Visiting Bophal, the city surprisingly has its charms and almost makes forget the terrible headlines it is known for: the world’s worst industrial disaster in 1984. In Bhopals vicinity, there are two of India’s fantastic cultural world heritage sites, Sanchi and Bhimbetka.
Most of us know the name of the Indian city Bhopal for the gas leak, which killed thousands of people and injured hundred thousands through gas exposure. It has become the synonym for man made industrial disasters, much like Tchernobyl for nuclear melt downs.
However, the city bounced back after more than three decades. These days on a visit to Bhopal, if you don’t look for it, you won’t notice much of the disaster anymore.
Located between two lakes, the city and its surroundings have a lot to offer for visitors. To name just a few: the old town with some of the best street food to enjoy, the lakes with boat rides and beautiful sunsets, the cultural center „Bharat Bhavan“ located on the lake shore with interesting programs and exhibitions for art lovers.
One of the great marvels of Buddhist temple architecture is located just an hour’s drive away from the city: the Great Sanchi Stupa. Originally commissioned by emperor Ashoka, around 300 BCE, the central stupa is surrounded by a large complex and especially by some of the finest stone carvings of that time, depicting historical events around Buddhas life as well as the war over his relics – believed to be placed in the stupa. For Buddhists worldwide, it thus is an important pilgrimage site.
The four ornamented gateways of the central stupa are breathtaking for their extraordinary craftsmanship, at the same time for their historical value. It’s highly recommended to follow a guide, translating for you the storylines of the intricate stone carvings.
On the way back to Bhopal be sure to stop at the another site – the Stone Age rock caves of Bhimbetka, some of the first human settlements on the Indian subcontinent. Some of these more than 750 caves display paintings, which are believed to be more 10’000 years old. They depict scenes of the life of hunter-gatherers as well as later ones from farmers. The early rock art gives evidence of community life at that time, like dancing and drinking as well as of religious rituals.