I have recently returned back from India after living there for 6 months.
When I think about my travels through India, there is one state that truly stands out.
It’s the Central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.
OK, so it is known for being the Wildlife and ‘Tiger’ state of India. However, this much more that you can see here.
I quite like the term “Heart of India”. This I feel truly represents what this state has to offer.
Here are my 10 Reasons why you need to really see this part of India.
Reason # 1: Abundant Wildlife and National Parks
Madhya Pradesh is home to India’s best National Parks. Many travellers and wildlife lovers visit this region in search of the Tiger and to experience Indian Wildlife Safaris. However, there is much more to see than just the top predator.
We recommend visiting lesser known national parks like Satpura National Park. On our recent visit to Satpura National Park, on our Wild Heart of India Small Group Tour, we had 2 amazing sightings of Sloth Bear. On both occasions, it was a mother and 1-2 cubs.
The unique aspect of Satpura National Park is the Denwa and Tawa River system. It acts as a natural buffer area to the core area of the National Park, isolating it from poachers and further development. It is home to many migratory birds, resident birds, reptiles and mammals.
Here are just some of the sightings captured in 1 week by guests and Naturalists at Reni Pani Jungle Lodge in Satpura (we love this place!)
More popular national parks like Kanha, Bandhavgarh and Pench National Parks, all have something unique to offer.
We also recommend Panna National Park. I visited this Tiger Reserve in 2007. Sadly at this time, there were only 2 tigers left.
Rampant poaching and park mismanagement meant that a few months after my visit, there were no tigers left. Fast forward to 2016, and this national park has better management systems in place and is home to 26+ tigers.
To enhance your experience further, stay at TOFT (Travel Operators for Tigers) recommended lodges.
Their aim is to “to advocate, plan, support and fund the protection, conservation and rewilding of natural wilderness and their wild inhabitants, especially tiger habitat, through the clever and wise use of nature tourism, using better visitor guidance, more community involvement, targeted green investment and enhanced governance and monitoring”.
As a member of TOFT, we use lodges and camps that are aligned with our values and vision of preserving these pristine environments.
Satpura National Park: Boat Safari for bird watching, night safari for nocturnal animals, village visit, jeep safaris – leopard sightings are common, walking trek, stay at Reni Pani Jungle Lodge
Pench National Park: Stay at Jamtara Wilderness Camp away from the crowds and main park gate, village visit and bird watching walk to Jamtara village, jeep safaris, nature walks.
Kanha National Park: Market visit, nature walk into the buffer zone, stay at Sher Garh tented camp a boutique lodge next to Kisli gate.
Bandhavgarh National Park: Tiger spotting while on jeep safari, village visit, stay at Kings Lodge (and prepare to add on a few kgs, the food is great!).
Panna National Park: River safari to spot crocs and birdlife, jeep safaris, day trip to Khajuraho and nearby village Panna. Stay at the luxurious Taj hotel Pashan Garh and indulge in a luxury safari experience.
Or take our Wild Heart of India Safari Small Group tour to experience an Indian Wildlife Safari first hand 🙂
Reason # 2: Kama Sutra
What does Kama Sutra have to do with Madhya Pradesh?
Madhya Pradesh is home to UNESCO Heritage Site in Khajuraho.
The Khajuraho temples were built during the rule of the Rajput Chandela Dynasty between 950 – 1030 AD. Only 20 temples remain and they fall into three distinct groups belonging to 2 religions – Hinduism and Jainsim.
The temples are decorated with erotic sculptures which are said to be among the greatest masterpieces of Indian Art.
Khajuraho is easily connected by air, and train.
Our essential elements experience, takes you there.
Reason #3: Taj-ul-Masajid, Bhopal
Taj – ul – Masjid literally meaning, “Crown among Mosques”.
My guide explained to me that this is the largest Mosque in India. I was a little dumb founded, as I thought Jama Masjid in Delhi was the largest, to which she replied, “No, that is the biggest!” There is apparently a difference, which I am still trying to work out. 🙂
Taj-Ul-Masajid was built during the time of the 11th ruler of Bhopal, Nawab Shahjahan Begum (1868-1901).
Stunning to look at – the arches are in sequences of three with spherical domes.
Bhopal is easily connected via air or an early morning train from Delhi – Bhopal Shatabdi, gets you into Bhopal by early afternoon.
Reason #4: Noor – Us – Sabah Palace, Bhopal
So you have been to Rajasthan and stayed at some amazing palaces.
What I love about Bhopal is there are some beautiful palaces that one can experience.
Noor – Us – Sabah Palace is situated on a hill top overlooking the city of Bhopal.
“Noor Us Sabah” meaning “The Light of Dawn” was built in the 1920s’ by H.H. Hamid Ullah Khan, For his eldest daughter abida Sultan.
We recommend either staying here or having a cup of chai while watching the sunset. (This is an alcohol- free hotel)
Reason #5: Jehan Numa Palace, Bhopal
Another gorgeous palace in Bhopal, this is my hotel of choice in Bhopal.
once you enter the hotel gates, you step back in time. The British Colonial, and Italian Renaissance architecture and feel is what makes this place unique.
What is more appealing about the Palaces of Bhopal, is that the Nawab Begums of Bhopal were female and they they ruled between 1819-1926. Each ruler, succeeded by her daughter. They were influential and charismatic rulers. My kind of women!
Reason #6: The Heritage of the Old City, Bhopal
The Old City of Bhopal is not as chaotic as Old Delhi, however it has its own charm which is steeped in a colourful history.
The best way to experience this part of the city, is on a Heritage Walk through the Old City. Fascinating.
Reason #7: The Great Stupa, Sanchi
The Great Stupa in Sanchi is the oldest stone structure in India and was built during the time of Emperor Ashoka in 3rd Century B.C. The centre of the Stupa houses Buddha’s relics and it is an important pilgrim site for Buddhists around the world.
We highly recommend visiting The Great Stupa with a guide. Each archway tells the story of Buddha’s life and you can really appreciate the history of Sanchi through their eyes. Or, sit and meditate and look out at the horizon. Either way, you will be touched by this place.
Reason #8: Bhimbetka Rock Shelters
This place would have to be one of my most favourite parts of Madhya Pradesh (Very close 2nd to the National Parks!).
Rarely included in itineraries by travel companies, this place must be seen.
The Bhimbetka rock shelters are an archaeological site of the Paleolithic, exhibiting the earliest traces of human life on the Indian – Subcontinent, and thus the beginning of the South Asian Stone Age.
Some of the Stone Age rock carvings found among the Bhimbetka rock shelters are approximately 30,000 years old with rock art dating back to 10,000-15,000 years. The caves also deliver early evidence of dance.
Here are some photos of my recent trip on our Wild Heart of India Small Group Tour in January.
Reason #9: Tribal History and Culture
When you visit Madhya Pradesh, especially stepping outside of city areas, you will step back into time and see tribal villages very much unchanged for thousands of years.
The main tribe of Madhya Pradesh is the Gond tribe.
We recommend visiting the Tribal Habitat Museum in Bhopal to learn about India’s tribal culture which makes up approximately 9% of the population.
What I love about this museum, is that it is open air and created by the tribal communities around India. You can visit examples of what their homes are like, made by the local tribe. Highly recommend the visit!
Or visit neighbouring tribal villages with our naturalist on our Wild Heart of India Small Group tour!
Reason #10: Udayagiri Caves, Vidisha
Udayagiri caves feature some of the oldest Hindu cave temples. They were carved and completed under Chandragupta II, Emperor of the Gupta era, in the late 4th and 5th century AD. It is one of India’s most important archeological sites from the Gupta period.
The site is notable for its ancient monumental sculpture of Hindu god Vishnu, in his incarnation as the boar-headed Varaha, rescuing the earth symbolically represented by Vhudevi clinging to the boar’s tusk as described in Hindu mythology
Have you been to any of these places? If so, tell us in the comments below!
Would you like to travel to these areas?
Wild Heart of India Safari Experience (Small Group Tour) will take you to most of these places. Next tour dates, 1 November, 2016.
Mantra Big 5 (Independent private tour) takes you to India’s national parks in Central India.
Mantra Essential Elements Private tour takes you to Khajuraho + other amazing places.