CENTRAL INDIA

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The Heart Of India

Madhya Pradesh occupies perhaps the oldest part of the subcontinent - called the Gondwana - the home of the Gonds. Close to Bhopal at Bhimbetka are the prehistoric caves that preserve some fascinating paintings dating back to paleolithic times. Experts have concluded that these are at least as old as the specimen at Pyrnees. This was perhaps one of the earliest dwellings of human beings. In fact, the excavations here have revealed a cultural sequence right from the late stone age to the early historical period. Madhya Pradesh is the richest state in the country in respect of painted rock-shelters, the majority of which have been found in the districts of Sehore, Bhopal, Raisen, Hoshangabad and Sagar.

During the ascendency of the Guptas, the whole region came under the domain of the imperial Guptas and subsequently formed a part of Harshavardhan's empire. With the decline in imperial power, the province was broken up into small principalities contending forever to establish their supremacy over one another. Chandelas were one such dynasty claiming descent from the moon, who carved out a strong prosperous kingdom for themselves after the decline of the great empire. There was a short spell of inspired construction activity under the Chandela in the 10th to 11th centuries. They are the ones who have left behind the cluster of matchless temples at Khajuraho, now a World Heritage Site.

Chandelas were followed by Pratihara and Gaharwar Rajput dynasties claiming mythical origins relating their scions to the gods or heroes in the epics.

They lived and died by a difficult code of chivalry, wasted away scarce resources in an expensive feudal life style and could not ultimately keep at bay the expanding Muslim Power. Rulers of Malwa fought a running battle with the subedars of Gujarat or the commanders of the Sultan of Delhi throughout the sultanate period.

Amarkantak

Amarkantak Situated at an altitude of 1065 mt. at the meeting point of the Vindhya and the Satpura mountain ranges amongst sylvan surroundings, Amarkantak is a great pilgrim centre for the Hindus, and is the source of the rivers Narmada and Sone. While the Narmada flows Westwards from Amarkantak, the Sone flows towards the East. Amarkantak is indeed blessed by Nature. Holy ponds, lofty hills, forested surroundings, breathtakingly beautiful waterfalls and an ever-pervading air of serenity make Amarkantak a much sought-after destination for the religious-minded as well as for the nature-lover.

Bandhavgarh

Bandhavgarh This is a small National Park; compact, yet full of game. The density of the Tiger population at Bandhavgarh is the highest known in India.

This is also White Tiger country. These have been found in the old state of Rewa for many years. The last known was captured by Maharajah Martand Singh in 1951. This White Tiger, Mohan, is now stuffed and on display in the palace of the Maharajahs of Rewa.

Bhedaghat

Bhedaghat -Soaring in glittering splendour, the Marble Rocks at Bhedaghat rise to a hundred feet on either side of the Narmada. The serene loveliness of the scene is one of cool quiet, the sunlight sparkling on the marble-white pinnacles and casting dappled shadows on the pellucid waters. These white rocks with views of black and dark green volcanic seams are truly majestic, and produce a magical effect on moonlit nights.

The holy river flows by tranquilly flanked by the towering cliffs which reflect in it like a mirror the changing moods of nature. A little distance away, it becomes turbulent as it plunges in a mighty water fall known as Dhuandhar.

Bhimbetka

Bhimbetka Surrounded by the northern fringe of the Vindhyan ranges, Bhimbetka lies 46 km South of Bhopal. In this rocky terrain of dense forest and craggy cliffs, over 600 rock shelters belonging to the Neolithic age were recently discovered. Here, in vivid panoramic detail, paintings in over 500 caves depict the life of the pre-historic cave-dwellers making the Bhimbetka group an archaeological treasure, an invaluable chronicle in the history of man.

Kanha

Kanha Kanha's sal and bamboo forests, rolling grasslands and meandering streams stretch over 940 sq km in dramatic natural splendour which form the core of the Kanha Tiger Reserve created in 1974 under Project Tiger. The park is the only habitat of the rare hardground Barasingha (Cervus Duvaceli Branderi).

By a special statute in 1955, Kanha National Park came into being. Since then, a series of stringent conservation programmes for the protection of the park's flora and fauna has given Kanha its deserved reputation for being one of the finest and best administered National Parks in Asia, an irresistible attraction for all wildlife lovers and a true haven for its animal and avian population.

Khajuraho

Khajuraho In the temple architecture of India, the Khajuraho complex remains unique. One thousand years ago, under the generous and artistic patronage of the Chandela Rajput kings of Central India, 85 temples, magnificent in form and richly carved, came up on one site, near the village of Khajuraho. The amazingly short span of 100 years, from 950 AD - 1050 AD, saw the completion of all the temples, in an inspired burst of creativity. Today, of the original 85, only 22 have survived the ravages of time; these remain as a collective paean to life, to joy and to creativity; to the ultimate fusion of man with his creator.

Even in those days it was no more than a small village. It is possible given the eclectic patronage of the Chandelas and the wide variety of beliefs represented in the temples, that they had the concept of forming a seat of religion and learning at Khajuraho. It is possible that the Chandelas were also believers in the powers of Tantrism; the cult which believes that the gratification of earthly desires is a step closer to the attainment of the infinite. It is certain however, that the temples represent the expression of a highly matured civilization. Yet another theory is that the erotica of Khajuraho, and indeed of other temples, had a specific purpose. In those days when boys lived in hermitages, following the Hindu law of being "brahmacharis" until they attained manhood, the only way they could prepare themselves for the worldly role of 'householder' was through the study of these sculptures and the earthly passions they depicted.