We left for Bhimbetka early morning on the 3rd day of our Bhopal trip. Like the previous day, the road was a treat - and I missed driving my Opel Corsa Sail on it. We soon reached Bhojpur, the site of an old, incomplete Shiva temple. Only the sanctum sanctorum of the temple got completed, and the ramp that was used to carry the heavy stones to the top of this tall monument still stands.
The scale of the existing structure boggles the mind. The Shiva linga stands over 7 feet tall, and over 10 feet in circumference. This is fixed atop a 15 feet tall square pedestal, each side of which is about 10 feet. 4 huge columns tower around the Shiva linga, ending in a dome, easily a hundred feet above the ground level. I don't know the reason why the temple was never completed, and one can only imagine the full grandeur the temple would have exuded if it had got complete.
Around the temple are carvings engraved into the black stone, but never chiselled out.
We then proceeded southwards to Bhimbetka. This is the site of the second oldest cave paintings in the World - and another World Heritage Site. The location is beautiful, along the Satpura range of mountains. The area around the caves is forested, which adds to the natural beauty.
The cave paintings themselves are easily worth the travel. The highlight is the cave nicknamed "The Zoo", for its collection of wild animals, in white and red. These are the two predominant colours used in the series of cave paintings, with only a few paintings in some caves in yellow and green. The whole complex is neatly maintained, but you will need a guide to point out some of the paintings not at eye level. Most of the people I spoke with after we got back from our trip had not heard of the place. I don't know who is to blame for this - us folks for not taking the interest in knowing more about our wonderful country? The government for not doing enough, or the popular media, who publish article upon article on some small Swiss village, but don't deem such places of world importance as worthy of being written about?
The feeling was compounded when we ran into a couple of Israeli tourists the next day at Hotel Ashoka in Bhopal. Both were middle-aged, and one of them has made over 15 trips to India, spending many weeks during each visit. He has been to more places than most Indians will ever make to, staying here. And one could sense the feeling in his voice when he said about how beautiful our country is. Domestic tourism can do wonders for the economy of the country, and it is up to each of us to make this happen.