Bhopal – the capital city of Madhya Pradesh provokes a strong link to its past which is coloured with the rise and fall of one of the greatest civilisations – the beautiful architectural heritage of ancient and colonial times to the strength the city showed during the tragic industrial disaster of 1984. It is home to magnificent heritage structures that reflect the grand architecture of its Delhi counterpart. and a large number of educational institutes as well. Bhopal was founded by King Bhoja although little archaeological evidence exists to support it. Subsequently it was ruled by the first woman ruler – Qudsia Begum. Its Mughal roots and colonial influences are evident in its architecture as well. One can feel the different time warps from different eras morphing together to form a unique eclectic city.

Here is a list of Architectural masterpieces in and around Bhopal:

1. Bharat Bhavan

Architect: Charles Correa
Year: 1982
Style: Fusion of Modern and European Architecture
Area: 11000 m2
Concept: Ritualistic Pathway

This building is one of the few successful efforts to build a cultural and heritage centre all over India by the government of India. The site has a contour sloping down towards a lake. The building complex houses an amphitheatre, art galleries, tribal museum, a library of local poetry and a artist studio. The flow of the premises is such that a visitor is to experience the natural contour of the land by travelling across coiling pathways, courtyards to anamphitheatre which offers a scenic view of a lake symbolising the Ghats of Varanasi.

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2. Sanchi Stupa

Location: Sanchi Town, 46 Kms away from Bhopal
Time Period: 3rd Century BCE
Architecture Style: Mauryan Architecture
Constructed by: Mauryan Ruler Ashoka

The Sanchi Stupa is one of the first Indian prototypes of Buddhist architecture which inspired other Pagodas and Stupas to follow a similar style. The Stupa is a sacred burial mound which represents the Buddha’s remains. It consists of three main aspects. The anda (hemispherical mound) which protects and houses the remains. The harmika (square railing) which demarcates the mound as a sacred burial ground. The chattra (A pillar supporting three umbrella disks) which represents the Triantha (Dharma, Buddha and Sangha) and provided a circumambulatory path. The Sanchi Stupa has two circumambulatory paths at different levels. The core of the stupa is made of burnt bricks and coated with a thick layer of plaster on the exterior façade.

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3. Shahjahanabad of Bhopal

Built in:Early 19th CE
Built by: Sultan Shah Jahan Begum
Style: Indo-Sarcenic

Similar to the historic city of Shahjanabad of Delhi, Bhopal also houses a lesser known Mughal jewel within its folds. The site houses a number of elements, almost all of which have been conserved or are currently used. The Gol Ghar has been converted into a Museum followed by Taj-ul-Masajid which is the largest mosque in India. This massive structure is made of red sandstone with white marble domes and minarets. This mosque was unfinished due to the war of 1857 and hence was finished with crowd funding 1985. The mosque is complemented with the Motia Talab. The site also includes the Bab-e-Ali Cricket Stadium – built in Indo-Sarcenic Style,Benazir Palace—the summer capital of the Bhopal Estate, Taj-ul-Masajid Library and the Alexandria Middle School.

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4. Gohar Mahal

Built in: 1820
Built by: Gohar Begum
Style: Indo-Mughal Architecture
Area: 650 sqm

This magnificent three storied structure has been recognised by the Ministry of textile and Madhya Pradesh handloom, Handicrafts Vikas Nigam and INTACH for its conservation. It is situated on the contoured site by a lake. The walls on the ground floor made of adobe bricks are massive load bearing structures and the floors on the top have wooden truss with slate roof. The interior has a lath and plaster finishing. A number of passive solar design elements like courtyards, sprinklers, green building materials, natural ventilation, solar orientation, double roofs. This building is a testament to the embedded green approaches to architecture to conserve resources in the past.

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5. Shaukat Mahal

Built in: 1830s
Built by: Sikander Jahan Begum
Style: Fusion of Indo-Sarcenic and Rococo Style of Architecture

This building is quite different than other structures in Bhopal. The palace speaks of the era of Bourbon Kings and their French descendants. This 180-year-old Mahal – currently under renovation – houses 21 families. This palace was gifted to the First Woman Ruler and is part of the famous Royal Quadrangle of Bhopal.

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6. Moti Masjid

Built in: 1860
Built by: Sikandar Jahan
Style: Islamic Architecture

This mosque symbolises the famous Jama Masjid of Delhi. It was constructed during a time when Sikander Begum built roads, bridges ad palaces that spurred development in the city. The façade is made of burnt dark red bricks, the main complex has a marble façade and the main prayer hall also boasts of shiny white marble. Thus, the mosque is also called the “Pearl Mosque”. Two minarets on either side of the main complex are also made of similar red façade treatment and golden spiked cupolas.

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7. Sardar Manzil

Built in: 19th Century
Style: Islamic Architecture

The architectural elements resemble the Diwaan – e – Khaas of Delhi. Initially, it was built as a palace but was later converted into the Municipal Corporation in 1907. This building flanks the Shaukat Mahal at the entrance of the Chowk to the heart of the city. The Sardar Manzil also used to serve as the Hall of Public Audience. It is an iconic architectural landmark of Bhopal.

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8. Taj Mahal of Bhopal

Built: 1868-1871
Built by: Nawab Shah Jahan Begum
Style: Eclectic Architecture

Unlike its famous Delhi counterpart, Taj Mahal of Bhopal was built for Shah Jahan Begum’s residence. The construction of the palace took thirteen years and Begum was so overjoyed after its completion that a three-year long celebration took place. Situated besides the largest mosque of India – Taj-ul-masjid, it is also flanked by the SawanBhadoPavilion, 50 feet by 50 feet gallery enclosed in the courtyard, similar to its Delhi counterpart. The last ruler of Bhopal allowed refugee Sikhs to stay in the palace until they left after four years. The magnificent palace has been dilapidating ever since. Currently, various proposals of adaptive reuse and conservation are still being considered for the palace.

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9. Jama Masjid

Built in: 1832-1857
Built by:Qudsia Begum

The mosque follows the famous Char-Bagh style planning and bridges the northern and eastern gates. Pilasters and floating columns support the prayer hall. The complex is divided into two equal parts by the column layout. The octagonal minerets on either side of the prayer hall are five storeyed high. Each storey has 32 balconies with brackets and the top most level is crowned by a dome with a Padmakosh and a golden Kalash.

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10. Raisen Fort or Rajavasini

Built in: 12th Century
Built by: Hindu Rulers including Rajputs, subsequently annexed by Nawab of Bhopal and Princely State of Bhopal
Location: Raisen , 46kms away from Bhopal

Raisen houses an800-year-old fort, a temple and a mosque and forts. It is made of large stone blocks and has nine entrance gateways. The fort is surrounded by four other palaces Badal Mahal, Rohini Mahal, Itradaan Mahal &Hawa Mahal. The Badal Mahal has a 50 Feet tall doubled arched entrance with circular and tapered buttresses at the ends. The complex also has a water body – TheMotiya Talab is a water conservation system with around 40 wells. The shrine of a saint Hazrat Peer Fatehullah Shah Baba invites pilgrims throughout the year. The Shiva temple is open to visitors once a year. It is believed the Fort is haunted because of the mythical “Paras Stone”.

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11. Bhojeshwar Temple

Location:Bhojpur, 28 kms from Bhopal
Built By: King Bhoja of Paramara Dynasty
Built in: 11th Century

This 900-year-old temple houses a 17.8 feet high monolithic Shiva Lingam in its main shrine and is also known as the “Somnath of the East”. A Jain temple consisting of tall statue of Lord Shantinath and two statues of Lord Parswanath and Lord Suprasanath is also built opposite the temple. Thetemples are unfinished but still showcases the intricate architectural details of the ancient times. The Cave of Parvati is also located in the vicinity of the temple which reflect the artisanship of the 11th century. King Bhoja also built two dams to reroute the Betwa river and hence create a lake. But the entire complex remained unfinished because Raja Bhoja was invaded by Hoshang Shah of Malwa.

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12. Bhimbetka Caves

Location: BhojpurRaisen (44 kms away from Bhopal)
Built by:Cavemen, 30,000 years ago
Area: 1892 Square Acres
Time period: Upper Palaeolithic to Medieval Age.

Discovered by V.S Wakankar in 1957 – out of a total 760 cave shelters, 500 of them have graphics etched over them. A specific picture where a bison is attacking a man is only visible at a particular time during the day. It is believed that the name “Bhimbhetka” is derived from “Bhimbaithka” or the place where Bhima from Mahabharata was seated. The carvings have striking resemblances to the caves found in Australia and France.

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13. Vidhan Sabha

Architect: Charles Correa
Area: 85.000 m²

The Vidhan Bhavan is a huge building, covering an area of more than 32,000 sq. metres of built space. The site is monumental, as it is the centre of the Capital Complex at the highest point of the Arera Hill, overlooking Bhopal. The architectural structure is enclosed by a circular wall while the approach that conceptualised the arrangement of roofs, domes and walkways creating a harmonious profile, which generally are absent in contemporary architecture.

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14. DilipBuildconCenter

Architect: Kushwah and Kushwah Architects

The building is planned to be utilized by 300 people, for which meeting halls, offices, and other supporting spaces where planned. The workplace building is inspired by footprint and encourage innovation, collaboration and efficiency for the user. In order to make the building efficient for energy usage, space planning and flexibility of use, the building envelope was punctured at selected places to create double height lobby, meeting rooms and accommodating dedicated shafts for electrical, fire, plumbing, data, and other utilities.

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15. IIFM Bhopal

Type:Public Institute of Education and Research
Architect: Anant Raje

The building was designed by Anant Raje, who was inspired by the historical town of Mandu. The Indian Institute of Forest Management (IIFM) is inspired by the belief that institutions are self-governed entities. The plan of the institute showcases arrangements of the spaces for various activities. The highlighting feature of IIFM is a giant arc and the two hillocks with outcrops of slate stone.

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Reshmi Goswami is an inquisitive budding architect in the physical realm, a spiritual creature in her mind and a meticulously functional artist in her heart. She is obsessed with the idea of “Architecture Triumphs Over Climate Change” in the headlines !

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