Bhopal still retains its splendour
Posted August 5, 2012on:
Bhopal, made known or notorious the world over by the 1984 MiC gas leak disaster in the Union Carbide Corporation pesticide plant, has of late developed into a haphazard conglomerate but it still continues to be a beautiful city with a leisurely pace of life compared to the hurly-burly of modern life in other cities like Bombay, New Delhi and Calcutta. Those visiting Bhopal fall in love with it at first sight. I can claim to be one of them.
The Nawabs, who ruled over Bhopal, had kept the city trimmed, with a well-laid out drinking water and sewer system. Surrounded by forests and lakes, it presented a panoramic sight to the visitors. It was also called the city of lakes.
The biggest of the lakes, known as the Upper Lake, was once so large that one, looking across, could not see the other shore of the lake. It was also the source, and still is to an extent, of drinking water supply to the denizens of the city. It, though, has considerably shrunk since, almost in direct proportion to the expansion of the city.
Now the capital of Madhya Pradesh, Bhopal is said to have grown out of the 11th century city of Bhojpal, founded by Raja Bhoj, but the present city was established by an Afghan soldier, Dost Mohammed (1707-1740). His descendants developed Bhopal into a beautiful city. The old city with its marketplaces and fine old mosques and palaces still bears the aristocratic imprint of its former rulers, among them the succession of powerful Begums who ruled Bhopal from 1819 to 1926.The new city, though not as well planned, is still greener and cleaner than most cities in India. Bhopal has been a city in which one finds traces of cultures as different as those of Buddhists, Hindus, Mughals and Afghans, providing Bhopal a distinct identity.
Nawab Sikandar Saulat Iftikhar-UI-Mulk Bahadur Hamidullah Khan, or Nawab Hamidullah Khan in short, was the first male ruler of Bhopal State (it was a small kingdom before India got independence from the British rule in 1947). He had a Hindu Prime Minister and was considered an able administrator and politician. Though heading a rather small State of Bhopal, he was elected Chancellor of the prestigious Chamber of Princes on two occasions.
The Nawab is better remembered for his love for new constructions. He donated land for the construction of the prestigious Cricket Club of India (CCI) at Bombay (now renamed Mumbai). He also donated land for the Jamia Millia Islamia (an important academic institution) in New Delhi. The New Vihar at Sanchi (near Bhopal, one of the most important Buddhist pilgrimage places) was built by him. The inauguration ceremony of the Vihar was attended by many distinguished guests, including the Prime Ministers of India, Japan and Burma.
The imprint of the Nawabs can still be seen on the old, beautiful constructions in the old city, though this part is now getting crowded. The emphasis on the constructions in the newer part of the city, which developed after Bhopal was declared the capital of the newly constituted State of Madhya Pradesh in 1956, had been more on accommodation than on aesthetics.
An important institution, Bharat Bhavan, was added to the city in the early 1980s. It is a premier centre of performing arts and has been hosting artists from across the globe.
The life is so tranquil in Bhopal, compared to the other cities in India, that it is said in journalistic community that one should seek one’s posting in Bhopal when nearing retirement because living in Bhopal takes away the instinct for rushing.