Rock Art To Hill Stations: 4 Unique Places In Madhya Pradesh

Embark on an offbeat odyssey where time dances to the rhythm of forgotten kingdoms, ancient caves, and verdant landscapes
Jahaz Mahal or Ship Palace in Mandu, Madhya Pradesh
Jahaz Mahal or Ship Palace in Mandu, Madhya PradeshAkimov Konstantin/Shutterstock

Venture beyond the well-trodden paths and journey through unheard places in Madhya Pradesh for a deep dive into history, architecture, and natural beauty. From the prehistoric whispers of Bhimbetka's caves to the crumbling elegance of Mandu's palaces and the cool embrace of the Narmada in Maheshwar and the Satpura Hills in Pachmarhi, Madhya Pradesh has a treasure trove of hidden gems waiting to be unveiled.

Maheshwar: Bound by Temples and Threads

In the heart of Madhya Pradesh lies the quaint old town of Maheshwar, popularly nicknamed the temple town. The abode of Queen Ahilyabai and the stronghold of the Holkars, Maheshwar has centuries-old temples, their intricate carvings whispering tales of dynasties past. 

The Holkar Fort stands tall on the banks of the Narmada River, with its ramparts offering panoramic views of the town. Small parts of the fort are open to the public, showcasing the life of the Queen. The intricate murals and carvings transport you to the vibrant era of the Holkar dynasty. The Narmada looks glorious, with the colourful ghats adding vibrancy to it. While in Maheshwar, a stroll along the ghats and a boat ride at sunset is a must. If time permits, witness the evening aarti ceremony with hundreds of lamps illuminating the river for a spiritual experience. 

Maheshwar has centuries-old temples, their intricate carvings whispering tales of dynasties past
Maheshwar has centuries-old temples, their intricate carvings whispering tales of dynasties pastChetan Soni/Shutterstock

No trip to Maheshwar is complete without visiting the weavers community of Rehwa Society, who work arduously on hand looms to make beautiful sarees from the delicate Maheshwari fabric. You can not only buy these gorgeous sarees but also watch the artisans weave the magic of the fabric.

Mandu: A Medieval Dreamscape

Mandu is a history buff’s paradise where every stone whispers tales of sultans and queens, battles won, and love stories etched in time. 

Jahaz Mahal, the "Ship Palace," floats on a man-made lake, its elegant arches mirroring the sky. The majestic Mandu Fort is a testament to power and resilience. The panoramic vistas and the colossal gateway of Hathi Pol, "Elephant Gate,” offer a glimpse into the power and might of the kings. Rani Roopmati's Pavilion, perched on a cliff edge, whispers romantic secrets with the stunning Roopmati captivating Sultan Baz Bahadur with her melodies. You can still feel the echo of their love saga lingering in the air. Other architectural marvels are the Hindola Mahal, the "Swinging Palace", and the Jami Masjid, a masterpiece of Afghan architecture. To know more about the history of Mandu, you must attend the sound and light show that takes place every evening at Hindola Mahal.

Interior of Jami Masjid in Mandu, Madhya Pradesh
Interior of Jami Masjid in Mandu, Madhya PradeshHarshal Sathe/Shutterstock

Pachmarhi: A Quaint Hill Station

Listed in the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Pachmarhi is a tranquil hill station offering a quiet retreat to those seeking solitude amidst nature's bounty. Nestled in the verdant Satpura hills, this picturesque town offers breathtaking landscapes, colonial charm, and rich biodiversity. You can take a dip in the crystal-clear waters of Bee Falls and hike up to the highest point of the Satpura range, Dhoopgar, with panoramic views of the surrounding valleys and forests.

Sunset view of the Satpura range from Dhoopgarh, Pachmarhi
Sunset view of the Satpura range from Dhoopgarh, PachmarhiImages of India/Shutterstock

For wildlife enthusiasts, the Satpura National Park offers a lot to see. From tigers and leopards to gaurs, chitals, and over 250 varieties of birds, it is a haven for nature lovers. History buffs can spend time at the Pandava caves, which are believed to have been the abode of the Pandavas during their exile. The intricate carvings of the cave are still intact. Pachmarhi also has many religious sites, such as Christ Church, Gupt Mahadev, Chauragarh Temple, and Jatashankar caves, where Lord Shiva is believed to have meditated.

Bhimbetka: An Archaeological Treasure

Bhimbetka isn't just a tourist destination; it's a portal to the past and a treasure trove for archaeologists and historians alike. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is located in the foothills of the Vindhyachal Range with more than 750 caves and rock shelters dating around 10,000 years old. This pre-historical site showcases the earliest traces of humankind in India, depicted beautifully through paintings and carvings.

These paintings stretch on the walls of the caves and have been classified into different periods of Upper Paleolithic, Mesolithic, Chalcolithic, Early Historic, and Medieval, with every era having a distinctive style. They depict the socio-cultural aspects of different civilisations with scenes like dancing, hunting, riding, and popular religious symbols. Zoo Rock, Auditorium Rock Shelter, and Boar Rock are the most significant rock shelters.

Getting There

Mandu and Maheshwar are about 95 km from Indore's Devi Ahilya Bai Holkar Airport, while Pachmarhi and Bhimbetka can be accessed from Bhopal's Raja Bhoj Airport. Pachmarhi is 200 km from the airport, while Bhimbetka is just 45 km away.

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