Madhya Pradesh is best known for its fabulous wilderness areas. Exploring the jungles is a highlight of any trip here, but venture beyond the forests to discover rich handicraft traditions and vibrant village life. Here are four must-do experiences in the heart of India.
In the dark of night, the forest takes on an entirely different avatar. As many birds and beasts retire for the day, an entirely different set of nocturnal creatures begin to sit. Board a 4x4 vehicle for a thrilling night ride into the forests of Panna. Peer into the foliage using a torchlight to spot several creatures, both small and large, as they go about their nightly business. You’ll see civets and jungle cats, blue bulls and foxes. If you’re lucky, you might even spot the stealthy leopard or the elusive rusty spotted cat.
As a centre of handlooms, Maheshwar is known for its fine cotton weaves. The REHWA Society is at the heart of the city’s weaving tradition. The not-for-profit organization works with local women weavers, retaining the age-old craft of spinning exquisite silk and cotton sarees. Visit the organization within the grand Ahilya Fort and watch skilled weavers work the looms, creating delicate textiles in peacock blue and sunshine yellow. Pick up a souvenir straight from the source, featuring motifs of the land where it was created.
Several villages dot the fringes of Pench National Park, many sharing a boundary with the wilderness. In these settlements, you’ll see mud and stone houses in pale blue, lush fields, and vibrant bazaars. Explore a village on a guided tour for a glimpse at life in the heart of rural India. Many of these villages have a large weekly market, when farmers and craftsmen from around the region display their wares. Visit these lively bazaars to see indigenous jewelry, farm fresh local produce, heaps of spices, and handmade crafts.
Madhya Pradesh is known for its handloom textiles, and the Bagh fabric is among the state’s specialties. The age-old design features wooden hand block prints on cotton or silk, using only natural colours. Today, Bagh sarees and fabrics in vibrant colours feature motifs from nature, like coconuts and the waves of the ocean, as well as geometric patterns like triangles. Visit the workshop of a master craftsman to watch the traditional art of hand block printing using natural dyes like indigo, red, and black, made only from the elements of nature.