Sanchi Buddhist complex, famous for its great stupa at Sanchi, is located in the Indian State of Madhya Pradesh. Commissioned by emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century BCE, the Great Stupa of Sanchi is one of the oldest stone structures in India. The stupa was built over the relics of Buddha. The original construction work of this stupa was overseen by Ashoka, whose wife Devi was the daughter of a merchant of nearby Vidisha. Sanchi was also her birthplace as well as the venue of her marriage with Ashoka. In the first century BCE, four elaborately carved toranas (gateways) and balustrade encircling the entire structure were added.
The stupa may have been vandalized in the 2nd century BCE during the rise of the Shunga emperor Pushyamitra Shunga, who overtook the Maurya Empire and was believed to be rebuilt by his son Agnimitra. The original brick stupa was covered with stone during the Shunga period. During the later Shunga period the stupa was expanded with stone slabs to almost twice its original size. The dome was set on a high circular drum meant for circumambulation, which could be accessed via a double staircase. A second stone pathway at ground level was enclosed by a stone balustrade with four monumental gateways facing the cardinal directions. Other structures which were commissioned during the Shunga period are the second and third stupas.
In the first century BCE, during the Satavahana period the gateways were constructed. Further Buddhist structures were added over the centuries until the 12th century AD. Temple 17 is attached to the Gupta period (5th century CE). This structure consists of a flat roofed square sanctum with a portico and four pillars.
Temple 45 was the last Buddhist temple built during the 9th century. With the decline of Buddhism in India the monuments of Sanchi went out of use and fell into a state of despair. Between 1912 and 1919 the structures were restored to their preset condition under the supervision of Sir Johns Marshall.
Today around fifty monuments remain on the hill of Sanchi. These monuments have been listed among UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 1989.
Jai Vilas Palace, also known as Jai Vilas Mahal is located in the city of Gwalior in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. The palace was established by Jayajirao Scindia, the Maharaja of Gwalior in 1874 and is still the residence of his descendants, the former royal Maratha Scindia dynasty. A part of this palace was converted into a museum in 1964 which occupies 35 rooms of the palace.
It is a fine example of European architecture, designed and built by Sir Michael Filose. A combination of architectural styles, the first storey is Tuscan, the second Italian-Doric and the third Corinthian. The area of the Jai Vilas Palace is 12,40,771 square feet and it is particularly famous for its large Durbar Hall. The interior of the Durbar Hall is decorated with gilt and gold furnishings and adorned with a huge carpet and gigantic chandeliers. It is 100 feet long, 50 feet wide and 41 feet in height.
Supposedly, eight elephants were suspended from the Durbar Hall ceiling to check it could cope with two 12.5 m high 3.5 ton chandeliers with 250 light bulbs, said to be the largest pair in the world.
A visit to the palace makes you explore the royal times of the Maratha Scindia dynasty and will help you to flip back the pages of luxurious lifestyle of the kings and queens of those times. Items like cut-glass furniture, stuffed tigers etc. are exhibited in the museum.
The rock shelters of Bhimbetka lies 9 km from Obedullaganj city in the Raisen District of Madya Pradesh and 45 km south of Bhopal at the southern edge of the Vindhya hills. The entire area is covered by thick vegetation, natural flora and fauna. It falls inside the Ratapani Wild Life Sanctuary. These rock shelters bears striking resemblance to similar rock art sites such as Kakadu National Park in Australia, the cave paintings of the Bushmen in Kalahari Desert and the Lascaux cave paintings in France.
These rock shelters exhibits the traces of human life on the Indian subcontinent in the beginning of the Stone Age. At least some of the shelters were inhabited by Homo erectus more than 100,000 years age. Some of the Stone Age rock paintings found among the Bhimbetka rock shelters are approximately 30,000 years old. The caves also deliver early evidence of dance. These shelters were declared as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003. The name Bhimbetka is associated with Bhima, a hero of the epic Mahabharata. The word Bhimbetka is said to derive from Bhimbaithaka, meaning “Sitting Place of Bhima”.
The rock shelters and caves of Bhimbetka have a large number of paintings. The oldest painings are considered to be 30,000 years old but some of the geometric figures date to as recent as the medieval period. The colors used are vegetable colors which have endured through time because the drawings were generally made deep inside a niche or on inner walls. The drawings and paintings can be classified under seven different periods.
Period I – (Upper Paleolithic): These are linear representations, in green and dark red, of huge figures of animals such as bison, tigers and rhinoceroses.
Period II – (Mesolithic): Comparatively small in size, the stylized figures in this group saw linear decorations on the body. In addition to animals there are human figures and hunting scenes, giving a clear picture of the weapons they used, like barbed spears, pointed sticks, bows and arrows. The depiction of communal dances, birds, musical instruments, mothers and children, pregnant women, men carrying dead animals, drinking and burials appear in rhythmic movement.
Period III – (Chalcolithic): Similar to the paintings of the Chalcolithic, these drawings reveal that during this period the cave dwellers of this area were in contact with the agricultural communities of the Malwa plains, exchanging goods with them.
Period IV & V – (Early historic): The figures of this group have schematic and decorative style and are painted mainly in red, white and yellow. The association is of riders, depiction of religious symbols, tunic like dresses and the existence of scripts of different periods. The religious beliefs are represented by figures of yakshas (a broad class of nature spirits), tree gods and magical sky chariots.
Period VI & VII – (Medieval): These paintings are geometric linear and more schematic, but they show degeneration and crudeness in their artistic style. The colors used by the cave dwellers were prepared by combining manganese, hematite and wooden coal.
One rock, popularly referred to as “Zoo Rock”, depicts elephants, sambar, bison and deer. Paintings on another rock show a peacock, a snake, a deer and the sun. On another rock two elephants with tusks are painted. Hunting scenes with hunters carrying bows, arrows, swords and shields also find their place in the community of these pre-historic paintings. In one of the caves, a bison is shown in pursuit of a hunter while his two companions appear to stand helplessly nearby; in another some horsemen are seen along with archers.
In one painting, a large wild boar is seen. It is not known whether such large boars existed that time or humans drew it with enlarged scale.
Burhanpur is situated on the northern bank of Tapti River in Madhya Pradesh. It is located 340 kms southwest of Bhopal and 540 km northeast of Mumbai.
It was an important city under the Rashtrakuta Dynasty during 753-982AD. In 1388AD, Malik Nasir Khan, the Faruqi Sultan of Khandesh discovered Burhanpur at the behest of Shaikh Zainuddin and renamed it after a well-known medieval Sufi saint, Burhan-ud-Din which later became the capital of Khandesh Sultanate. In 1601AD Akbar annexed the Khandesh Sultanate and Burhanpur became the capital of Khandesh Subah of the Mughal Empire.
It is a beautiful city with a lot of historical monuments existing in its expanse, primarily from the times of Sha Jahan the great Mughal emperor. Shah Jahan spent a considerable time in this city and helped to add to the Shahi Qila, the majestic palace situated on the banks of Tapti River. The main attraction of the palace is the royal bath which was made specifically for the use of Begum Mumtaz Mahal. Also it is said that Sha Jahan was originally planned to build the Taj Mahal here as it was the home town of Mumtaz Mahal who lived and died in Burhanpur.
Burhanpur was taken by the Peshwas and in 1761AD the Maratha army marched for the Third Battle of Pnipat from this city. After the fall of the Marathas the city came under the British control.
The Jama Masjid is one of the most important tourist attraction of Burhanpur. The construction of the Masjid was started by Farooqui rulers and was completed during the time of Akbar.
Another attraction is Ahu Khana or the Deer House an enclosed garden with tanks and pleasure houses constructed during the reign of Shah Jahan. The buildings include a fine Baradari, now roofless where Mumtaz Begum has been buried.
Another tourist attraction is Dargah-e-Hakimi the tomb complex includes mosques gardens etc. The Dawoodi Bhora saint Saiyed Abdul Qadir Hakimuddin is buried here. This is a major pilgrimage center for the Dawoodi Bhora community all over the world.
The Pleasure Palace at Mahal Gulara is another tourist attraction which is few kilometers away from the city. Probably built by Prince Khurram, later on Sha Jahan for a lady named Gulara.
Another attraction is Raja Jai Singh’s Chhatri built at the confluence of Mohana and Tapti Rivers. Popularly called as Raja Ki Chhatri, this 32 pillar structure is an example of Rajastani and Mughal architecture.
The tomb of Begum Shah Shuja, Bilqis Begum is a must visit in Burhanpur. Bilqis Begum was the wife of Shah Shuja the second son of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal. Of all the Mughal monuments built in Burhanpur this tomb is unique in terms of its construction style. It stands on a raised fluted circular plinth. The Maqbara is built to resemble a melon with intricate carvings.
Not far from the city is the Tomb of Shah Nawaz Khan often called as Black Taj by the locals.
Not far from the city are the tombs of the royal family and their relatives. A well preserved complex with compound walls.
Stay & Sightseeing
There are plenty of accommodation options available in Burhanpur. However Hotel Ambar near bus stand managed by a Parsi couple is a good option. They have a restaurant which serves, very nice food.
You can hire an auto rikshaw to go around different monuments. There are guides available to show you around the monuments. I highly recommend Mr. Yaqub Boringwala (mobile no. 09826453574) who is very co-operative and have very good knowledge of the area.
Asirgarh Fort is situated in the Satpura Range at a distance of 20 kms north of the city of Burhanpur in Madhya Pradesh. The fort was built by Asa Ahir of the Ahir Dynasty. Mughal emperor Akbar conquered this for in 1601AD. Later it came under the control of the British.
The architecture of the fort was influenced by the Mughals – an amalgamation of Islamic, Persian, Turkish and Indian styles. There are three man made ponds inside the fort to provide water supply. There is a temple known as Gupteshwar Mahadev Mandir didicated to Lord Shiva. The local legend is that Ashwatthama of Epic Mahabharata used to come to this temple to worship and offer flowers to Lord Shiva. There is a ruined mosque with minarets inside the fort known as Asir Masjid. There are some British graves also in the fort. The fort has been deserted following the departure of the British.