So you may have read about what I think of Tourist Attractions
Bhopal has a short list of touristy places and a whole bunch of local secrets. On one particular day, I had a treat that few are privileged to have. A Buddhist monk, Guruji, who is a family friend of my hosts at Ratapani Range Retreat showed me some little-known places that I’d otherwise never have known.
That’s probably a major advantage of living in a local homestay/guesthouse as compared to a hotel, isn’t it? You get to meet some amazing people (*waves at Aunty Rajani*), eat some delicious food (hey Badri!) and have a local tour by someone who’s lived in the area for years!
Once you’re done visiting the Sanchi Stupa and Bhimbekta rock shelters, here are some interesting places to explore:
The Bodhi Tree
Way up on a little hillock a few kilometers from Sanchi grows a Peepal tree with a complicated history. It is common knowledge that Gautam Buddha attained enlightenment under a Peepul Tree (or Bodhi Tree) in Bodh Gaya, Bihar. A sapling from this that tree was carried to Sri Lanka by Emperor Ashok’s son and daughter more than 2000 years ago. Centuries later, a sapling from the tree grown in Sri Lanka was bought back and planted by Sri Lankan President Mahindra Rajapaksa in Sanchi to complete the cycle. Guards posted there never leave the tree unattended, day or night (what a job!)
Apart from the tree, there’s nothing else of importance in the area. So if you’re passing through, spend a few minutes admiring the idyllic scenery from up on the hill. You’ll see fields and forests for miles.
Satdhara was my favourite place in Bhopal, and to be honest, I don’t even know where exactly it is. Located an hour away or roughly 10-12 kms from Sanchi, this stunning place is located on the banks of a tree-covered hill, overlooking a river. To get there, you have to drive through HORRENDOUS roads that test your eyesight and driving skills.
Literally translating to “seven rivers,” the site has several small stupas and one large one that holds the relics of Buddha and his disciples. A little path leads from one stone stupa to another and the entire place is silent and calm thanks to the dearth of tourists. Two millennia ago, Satdhara must have been so far from civilization that it offered monks the perfect place to go to when they wanted to give up worldly pleasure.
I visited in the evening and had a beautiful experience of walking from one stupa to the other whole watching the setting sun. The brick walls around each stupa gleamed as brightly as if the monument had just been erected yesterday.
Couldn’t resist clicking a picture or twenty with a background like this
As the sun set and I made my way back to the car, the area took on an almost eerie personality. The golden grass appeared drier than ever and I couldn’t help but notice a lot of spooky dead trees everywhere. The best of all, was one particularly large tree that was green on one side and completely withered on the other. Fun!
To the off-beat traveler who takes the pain of reaching this treasured spot, you definitely won’t regret it.
Udayagiri Rock Shelters
The Udaygiri Rock Shelters are known to the best examples of classic Gupta art. Various caves cut into a sandstone hill dates back to before 600 AD. The most impressive one is the carving of Lord Vishnu in his boar avatar, rescuing the Goddess Prithvi by holding her up on one of his tusks. You won’t need to spend more than 15-20 minutes here if you aren’t a history lover. If you are, you can easily spend an hour wandering around at leisure.
All these intricate rock-cutting reminded me a lot about the architecture in Hampi
Ever discovered an unknown place that should be in a travel guide-book but isn’t? Or met someone who gave you some great inside tip while travelling? I want to know!!