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Bhopāl is a city in central India. It is the capital of the state of Madhya Pradesh. Bhopal is also the name of a district in Madhya Pradesh with Bhopal city as its headquarters. Historically, Bhopal was also the name of a state of central India.
On December 3, 1984, a Union Carbide plant in Bhopal leaked 40 tons of toxic methyl isocyanate gas, which killed more than 2,000 people outright and injured anywhere from 150,000 to 600,000 others. Another 12,000 deaths have officially been ascribed to the disaster's effects, although campaign groups put the figure much higher. See Bhopal Disaster.
The state of Bhopal was established in 1724 by the Afghan Sardar Dost Mohammed Khan, who was a commander in the Mughal army posted at Mangalgarh (which now lies to the north of modern Bhopal). Taking advantage of the disintegration of the Mughal empire, he usurped Mangalgarh and Berasia (now a tehsil of the Bhopal district). When Dost Mohammed. Khan's nephew assassinated the Gond Queen Kamalapati's husband, he punished his own nephew to death and restored the Queen's little kingdom back to her. The Queen gave him a princely sum of money and the Mouza village (which is situated near the modern Bhopal city).
After the death of last Gond queen, Dost Mohammed Khan took and seized the little Gond Kingdom and established his capital 10 km away from modern Bhopal, at Jagdishpur. He named his capital as Islamnagar (meaning the city of Islam). He built a small fort and some palaces at Islamnagar, the ruins of which can be seen today. After few years, he built a bigger fort situated on the northern bank of the Upper Lake. He named this new fort as Fatehgarh (the fort of victory). Later the capital was shifted to the current city of Bhopal.
Although Dost Mohammed Khan was the virtual ruler of Bhopal, he still acknowledged the suzerainty of the declining Mughal Empire. His successors however, acquired the title of 'Nawab' and declared Bhopal an independent state. By the 1730's the Marathas were expanding into the region, and Dost Mohammed Khan and his successors fought wars with their neighbours to protect the small territory and also fought among themselves for control of the state. The Hindu Marathas founded conquered several nearby states, including Indore to the west and Gwalior to the north, but Bhopal remained a Muslim-ruled state under Dost Mohammed Khan's successors. Subsequently, Nawab Wazir Mohammed Khan, a general, created a truly strong state after fighting several wars.
Nawab Jehangir Mohammed Khan established a cantonment at a distance of one mile from the fort. This was called Jehangirabad after him. He built gardens and barracks for British guests and soldiers in Jehangirabad.
In 1778, during the First Anglo-Maratha War, when the British General Thomas Goddard campaigned across India, Bhopal was one of the few states that remained friendly to the British. In 1809, during the Second Anglo-Maratha War, General Close led a British expedition to Central India. The Nawab of Bhopal petitioned in vain to be received under British protection. In 1817, when the Third Anglo-Maratha War broke out, a treaty of dependence was signed between the British Government of India and the Nawab of Bhopal. Bhopal remained a friend of British Government during the British Raj in India.
In 1818, Bhopal became a princely state in British India. Bhopal state included the present-day Bhopal, Raisen , and Sehore districts, and was part of the Central India Agency. It straddled the Vindhya Range, with the northern portion lying on the Malwa plateau, and the southern portion lying in the valley of the Narmada River, which formed the state's southern boundary. Bhopal Agency was formed as an administrative section of central India, consisting the Bhopal state and some princely states to the northeast, including Khilchipur and Raigarh. It was administered by an agent to the British Governor-General of India.
The rule of the Begums
An interesting turn came in the history of Bhopal, when in 1819, 18 year old Qudsia Begum (also known as Gohar Begum) took over the reigns after the assassination of her husband. She was the first female ruler of Bhopal. Although she was illiterate, she was brave and refused to follow the purdah tradition. She declared that her 2 year old daughter Sikander will follow her as the ruler. None of the male family members dared to challenge her decision. She cared very well for her subjects and took her dinners only after receiving the news every night that all her subjects had taken meals. She built the Jama Masjid of Bhopal. She also built her beautiful palace - 'Gohar Mahal'. She ruled till 1837. Before her death, she had adequately prepared her daughter for ruling the state.
In 1844, Sikander Begum succeeded her mother as the ruler of Bhopal. Her name means Alexander the Great in Arabic. She was indeed, as brave her Greek namesake. She too never observed purdah. She was trained in all the martial arts and she fought many battles. During the Indian rebellion of 1857, she sided with the British and crushed all those who revolted against them. She did a lot of public welfare too - she built roads and reconstructed the fort. She also built the Moti Masjid (meaning the Pearl Mosque) and Moti Mahal (the Pearl Palace).
Her successor, Shah Jahan Begum was quite passionate about architecture like her Mughal namesake emperor Shah Jahan. She built a vast mini-city (called Shahjahanabad after her). She also built a new palace for herself - Taj Mahal (not to be confused with the famous Taj Mahal at Agra). She built a lot of other beautiful buildings as well - Ali Manzil, Amir Ganj, Barah Mahal, Ali Manzil, Be nazir Complex, Khawasoura, Mughalpura, Nematpua and Nawab Manzils. Today also, one can see the ruins of Taj Mahal and some of its glorious parts that have survived the tests of time. Barah Mahal and Nawab Manzil have also withstood the test of time. During her rule, in 1900, the complete failure of the monsoon rains led to a sever famine in Bhopal.
Sultan Jahan Begum, daughter of Shah Jahan Begum, succeeded her in 1901. She further advanced the emancipation of women and established a modern municipal system. She had her own palace Sardar Manzil (the present headquarters of Bhopal Municipal Corporation). But she preferred the quiet and serene environment at the outskirts of the city. She developed her own walled mini-city, named Ahmedabad after her late husband (not to be confused with Ahmedabad, Gujarat). This city was situated at Tekri Maulvee Zai-ud-din, which was at located a distance of a mile from the fort. She built a palace called Qaser-e-Sultani(now Saifia College). This area became a posh residency as royalty and elite moved here. The Begum installed the first water pump here and developed a garden called 'Zie-up-Abser'. She also constructed a new palace called 'Noor-us-Sabah', which has been converted into a heritage hotel. She was the first president of the All India Conference on Education and first chancellor of the Muslim University of Aligarh.
Sultan Jahan Begum's son, Nawab Hamidullah ascended the throne in 1926. He was Chancellor of the Chamber of Princes .
The peaceful rule of Begums led to the rise of a unique mixed culture in Bhopal. The Hindus were given important administrative positions in the state. This led to communal peace and a cosmopolitan culture took its roots. Even the Pathans, famous for their roughness and soldier-like nature, acquired a taste of culture and indulged in poetry, arts and literature.
After independence of India
Bhopal was one of the last states to sign the 'Instrument of Accession ' 1947. Though India achieved Independence in August 1947 , The ruler of Bhopal acceded to the Indian government, and Bhopal became an Indian state on 1st May 1949. Sindhi refugees from Pakistan were accommodated in Bairagarh, a western suburb of Bhopal.
According to the Act of Reorganization of States in 1956, Bhopal state was integrated into the state of Madhya Pradesh, and Bhopal was declared as its capital. The population of the city rose rapidly.
In December 1984 a cloud of methyl isocyanate was released from the factory of Union Carbide, a multinational company (now taken over by Dow Chemicals). The cloud covered half of the city and killed thousands of people; see Bhopal Disaster.
Law and government
The municipality covers 286 square kilometres It has two very beautiful lakes, collectively known as the Bhoj Wetland . These lakes are the Upper Lake (built by King Bhoj) and the Lower Lake. The catchment area of the Upper Lake is 361 km2 while that of the Lower Lake is 9.6 km2. The Upper Lake drains into the Kolans River.
It is well connected to the rest of the country by rail, air and road links.
The Old City of Bhopal is a predominantly Muslim area, but New Bhopal is a demographically cosmopolitan area. The chief languages are Hindi, Urdu and English, but there are a substantial number of Marathi speakers as well.
- Population: 1.4 million
- Total generation: 600 ton/day
- Waste generation per capita: 0.43 kg/person per day
Bhopal has many public parks. Some of the major parks are: B.H.E.L. Park, Kilol Park, Jawaharlal Nehru Park, Chinar Park (famous for its Bougainvillea varieties and animal statues), the Rose Garden(Gulab Udyan),Ekant Park, Mayur Park etc.
Bhopal is divided into two parts - the Old City and the New Bhopal (these are not the official names). The Old City (often referred to in Bhopal as just "City") is the city built and developed by the Begums. New Bhopal was developed after Bhopal became the capital of Madhya Pradesh. It has modern residential localities like 1250 Quarters, Arera Colony, Malviya Nagar, Shivaji Nagar, Tatya Tope Nagar (T.T. Nagar), Arera Colony and the commercial township called Maharana Pratap Nagar.
The major industries in the city are electrical goods, cotton, chemicals (see Bhopal Disaster) and Jewellery.
BHEL (Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited), the largest engineering and manufacturing enterprise in India, has a unit in Bhopal.
Sites of interest
- Taj-ul-Masaajid: (The name is Masaajid and not masjid because 'masaajid' is plural of mosques and it literally means Crown Among Mosques) It is one of the largest mosques in Asia, built by Shahjehan Begum around a courtyard with a large tank in the centre and with an imposing double storeyed gate-way with 4 recessed archways and 9 imposing cusped multifoiled openings in the main prayer hall. The Quibla wall in the prayer hall is carved with 11 recessed arches, while the mimber is made of black basalt. The structure is enlivened by the limpid expanse of water in the tank outside the northern wall. The monumentality of this structure was much greater originally when it faced the towering bastions of the Fatehgarh Fort. A three-day Ijtima congregation was held here annually draws people from all over the world but has recently been shifted outside the City. Bhopal has over 400 mosques. Interestingly, Tajul Masaajid, perhaps the biggest mosque in India, faces the smallest mosque in the country that lies just on the other side of the road in the same area. The Dhai Seedhi Masjid (2-1/2 stairs mosque) was built in early 18th century when a rampart was converted into mosque.
- Islam Nagar: It has the ruins of the old city built by Dost Mohd. Khan.
- Purana Kila: Situated in the Kamala Nehru Park, it is a part of the 300-year old fort of Queen Kamalapati.
- Jama Masjid: A mosque built by Qudsia Begum in 1837. Gold spikes crown the minarets of this beautiful mosque.
- Moti Masjid: A mosque based on the Jama Masjid of Delhi built by Sikander Begum in 1860.
- Shaukat Mahal: A strange mixture of Indo-Islamic and European styles of architecture. It was designed by a Frenchman, said to be a descendent of an offshoot of the Bourbon Kings of France. Post Renaissance and Gothic styles are combined to charming effect here.
- Gohar Mahal: It is situated behind Shaukat Mahal on the banks of the Upper Lake was built by Qudsia Begum. It is magnificent expression of the fusion of Hindu and Mughal architecture.
- Sadar Manzil: It was built as a hall to be used by the Begums for public audience. Now it is used as the head-office of the Bhopal Municipal Corporation.
- Bharat Bhavan: It is the main cultural center of the city and of the most important cultural centers of India. It was designed by the famous architect Charles Correa. It has an art gallery that exhibits works of famous painters and sculptors. It has an open-air amphitheatre facing the Upper Lake and two other theatres and a tribal museum. The night-view from the amphitheatre set on the backdrop of the old city and the lake is magnificent.
- Van Vihar: It is a zoological garden situated beside the Upper Lake. It has a museum too.
- Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya: It means The Museum of Human Being. It is spread over 200 acres (0.8 km²) of undulating land on the Shamla Hills on the Upper Lake front. It is situated in a prehistoric site and may be the only museum in the world strewn with numerous prehistoric painted rock shelters. It is a post colonial museum of communities rather than objects. One can actually see how the tribals live.
- Government Archaeological Museum
- Birla Museum
- Lakshmi Narayan Temple or Birla Mandir: It is a temple devoted to Lord Vishnu and his consort Laxmi. It is situated to the south of the Lower Lake.
- Bhimbetka: It has pre-historic rock art and is a World Heritage Site.
- Sanchi: Situated at a small distance from the city of Bhopal, Sanchi houses some ancient Buddhist structures built by Emperor Ashoka.
- Bhojpur - A small village situated some 40 km from Bhopal with a huge rock temple of lord Shiva and having betwa river flowing down the valley. The temple is been managed now by archeological survey of India.
Colleges and universities
- Barkautullah University
- Rajiv Gandhi Technical University
- Saifia College
- Hamidia College
- Indian Institute of Forest Management
- Indian Institute of Hotel Management
- Government Engineering College
- Gandhi Medical College
- Maulana Azad National Institute of Technology
- Benazir College
- Bhoj University
Area 2,772 km², population 1,836,784 (2001 census). The population of Bhopal district increased by 51% from 1981 to 1991, and by 36% from 1991 to 2001. Bhopal District is bounded by the districts of Guna to the north, Vidisha to the northeast, Raisen to the east and southeast, Sehore to the southwest and west, and Rajgarh to the northwest.
the city of Bhopal lies in the southern part of the district, and the majority of the population resides within Bhopal municipality. The town of Berasia lies in the northern part of the district.
Before they were merged into Madhya Pradesh in 1956, Bhopal, Sehore, and Raisen districts were part of the former Bhopal state, and Vidisha was part of former Madhya Bharat state.
- Bhopal Municipal Corporation
- Bhopal District
- bhopal.com, Union Carbide's web site about the Bhopal accident
- bhopal.org, The Sambhavna Trust & Bhopal Medical Appeal's web site
- International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal (ICJB)
- Bhoj Wetland Project
- Stamps of former Bhopal state
- SEO India Expert
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