Bhopal is the capital city of the state of Madhya Pradesh, which is the largest state in India. Bhopal is also referred to as the City of Lakes because of the two beautiful lakes that are situated in the center of the city. Apart from its natural beauty, Bhopal is also famous for its mosques. The Taj-ul-Masjid in Bhopal is the largest mosque of India. Bhopal is also known, sadly, for the largest industrial disaster or the Gas Tragedy, which struck it in 1984.
Bhopal is located in the northwestern part of the state of Madhya Pradesh, in the central region of India. It lies along the slopes of a sandstone ridge, which is a part of the Malwa plateau. There are two man-made lakes at the center of Bhopal city. The weather in Bhopal during summers (April-June) is quite hot, but winters (November-February) are cool and pleasant. It experiences southwestern monsoon rains in July-September. It is 744 km south of Delhi and 779 Km northwest of Mumbai (Bombay).
The history of Bhopal dates back to the 11th century AD, when it was built by the legendary King Bhoja. The region witnessed a power struggle between local rulers and the Mughals, with the latter taking over. The decline of the Mughal Empire with the death of Aurangzeb (AD 1707) led to political turmoil in this region. The small princely state of Bhopal and the present-day city was founded by an Afghan soldier Dost Mohammad in 1723. It was the second largest Muslim state during the rise of British power in India. It aligned itself with the British, in their fight against the Marathas, in 1817. At the time of India's independence in 1947, Bhopal remained a separate state, until 1949, when it acceded to India.
A three-day Ijtima (religious congregation) is held in the precincts of the Taj-ul-Masjid of Bhopal annually. It draws many Muslim pilgrims from all parts of India.
Though Bhopal can be visited throughout the year, it is advisable to avoid the summer season.
Bhopal has a number of tourist attractions. There are a number of important mosques, but the most revered is the Taj-ul-Masjid, which is the largest mosque in India. The Jama Masjid and the Moti Masjid of Bhopal are other important mosques built by the local Begums in the 19th century. Shaukat Mahal and Sadar Manzil, located in the chowk area, in the heart of the old walled city, are other important tourist attractions. While Shaukat Mahal is a strange mixture of Indo-Islamic and European style of architecture, Sadar Manzil is a hall used by the local rulers for public audience. Bhopal is famous for Bharat Bhavan, a marvel of modern architecture and a museum of tribal and contemporary art forms and breeding ground for traditional dance, music and drama. The Tribal Habitat or Manav Sangrahalaya (the Museum of Man), located on Shamala hills of Bhopal, is an open-air museum depicting tribal dwellings, from all parts of India. The tranquil Upper Lake and the Lower Lake are important tourist spots with boating and sailing facilities. The Government Archeological Museum near the Lower Lake, the chowk at the heart of the old city, Van Vihar local safari park near the Upper Lake, and the Aquarium are other places worth visiting within the city limits. The Lakshmi Narayan Temple (or the Birla Mandir) and the adjacent local museum on the Arera hills are other sites to be visited.
Bhopal has a number of historical places around it. Islamnagar, 11 km from Bhopal, is famous for its buildings made by Dost Mohammed. Twenty-eight kilometer southeast of Bhopal is the ancient city of Bhojpur. Forty-five kilometers south of Bhopal lay the famous Bhimbetka caves known for their prehistoric paintings. Neori (6 km), Ashapuri (6 km) and Chiklod (45 km) are historic spots, while Hathaikheda (10 km) and Samardha (26 km) should be visited for angling and picnics, respectively. Sanchi, located 46 km northeast of Bhopal, is world famous for its Buddhist monuments including the great Sanchi Stupa.