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Welcome to Madhya Pradesh

Central to the story of India and its civilisation, Madhya Pradesh is home to some of the most magnificent empires, one of the most fertile soils and a legacy that carries on in splendour. Its credentials include pre-historic sites, the ancient 6th century B.C.E. kingdom of Avanti and the capital city of Ujjain, its popularity as a prolific Bengal Tiger territory, a well-known centre for Hindustani classical music, home to 4 UNESCO World heritage sites, magical villages of Orrcha and Mandu, the quaint two in one city of Bhopal, the moonlit marble mountains of Bhedaghat, the pilgrim-havens of Maheshwar and Omkareshwarar and last but not the least some of the most fascinating indigenous tribes like the Bhils, Gonds that trace back their earliest mention to the Hindu epic Ramayan.

Madhya Pradesh as they say it is at the heart of it all-both history and geography. The state straddles the Narmada River considered one of the most holy rivers in India, which runs east and west between the Vindhya and Satpura mountain ranges; the 3 of them in a manner laying the traditional boundary between the north and south of India. The landscape is varied. Largely plateaued, it’s streaked with the formidable mountain ranges of the Vindhyas and the Satpuras and dotted with rivers. The hills provide for the main river system – the Narmada and the Tapti rivers, running from east to west, and the Chambal, Sone, Betwa, Mahanadi flowing west to east. Spectacular mountains, limpid lakes and miles and miles of dense forests that conjure up some swish wildlife safaris. The National Parks of Kanha, Bandhavgarh, Pench, Shivpuri are well known for their tiger reserves and are great spots to sight the bison and a wide variety of deer and antelopes. Magnificent temples, imposing forts, meditative stupas and palaces on hilltops evoke a land as much of empires, warriors and blue bloods as of poets, musicians, philosophers and artists. If the roster call begins with names like Kalidasa and Tansen, one can but imagine why this ought to be every traveller’s center of gravity. The foothills of the Vindhya range are the seat for the Bhimbetka rock shelters and its prehistoric cave paintings dating back to 10,000 BCE and now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Caves particularly in Madhya Pradesh have a habit of throwing up some of the most remarkable ancient cave paintings, some of which spill-over to neighbouring states. The Bagh caves, near the western town of Mhow, are adorned with 5th century C.E. paintings on Buddhism. Madhya Pradesh’s ancient legacy is also seen at the Great Stupa (Buddhist memorial shrine in the form of a mound) of Sanchi built by emperor Ashok of the mighty Maurya dynasty (5th – 3rd century B.C.E.) and later expanded by the Shunga kings. The Khajuraho temples, in northern Madhya Pradesh, are widely recognized for their erotic art and were built by the Chandela kings, who ruled roughly from the early 9th to the mid-11th century. While the architecture and monuments speak history, the province narrates the same in an oral tradition that is its own. Ballads especially from the bards of the Gond community called Pardhan, folk literature, riddles and proverbs are the state’s rich oral heritage. With so much going on, and so much more one can go on about, it would not be inaccurate to say that Madhya Pradesh or MP as fondly it’s called, is inevitably in the middle of everything.

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Bhopal