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Bhopal got famous by Surma Bhopali in Sholay

by on February 25, 2008

bhopal.jpgAs I walked among the streets of Bhopal, capital of Madhya Pradesh, I was smitten by its architecture with an attractive blend of Rajput, Gond, Afghan, British, French and Mughal influences define the old city, while luxuriant sprawling spaces and contemporary structures dot the new areas. I think the hallmark here is the Charles Correa’s Bharat Bhawan, an arts complex, and the new Vidhan Sabha. Bhopal stands at different altitudes, lending an appealing dimension to its urban dwellings amid something of a scenic textile.

bhopal-lake.jpgBhopal’s other striking inheritance are its lakes, with Bara Talab or Upper Lake from where my walk begins. Its cobalt water seem as boundless as the sea, and a drive on the smooth VIP Road running along its shores reminded me of Marine Drive, the locals call it as Begum’s Necklace. These lakes are man made and were created 1,000 years ago by exploiting the terrain and constructing three small dams. The lakes still provide water to the city, apart from being the venue for national aquatic boat rides. 

I began my excursion from Begum Qudsia’s elegant Gohar Mahal, standing opposite the lake. Its private quarters still have painted ceilings and intricate woodwork. From here I walked across to Begum Sikander Jehan’s gift to Bhopal, the 1860 Moti Masjid or Pearl Mosque, the old city’s most celebrated landmark. Built on the pattern of Delhi’s Jama Masjid in red standstone, its prayer hall in striking white marbles lends it the sobriquet ‘pearl’. Opposite the mosque stands the ‘royal ensemble’ an intriguing concept of buildings. Around two courtyards Sadar Manzil Maidan and Khirniwala Maidan were constructed a group of palaces over a hundred years, starting from the early 19th century. Every begum who came to power built her own palace, and thus each edifice became a statement of the ruler’s supremacy and its architecture was loaded with individual artistic overtones.

bhopal-benajir-palace.jpgOver time, twp squares evolved as distinct blocks. Khirniwala Maidan became the Diwan-i-Aam. Around it stands Shaukat Mahal, Hira Masjid, Zeenat Mahal and Sheesh Mahal, with Moti Mahal partitioning the two courtyards. The projecting turrets on the parapets give the quad a very European ambience. Experts attribute it to a distinct French influence, thanks to the 300 French families who lived here long time back.

An ornate arched gate leads to the second quad, the Diwan-i-khas, meant for private audiences; around it are the administration units- Sadar Manzil, Hamid Manzil and the Humayun Manzil, now they all are home to government offices. 

Beyond the city flowers into a network of by lanes and more edifices, most bearing the seal of Shahjehan Begum who took the reigns of Bhopal. She beautified her capital, erecting building at a rapid pace, including three palaces for herself Taj Mahal, ali Manzil and Benazir Mahal in the Shahjehanabad part of the city. Her significant contribution was the Taj-ul-Masjid, which is considered one of the biggest mosques in Asia.

Pari Bazaar is an exclusive women’s market and is full of bead works, an art Shahjehan Begum patronized.

  1. AAMIR HAYAT permalink


  2. i love bhopal the dream land of my life.devine.

  3. Nice summary. If you are still in Bhopal, visit the only working Hamam outside Turkey. This is located near the upper lake – Sheetaldas Ki Bagiya

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