Bhopal: Bhojpur Temple and beyond
Despite geographical proximity, Madhya Pradesh always evaded by a whisker from my wanderlust and for the same reason, I was always keeping it at the bottom of the stack. But finally the wish materialized in the form of a precipitous trip. Bhopal, the capital city of Madhya Pradesh became the starting line of my trip to the one of the most incredible landscape of India. Bhopal is a lazy town adorned with scenic lakes and beautiful monuments. It does not fall in any of the popular tourist trails of India hence does not witness a large number of vacationers except those who are deep into archeology and want to stop at Bhopal for their visit to Sanchi and Bhimbetka.
Lake near Taj ul Masajid Bhopal
I am neither into archeology nor following a tourist trail yet unfamiliarity and an unknown landscape always enthralls me which inspired me to visit Bhopal and nearby sites. From the very first glimpse, Bhopal made me intrigued with its vivacious streets and markets. Serenity and unworldliness is completely personified with the group of locals chatting on Indian politics over a tea and enjoying delicious road side snacks. Like any other popular historical town, Bhopal is perfect for a heritage walk across the old city where streets are adorned with ruins and monuments. These second tier cities of India have always allured me with their continual originality. I checked into a cheap lodge, had a road side breakfast and then started a long day journey to Bhimbetkawhich is a popular world heritage site famous for remnants from Paleolithic time (dated to 100000 B.P). Bhimbetka is a whole day trip from Bhopal and if not by the rock shelters, ancient paintings or carvings, you will definitely mesmerize with the scenic terrain in the lap of Satpura. Bhimbetka is already documented in a separate article and hyper-linked with this one.
Bhojeshwar Temple at Bhojpur
Another magnificent monument which you can travel near Bhopal is Siva temple of Bhojpur which is not only luring pilgrims for the reverence it exhibits but also interests those with a bit of inclination in archeology and history.
Siva Temple, Bhojpur
Entrance fee: 10 INR
How to reach Bhojpur temple: Catch a private bus (Low floor city bus) from Bhopal which is going towards Mandideepand ask the driver to drop you at the diversion to Bhojpur temple. From that point, you need to catch one of the frequent shared autos to reach the temple. If coming from Bhimbetka, you can take the diversion from Obaidullaganj but that road is in very bad condition and not worth driving.Bhopal-Bhojpur Temple: 29 km
Obaidullaganj– Bhopal: 14 km
Where to eat: There are many stalls in the temple lane where you can sip a tea and enjoy snacks or even have a light meal.
Remarks: During festival time, this place gets crowded with carloads of tourists from Bhopal.
Mutilated idols at Siva temple Bhojpur
The temple stands magnificently on the right bank of the river Betwa, ancient Betrawati, over the rock outcrop. It is about 29 km south-east of Bhopal.This unique temple but incomplete for some unknown reason is ascribed to the illustrious King Bhojadeva(1010-1055 A.D.) of Paramara dynasty of Central India, who was a great patron of art, architecture and learning. The kingBhojadeva was a renowned author who wrote more than eleven books of which Samarnngana Sutradhara a treaty on architecture is the most important.
Locally, there are several folklores prevailing in this area. According to one folklore, this temple was built by the Pandavas during their exile. Some People even claim Kunti had left Kama somewhere here along the bank of river Betwa.
Shrines at Siva Temple Bhojpur near Bhopal
This west-facing lofty temple is raised on a 106 ft long, 77 ft wide and 17 ft high platform. The incomplete roof of the Garbhagriha(sanctum) is supported on four colossal pillars and twelve pilasters rising to a height of 40 ft. The sanctum is square on plan and enshrines a polished Siva-Iinga. The door-jambs of the sanctum are carved with figures of the river goddesses Ganga and Yamunaon either side. The bracket-capitals of four massive pillars of the sanctum are portrayed with figures of Uma-Maheswar,Lakshmi–Narayana, Brahma-Savitri, and Sita-Rama. Externally the temple is bereft of any ornamentation, except on the front facade. The balconies on the three facades although do not have any functional use, breaks the monotony of the plain walls. Probably these balconies once accommodated family deities of the Saiva cult which are now scattered around the temple.
Closer view of Siva Temple Bhojpur
It is exhilarating to know that the Siva Linga with its Yoni Patta rising to height of 22 ft is the tallest and grandest in the world. The huge Yoni Patta made of a single block of stone broke into two pieces when a large size stone of the ceiling fell down on it, and thus the temple remained with a broken Yoni Patta and the ceiling open to the sky for centuries. But now the Yoni Patta has been meticulously joined together and the opening of the ceiling has been covered with fiber glass sheet decorated with, the inverted lotus flower which is exactly alike the original architectural remains of the roof.
The temple is survived with a ramp on its back side which was used for the transportation of large size stones to the raising heights during the temple building. Nowhere else in the world the ancient building technology of lifting large size stone architectural members to the top of the structure is extant. The fact that how the builders the temple raised stone as large as 35 x 5 x 5 ft and weighing about 70 tones to the temple could have remained a mystery had this ramp was not in existence.
Again nowhere else detail tine drawings of the temple such as plan, elevation, pillars and pilasters, sikhara and kalasa have been engraved as a stencil on the rock surface. It speaks that before building, the temple plan and elevation were engraved on the rock.
The presence of ramp, engravings on the rock and the grand Siva Linga enshrined the sanctum make it an unsurpassed heritage of mankind.
Siva linga at Bhojpur Temple near Bhopal
After contemplating a placid sunset at Bhojpur temple, I headed back to Bhopal and had a delicious dinner at Manohar Dairy (One of the most popular restaurant of the city which lies on Hamidia road) and later surrendered myself to sleep with some cryptic scribbling on the pillow side.
Following morning, I caught a transport to Sanchi which was on relatively much better road and I reached there in 1 hour (Catch one of the private busses going towards Vidisha and ask them to drop you at Sanchi). Sanchi is UNESCO world heritage site inscribed for its Stupas, Monasteries, temples, pillars and other structures related to Bhuddhism. Sanchi is comprehensively covered in an independent article so you can read that article for details.
Sunset at Bhojpur temple near Bhopal
After Sanchi, I had almost a half day to roam around and travel other destinations so I headed towards Udayagiri caves those are some 8 km away from Sanchi but could not reached via public transport. There are two ways to reach Udayagiri Caves, the longer one goes via Vidisha. You can hire an auto either from Vidisha or Sanchi to reach Udayagiri Caves. Udayagiri caves are the group of 20 caves lying around a hill (some are on the hilltop). These caves depict statues of deities from Hindu and Jain religion and those are dated from 4th and 5th century A.D
Taj ul Masjid Bhopal
after returning back to Bhopal from Udayagiri caves, I got an opportunity to walk around in Bhopal and visited Taj-ul-Masajid, one of the largest mosques of Asia which lies in the old city. Anyone can guide you locating that monument. It’s an attractive building with a beautiful lake on one side. Old city of Bhopal is exquisite with vibrant lifestyle and colorful streets those will strike you. Later in the evening I also strolled along the upper lake and VIP road and visited some parks on the lake side.
Statue of Raja Bhoj in Bhopal
During the short stay of 2 days, Bhopal left a unique impression as a city and its surroundings. It’s a perfect blend of laid-back life style and decent infrastructure with delicious food corners. With its innumerous unknown attractions in and around, Bhopal left me with frowning curiosity when I was boarding the train to Umaria (Bandhavgarh National Park).