Ever since the pandemic hit us, lesser-explored places have been on the top of every mindful traveller. The way things are going right now, travelling to tourist hotspots is not a great idea. But that should not keep you from travelling and exploring. You can always plan a soulful journey to lesser-explored destinations. If you are looking for offbeat experiences, these destinations in Madhya Pradesh are worth the run. By Karan Kaushik
8 lesser-explored places in Madhya Pradesh that deserve to be on your bucket list
The charming town that you saw in the recently released Netflix series Yeh Kaali Kaali Ankhein, is Omkareshwar in Madhya Pradesh. Nestled at the confluence of the Narmada and Kaveri rivers, Omkareshwar is filled with spiritual fervour and peaceful vibes. One of the 12 Jyotirlingas, the town derives its name from Omkara, one of the names that Lord Shiva is known by. Omkareshwar is at a short distance of 78 km from Indore and makes for a great weekend trip with your loved ones.
The picturesque landscape of Omkareshwar features age-old temples, gurgling streams and a hanging bridge over the Narmada River. Home to as many as 68 teerthas of religious importance, Omkareshwar has 108 shivalingas residing in its many temples. The shayan aarti or the evening aarti is a sight to behold. It takes place at 9:00 pm every night in the main temple of Omkareshwar. A prime attraction of the temple is the statue of a five-faced Lord Ganesha. Another must-visit temple is the Mamleshwar Temple, patronised by Maharani Ahilyabai Holkar. The temple walls boast of religious inscriptions, which date to 1063 AD.
Popularly known as the Teerthraj or king of pilgrimages, Amarkantak is truly blessed with a gorgeous, forested landscape. It is in Amarkantak that the Vindhya and Satpura Ranges meet. Thanks to the rich variety of medicinal plants that are nurtured in its forests, Amarkantak is also an important eco-tourism destination. It is believed that revered mystic poet Saint Kabir mediated in Amarkantak. That spot is known as Kabir Chabutra today. Amarkantak is also from where the Narmada, one of the sacred rivers in India, emerges from. The Sone and Johila rivers too.
The Narmada Udgam Temple here is visited by devotees throughout the year. The visit is usually clubbed with other famous destinations like Narmada Kund and Sonemuda, the rising point of river Sone. If waterfalls attract you, head out to the Dugdhara falls and Kapildhara falls. Dotted with lush mango orchards, the city is said to have derived its name from the Sanskrit word Amrakoot. Must-visit temples in Amarkantak belong to the Kalachuri period. These include Machhendranath, Pataleshwar, Kailash Narayan, and Shri Yantra Mandir. Other attractions include Mritunjay Ashram and Bhrigu Kamandal.
One of the most fascinating places in India, Bhimbetka in Madhya Pradesh boasts of ancient caves and rock shelters, which feature medieval paintings. As many as 760 rock shelters form Bhimbetkas one-of-its-kind landscape. These rock shelters are embellished with over 500 tastefully done paintings. One of the standout paintings is that of a giant red bison attacking a man. But the catch here is, that the painting is only visible when the sun is at a certain position.
This is what intrigues visitors and geology buffs, who come to Bhimbetka. Finding the paintings and then appreciating their aesthetic value is an enriching experience. The large black boulders of Bhimbetka hide the most stunning paintings, some of which are thousands of years old. The name Bhimbetka stands for the sitting place of Bhima, one of the Pandavas from the epic Mahabharata. Bhimbetka is located 25 km from Bhojpur. One of the prime attractions in Bhimbetka is the large Shivalinga at the Shiva temple.
A few places in India feature a terrain as unusual and as surreal as Bhedaghat’s. The place is dotted with large marble rocks that spring out from the scenic Narmada rive. These sky-kissing white rocks offer an incredible boating experience in the river. There’s a ropeway ride too, which allows you to enjoy the picture-perfect views of Bhedaghat. Must-see attractions here include the Dhundhar Falls, named after their smoky appearance.
For a spiritual experience, visit the 10th-century Chaunsath Yogini Temple, which is simply spectacular. A boat ride through the Bandar Kund or Monkey Pond will leave you thrilled. It is said that the marble rocks come so close to each other at some points that monkeys could easily jump from one rock to the other. Bhedaghat is also rewarding for history and palaeontology buffs. It is one of the rare places in India, where eggs shells of dinosaurs have been found.
Burhanpur, Madhya Pradesh will leave you in awe with its magnificent mosques, palaces and tombs, which stand as a testament to the small town’s rich cultural heritage. The paintings at the Shahi Qila or the royal palace here, are believed to have inspired the artwork at the Taj Mahal.
It is also said that Burhanpur was the first choice of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan to build the Taj Mahal. But since it was difficult to transport marble from Rajasthan to Burhanpur, Agra stole Burhanpur’s place in history. The town was once a thriving Mughal city, which was known as the Gateway to the Deccan. Must-visit places here include the Jama Masjid, the royal bath of Begum Mumtaz Mahal, and the historical Asirgarh Fort.
Famous across the country for its magnificent temples, Bateshwar is a must-visit for history and architecture aficionados. A cluster of 200 big and small sandstone temples adorn Bateshwar’s surreal landscape. Dating back to the 8th and 10th century AD, the temples are sprawled over an area of 25 acres. The temples have been constructed on slanted hills around the Padavali region.
The forests that surround these temples are great for birdwatchers. The Bateshwar temples stand as fine specimens of the Gupta and Gurjara Pratihara schools of architecture. You may club your visit to Bateshwar with Mitawali and Padavali, also known for their built heritage. All these three towns are in the Morena district and enjoy easy connectivity with Gwalior.
View this post on Instagram
Located on the way from Orchha to Khajuraho, Dhubela serves as a nice pitstop to soak in nature’s beauty and appreciate the history of Bundelkhand. Dhubela was ruled by Maharaka Chhatrasal. The Maharaja Chhatrasal palace here serves as a museum. Dhubela is also known as the town of Mastani, a great warrior and the second wife of Bajirao Peshwa. Ruins of her palace still stand near the Dhubela Museum.
Dhubela houses a nice restaurant cum recreation centre, set up by Madhya Pradesh Tourism. From here, you can take a walk to the museum, while marvelling at the stunning Dhubela Lake. At the museum, you will come across a great range of exhibits. The museum has eight galleries, which showcase everything from copper plates to sculptures to weapons to paintings.
View this post on Instagram
This lush valley will leave you smitten by its charm. Located in the Chhindwara district, Patalkot is encompassed by thick forests and a landscape dominated by granite and sandstone rocks. Aerial views of the valley suggest that it resembles a horseshoe in shape. When here, start with unwinding in nature’s lap at the Patalkot-Tamia valley. If adventure interests you, visit in October when the town hosts the Satpura Adventure Sports Festival. Expect paragliding, rock climbing, birding, and a gamut of adventure activities. Patalkot also offers great opportunities to camp, hike and trek. During these activities, you can also explore stunning natural spots like the Zingaria Waterfall.
Take the Tamia-Patalkot Darshan, organised by Motel Tamia and Tribescape. The tour is aimed at introducing tourists to the lifestyle of the Gond and Bharias tribes that inhabit the region. You also get to savour tribal meals cooked by tribals from fresh organic produce. Patalkot is blessed with an incredible variety of medicinal herbs. Art lovers must visit the homes of Chhind artists, who make beautiful wood and bamboo artefacts. Chhind artefacts are made from the leaves of wild dates and make for nice souvenirs.