Bhopal (; Hindustani pronunciation: [bʱoːpaːl] ()) is the capital city of the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh and the administrative headquarters of both Bhopal district and Bhopal division. Bhopal is known as the City of Lakes for its various natural and artificial lakes and is also one of the greenest cities in India. It is the 16th largest city in India and 131st in the world.
Founded in 1707, the city was the capital of the former Bhopal State, a princely state of the British ruled by the Nawabs of Bhopal. Numerous heritage structures from this period include the Taj-ul-Masajid and Taj Mahal palace. In 1984, the city was struck by the Bhopal disaster, one of the worst industrial disasters in history.
A Y-class city, Bhopal houses various educational and research institutions and installations of national importance, including ISRO's Master Control Facility, BHEL, and AMPRI. Bhopal is home to the largest number of institutes of National Importance in India, namely IISER, MANIT, SPA, AIIMS, NLIU and IIIT (currently functioning from a temporary campus inside MANIT) .
The city attracted international attention in December 1984 after the Bhopal disaster, when a Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) pesticide manufacturing plant (now owned by Dow Chemical Company) leaked a mixture of deadly gases composed mainly of methyl isocyanate, leading to one of the worst industrial disasters in the world's history. The Bhopal disaster continues to be a part of the socio-political debate and a logistical challenge for the people of Bhopal.
According to folklore, Bhopal was founded in the 11th century by the Paramara king Bhoja, who ruled from his capital at Dhar. This theory states that Bhopal was originally known as Bhojpal after a dam (pal) constructed by the king's minister. No archaeological evidence, inscriptions or historical texts support the claim about an earlier settlement founded by Bhoja at the same place. An alternative theory says that the city is named after another king called Bhupala (or Bhupal).
In the early 18th century, Bhopal was a small village in the Gond kingdom. The modern Bhopal city was established by Dost Mohammad Khan (1672–1728), a Pashtun soldier in the Mughal army. After the death of the emperor Aurangzeb, Khan started providing mercenary services to local chieftains in the politically unstable Malwa region. In 1709, he took on the lease of Berasia estate and later annexed several territories in the region to establish the Bhopal State. Khan received the territory of Bhopal from the Gond queen Kamlapati in lieu of payment for mercenary services and usurped her kingdom after her death. In the 1720s, he built the Fatehgarh fort in the village, which developed into the city of Bhopal over the next few decades.
Bhopal became a princely state after signing a treaty with the British East India Company in 1818. Between 1819 and 1926, the state was ruled by four women, Begums — unique in the royalty of those days — under British suzerainty. Qudsia Begum was the first woman ruler (between 1819–1837), who was succeeded by her granddaughter, Shah Jehan. Between the years 1844–1860, when Shah Jehan was a child, her mother Sikandar (only daughter of Qudsia) ruled as regent, and was then recognised as ruler in 1860. She ruled until 1868, when Shah Jehan succeeded her and was Begum until 1901. In 1901, Shah Jehan's daughter Kaikhusrau Jahan became Begum, ruled until 1926, and was the last of the female line of succession. In 1926, she abdicated in favour of her son, Hamidullah Khan, who ruled until 1947, and was the last of the sovereign Nawabs. The rule of Begums gave the city its waterworks, railways, a postal system, and a municipality constituted in 1907.
Bhopal State was the second-largest Muslim-ruled princely state: the first being Hyderabad. After the independence of India in 1947, the last Nawab expressed his wish to retain Bhopal as a separate unit. Agitations against the Nawab broke out in December 1948, leading to the arrest of prominent leaders including Shankar Dayal Sharma. Later, the political detainees were released, and the Nawab signed the agreement for Bhopal's merger with the Union of India on 30 April 1949. The Bhopal state was taken over by the Union Government of India on 1 June 1949.
In early December 1984, a Union Carbide India Limited pesticide plant in Bhopal leaked around 32 tons of toxic gases, including methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas which led to the worst industrial disaster in the world to date.
The official death toll was initially recorded as around 4,000. A Madhya Pradesh government report stated 3,787 deaths, while other estimates state the fatalities were significantly higher (16,000) from the accident and the medical complications caused by the accident in the weeks and years that followed. The higher estimates have been challenged. The impact of the disaster continues to this day in terms of psychological and neurological disabilities, blindness, skin, vision, breathing, and birth disorders.
The soil and ground water near the factory site have been contaminated by the toxic wastes. The Bhopal disaster continues to be the part of the socio-political debate; the clean-up of environmental contamination and rehabilitation of those affected continues to challenge the people of Bhopal.
Bhopal has an average elevation of 500 metres (1401 ft) and is located in the central part of India, just north of the upper limit of the Vindhya mountain ranges. Located on the Malwa plateau, it is higher than the north Indian plains and the land rises towards the Vindhya Range to the south. The city has uneven elevation and has small hills within its boundaries. The prominent hills in Bhopal are the Idgah and Shyamala hills in the northern region, together with the Katara hills in the southern region. There are two lakes namely upper lake and lower lake. Bhopal city is divided into two parts where one part which is near the VIP and lake is Old Bhopal (north) and the other, New Bhopal (south), where malls are mainly situated.
Bhopal has a humid subtropical climate, with cool, dry winters, a hot summer and a humid monsoon season. Summers start in late March and go on till mid-June, the average temperature being around 30 °C (86 °F), with the peak of summer in May, when the highs regularly exceed 40 °C (104 °F) Extreme high in May was 46.7 °C on 19 May 2016 and in June it was 45.9 °C on 7 June 2019. The monsoon starts in late June and ends in late September. These months see about 40 inches (1020 mm) of precipitation, frequent thunderstorms and flooding. The average temperature is around 25 °C (77 °F) and the humidity is quite high. Temperatures rise again up to late October when winter starts, which lasts up to early March. Winters in Bhopal are cool, and not very much comfortable like summers, with average daily temperatures around 16 °C (61 °F). The winter peaks in January when temperatures may drop close to freezing on some nights. Lowest temperature ever recorded was 0.3 °C. Total annual rainfall is about 1146 mm (46 inches).
According to the 2011 census, the population of the Bhopal city (the area under Bhopal Municipal Corporation) is 1,798,218, with 936,168 males and 862,050 females. The population of the Bhopal metropolitan area (the urban agglomeration that extends beyond Bhopal city) was 1,886,100 in 2011. The total effective literacy rate (for population aged 7+ years) was 85.24%, with male and female literacy respectively at 89.2% and 80.1%.
Diwali and Eid are major festivals in Bhopal. Gifts and sweets are exchanged and donation are made to the poor. Diwali is celebrated by worshiping the wealth goddess Lakshmi. Eid is special to the city as all the Hindus take time out to visit their Muslim friends and greet them and get treated with delicacies, the speciality of the day being sweet sewaiya. Bhopali culture is such that both Hindus and Muslims visit each other on their respective festivals to greet and exchange sweets. During Ganesh puja and Durga Puja (Navratras), idols of Ganesh and Durga are established in jhankis throughout the city. People throng to offer prayers to their deities. At the end of Navratras, on the day of Vijayadashami (or Dussehra), huge effigies of Ravan are burnt in different parts of the city.
Bhopal Ijtema is an annual Muslim world preachers congregation, is held at Ghasipura 11 km from Bhopal. The annual congregation near Bhopal attracts between 500,000 and 1,000,000 Muslims globally.
The city was the first in state and all of central India to organise an LGBTQ+ pride march, the Bhopal Pride March on 17 May 2017 (). The march saw a huge participation from the members of the queer community as well as straight allies. It was followed in 2018 by a second edition which was held on 15 July 2018.
Bharat Bhavan is the main cultural centre of the city, and hosts many theatre and film festivals every year. It has an art gallery, an open-air amphitheatre facing the Upper Lake, two other theatres and a tribal museum. The Bharat Bhavan as well as the MP Legislative Assembly were designed by Charles Correa.
The major industries in the old city are electrical goods, medicinal, cotton, chemicals and jewellery. Other industries include cotton and flour milling, cloth weaving and painting, as well as making matches, sealing wax, and sporting equipment. The residents of Bhopal also engage in large retail businesses. Handicrafts, like zardozi and batua (a small string purse, usually used with Indian traditional dresses) are some of the products of the Old City.
Bhopal is also home to the DB Corp, informally called the Bhaskar Group (named after its major publication Dainik Bhaskar), a ₹17 billion business conglomerate with a strong presence in media. Its head office is located in Maharana Pratap Nagar.
Bhopal Municipal Corporation is the urban civic body which oversees the needs of Bhopal city. The municipal corporation is spread over an area of 285.88 km2 (110.38 sq mi). and the city is divided into 85 wards. Each ward elects a councillor. The winning party elects a council of members, who are responsible for various departments.
Bhopal Municipal Corporation was ranked 3rd out of 21 Cities for best governance and administrative practices in India in 2014. It scored 3.7 on 10 compared to the national average of 3.3. The present mayor of the city is Alok Sharma. Priyanka Das is the municipal commissioner of the city.
Bhopal houses the State Legislative Assembly, or the Vidhan Sabha, which seats 230 members of Legislative Assembly. The fourteenth (and current) Vidhan Sabha was elected in December 2018. As of December 2018, the party in the majority in Vidhan Sabha is Indian National Congress (INC) with 114 seats which is led by Kamal Nath. Bhopal district elects seven seats to the Assembly.
There are three routes or ways to reach the airport: (1) Via Bairagad, (2) Via Panchvati, (3) Via Gandhi Nagar road (N.H 12). From within the city, VIP Road, a four lane road takes one to the airport, which lies 15 km to the north of the city. International flights began operations in 2010. Domestic direct flight services are operated by Alliance Air, Air India, Spice Jet and Indigo. As of July 2019, Bhopal has non-stop flights to New Delhi, Mumbai, Surat, Jaipur, Shirdi, Udaipur, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune and Raipur. There is only one seasonal international flight from Bhopal and that is to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and is used mainly by Hajj pilgrims.
Bhopal lies in the West Central Railway Zone. Considering both North-South and East-West train routes, it is one of the most rail connected cities in India which halts more than 200 daily trains, with a total of more than 380 trains within a week. The main stations of Bhopal are the Bhopal Junction station located in old Bhopal as well as Bhopal Habibganj station located in new Bhopal. Both of the stations are equipped with WiFi, has enough waiting halls, refreshment center, passenger ticket counter and ticket vending machines, vehicle parking, communication facility, sanitary facility and dedicated government railway police force to ensure security. Altogether the city has six railway stations within its city limits.
The Bhopal Junction station as well as Bhopal Habibganj station are selected along with 47 other railway stations to emerge as The World Class Railway Station. While the work has already started on development of Bhopal Habibganj as the first world class railway station of India. The Bhopal Junction and Bhopal Habibganj have already received ISO 9001:2000 certificate.
The Bhopal Junction station houses the Divisional Railway Manager's (DRM) head office under West Central railways.
National Highway 46 forms a ring-road around Bhopal which connects it to Jabalpur in the East (via NH 45). NH 146, a branch of NH 46, connects the city to Sagar in the East. State Highway 18 connects the city with Indore (with Sehore and Dewas on the way). State Highway 23 connects the city to Guna and Berasia in the north.
The Bus Rapid Transit System, which opened in 2013, is run by Bhopal City Link Limited (BCLL). The company has identified 4 trunk and 8 standard routes in the city on which 225 buses would be operated daily (365 a day in a year), from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. 82 bus stops are built along the 24 km long corridor.
Bhopal has more than 550 state-sponsored schools, most of which are affiliated to the Madhya Pradesh Board of Secondary Education (MPBSE). In addition, there are three Kendriya Vidyalayas in the city. The city is also served by numerous other private schools affiliated to either CBSE, ICSE, MPBSE, NIOS and CIE (Cambridge).
Schools include Delhi Public School, Bhopal (CBSE), The Sanskaar Valley School (ICSE & Cambridge International Examinations), Campion School (CBSE), NRI Global Discovery School (CBSE) and St. Joseph's Convent (CBSE).
There are many universities in Bhopal and its fifteen Institutions of National Importance is the highest number of any town in India outside New Delhi. The institutes and universities headquartered in the city include:
Bhopal Badshahs is a hockey team based in Bhopal that plays in World Series Hockey. The team is captained by Indian hockey player Sameer Dad and coached by Vasudevan Bhaskaran who was the captain of India's Olympic victory in 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow. Badshahs defeated Chandigarh Comets in the inaugural match of 2012 World Series Hockey 4-3. Aishbagh Stadium in Bhopal is the home ground of Bhopal Badshahs.
Bhimbetka Caves are about 35 kilometres from Bhopal city. They have evidence of dwellings of pre-historic man during the Paleolithic era. Rock paintings in the caves are specimens of pre-historic settlements in India. There are about 600 caves, but only 12 are open for visitors. The caves are located in the midst of sal and teak forests and includes a short trail around the caves. They were discovered by Wakankar in 1957. UNESCO declared Bhimbetka Caves as a World Heritage Site in 2003.
Van Vihar National Park is a national park in central India. It is located in Bhopal, the capital city of Madhya Pradesh. Declared a national park in 1979, it covers an area of about 4.45 km2. Although it has the status of a national park, Van Vihar is developed and managed as a modern zoological park, following the guidelines of the Central Zoo Authority. The animals are kept in their near natural habitat. Most of the animals are either orphaned brought from various parts of the state or those, which are exchanged from other zoos. No animal is deliberately captured from the forest. Van Vihar is unique because it allows easy access to the visitors through a road passing through the park, security of animals assured from poachers by building trenches and walls, chain-link fence and by providing natural habitat to the animals.