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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Anupama in Bhopal

I have been in Bhopal for long stretches in the past two months because of official purposes, but have discovered a beautiful city that lies undiscovered in the heart of the country. Name Bhopal, and the first thing you can relate to it is a Gas Tragedy, an incident that happened more than quarter of a century ago. Such a blemish it has been to the city’s reputation, that it is not known as a possible tourist destination.
Much to the surprise of my colleagues, I was adamant that the city be explored in between work. We went to Van Vihar one late evening, an artificial animal reserve, where animals move around freely in secluded spaces.

One day when I was on my regular rounds, I had to get into the Core City. The architect in me could not but notice two large domes amidst the urban fabric.

“Whassat?”, I enquired of the driver.

“That’s Moti Masjid, Madam; but I can show you a bigger mosque if you wish”, he offered innocently.

The building I needed to visit was in itself an architectural wonder – it was a Nizam’s palace, now taken over by the State Government. I did not have a camera with me, but my phone came in handy. The staff watched me curiously as I went around clicking happily.

The driver took me to Taj-ul-Masjid, Asia’s largest mosque. The entry is indeed grand.. the building is perched on a huge flight of steps and you step in to a massive courtyard. The central waterbody soothes your psyche as you wonder at the architectural brilliance. You may be lucky to see some Art students sketching in a corner or Architecture students trying to measure each moulding. Contrary to popular belief, girls are allowed inside the main mosque – only one is requested not to disturb the people praying in there.

I also explored Moti Masjid on the way back. The main mosque is in white, in stark contrast to the red sandstone all around. There are small waterbodies in the corners of the courtyard, and the ripples create an interesting play of light and shade on the surrounding structures.

The next day was Saturday… and we were free by lunch time. So long I had been watching the various lakes in Bhopal. Did you know Bhopal was also known as the “City of Lakes”? The Upper and Lower lakes, Shahpura lake and some smaller lakes are assets of the quiet town. Our driver took us for enjoying a boat ride in the Upper Lake. Much to my surprise, one was offered lots of options between paddle boats, steamers, speed boats and also conventional boats. We chose the conventional boat first.. and I actually tried my hand at rowing!! Did you know I was in the School Rowing Team? Those boats were different, of course.
Sunday is stricty no-work day, I had declared. We went to Sanchi, a World Heritage site, just 50 km from Bhopal. We crossed Tropic of Cancer on the way. Sanchi was thrilling, bringing back memories from my B. Arch days.

At the very next opportunity, we visited Bhimbedka, another World Heritage site. Cave paintings from the earliest known human civilization can be seen here. This site is also a Geologist’s delight, as various formations of sedimentary rocks can be seen here.





We also checked out various dams in Bhopal - Kerwa and Keliasot are small dams and fail to excite you with their current water levels. But Kolar Dam stuns you altogether. If you are in Bhopal, do not miss this for anything.

Although I may be sounding overworked in the previous post, I actuallly made the most of this opportunity!!

Photographs: Yashwant Namasani, Anupama
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