Hindustan Ka Dil Dekho

What a start to the New Year! The recent tiger census reveals that India’s tiger count has gone up by more than 30 percent in the past four years. The census put numbers at 2226, up from 1706 in 2010 when the last such tiger counting exercise was undertaken. India’s heart, Madhya Pradesh, is aflutter over the greatest news that the state’s tiger population is on the rise. Proudly referred as India’s ‘Tiger State’, Madhya Pradesh boasts some of the finest wildlife reserves in the country. These forests are home to over 300 Royal Bengal tigers, a sixth of the world’s population of this endangered animal.

The very existence of Bandhavgarh National Park is testimony to the fact that the tigers too love it here along with other exotic species of animals and birds! For anyone who has ever read The Jungle Book, a trip to Pench National Park is not only a visit to a fabulous jungle, but also a trip down memory lane. The jungles of Madhya Pradesh, and more particularly the forests of Pench, are the original setting and the inspiration for the adventures of Mowgli, Bagheera, Baloo and all the cast of Kipling’s classic -The Jungle Book, which was written well over 100 years ago. Apart from Bandhavgarh, Kanha & Pench, there are many other forests in MP and the inhabitants of these deep woodlands and forests are the stately ‘gaur’ (Indian bison), wild dogs (‘dhole’), deer and antelopes like the sambar, chinkara, cheetal (spotted deer) and chousingha (four horned antelope).

Madhya Pradesh is literally the 'heart' of India. A heart filled with immense beauty and life. A tour of Madhya Pradesh showcases many monuments, exquisitely carved temples, forts and palaces that dot the state. Madhya Pradesh is an eye-opener for the tourists to the rich folk culture and tribal traditions. This culture finds its expression in the many exuberant and lively festivities conducted by its people. It encourages the visitor to experience first-hand a slice of ancient Indian history. The Sanchi Stupa was built by the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka, then a governor of Ujjain. This heart of India has a number of important pilgrimage centers, a couple of them being Ujjain and Omkareshwar, which have special significance since the shrines possessing two of the twelve Jyotirlingas are here. However, the mystique of Madhya Pradesh is extended further with the grandeur and historic art depicted in the magnificent temples of Khajuraho, which present a passionate mix of religion and erotica. These temples are one of the three UNESCO World Heritage sites of Madhya Pradesh. The other two being the Sanchi Stupa & the Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka.

Madhya Pradesh is packed with numerous places of interest. Famous for its medieval hilltop fort, and described by Mughal emperor Babur as 'the pearl amongst fortresses in India', Gwalior makes an interesting stop en route to some of the better-known destinations in this part of India. The city also houses the elaborate Jai Vilas Palace, the historic seat of the Scindias, one of the country’s most revered families. The Jai Vilas Palace houses a museum within its walls. The museum occupies some 35 rooms of the opulent Palace, built by Maharaja Jayajirao in 1874 using prisoners from the fort. The convicts were rewarded with the 12-year job of weaving the hall carpet, one of the largest in Asia. Supposedly, eight elephants were suspended from the durbar (royal court) hall ceiling to check it could cope with two 12.5m-high, 3.5-tonne chandeliers with 250 lightbulbs, said to be the largest pair in the world.

You could also visit the famous city of Mandu. Sometimes referred to as the Hampi of central India because of its treasure trove of ruins, Mandu is one of the top tourist places in MP, yet is still delightfully off the beaten path. This abandoned city from the Mughal era is spread over a 2,000 feet high hilltop, and surrounded by a 45 kilometer stretch of wall. Its spectacular main entrance, located to the north, faces Delhi and is called Dilli Darwaza.

MP’s famous hill station, Pachmarhi, allures hordes of tourists every year. Time stands still at this evergreen plateau in the Mahadeo Hills of Madhya Pradesh. Pachmarhi’s pristine beauty lies in its innocence and its unspoilt splendour. The area is a visual treat - red sandstone cliffs and deep gorges cleave the valleys; verdant forests and flower-filled vales are drenched by numerous streams and brooks. The hills that surround Pachmarhi are washed in green. Waterfalls cascade down every conceivable rock face and create rippled pools of clear water.

Then there’s Jabalpur. This beautiful city is world famous for its marble rocks & waterfall at Bhedaghat. The city is not only an important historical place, but it is also famous for the Marble Rocks gorge on Narmada River. The Kareena Kapoor song ‘Raat ka nashi abhi’ from the movie ‘Ashoka’ was shot here.

The state of Madhya Pradesh is really fascinating. With spectacular low mountain ranges and ravines, meandering rivers and waterfalls, forts and fortresses, palaces and hunting lodges, ruined cities and temple towns and miles and miles of dense forests, the heart of India is just waiting to be explored with an open invitation ‘Hindustan Ka Dil Dekho!’ When are you visiting ?

Team Veena World