Saturday 15 April 2017

Hidden Gems of Madhya Pradesh - Dhar

It was last December when I had to cancel my planned trip to South India with my parents. It was disappointing as everything was planned well in advance and we had to cancel the reservations just 2 days before boarding the train. Well, in the end the decision proved to be wise as Tamil Nadu was struck by a hard hitting cyclone which unsettled the living for a while. Thankfully the people of Tamil Nadu dealt with the situation brilliantly and overcome thru a torrid phase with great spirit.

Since, I was on leave for a week and there were no backup plans either, I asked my parents, if we could plan a short road trip to explore Madhya Pradesh up close. Sitting idle and spending the whole week watching TV didn't seem to me as a great option and my father noticed my frustration and agreed for a 5 day road trip to some exquisite near-by places from Bhopal. So, with the help of my  father; our itinerary was prepared and we buckled up for a short but an eventful trip.

Itinerary was...

Bhopal → Dhar → Mandu → Maheshwar → Omkareshwar → Indore → Bhopal

Since, we covered many places, I have lots of things to share with you all. So, every blogpost will be covering one place at a time. The architectural brilliance and rich history of the places will amaze you for sure. So, let us start the virtual journey with the first place i.e. Dhar.

Light peeping in thru the "Jharokha"

About Dhar...

It is said that the "Dhar" city was founded by the Paramara King Bhoja in the 10th century during his reign. Dhar is located in the Malwa region of Madhya Pradesh. It used to be the capital of Malwa in Raja Bhoja's time.From historical and cultural aspects, this city has many monuments and ruins of Hindu and Muslim- Mughal Period. The city used to be the main center for culture and learning in Raja Bhoja's period. In 14th century, Muslim rulers won over "Dhar" and ruled there for a long period. The Dhar fort was also built in the same period by the Sultan of Delhi, Muhammad Bin Tughluq. In 18th century, Marathas conquered Dhar and later Samant Anand Rao Pawar re-established it and  announced it as the Capital of Malwa region. In 19th century, due to the internal conflicts between the marathas; the state was passed over to the Britishers to set up their base. Later the state was seized by the Britishers in revolt of 1857 but soon after that it was again restored by the Malwa rulers.

Dhar Fort Rampart

When I met the culture and history of the city....

1) Dhar Fort : 

Located in the north of city, this fort was built by the Muslim Emperor, Muhammad Bin Tughluq, in 14th century. The fort is built of red stone and is located on a small hill. The walls of the fort can easily be seen from a good distance. As we entered the city, we took help of locals and followed the directions, the fort was visible when we were around 2 kms away from the place. Such was the presence of the massive fortress. Like all other fortresses, this fort also has 3-4 humongous entry gates. Within the premises there is an Archaeology museum too. One can find many prehistoric sculptures on display there. When we visited the museum there was an exhibition going on in one of the halls of the museum. It had paintings depicting the Raja Bhoja's work for his kingdom and its people.

Archaeology Museum, Dhar

After that we visited the Kharbuja palace, which was built inside the fort and is best known as the place where last Peshwa i.e. Bajirao II of Maratha Empire was born. From Kharbuja palace, one can see the whole city and Munj Sagar lake. The Munj Sagar lake was excavated by Raja Bhoja's uncle Vakpati Munja in 10th century.

Kharbuja Mahal, Dhar

The view one gets from the top is surreal and it gives a feeling of how the kings used to rule in those days. With massive armies, magnificent monuments and commitment towards kingdom and its people, the life was so different back then. Absolutely unbelievable!

Kharbuja Mahal from inside
Defensive walls of Dhar Fort

2) Bhoj Shala : 

It's said that "Bhoj Shala" was built by Raja Bhoj as the center for learning. The pillars and walls have stone carvings and people say that Raja Bhoj had written some literature/grammar/poetics there.Some of the Sanskrit inscriptions of those times were found in 1903 by an expert and then he researched more about it and gave this place the name "Bhoj Shala".

Bhoj Shala, Dhar

Pillars at Bhoj Shala
The symmetry of pillars and the stone carvings on them tells a complete story of how blissful this place used to be in early times.

Intrinsic architecture of Bhoj Shala

3) Lat Masjid : 

Lat Masjid was built in 1405 by Dilawar Khan from the ruins of Hindu and Jain temples. An iron pillar used to be there which is now broken and is displayed outside the Mosque (the mosque is named after this iron "lat" pillar). One can find the Muslim- Mughal period inscriptions on the pillars. Whereas, from inside, the mosque has a courtyard, small structure and pillars same as of Bhoj Shala. Since, the Hindu and Jain temples ruins were used in building this mosque, it looks more like a structure made in Parmara period.

Lat Masjid, Dhar

Place of worship, Lat Masjid, Dhar

The mix of Muslim-Mughal and Hindu style carvings and structure provides a great view of architectural brilliance.

Lat pillars, Dhar

4) Phadke Studio : 

Raghunath Krishna Phadke was an Indian artist and many of his artifacts are installed at several places in India. Phadke taught the clay art to many of his students and a lot of his works can be seen at Phadke Studio, Dhar. It's a must visit place when in Dhar. The beautiful statues takes you to the different world altogether. They appear like that Phadke has revived the very soul in them.

Phadke Studio

Best time to visit....

Best time to visit Dhar is from August to February. In summer season, it gets very hot to dedicate enough time to each place. So, it's always preferable to plan a trip here in second half of the year.


Every spot opens at sunrise and closes at sunset.

Entry Fee and details....

The entry fee was nominal at most of the places and at some places, we don't even have to pay entry fee.

How to reach Dhar from Bhopal....

Bhopal → Sehore → Ashta → Dewas → Indore → Pithampur → Dhar

Also, after sharing this post on blog, 'The Musafir Stories' one of the top podcast channels in India approached me for sharing the experience through an audio podcast. The podcast was released in December, 2017 as a part of the 10 episodes series in season 2 of 'The Musafir Stories' travel podcast.
The link of the podcast is attached below. Please give it a listen and share your feedback. :)

PS: Special thanks to my father. I took all the liberty and asked him to guide us throughout the tour. Being an archaeologist, he was fully aware of the places and history behind them.

Note : Few details have been taken as reference from Incredible Madhya Pradesh and Dhar
            tourism books.