with the gift of territories comprising the Indore region. Malhar Rao was succeeded by his grandson, on whose death, without issue, his mother, Maharani Devi Ahilya Bai ascended the throne.
Pleasure resort and capital of the Gond Kings during the 12th century, Jabalpur was later the seat of the Kalchuri dynasty. The Marathas held sway over Jabalpur until 1817, when the British wrested it from them and left their impression on the spacious cantonment with its colonial residences and barracks. Today Jabalpur is an important administrative centre, abustle with commercial activity.
Kanha's sal and bamboo forests, rolling grasslands and meandering streams stretch over 940 sq km in dramatic natural splendour which form the core of the Kanha Tiger Reserve created in 1974 under Project Tiger. The park is the only habitat of the rare hardground Barasingha (Cervus Duvaceli Branderi).
By a special statute in 1955, Kanha National Park came into being. Since then, a series of stringent conservation programmes for the protection of the park's flora and fauna has given Kanha its deserved reputation for being one of the finest and best administered National Parks in Asia, an irresistible attraction for all wildlife lovers and a true haven for its animal and avian population.
In the temple architecture of India, the Khajuraho complex remains unique. One thousand years ago, under the generous and artistic patronage of the Chandela Rajput kings of Central India, 85 temples, magnificent in form and richly carved, came up on one site, near the village of Khajuraho. The amazingly short span of 100 years, from 950 AD - 1050 AD, saw the completion of all the temples, in an inspired burst of creativity. Today, of the original 85, only 22 have survived the ravages of time; these remain as a collective paean to life, to joy and to creativity; to the ultimate fusion of man with his creator.
Why did the Chandelas choose Khajuraho or Khajirvahila - garden of dates, as it was known then - as the site for their stupendous creations? Even in those days it was no more than a small village. It is possible given the eclectic patronage of the Chandelas and the wide variety of beliefs represented in the temples, that they had the concept of forming a seat of religion and learning at Khajuraho. It is possible that the Chandelas were also believers in the powers of Tantrism; the cult which believes that the gratification of earthly desires is a step closer to the attainment of the infinite. It is certain however, that the temples represent the expression of a highly matured civilization.
Yet another theory is that the erotica of Khajuraho, and indeed of other temples, had a specific purpose. In those days when boys lived in hermitages, following the Hindu law of being "brahmacharis" until they attained manhood, the only way they could prepare themselves for the worldly role of 'householder' was through the study of these sculptures and the earthly passions they depicted.
Maheshwar was a glorious city at the dawn of Indian civilization when it was Mahishmati, capital of king Kartivarjun. This temple town on the banks of the river Narmada finds mention in the epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata. Revived to its ancient position of importance by the Holkar queen Rani Ahilyabai of Indore. Maheshwar's temples and mighty fort-complex stand in quiet beauty, mirrored in the river below.
Today, Maheshwar is also known for its distinctive handwoven sarees called Maheshwari.
Perched along the Vindhya ranges at an altitude of 2,000 feet, Mandu, with its natural defenses, was originally the fort capital of the Parmar rulers of Malwa. Towards the end of the 13th century, it came under the sway of the Sultans of Malwa, the first of whom named it Shadiabad - 'city of joy'. And indeed the pervading spirit of Mandu was of gaiety; and its rulers built exquisite palaces like the Jahaz and Hindola Mahals, ornamental canals, baths and pavilions, as graceful and refined as those times of peace and plenty.
Each of Mandu's structures is an architectural gem; some are outstanding like the massive Jami Masjid and Hoshang Shah's tomb, which provided inspiration to the master builders of the Taj Mahal centuries later.
Omkareshwar, the sacred island, shaped like the holiest of all Hindu symbols, 'Om', has drawn to it hundreds of generations of pilgrims. Here, at the confluence of the rivers Narmada and Kaveri, the devout gather to kneel before the Jyotirlinga (one of the twelve throughout India) at the temple of Shri Omkar Mandhata. And here, as in so many of Madhya Pradesh's sacred shrines, the works of Nature complement those of man to provide a setting awe-inspiring in its magnificence.
OrchhaOrchha's grandeur has been captured in stone, frozen in time, a rich legacy to the ages. In this medieval city, the hand of time has rested lightly and the palaces and temples built by its Bundela rulers in the 16th and 17th centuries retain much of their pristine perfection.
Orchha was founded in the 16th century by the Bundela Rajput chieftain, Rudra Pratap, who chose this stretch of land along the Betwa river as an ideal site for his capital. Of the succeeding rulers, the most notable was Raja Bir Singh Ju Deo who built the exquisite Jehangir Mahal, a tiered palace crowned by graceful chhatris. From here the view of soaring temple spires and cenotaphs is spectacular.
Complementing the noble proportions of their exteriors are interiors which represent the finest flowering of the Bundela school of painting. In the Laxminarayan Temple and Raj Mahal, vibrant murals encompassing a variety of religious and secular themes, bring the walls and ceilings to rich life.
Pachmarhi is Madhya Pradesh's most verdant jewel, a place where nature has found exquisite expression in myriad enchanting ways.Green shades embrace the mountains, and everywhere is heard the gentle murmur of flowing water. Bridle paths lead into tranquil forest glades, groves of wild bamboo and jamun, dense sal forests and delicate bamboo thickets.
Complementing the magnificence of nature are the works of man; Pachmarhi is also an archaeological treasure-house. In cave shelters in the Mahadeo Hills is an astonishing richness in rock paintings. Most of these have been placed in the period 500-800 AD, but the earliest paintings are an estimated 10,000 years old.
Panna Tiger Reserve is just 25 km from Khajuraho-a mere half an hour drive.
Tiger sighting is always a matter of chance but regular sightings are reported.Cheetal, Sambar, Nilgai, Chinkara, Chowsingha, Langoor, Wildboar and Jackal, are frequently sighted.
Gorges and falls along the course of the Ken river in the Reserve are beholding.
Dynamic dry deciduous forest undergoes dramatic change from lush green in monsoon to dry grey in summer.Relics of Gondwana period (rule of the tribal people of Central India) are scattered all over the Reserve. Besides the wildlife watchers (around 12000 annually), Panna gets visitors (around 20000 annually) who exclusively visit the famous Pandav Fall.
Pench Tiger Reserve comprises the Indira Priyadarshini Pench National Park, the Mowgli Pench Sanctuary and a buffer. The Park nestles in the Southern slopes of the Satpura ranges of Central India. The river Pench, which splits the National Park into two, forms the lifeline of the Park.
The area of the present tiger reserve has a glorious history. A description of its natural wealth and richness occurs in Ain-i-Akbari. Several natural history books like R. A. Strendale's 'Seonee - Camp life in Satpura Hills,' Forsyth's 'Highlands of Central India' and Dunbar Brander's 'Wild Animals of Central India' explicitly present the detailed panorama of nature's abundance in this tract. Strendale's semi-autobiographical 'Seonee' was the inspiration behind Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book.
Land of the 'The Jungle Book'
The Pench Tiger Reserve and its neighbourhood is the original setting of Rudyard Kipling's most famous work, The Jungle Book. Kipling borrowed heavily from Robert Armitage Strendale's books 'Seonee', 'Mammalia of India and Ceylon' and 'Denizens of the Jungle' for the topography, wildlife, and its ways. Mowgli was inspired by Sir William Henry Sleeman's pamphlet, 'An Account of Wolves Nurturing Children in Their Dens' which describes a wolf-boy captured in Seoni district near the village of Sant Baori in 1831. Many of The Jungle Book's locations are actual locations in Seoni District, like the Waingunga river with its gorge where Sherkhan was killed, Kanhiwara villlage and the 'Seeonee hills'.
The terrain of the park is undulating with mainly gentle slopes criss-crossed by streams and nullahs. Most of these water courses are seasonal. Many of the hills are flat-topped and allow fine vistas of the forests around. The best known of these is 'Kalapahar' with an altitude of 650 mts. The Pench river flowing through the centre of the Reserve is dry by April but a number of water pools locally known as 'dohs' are found, which serve as waterholes for wild animals. A few perennial springs also exist. Recently a number of earthen ponds and shallow wells have been developed leading to well distributed sources of water all around the reserve.
In the year 1977 an area of 449.39 sq km was declared Pench Sanctuary. Out of this, an area of 292.85 sq km was declared Pench National Park in the year 1983 and 118.31 sq km remained as Pench Sanctuary. In 1992 Government of India declared 757.89 sq km area including the National Park and the sanctuary as the 19th Tiger Reserve of the country. The name of Pench National Park was changed to "Indira Priyadarshini Pench National Park" in November 2002 Similarly the name of Pench Sanctuary has been changed to "Mowgli Pench Sanctuary".
The Pench hydroelectric dam straddles the Maharashtra - Madhya Pradesh boundary. The dam, constructed between 1973 and 1988 has resulted in the submergence of about 74 sq km area out of which 54 km is in the Park, the rest being in Maharashtra.
Forests and Wildlife
The undulating topography supports a mosaic of vegetation ranging from moist, sheltered valleys to open, dry deciduous forest. Over 1200 species of plants have been recorded from the area including several rare and endangered plants as well as plants of ethno-botanical importance.
The area has always been rich in wildlife. It is dominated by fairly open canopy, mixed forests with considerable shrub cover and open grassy patches. The high habitat heterogeneity favours high population of Chital and Sambar. Pench tiger reserve has highest density of herbivores in India (90.3
animals per sq km).
The area is especially famous for large herds of Gaur (Indian Bison), Cheetal, Sambar, Nilgai, Wild Dog and Wild Pig. The key predator is the Tiger followed by Leopard, Wild Dog and Wolf. Other animals include Sloth Bear, Chousingha, Chinkara, Barking Deer, Jackal, Fox, Palm Civet, Small Indian Civet, Jungle Cat, Hyena, Porcupine etc.
There are over 285 species of resident and migratory birds including the Malabar Pied Hornbill, Indian Pitta, Osprey, Grey-headed Fishing Eagle, White-eyed Buzzard, etc. In winter thousands of migratory waterfowl including Brahmini Duck, Pochards, Barheaded Geese, Coots, etc visit the tanks and the Pench reservoir within the Park.
Pench Tiger Reserve is also among the best areas for bird watching. Four species of the now endangered vultures white-rumped, longbilled, white scavenger and king vulture can be seen in good numbers in the Reserve. The other fauna present include 50 species of fishes, 10 amphibians, 30 reptiles, 45 butterflies, 54 moths and numerous other insects.
Sanchi is known for its Stupas, monasteries, temples and pillars dating from the 3rd century B.C. to the 12th century A.D. The most famous of these monuments, the Sanchi Stupa 1, was originally built by the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka, the then governor of Ujjayini, whose wife Devi was the daughter of a merchant from adjacent Vidisha. Their son Mahindra and daughter Sanghamitra were born in Ujjayini and sent to Sri Lanka, where they converted the King, the Queen and their people to Buddhism.
Shivpuri is steeped in the royal legacy of its past, when it was the summer capital of the Scindia rulers of Gwalior. And earlier, its dense forests were the hunting grounds of the Mughal emperors when great herds of elephants were captured by emperor Akbar.
Much later, it was the Tiger that roamed the wooded hills and many a magnificent beast was 'bagged' by royal Shikaris. Today Shivpuri is a sanctuary for rare wildlife and avifauna. Its royal past has thus been transformed into a vibrant, hopeful present.
Modern Ujjain is situated on the banks of the river Shipra, regarded since times immemorial as sacred. The belief in the sacredness of Shipra, has its origins in the ancient Hindu mythological tale of churning of the Ocean by the Gods and the Demons, with Vasuki, the serpent as the rope. The ocean bed first yielded fourteen gems, then Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth, and finally the coveted vessel of Nectar. Then began the wild scramble for immortality with the demons chasing the Gods across the skies, and in the process, a few drops were spilt, and fell at Hardwar, Nasik, Prayag, and Ujjayini. Hence the sanctity of the waters of the Shipra.