A town on the banks of the River Narmada, Maheshwar has had spiritual significance since the time of the Mahabharata and Ramayana, as it is believed to be what was then called Mahishmati. Bursting with folklore, history and culture, its myths and tales are fascinating to listen to. The streets of Maheshwar are lined with colourful wooden houses with hanging balconies, a contrast to the old temple architecture.
This town, which sometimes feels like a miniature Varanasi, attracts sadhus, pilgrims and tourists to its ghats and temples, rich in tales dating back to the holiest era of Hinduism. The Ahilya Bai Fort, inside which the Holkar queen built a palace, is popular with visitors for the archaeological museum and the life-sized statue of Rani Ahilya Bai. It is also where you can find Maheshwari saris and fabric with their unique reversible borders.
The ancient city of Ujjain is steeped in history dating back over 5,000 years, and was once the capital of a big empire. It is home to one of the WJyotirlingas, and it is believed that the city has never faced destruction because Mahakal, the God of Destruction, resides here.
Ram Ghat is the most popular of Ujjain’s riverside ghats; it is where Lord Ram is believed to have performed his father’s last rites. The ghats are ethereal at dawn and dusk, with cymbals reverberating and candles floating on the waters of the River Shipra. Also visit ved Shala, a complex observatory which has five structures used to track and observe celestial bodies and time. According to the Puranas, of the seven cities that can provide salvation, Avantika (as Ujjain is also referred to) is considered the most beneficial to visit.
Embellished with Afghan architecture amid grounds dotted with baobab trees that boast African descent, the majestic palaces and gateways of Mandu are quite out of the fables your grandparents told you.
Twelve darwazas wall the city – take a walk and delve into the history and era of kings. A 10th-century fortress retreat, Mandu has what is considered the biggest fort in India. A memorial to the love between Rani Roopmati and Sultan Baz Bahadur, Roopmati’s Pavilion, perched on the edge of the plateau, overlooking the plain below is the most beautiful of them all. A ship made of stone and mortar, Jahaz Mahal looks as though it is about to set sail, paying witness to the golden age of Mandu as it floats over the lake. The Jami Masjid was inspired by the Great Mosque of Damascus and Hoshang Shah’s Tomb, which went on to inspire the Taj Mahal, and is India’s first marble monument. Take a bicycle tour and explore the history of regal invasions, with tombs, forts, palaces and monuments that stand tribute to a bygone era.
With its lively bazaars and cosmopolitan culture, Indore is a commercial dynamo.
The indo-Gothic Gandhi Hall, earlier known as the King Edward Hall, is made of Seoni stones, and its domes are impressive, it hosts several exhibitions through the year and also has a temple, library and children’s park.
One of the most stunning buildings is the threestoreyed Lai Baag Palace, on the outskirts of the town on the banks of the River Khan, which was built by Maharaja Shivaji Rao Holkar.
The central Museum showcases the history of the Holkar Dynasty, and houses a rare and admirable collection of Parmer scriptures, coins, armours and artifacts. A fine example of the grandeur of the Holkar Dynasty’s architecture, the Holkar Palace, or Rajwada, is two centuries old, and features imperial gardens, fountains and an artificial waterfall.
The town of Burhanpur, on the north bank of the River Tapti, has many significant monuments like Biwi ki Masjid, Badshahi Qila, Khooni Bhandar,
Raja ki Chhatri and the Jami Masjid. Raja ki Chhatri was constructed under Emperor Aurangzeb in memory of Raja Jai Singh, the then- commander of the Mughal force in the Deccan.
Burhanpur has a major tribal population that includes the Gond, Pardhan and Korku peoples to name a few. It hosts several cultural festivals, of which the Gotmat Mela is an exquisite and renowned example.