Glorious history, regal splendour, soulful pilgrimage, and more

Indore, a sprawling metropolis and the financial capital of Madhya Pradesh is a mix of the traditional and modern. It is the most developed city of Madhya Pradesh and its strategic location, in close proximity to Mumbai and Delhi has contributed immensely to its rapid development. The city exerts a significant impact upon commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and entertainment in the state, yet it has not lost connection with its glorious past which is evident by the numerous historical buildings in different parts of the city. There are many tales and legends that cast a magical spell on you while visiting the city. The opulence of Lal Bagh Palace and a visit to Rajwada Palace leave you completely mesmerised.

Indrapur to Indore
Indore is situated on the Malwa Plateau on the banks of two small rivulets – the Saraswati and the Kahn (modern name Khan). They merge at the centre of the city where a small 18th century temple of Indreshwar still exists. The city got its name from the God Indreshwar and was called Indrapur which then evolved to Indur. Indur later became Indore during the British rule.

Indore has a small 18th century temple of god indereshwar. The city got its name from the God Indreshwar and was called Indrapur which then evolved to Indur. Indur later became Indore during the British rule

Glorious history
The Holkar dynasty has an indelible print on the history of Indore. The city came under the rule of Maratha Kings of Holkar Dynasty in 1733. Malhar Rao Holkar, the founder of the dynasty was appointed as the Governor of Malwa region by Maratha Peshwa Baji Rao. By the time his rule ended Holkar state had become independent with Indore as its capital. He was succeeded by his daughter in law Ahilyabai Holkar. She was barely in her teens when her husband passed away. She took over the responsibility of the State and Indore. She was instrumental in planning and building the city. She ruled from her palace fort at Maheshwar. Ahilyabai was a great patron of architecture and spent a lot of money on building temples across the subcontinent. She ruled for thirty long years and brought a lot of development and peace to what we know today as Indore. Holkar state officially merged with independent India on June 16, 1948.

Financial capital with a laid back attitude
Between July and August I spent considerable time in Indore and I realised that nobody here seemed to be in a hurry. The shops would not open before 11 am and one found little traffic on the roads in the mornings. But for the common people, especially the health conscious ones, the day starts early. Indore has numerous parks, big and small, all well maintained. The weather is lovely except in the months of May and June when it gets hot. Rest of the summer the city receives a fair amount of rain which keeps the temperature down. No matter which hotel you are staying in, there is a park nearby. Sayaji Hotel was my home on all these visits. The park near my hotel was a fairly big one bustling with activity from six in the morning. What makes your walk in the park more pleasant is the activities that you witness inside – gym to Zumba classes and sports you find people of all ages, kids and old alike, trying to keep themselves fit. The city has a vibrant café culture where outlets are open till late in the night where you can enjoy good music with coffee and snacks.

Foodie’s heaven
Indore, apart from everything it is, is a foodie’s paradise. People jokingly say that Indoris first eat at home and then they go out to eat that is why you have these food streets opened till late in the night. If in the morning you find these early road side stalls open and selling tasty poha and jalebi, in the night you have these two remarkable places that dish out delicious food till the wee hours of the morning. One is Sarrafa Bazaar, that operates as a jewellery market during the day and by ten in the night it becomes a food street. The stalls offer a variety of Indian fast food, chaats and Indore specialties like sabudana khichri, dahi-vada, chhole tikiya, makke ka kees and sweet delights like shikanji, jalebi and malpua. The other place is Chhappan. When a friend suggested that we should go to Chhappan and eat, I said let’s go assuming that this must be the name of some famous eatery. We landed at this open space full of cafes. Then I was told it’s called Chhappan because there are 56 shops at the place. The aroma in the air is too tempting. Food habit in Indore is greatly influenced by Maharashtrian style so you find sabudana vada, vada pav, matar Kachori, etc.. Though the place is mostly vegetarian, there are a few joints that offer non vegetarian dishes as well. When in Indore do try hot dogs at Johny. There are joints which are quite creative in experimenting with South Indian food. Dosa Craft is the restaurant that offers you dishes like ‘jini dosa’, ‘Chinese Chopsuey dosa’ and other kinds of dosas. Next to dosa craft is live tawa ice cream. On the screen they display how they make them.

Traffic mayhem
This is one aspect where the city has to do a lot. It is mayhem on the streets the way people drive cars and bikes. Curiously I asked my colleague who gives them license? Do they go for a driving test? He looked at me and curtly said what was the necessity to go for a test when it is delivered to your home without any test. I once saw that the only gentleman who had a helmet on was a traffic policeman surrounded by men and women on bikes without it. I asked my colleague why is it that no one is wearing a helmet and he told me an interesting story. A few years back the rule was put in place that if you are not wearing helmet you won’t get petrol. So petrol pumps and riders found a way around it. Petrol pumps started renting helmets to bikers for `10 to buy petrol and then return it. Later the urban development minister who represented an assembly segment of Indore passed an order that there was no need to wear helmet.
All said and done, Indore has a lot to offer. It is the birthplace of the Indore Gharana of Hindustani Classical music, as well as of the noted playback singer Lata Mangeshkar. Among handicrafts, its exquisite Maheshwari and Chanderi saris are a connoisseur’s delight. Indore is an excellent tourist destination. Known for its architectural splendour, a strong historical background has contributed to its rich cultural heritage, which is a fine blend of Malwa, Maratha and Marwari cultures.
The city is also an access point for an MP itinerary to visit the pilgrim towns of Ujjain and Omkareshwar, heritage and temple town of Maheshwar and hill station of Mandu.

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