Shivpuri: About 120 km from the city of Gwalior lies the small town of Shivpuri. To say that it is a picturesque place would be a gross understatement. With its undulating hills, thick vegetation and rich wildlife, this was the perfect summer resort capital of the Scindia rulers of yore. Cut to the present and add some architectural marvels to it, and you have all the ingredients to make Shivpuri a great holiday destination.
Whether you take a train (the nearest station is Jhansi or Gwalior), or take a flight (to Gwalior), one has to take a road journey to eventually reach Shivpuri. And what a journey that is! The landscape is like a soothing balm to the eyes - gorges, hills, and plateau (your Geography lesson comes to life!) and endless greenery, the momentum broken momentarily by tiny streams. If it`s in the monsoon that you are travelling, like now, the freshness of the landscape is even more alluring.
One of the must-visits of Shivpuri is the Madhav National Park. Open throughout the year, the terrain of this 156 sq.km. park is mixed, with hills, grassland, forests and lakes. The predominant species in this park is the deer, and of them the easily-sighted ones are the graceful little chinkara, the Indian gazelle and the chital. The nilgai is also easily spotted, as is the ubiquitous langur. Among the other animals who have their habitat in the park are the leopard, black buck, sloth bear, and the four-horned antelope.
"This park was earlier a part of the hunting ground of the kings. Tigers were bagged by royal shikaris (hunters). History says that herds of elephants were captured by the Mughal emperor Akbar. Now, of course, the animals are protected," Diwan Singh, a guide at the park said.
The park also has rich avifauna and the artificial lake, Chandpata, is home to a variety of birds like migratory geese, cormorants, white breasted kingfishers and the likes.
What`s more, a small but gushing waterfall offers an opportunity for fun and frolic for children in the park.
Having been chosen the summer capital, Shivpuri also bears testimony of a royal legacy of the past.
Very close to the national park, for instance, are the chhatris or cenotaphs of the Scindia rulers.
Set in a formal Mughal garden, with quiet nooks under flowering trees, intersected by pathways with ornamental balustrades and illuminated by Victorian lamps, the Chhatris face each other across a water tank, painting a pretty picture.
Then again, there is the Madhav Vilas Palace, the elongated rose-pink summer palace of the Scindias, that`s a fine example of colonial architecture. The palace is remarkable for its marble floors, iron columns, graceful terraces and the Ganpati mandap.
The national park also has within itself the George Castle, which is currently under renovation.
If you are travelling with children, a visit to the Sakhya Sagar Boat Club should probably feature in your itinerary. While the lake, which lies on the edges of the national park, can give you the opportunity to see reptiles such as the marsh crocodile, python and monitor lizards, children can enjoy a safe boat ride along the shore of the lake that is connected to the boat club.
No holiday is complete without some shopping (at least for most of us!), and when in Madhya Pradesh, it is recommended to loosen the purse strings for some beautiful fabrics of the famous Chanderi and Maheshwari silk of this region.
To finally round off the happiness quotient of the vacation, do try out some of the local delicacies, like kebabs, bhutte ki kees, mawa-bati and the sweet malpua.
How to get there
Air: The closest airport Gwalior, 120 km away, which has regular flights from Delhi and Bhopal.
Rail: The nearest railheads are Jhansi (100 km) or Gwalior, on the Delhi-Chennai main line. Shivpuri is a railway station on the Dehradun-Ujjain route.
By Road: Shivpuri is well connected by bus services to and from Gwalior, Bhopal, Jhansi, Ujjain and Indore.
Where to stay
Madhya Pradesh Tourism has a resort called Tourist Village nestling close to the Madhav National Park, whose tariff is Rs.2,000 onwards. There are also budget hotels in Shivpuri which can be booked online.