The state’s economic powerhouse and the biggest city in western Madhya Pradesh, INDORE is huge, modern and pretty dull. If you find yourself with time to kill en route to or from Mandu, 98km southwest, however, you could stop and check out a couple of worthwhile sights. For centuries a stopover on the pilgrimage trails to Omkareshwar and Ujjain, Indore became the capital of Malhar Rao’s Holkar dynasty in the eighteenth century. Later, Rao’s daughter-in-law, Ahilya Bai, took over control of the state, which then stretched as far as the Ganges and the Punjab, and founded modern Indore. When she died in 1795, the state plunged into a series of bloody conflicts, which only ended in 1818 when the dynasty secured a small but rich dominion with Indore as the capital. The city expanded in the nineteenth century, fuelled by trade in cotton and opium, and the maverick Holkar maharajas remained in power until Independence. Since then it’s become a major and affluent industrial hub.
Indore’s sights lie west of the railway line, in and around the bazaar. Two broad thoroughfares, MG Road and Jawahar Marg, form the north and south boundaries of this cluttered and chaotic district, which is interrupted in the east by the confluence of the Saraswati and Khan rivers. The city’s principal landmark is the eighteenth-century former Holkar palace of Raj Wada, which presides over a palm-fringed square in the heart of the city and boasts a seven-storey gateway. Most of the palace collapsed after a fire in 1984, and only the facade and a temple survive.