Sunday, January 27, 2013

Dakshinayana Part Four – Bhopal: The city of lakes

Bhopal City - A view from lake side
Alarm from mobile phone started ringing. It was four thirty in the morning; night was almost over. After sitting in the waiting room for one more hour, I left. Spending the night at railway station, that too, on a cold December night was not a good idea. Continuous flows of cold air coming from outside hardly let me sleep. Now the question is how to reach Sanchi? After checking with a news paper vendor, in the platform, I bought a general ticket to Sanchi in Bhopal – Bilaspur express.

Now the problem is with time, it was just 6.00 in the morning. But my train was at 8.05am. I roamed around the platform and spend another one and half hours there. Finally the train came, and I got my favourite side lower. Express was in the name only; train was very slow. Compared to this one, my old sampark kranti was better.

Read about my Sanchi trip here - Dakshinayana Part Three – Sanchi

Bus coming from Sanchi ended her trip in a congested bus stand. After buying a packet of biscuit, I went out through a small exit on a side. Lot of buses were coming and leaving, but nothing going to New Market area. One police personal was standing close to his bike; a group of young men with some papers in hand formed a half circle in his front. I also went there to see what is happening – well, he was fining a driver for violating the rules.

Irony is that, the same vehicle was still lying in a side but fully in the road creating much more traffic problem. There were three buses and other vehicles behind it. All were hitting their own horns... He informed me that, for going to Van Vihar Park, I have to cross the road and catch a bus to Hamidia.

Some monuments
I got a private bus – already full, but the conductor was waiting for some more people. In every stop he was arguing with travellers to get money. The problem for him was, unlike me they are locals and know the bus charge; this guy was telling whatever number first came to his mind. In fact he was not telling, he was ordering.

That, journey ended somewhere close to Hamidia. I walked ideally for some time, and reached in front of the imposing building of Gandhi Medical College (GMC) located at Fatehgarh, Royal Market. Famous Tajul Masjid and Motia Talab are not very far. From GMC, I could get a shared auto to reach Kamala Park, and from there to Van Vihar.

For getting a shared auto I have to cross the road, and that was a big problem. Here drivers hardly cared for rules or other vehicles. If some vehicle was coming from the side road, they won’t stop on reaching the main road. It was total mess. Interestingly, I couldn’t see any zebra lines in these places (may be its worn out). I walked many kilometres through the main roads on foot – still I didn’t see those lines.
Kamala Park

Kamala Park is a small stretch of land located in between upper and lower lake. There was an old building, which still remembers us the reign of Paramars, in one corner. From here, through Kamala Nehru road, I started walking towards Van Vihar National Park. It took some time for me to reach there. One of the interesting items on the way was moving toilets, painted in yellow colour with four doors on a road side. It was the first time I was a seeing a mobile toilet.

Before going inside the national park, let’s take a look at the history of this city.

History of Bhopal

Bhopal is believed to be the 11th century city Bhojpal founded by Raja Bhoj of Paramara dynasty. However, the credit for establishing the present city goes to an Afghan soldier Dost Mohammed (1708 AD). It was Nawab Faiz Muhammed Khan, who moved the capital from Islamnagar to Bhopal. Hyderabad Nizam also had considerable influence in this region. State also paid tribute to Marathas; Battle of Bhopal in which Marathas defeated the Mughals in 1737 AD also took place not very far.

Later this state became a British protectorate.  Another interesting fact about Bhopal is, between 1819 and 1926 this state was ruled by four women, Begums, starting with Qudsia Begum in 1819. She took over the throne after the assassination of her husband. Bhopal was one of the last states to sign the 'Instrument of Accession' with Union of India’.

Without mentioning about Bhopal gas tragedy, her history may not be complete. It was here in Bhopal on the night of 3/4th December 1984, when rest of the nation was in deep sleep, the city woke up to the biggest industrial disaster in the history of humanity. Toxic gases leaked from Union Carbide plant killed thousands and left many more thousands to suffer the after effects.

Today, many premier institutions like ISRO's Master Control Facility, CSIR, AIIMS Bhopal, National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), Advanced Materials and Processes Research Institute, Maulana Azad National Institute of Technology, Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research, Indian Institute of Forest Management, School of Planning and Architecture, Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited, National Law Institute University etc are also located in this city.

To Vanvihar national park

Covering 4.45 square kilometres of area in the city, facing Upper Lake in one end, this is popular tourist destination in the capital. By walk it took a long time to reach here from Kamala Park, at some point I wondered, why I decided to walk in the first place. I was very much hungry, and there were no shortage of shops selling snacks - ice creams, momos, samosas etc.

Seeing the edge of city line on other side, from lake view road was indeed a festival for eyes. By the way this entire area is located on the shores of Upper Lake; lake view road (known as Dr. Salim Ali road inside the park) separates the park and lake.

A lot of couple were sitting here and there; others were enjoying their in boating.

Manav Sangrahalaya was the first in line. At first, I thought it was Van Vihar, so I eagerly went in only to realize the mistake later. I didn’t find anything interesting there, a large portion of land was simply wasted. Still I walked further and reached sangrahalaya. A museum is located on one side. Inside, some rooms are decorated with old photos of the city and rulers. It’s like the modern history of Bhopal suddenly got a life in that room. But time was very much on demand, I have to leave Bhopal my night and I am yet to enter Van Vihar. Leaving everything else I walked towards Vanvihar.

At Van Vihar National Park

After buying the tickets I entered the park. Here you can travel with your own vehicle after buying ticket for both. For people on foot and bicycles charge was 20 INR. One auto driver standing close to me, advised me use his auto for sightseeing. I simply told him - I like to walk. He replied - you can’t its 10kms!!! I smiled and went in. That guy turned back, may be thinking about my foolishness about the idea of walking the entire distance.

Here security guards and Police were very friendly, I enquired about the distance with the first one I saw – “5 kilometres to reach the other gate”.

It’s better to have this type of atmosphere in the middle of a crowded city. But as a park Vanvihar didn’t excite me. Contrary to my expectations, she offered less space than I imagined to many seasoned hunters and princes of wild life. But, on the other side you can see a wonderful lake, alive with the sound of birds moving in and out of trees. Some of them, fluttering their wings, were taking some minutes out to kiss the face of setting sun. On the other side of the park, in equal intervals you can see the sign boards announcing the presence of tiger, leopard, hyena etc.

Views from  Van Vihar National Park 
Views from  Van Vihar National Park
Views from  Van Vihar National Park
Views from  Van Vihar National Park
Views from  Van Vihar National Park
Views from  Van Vihar National Park
Views from  Van Vihar National Park

Back to Railway Station

By the time I reached the gate on other end, sun almost set. After crossing the gate, I took an auto to reach the main road. From there a shared auto to reach New Market. I got down at and got in another bus to reach station. Conductor told me that, bus will go close to railway station. Around seven, he informed me that, “you can get down here, station is very close. Walk straight and take a right turn”.
Station was not as close as he mentioned, but that presented me a good chance to see the city. I walked slowly, looking here and there, traffic was not such a mess in that night – but yet to locate any zebra lines.

Finally, I am in station, but it was too early for my Ujjain train. After roaming around the railway station, I finally settled in to the waiting room. Bath room was empty, so went for taking a bath as well - December’s winter made the water very cold. After coming out, I again settled in to my previous aluminium coloured chair. Here all the chairs are a set of three; I was sitting on the end of one group. In the next group of three, one leg was 3-4 inch short. One mid-aged lady was sitting on one of them. Her husband was sitting in the next group of three. In regular intervals she used to give some advices to her husband. He heard everything and finally for some reasons went outside.
One guy wearing blue jeans and sweater was sitting close to her; he was pushing a bag to one side with his legs (this bag belongs to his friend). She gave some advises to him as well.

There was more than enough time, so again I ventured out - nearby hotels, some sweets from one, dosa from another etc. After spending 40-45 minutes there – Back to station.

When I came back to the sleeper class waiting room, another person was sitting close to our previous lady. After some minutes he made some moves, and that group of three chairs slightly went backwards. She made some angry sounds, after some time he again made some more moves. It again went backwards, but before she could make any more sounds he left that chair and sat next to me.

This guy was a native of Gujrat. Within a short period of time, we started talking. He was a sales executive for some company which manufactures automobile parts. He was in Bhopal as part of his business and in the last leg of his tour going to Indore. In fact, we both were waiting for the same train. With a slight encouragement he started telling about Gujarat and her tourist attractions.

Soon, he came back to Bhopal, his main problem with the city was – offices are opening very late. This topic consumed another 20 minutes – How he is losing his precious time, how customers are forced to wait etc... I don’t know whether, offices and business indeed start their day very late or not. Suddenly another guy joined. This person is from UP- a town located close to Orchha. When he came to know that, I am from Kerala, he suddenly asked about my opinion about Calicut NIT. With a little information about that institute, I was not in a position to tell anything.

In the end, it was the time to say good bye to Bhopal.


For reading rest of the articles please visit,

Dakshinayana Part One – An Introduction
Dakshinayana Part Two – Bangalore to Bhopal
Dakshinayana Part Three – Sanchi
Dakshinayana Part Four – Bhopal: The city of lakes
Dakshinayana Part Five: Ujjain – The Holy City, hearing the sounds of forefathers
Dakshinayana Part Six: Indore – Trade hub of Central India
Dakshinayana Part Seven – Jabalpur: Kalchuris, Gonds and Narmada
Dakshinayana Part Eight – Kanha National Park and Mandla
Dakshinayana Part Nine – Chhattisgarh and Raipur
Dakshinayana Part Ten: Nagpur – The Orange City
Dakshinayana Part Eleven – Sevagram: Walking with Gandhi
Dakshinayana Part Twelve – Aurangabad: The City of Gates
Dakshinayana Part Thirteen – Ellora Memories
Dakshinayana Part Fourteen – U shaped Ajanta
Dakshinayana Part Fifteen – Pune: The Maratha heartland

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