The city offers a spectacle of majestic palaces and a mouth-watering cuisine. Aruna Chandaraju explores it in one day
It is a city where the past and the present stand in unison. Where ancient palaces rub shoulders with modern high-rises and where a magnificent past is complemented by a Smart City fuelled by a technologydriven urban revolution. This is Indore, in Madhya Pradesh, where culture and cuisine blend to create a unique experience. The state’s most populous city and also the cleanest in the country, having being declared so over the past two years, was founded in the 16th century. A legacy that lives on in the several heritage monuments built by the members of the Holkar dynasty, who ruled the region for a long time. It is also the place where the Indore gharana of classical music, a vocal tradition, was born and nurtured. There is plenty to see and do in Indore but what do you do if you only have one day for all of this? You wake up very early and start exploring a city that comes to life almost at the crack of dawn.
Morning >>6 A.M.
A good start would be the Pipliyapala Regional Park and Nehru Park. Located on the outskirts of the city, Pipliyapala Regional Park, with an eponymous lake, is a nature lover’s paradise. Several local residents flock to this green area for a walk every morning. If you are not a walker, you can settle down for a spot of birdwatching in its gardens, which have been built in diverse styles like Mughal and French. The park shelters a large variety of avian life, which are best sighted during sunrise. Take a quick boat ride; there is a wide choice of boating facilities here. Nehru Park is another green space for a morning stroll, particularly if you are accompanied by children or the elderly. Nestled in the heart of the city, this zoological park boasts battery-operated cars to take visitors around, a mini train, a swimming pool and a children’s hobby centre.
Indore can get hot during summers, but mornings are pleasant. So after my walk, I decide to try some of the city’s legendary traditional breakfast dishes. Whatever your breakfast preferences may be, here, a must-try is the Indori poha. Culinary legends say this is where the popular savoury dish, cooked with flattened rice, was invented! From upmarket hotels to small roadside snack stalls, you will find some of the country’s tastiest versions of the dish in Indore. It is generally served with jalebi, a deep-fried dessert dipped in sugar syrup, for breakfast. Doodh-jalebi (a combination of milk and jalebi) is also very popular here.
Energised, I head for another landmark, Gomatgiri, which should ideally be on your morning itinerary. The hillock has a large statue of Lord Gomateshwara, almost 21 ft high, standing atop it along with 24 marble temples dedicated to Jain tirthankaras (saints). It is also the perfect point from where you can enjoy panoramic views of the city. On Sundays, Gomatgiri temple’s bhojnalaya (restaurant) serves the popular daal-baati (a lentil-based dish).
Afternoon >> 1:00 P.M.
Next on the list can be the Rajwada Palace and the stunning Kanch Mandir. The seven-storeyed Rajwada Palace, which is popularly known as the Holkar Palace, presents a blend of Mughal, Maratha and French architectural styles and was built in 1747 by the founder of the Holkar dynasty, Malhar Rao Holkar. Standing at the centre of the busy Khajuri Bazaar area, it has an imposing wooden entrance fortified with iron studs. The palace, whose three lower storeys are made of stone and the upper four of wood, is noted for its superb craftsmanship. It is surrounded by well-maintained and landscaped gardens.
>> 2:00 P.M.
The stunning Kanch Mandir, a Jain temple, is made almost entirely with glass and mirrors. Its walls and even ceiling are studded with countless mirrors. Adding to its allure are cut-glass chandeliers and pretty Chinese lanterns. Built by an affluent merchant in the early 20th century, its beauty can be compared to the Sheesh Mahal at Amer Fort in Jaipur, in Rajasthan.
>> 3:00 P.M.
By the time I finish taking in the Kanch Mandir, it’s afternoon and I head to Sarafa Bazaar for a taste of quintessential Indore. Sarafa Bazaar is a gold and silver market by day and by late afternoon it transforms into a sprawling open-air food court with pushcarts and tiny stalls popping-up beside rows of restaurants. The bazaar is not only a food paradise but is also a place where locals meet with families and friends for a leisurely post-dinner stroll! A similar atmosphere can be savoured at Chhappan Chowk and in the market near Rajwada Palace. After having my fill of savouries like khatta samosa, moong bhajiya and bhutte ki kees and desserts like mawa bati and kulfi faluda, I weave my way out of the market, which has begun to increase in size and volume.
>> 4:00 P.M.
My next stop is Lal Bagh Palace, the most beautiful and opulent structure in the city. If the palace’s massive gates remind you of London’s Buckingham Palace, you won’t be wrong. They were designed to resemble the same but are twice the size. They were fashioned in England and shipped to India! The magnificent palace is a blend of Indian and European architecture and is known for its exquisite detailing. There is plenty of European art and craft here – Italian marble, Belgium stained-glass windows, grand chandeliers and decor pieces from different parts of Europe, and so on.
>> 5:00 P.M.
It’s evening by the time I step out of the palace and plan a trip back to the Pipliyapala Regional Park, to catch the fountains there that dance to music and lights! Locals assure me that the journey is worth the time and the energy! Adding, that if hunger strikes after such a long day, the food markets of Indore are ready with a feast!