Nature and Wildlife Beauty of Madhya Pradesh, India
Forests teeming with wildlife, the rolling Vindhyas and Satpuras, and numerous water bodies make this state a paradise unlike any. Journey into the heart of India to experience the stunning natural beauty of Madhya Pradesh.
A long, long time ago, sometime around 320 BCE, the great king Chandragupta Maurya united northern India under the Mauryan Empire which included all of modern-day Madhya Pradesh. The region subsequently passed through the hands of several local rulers who left their imprints on its architecture, art and culture, which received further patronage under the Guptas from 300 to 510 CE. The state as we know it came into being much later, in 1956. Today, the incredible political, cultural and religious history of Madhya Pradesh unfolds through the cities and towns that still lie steeped in heritage. But, far from the cities, lies another Madhya Pradesh—one that is wild, raw and untamed, where nature mesmerises, calms and excites you all at the same time.
Madhya Pradesh is home to nine National Parks, three biosphere reserves and several more nature reserves. Five of its National Parks are managed under the Project Tiger conservation programme, which together harbours 22 per cent of India’s tiger population, making the state one of the finest tiger spotting territories. This prime attraction aside, MP also houses an astounding variety of flora and fauna in its dense jungles that account for a third of the state’s geographical area.
Home to one of the largest populations of Royal Bengal tigers, Bandhavgarh National Park also houses 37 other species of mammals, 250 species of birds and 80 species of butterflies. Bandhavgarh, which dates back 2000 years, is also a place of mythological significance and legend has it that the ancient Bandhavgarh Fort was gifted by Lord Rama to his younger brother Lakshmana. Once known as Shikhargarh, it served as the private hunting ground of the maharajas of Rewa. An astonishing 39 man-made caves dot the Tala range of the park, with inscriptions and rock paintings dating back several millennia.
GETTING THERE By Air Jabalpur (190 km) and Khajuraho (237 km) are the closest airports. By Rail Umaria (35 km) on the South Eastern Railway and Katni (102 km) on the Central Railway are the most convenient railway stations, from where you can take a taxi to Bandhavgarh. By Road State and private buses ply from Katni, Umaria, Satna and Rewa.
STAY White Tiger Forest Lodge (www.mptourism.com), Samode Safari Lodge (www. samode.com), Taj Mahua Kothi Safari Lodge (www. tajsafaris.com), King’s Lodge (www.kingslodge.in).
DO Visit Bandhavgarh Fort, the Badi Gufa and the Three-Point Cave; take jeep and elephant safaris into the wild.
BEST TIME TO VISIT November to June. The park is closed from July to mid-October.
Considered to be one of the best-administered parks in Asia, the Kanha National Park spread across 940 sq km is also the largest in Madhya Pradesh. Besides a significant population of Royal Bengal tigers, Kanha is also home to over 350 species of birds and 22 species of animals such as the leopard, wolf, gaur, nilgai, chital, sambhar and more. Set against the backdrop of the rolling Satpura-Maikal hills, the park is lush with meadows and tall grass, and gurgling streams cutting through it. Kanha is globally acknowledged for saving the Barasingha from near extinction. This was also where the acclaimed zoologist George Schaller carried out his first scientific research on tigers.
GETTING THERE By Air The nearest airports are at Jabalpur (160 km) and Raipur (240 km). By Train Jabalpur and Bilaspur are the most convenient railheads. By Road Daily buses ply for Kisli and Mukki from Jabalpur and back.
STAY Kanha Safari Lodge, Baghira Log Huts, Tourist Hostel at Kisli (these can all be booked through www.mptourism. com), Kanha Earth Lodge (www.kanhaearthlodge.com), Taj Safari’s Banjaar Tola (www.tajsafaris.com).
DO Take a jeep safari to the buffer zone of Kisli, visit Bamni Dadar and Sunset Point, take a boat ride, go birdwatching along the abundant waterbodies in Kanha, visit the villages of the Gond and Baiga tribes.
BEST TIME TO VISIT November to June.
It may have become a part of Project Tiger only in 1992, but the majestic tigers and other wildlife of Pench National Park have been in the limelight from much before—albeit in slightly different avatars. After all, the adventures of everybody’s beloved Mowgli in Rudyard Kipling’s most famous work, The Jungle Book were all inspired and based on Pench. Located in the southern reaches of the Satpura range, the park is divided into two nearly equal parts by the Pench river. Beside good numbers of the tiger and the elusive leopard, it also shelters 285 varieties of birds, including four species of the now-endangered vulture. Pench Reserve also offers boat rides to its many islands.
GETTING THERE By Air Nagpur (110 km) and Jabalpur (215 km) are the nearest airports. By Train Nagpur and Jabalpur are also the nearest railheads. By Road Taxi services ply regularly from Nagpur and Jabalpur to Pench.
STAY Pench Jungle Camp (www. penchjunglecamp.com), Mahua Van (www.mahuaresorts.com), Tuli Tiger Corridor Pench (www.tulihotels.com).
DO Visit Sitaghat and Rajyakassa along the Pench river for scenic views and birdwatching; take jungle safaris.
BEST TIME TO VISIT Mid-October to June.
It isn’t just the wildlife that is famous here, but Panna is also known for its diamonds. Popularly known as the ‘Diamond City’, Panna has mines shining with diamonds sprinkled through the National Park! It also has a rich royal history dating back to the mid-17th century, when it became the capital of the Bundela kingdom. The Ken river passes through the Panna hills, as do numerous waterfalls that fall from dizzying heights. These water bodies are home to the gharial—a huge species of reptile that is found only in the Indian subcontinent and which can be spotted at the Ken Gharial Sanctuary within Panna National Park.
GETTING THERE By Air The nearest airport is Khajuraho (46 km). By Train The nearest railheads are Khajuraho and Satna (74 km). By Road Panna is well-connected by a road network and buses ply between Panna and Madla (19 km).
STAY Jungle Camp Madla Panna (www. mptourism.com), Taj Pashangarh (www.taj.tajhotels.com), The Sarai (www.saraiattoria.com), Ken River Lodge (www.kenriverlodge.com).
DO Visit the village and watch artisans craft attractive pottery; visit the Panna mines (the lone diamond mine in India), Pandav Falls, Mahamati Prannathji Mandir, Ajaygarh Fort and the National Museum.
BEST TIME TO VISIT November to June. The park is closed from July to September.
Relatively off the tourist circuit, Rewa is best known for its white tigers—it was home to Mohan, the world’s first white tiger that was a mutant variety of the Bengal tiger. Mohan was captured and successfully bred by Maharaja Martand Singh, thus becoming the ancestor of all white Bengal tigers in the world today. A white tiger safari is conducted for everyone in the Mukundpur forest of Rewa district. Rewa also houses Buddhist stupas at Deur Kothar and several waterfalls. The 35 feet-long reclining Bhairav Baba statue sculpted out of a single rock is another major attraction here.
GETTING THERE By Air Khajuraho (160 km) and Allahabad (130 km) is the closest. By Train Rewa railway station is connected to Satna that falls on the Howrah-Allahabad-Mumbai line. By Road Buses ply from Allahabad, Nagpur, Satna and Sidhi.
STAY Hotel Rewa Raj Vilas, owned by Maharaja Rewa is situated in the heart of the city (www. maharajrewa.com), Hotel Dee Landmark (www.hotellandmarkrewa. com), Hotel Rewa Residency (www. hotelrewaresidency.com).
DO Visit the Buddhist stupas at Deur Kothar that belong to the Mauryan Age, the Govindgarh Palace, the Baghela Museum and the Bhairav Baba reclining statue. Go on a white tiger safari in Mukundpur.
BEST TIME TO VISIT October to March.
Read also: 10 Reasons To Travel To Madhya Pradesh
Madhya Pradesh rests on a plateau that is streaked with the rolling hills of the Vindhyas and Satpuras. Six rivers flow through the state, their channels plunging into several roaring waterfalls. Then there are the numerous lakes that glint invitingly amongst vast expanses of serene greenery or through the skylines of its grand cities.
Once untouched, the island of Hanuwantiya by the bank of India’s largest man-made reservoir, the Indira Sagar Dam, is becoming much sought-after now. This is courtesy an event that has become one of the most important in the state’s tourism calendar—the Jal Mahotsav. India’s first and only water carnival, it offers a medley of exciting events and activities, from air paramotoring, hot air ballooning and parasailing to zorbing, cruise and banana boat rides. You can also go island camping, stay in a tent and wake up to a splendid sun rising above the expansive and gorgeous waters of the reservoir. At night, indulge in some star gazing or browse through the fares of the crafts bazaar. Folk, classical and pop music and dance routines will keep you entertained while you dig into your favourite pick from the range of traditional culinary delights at the food court.
GETTING THERE By Air Indore (150 km) is the closest. By Train Khandwa (50 km) is the nearest railhead. By Road Well-connected from Indore, Khandwa and Bhopal by road.
STAY A tourist complex with basic tents and cottages as well as Swiss tents has been created for the Jal Mahotsav. A 2 nights/3 days package in a premium AC tent will cost approximately `15,000 per person (www.jalmahotsav.com).
DO Attend the Jal Mahotsav; this year it will be held from October 15 to January 2. Besides the activities during the carnival, you can also choose to take a houseboat and visit the adjoining villages, where the houses have artistically painted walls. Trekking enthusiasts can opt for a half-day tour of Boriyamal Island.
Popularly known as ‘Satpura ki Rani’ (Queen of Satpura), Pachmarhi was discovered by Captain James Forsyth in 1857. Today, it is the most popular hill station in the state— with misty blue hills, dense sal forests, meandering paths and ravines, labyrinthine red sandstone gorges and gushing waterfalls, the highest among them being the Rajat Pratap that has a single drop of 351 feet. According to legend, the Pandava brothers had visited Pachmarhi during their exile. The area is also dotted with many ancient caves of the Buddhist era and it is an archaeological treasure trove with rich rock art dating back to 500-800 CE.
GETTING THERE By Air Bhopal (200 km) is the nearest. By Train Pipariya (57 km), on the Mumbai-Howrah mainline via Allahabad, is the closest railhead. By Road Buses ply regularly from Bhopal, Nagpur and other cities.
STAY MPSTDC operates nine properties in Pachmarhi to suit all pockets (www.mptourism.com).
DO Take nature walks, visit the many caves, buy genuine rudraksha at Jatashankar.
Imagine cruising down the graceful Narmada river on a moonlit night, the moonlight bouncing off the stark whites of the towering marble rocks that border the river on either side. During the day, the rocks seem to magically change shape as you sail along the serene river. And just when you think the calm is all-pervading, the Narmada descends into the massive, spectacular Dhuandhar Falls. Bhedaghat with its unique natural splendour is awe-inspiring! It is also a good place to visit for archaeology enthusiasts, as eggshells of dinosaurs have been found at a number of ghats here.
GETTING THERE By Air Jabalpur, just 23 km away, is the nearest airport. By Train Jabalpur is also the nearest railhead. By Road Buses, tempos and taxis ply regularly between Jabalpur and Bhedaghat.
STAY Motel Marble Rocks run by MPTDC is a pocket-friendly option with rooms and tented accommodation. Hotel River View (hotel-river-view-jabalpur.hotelsgds.com/) is another good option.
DO Take a boat ride on the Narmada and cruise between the marble rocks, visit the Dhuandhar Falls and the 10th-century Chausath Yogini Temple.
4# Tawa Madhai
Set amidst lush greenery, the Tawa Dam and Reservoir offers a scenic escape from state capital Bhopal and from busy Pachmarhi. An hour-long cruise on the lake gives you an enchanting view of the dreamy little islands that dot the reservoir and the panoramic hills of the Satpura range that run alongside. The quaint village of Madhai is located along the backwaters of the Tawa Dam, right at the entrance of the dense, exquisite Satpura Forest and is an integral part of the Satpura Biosphere Project. Time appears to stand still here as you feast your eyes on the sprawling meadows, unending backwaters and the raw wilderness of Madhai.
GETTING THERE By Air Bhopal (120 km) and Jabalpur (270 km) are the closest airports. By Train Itarsi railway station is 35 km away from Tawa Dam and is well connected to all major cities. By Road Regular bus and taxi services are available from Bhopal to Tawa Madhai.
STAY Denwa Backwater Escape is a premium retreat in Madhai (www. denwabackwaterescape.com)
DO Go on a cruise of the Tawa lake or the backwaters or simply lie back and relax.
Let’s wrap up Nature and Wildlife Beauty of Madhya Pradesh, India article. Read also Top 10 Emerging Destinations Of India
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— Sunil Nain