JUNGLE BOOK TRAIL
The enduring world of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book has been the subject of one of Walt Disney’s most popular animated creations and a timeless hit with both kids and grown-ups. Today you can re-wind the escapades of Mowgli, Sher Khan and Baloo in Madhya Pradesh’s loveliest game parks. Sign up for a tour with Taj Safaris, which has tied up with South Africa-based ‘& Beyond’ to introduce a Mowgli trail. These especially crafted itineraries follow a trail covering the wilderness reaches from Kanha National Park and Pench National Park, in Madhya Pradesh. Stays are arranged at the Banjaar Tola and Baghvan luxury lodges. Game drives, village community visits and Anglo-Indian menus are part of this wildlife deal. Jabalpur airport is 165kms from Kanha National Park.
Set dramatically upon a rocky island overlooking the Betwa river, Orchha’s grandeur is a guaranteed stunner. This capital of the Bundela kings till 1738, which had played host to a fugitive Prince Salim, encourages you to dwell upon its legends and linger among its painterly palaces, ancient temples and chhattris. Explore the beautifully painted Jehangir Mahal and the Ram Raja Temple, where Ram is worshipped here as a king and even has a security guard with a gun! Ram’s wedding to Sita is joyfully celebrated, with the locals joining as baraatis during the Vivaha Panchami. You can even go rafting down the Betwa. Jhansi railway station is 19km away.
The world’s largest group of painted rock shelters dating to the early Stone Age was discovered by chance in a densely forested region in the Vindhyas. A Unesco World Heritage Site, Bhimbetka’s rock paintings rank among the world’s greatest testimonies for the first traces to Homo sapiens, evolving culturally as they sketched the human journey from the Mesolithic period right through the historical times. The oldest date back about 30,000 years. The well–preserved linear representations, geometric figures and paintings feature dancers and hunters, tigers, bisons, elephants, deer rhinoceroses and bulls. Traces of Homo erectus have also been found at the caves. The Bhimbetka caves can be accessed from Bhopal, 45km away.
Many of Sanchi’s Buddhist structures dating back almost 2,000 years ago have, remarkably, survived the march of time. The most stunning, of course, is Stupa No. 1, ranked among Asia’s finest and most evocative examples of early Buddhist religious architecture. The complex, commissioned by the Mauryan emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century BCE, is a massive sprawl of early and late Ashokan-era stupas, columns, chaityas, shrines, monasteries, decorative toranas, sculptures and bas-reliefs in varying states of preservation, is a Unesco World Heritage Site—celebrating its timeless Buddhist architecture and cultural heritage. Visitors can enjoy a leisurely ramble around this tranquil setting, untroubled by hawkers and touts. It can be accessed from Bhopal 46km away.