MP Diaries: Bhimbetka, A gateway to Ancient Civilisation

Long ago, during one of our visits to Hampi, we were fortunate to visit the pre-historic site of Anegundi (Koppal district), Karnataka. Ever since then, our interest with regards to pre-historic cave paintings only grew and any search relevant to pre-historic cave paintings in India would lead us first to the site of Bhimbetka in Madhya Pradesh. Though visiting Bhimbetka did not happen too soon, we have had a chance to visit many such interesting sites in Karnataka. Bhimbetka is India's most renowned pre-historic site  and unlike other sites across India, this place has been very well documented and studied even today. Bhimbetka is the largest pre-historic site in India and the only such to have been inscribed on the list of UNESCO world heritage sites. This place was under continuous human occupation from lower Paleolithic period till the early 19th century AD.
On the 29th of December 2016, we drove down from Mandu to Bhopal, via Indore and Dewas. A good six hour drive brought to us Bhopal. It was around 2 am and our hunt for accommodation at this hour brought us to Hotel Midland. After a hard bargain, we negotiated a good deal and settled down for the night. We woke up considerably late the next morning after getting the much needed rest. We were ready to hit the road again after a quick Poha and Sev for breakfast. In an hour we reached Midway Retreat, located 3 km away from Bhimbetka. A cup of hot tea was only thing in between us and the cave paintings. The book of Bhimbetka-World Heritage Series quotes, "Bhimbetka's uniqueness lies not only in the concentration of its antiquity and art, and the wealth that it conceals, but that it has not remained frozen in time and space. Elements of this continuity are manifest in the creative expressions that show affinity to great antiquity in the traditional lifestyles of the adivasis of the area integral to Bhimbetka and the surrounding region". There are over 1400 rock shelters here, of which about 700 carry cave paintings, while only 15 among them are open to the public. The rest are located inside the Ratapani Wildlife Sanctuary. The 15 rock shelters are prefect representatives of Bhimbetka.
Welcome to Bhimbetka
Rock Shelter No.1 - This shelter has a few paintings mostly of historic period. Here we can see the paintings of two elephants and a bull, wounded by the arrow of a hunter.
Paintings in Rock Shelter No.1
Rock Shelter No.3 - This cave is also called as the 'auditorium cave' due to this long shape. This shelter has paintings of bull, buffaloes, deer, peacock, left hand print of a child and many such. There are many cupules (depressions) on stone, probably associated with Paleolithic period.
Pre historic paintings Bhimbetka
Paintings in Auditorium Cave
Left Hand Print of a Child
Rock Shelter No.4 - This shelter is known as the 'zoo rock' and is the most important rock shelter here. There are 453 figures here, comprising of 252 animals of 16 species. The paintings here belong to the Mesolithic, Chalcolithic and historic periods. There are as many as ten layers of super-imposed paintings which is a unique and the most important feature of this cave.
Cave Paintings Bhimbetka
Zoo Rock 
Rock Shelter No.6 - This shelter contains beautifully depicted, natural looking animal drawings, group of dancers, drummers and horse riders in white color. An interesting drawing is that of a group of dancers in a line, shown with interlocking hands.
Row of Dancers 
Rock Shelter No.7 - This shelter contains paintings of horse riders and a row of deers in stylized form, belonging to historic period.
Men Riding Horse and Carrying Weapons
Rock Shelter No.8 - This is one of the important shelters here and the only one comprising  drawings of scorpions, fowls and other insects. This is a two storeyed cave with paintings all across its ceilings. There is a scene depicting seven cavaliers accompanied by three foot soldiers, a horse, an old woman, a panther, a jungle fowl, two chicks and insects. Other paintings here exhibit various scenes of hunting, dancing,  and other daily rituals.
Paintings of Rock Shelter No.8
Rock Shelter No.9 - The only shelter here having paintings depicted in green and yellow colors. Most of the paintings here belong historic period. There are paintings of a horse, an elephant and a flower pot.
Horse Painting
 Flower Pot Painted in Yellow
 Rock Shelter Nos.2,5,10 - These shelters carry only one painting each.
Painting in Rock Shelter No.2
Rock Shelter No.11 - The paintings of this shelter depict scenes from war, most of them showing men on horses carrying swords or spades.
War Scenes
Rock Shelter No.12 - This is another interesting shelter with an attractive composition of 38 animals drawn, along with various other paintings.
Paintings of Rock Shelter no.12 
Rock Shelter No.13 - There are a few paintings here depicting humans engrossed in there daily activities.
Humans Engrossed in Their Daily Activities
Rock Shelter No.14 - There are few paintings of animals, the most beautiful of them is that of a horse painted in white and decorated with a honeycombed pattern.
Horse Decorated With Honeycombed Pattern
Rock Shelter No.15 - This shelter is also called as the 'boar rock' due to the presence of a huge painting of a mythical boar like animal chasing a human. Apart from this, many other animals and humans are depicted in the shelter here.
Mythical Boar Like Animal Chasing a Human
Entrance Fee: Rs.50/- per head for Indian Citizens and Rs.200/- per head for others. Rs.250/- for car entry including parking.
Distance from nearby major town: 45 km from Bhopal.
Accommodation: The only option for accommodation at Bhimbetka is Midway Retreat maintained by MPSTDC. A better idea would be to plan for an overnight stay at Bhopal.
Where to eat: Midway Retreat is the only closest option here for food and drinks. There are a few eateries after we reach the highway which is about 4 km from Bhimbetka rock shelter. Carry enough water as there are no facilities for the same once you enter the rock shelter.
1. Bhimbetka - World Heritage Series by ASI.

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MP Diaries - The Baobab, Mandu Ki Imli

Mandu, apart from being well known for its rich heritage is also significant for the presence of a good number of Baobab (Adansonia Digitata) trees. Unlike other locations in India where the trees are present either singly or up to a maximum of three in number, Baobab trees can be sighted across the length and breadth of Mandu. Being native to Africa, they are considered as one of the very ancient and longest living trees. These trees also find a mention in the Hindu epic of Mahabharata. An African folk-tale claims that their consorted shapes were caused by an angry deity plucking the tree from the ground and thrusting it back in again upside down. Hence, they are also called as upside-down trees with their branches resembling the roots after they shed their leaves. The Baobab trees have an incredible quality of storing water in their trunks in high capacities and hence are a lifeline to the locals of the tropical regions of Africa. The Africans consider the Baobab as sacred and refer to it as the ‘Tree of Life’. This tree possesses amazing medicinal properties and is of great nutritive value. Apart from providing shelter, water and food to many, every part of its tree proves useful in many ways. It is truly the tree of life. The Baobab is locally known as ‘Imli’ (tamarind), or ‘Bada Imli (Big tamarind) in Mandu and is popularly referred to as ‘Mandu ki Imli’. 
Baobab Trees, Mandu
Baobab Tree Welcoming us to Mandu
Baobab Tree
Bare Baobab Tree with only Fruits
Baobab Tree Inside Baz-Bahadur's Palace Complex
Mandu Ki Imli
Upside-Down Tree
Malik Mughith Mosque and the Baobab 
Baobab Reflection in Somvati Kund
Oldest Baobab Trees
Probably the Largest and the Oldest Baobab Tree we saw 
Mandu Ki Imli
Baobab Fruit on Sale
Value Added Products from Baobab Fruits

1.AFRICA Natural Spirit of the African Continent- By Gill Davies

MP Diaries - Mandu, Symbol of Immortal Love

Mandu is the largest fortified area in India, second only to the great city of Hampi. This romantic city which is also well known for its history is situated about 37 km from Maheshwar. Mandu has also been known by various names previously such as Mandapa-Durga and Mandavagarh. The original fort was built by Paramara kings in 6th century AD. This region attained unparalleled glory, especially under Kings Munja and Raja Bhoj who ruled from both Ujjain and Dhar. Mandu was founded as a fortress and retreat  by Raja Bhoj and later King Jayavaram transferred the seat of the Paramara from Dhar to Mandu, finally falling into the hands of Khilji of Delhi Sultanate.  Mandu came on its own later under Hoshang Shah who shifted his capital from Dhar to Mandu and renamed Mandu as Shadiabad - City of Joy. Even amidst his arduous wars with the neighboring powers, Hoshang Shah raised the architectural splendor of the kingdom to its greatest heights. A period of expansion and prosperity was witnessed under the later rulers, Mahmud Shah and Ghiyasuddin, until the end of 14th century AD.  In the next century, Mandu collided with various kingdoms of Gujarat and Rajasthan. A series of deadly warfare followed there after and one such change led to Baz-Bahadur assuming power. Baz-Bahadur almost gave up fighting after being overpowered by Rani Durgavati during one of the wars. He devoted himself to music in which the famous and beautiful Rani Rupmati proved to be his most loving associate and consort. The selfless and devoted love between them even today is a favorite theme in the folk songs of Malwa. Rani Rupmati is said to have committed suicide rather than succumb to the powerful army of Akbar. In late 17th century this fort came under the control of Marathas under Malhar Rao Holkar and from then on remained under the Marathas.
Mandu Ravines
Rupmati’s Pavilion: Rupmati’s/Roopmati’s pavilion is situated atop the hill to the south of Baz-Bahadur’s palace overlooking the Nimar valley. It is believed that Rani Rupmati, Baz-Bahadur’s beloved enjoyed the view of the much revered river Narmada from this pavilion. The arched pavilion is a Baradari, a building with 12 doors with 3 doorways on every side and is crowned by a fluted dome.
Rupmati's Pavilion, Mandu
Rupmati's Pavilion 
Baz-Bahadur’s Palace: To the east of Rewa Kund is the Baz-Bahadur’s Palace, built on the hill slope. A Persian inscription on its entrance arch states that the palace was built by Nasiruddin in 1508 AD. The palace has a spacious courtyard with a beautiful water tank at its center fed by Rewa Kund. It is quite interesting to know that Rewa Kund situated close by, was frequently visited by Rani Rupmati, which justifies the king’s choice of this place as his palace.
Baz Bahadur Palace, Mandu
Baz-Bahadur's Palace 
Rewa-Kund: This is a reservoir built by Baz-Bahadur whose origin is associated with the love story of Baz-Bahadur and Rupmati.
Rewa Kund, Mandu
Jali Mahal: Jali Mahal is a tomb built on a square plan with three arched openings on each side. Except for the entrance, the arches on the other three sides are filled with latticed screens carrying various geometric/ornamental patterns giving this tomb the name Jali Mahal.
Jali Mahal, Mandu
Jali Mahal
Malik Mugith'sMalik Mughith's Mosque: This mosque was built by Malik Mugith, father of Mahmud Khilji in 1432 AD. The projecting front porch of the mosque built on a high plinth is now mostly in ruins. The exterior walls are in the form of an arcade at the lower level while colonnades are seen in the corridors inside. It is clearly evident from the pillars of the corridor that the mosque was built by utilizing materials from destroyed Hindu temples/buildings, which is considered as the first phase of Muslim architecture in Malwa. The mosque houses three domes above its main portion with turrets at the corners. During our visit, restoration work was in progress to save the remnants of the structure.
Mosque of Malik Mughith, Mandu
Mosque of Malik Mughith
Caravan Sarai: Built in 1437 AD, Caravan Sarai comprises of a huge court surrounded by rooms and halls that served as places of accommodation and storage. 
Caravan Sarai, Mandu
Caravan Sarai
Dai-Ki-Chhoti-Behan-Ka-Mahal: This tomb associated with a lady is built on a highly raised double terraced platform in an octagonal plan with four entrance arches and is crowned by a dome. Remains of blue tiles with which the dome was originally decorated with, is clearly visible.
Dai Ki chhoti behan ka mahal, Mandu
Dai-Ka-Mahal: This is a tomb of a lady and stands on a high platform having rooms with arched openings. The tomb is square in plan. The lower portion of the dome is octagonal in shape and is decorated with miniature arches while small projecting structures are seen at the corners.
Dai Ka Mahal, Mandu

Lal-Bagh: A beautiful garden and pavilion, with traces of cisterns and cascades laid during the Mughal rule.

Lal Bagh Mandu
Hathi Mahal (Elephant Palace): The Hathi Mahal is a mausoleum with its name being attributed to the enormous pillars that resemble the legs of an elephant, supporting the dome above.
Hathi Mahal, Mandu
Hathi Mahal
Darya Khan's Main Tomb: The most beautiful structure in Mandu is the tomb dedicated to Darya Khan. This tomb is built of red sand stone in a square plan. There is a Darya Khan Mosque, Sarai Kothari, Kharbush Tomb and Somvati Kund nearby the Main tomb.
Darya Khan's Tomb, Mandu
Darya Khan's Tomb
Sarai Kothdi, Mandu
Sarai Kothdi
Jami Masjid (Friday Mosque): This is one of the largest structures in Mandu. The construction was started by Hoshang Shah and completed by Mahmud Khilji in 1454 AD. Simple in its style, this mosque has a huge prayer hall facing the courtyard. The Mihrab (a niche in the wall of a mosque towards which people face to pray) and Mimbar (a platform used by the preacher in a mosque) in the prayer hall are elaborately designed. A striking feature here is the chain of domes and arches in the enclosing walls of the courtyard.
Jami Masjid, Mandu
Jami Masjid 
Hoshang Shah's Tomb: This mausoleum built with white marble is India's first marble edifice. The construction was started by Hoshang Shah and completed by Mahmud Khilji in 1440 AD. The tomb is a massive structure situated at the center of a large courtyard. The tomb is crowned by a huge dome with smaller sized domes at its corners. The noteworthy features in the interiors are the intricately designed lattice screen works and decorative moldings.
Hoshang Shah Tomb, Mandu
Tomb of Hoshang Shah
Ashrafi Mahal (Madrassa) and Tower of Victory: Khilji built the Madrassa (school) facing the mosque (Jami Masjid), which is now deserted. It also has the Tower of Victory, originally a seven storeyed tower built in celebration of victory over an enemy which is now in ruins with only one storey having managed to survive.The tomb of Mahmud Khilji is also situated in this complex.
Tower of Victory, Mandu
Tower of Victory
Khilji's Tomb, Mandu
Khilji's Tomb
Jahaz Mahal (Ship Palace): This magnificent palace standing between two man-made lakes of Munj and Kapur is beautifully designed. The palace resembles a ship floating on water and hence the name. The interconnected water-ways/channels from the lake to the water ponds of the Mahal and its garden is fascinating.
Jahaz Mahal, Mandu
Jahaz Mahal
Kolhu (Crusher): Kolhu was a very popular traditional device used for crushing solid materials into smaller pieces, usually manually or animal driven. Different materials such as lime stone, jaggery, and other building materials were mixed together and crushed/ground to form a uniform powder which was then used for construction purpose.
Gadashah's Palace and Shop: These buildings probably were built for a person named Gadashah who played a significant role in the royal family. Both the buildings are sadly now in ruins.
Gadashah's Shop
Ancient Baoli: A beautiful well belonging to the Paramara period.
Ancient Baoli
Hindola Mahal (Swinging Palace): This mahal is 'T' shaped in plan and has sloping side walls by virtue of which it is also known as the Swinging Palace and served as an audience hall. The exteriors are mostly plain with two-storeyed arches placed between huge pillars that slope inward. The overhanging balconies are enclosed (jharokhas) and carry on them floral carvings and lattice designs.
Hindola Mahal, Mandu
Hindola Mahal
Champa Baoli and Royal Palace: This is an underground well that served as a reservoir. Square in shape, it is surrounding by eight arches that giving it a circular appearance. This place was used by the royal ladies as a summer retreat. The Royal palace is very big building where the royal family resided.
Champa Baodi, Mandu
Champa Baoli
Hammam (The Bath): The Hammam houses separate waterways for supply of hot and cold water. The queens enjoyed a luxurious bath here. The ceiling of the hammam is dome like, having circular and star shaped perforations for light to pass through and hot steam to pass out. The techniques used for water flow system into the Hammam are quite intriguing.
Hammam, Mandu
Domed Roof  Hammam
Jal Mahal (Water Palace): This beautiful palace is built on the banks of lake Munj, on the opposite side of Jahaz Mahal. It is an interesting structure with water channels running across the mahal to feed the water ponds and gardens. The view of Jahaz Mahal from Jal Mahal is astonishing.
Jal Mahal, Mandu
Sunset Behind the Jal Mahal
Darwazas (Gateways): The 40 km long fort wall that encircles the city of Mandu houses 12 Darwazas or Gateways, notable ones being the Tarapur Gate, Jahangirpur Gate, Rampol Darwaza, Delhi Darwaza, Alamgir Darwaza and Bhangi Darwaza.
Tarapur Gateway, Mandu
Tarapur Gate
Other Places of Interest: Sapth Kothari, Lohani Caves and Gate, Taveli Mahal, Dilawar Khan's Tomb, Nilkanth Palace and Temple, Chhappan Mahal, Lal Mahal, Kakra Khoh, Ram Mandir, Jain Mandir and many more.
Distance from the nearby Major Town: 90 km from Indore
Entrance Fee: A fixed entrance fee is charged to visit the Royal Enclave, Jami Masjid and Rupmati's Mahal. Rs 15/- for Indian Tourists and Rs 200/- for Foreigners, an additional fee is charged for video shooting.
Accommodation: We didn't stay here, but there are many options for accommodation here. The better ones are the Malwa Resort and Malwa Retreat, both maintained by MPSTDC.
Where to eat: We had lunch in Malwa Retreat, a multi cuisine restaurant and our lunch bill was around Rs.700/-. Food was good and tasty. Card payments are accepted.
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2. RBS Visitors Guide India-"Madhya Pradesh"
3. Latest Tourist Guide Mandu - By J.P.Sharma