5 MUST-DOS IN BHOPAL
ADMIRE THE BEAUTY OF THE LAKES
This is undoubtedly my favourite pastime in Bhopal. The city has not one but two stunningly gorgeous lakes fed by the river Kolas, and divided from each other by an over bridge. The Upper Lake’s (also known as Bada Talaab) walkway is a great stretch to people watch while gawking at the lake views. In the centre of the lake is a dargah of a local Muslim saint known as Shah Ali Shah. After capturing the spectacular sunset in your camera set out to do some sailing or paddle boating. Don’t leave without trying the chana jor garam (a popular Indian snack made from flattened, fried chickpeas seasoned with spices) spiked with lemon and fiery chaat masala.
PAY HOMAGE TO ART AT THE SANCHI STUPA
This glorious Buddhist monument is literally history set in stone. It was originally commissioned by emperor Ashoka the Great in the 3rd century BCE and earned the World Heritage tag by UNESCO in 1989. In all there are 50 structures, big and small including three main stupas, several smaller stupas, remains of a huge water tank, numerous small temples, etc. Stupa no. 1, or the Great Stupa is the principal monument here. It is believed that the Sanchi Stupa houses the relics of the Buddha. The pillared gateways or toranas have Jataka stories, which narrate previous births of Buddha and several of his life events. Look out for Queen Maya’s dream with the descending elephant. It takes a good 2-3 hours to explore the monument and its surroundings.
DIVE INTO TRIBAL HERITAGE AT THE TRIBAL MUSEUM
This is one of the biggest attractions in Bhopal and a must-visit even if you are not a history buff. The museum celebrates ways of life practiced by the seven major tribes in the state — the Gond, Bhil, Korku, Baiga, Sahariya, Kol and Bhariya — through their crafts. The dramatically lit artifacts include replica tribal houses, ritual sites and stunning artisan pieces including trees carved into elaborate wedding pillars. My favourite gallery is the games gallery, which takes you back to your childhood games. There is also an amphitheatre inside the museum, which hosts plays from time to time. After a tour of the museum empty your wallet at Chinhari, the handicraft store.
EAT YOUR HEART OUT AT CHATORI GALI
From simple comfort food and hearty street fare to spreads that hark back to the city’s royal past, there is something for every kind of foodie in Bhopal. But if you have just a couple of hours to eat and drink your way through Bhopal, then there is just one place you need to head to — Chatori Gali (chatori translates literally to someone who loves eating). Chatori Gali is to Bhopal what Chowk Bazaar is to Lucknow and Chandni Chowk is to New Delhi. Begin with the sugary Suleimani chai. It may look like a regular tea but wait till you take the first sip. The salt in the tea hits you like a bolt from the blue. For the best Suleimani chai head to Jamal Bhai’s tea shop, where it is served out of a large samovar. If you get there early you will be able to taste the city’s favourite breakfast of poha jalebi (a dish made of fattened rice fakes tempered with mustard seeds, turmeric and onions, served with a coiled dessert soaked in sugar syrup). The combination of spicy poha topped with sev and piping hot, crunchy jalebis are a match made in heaven. Don’t leave without trying the softest and moistest kebabs at Jhilli Miyan’s stall. The paya here hits 9.9 on the umami Richter scale.
VISIT THE JEHAN NUMA PALACE FOR A DOSE OF HISTORY
This 19th century property perched on Shamla Hill used to be a royal residence. Grandsons of the owners of the palace decided to convert it into a hotel where guests could get a taste of royal Bhopali hospitality and cuisine. The charming marbled corridors hold antique chandeliers, sepia-tinted photographs of erstwhile nawabs, rare paintings and artifacts from a bygone era. There is a stable on the premises and pedigreed horses trot around at all times . After a tour of the property relax on the cute wrought iron benches in the beautifully manicured garden studded with a mosaic fountain and dine under a 100 year old mango tree. The dishes are from the royal kitchens and the service princely.
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