Hi and welcome to the sixth and final part of my Amazing Madhya Pradesh travel series 🙂
For my first-time readers, here are the links to my previous posts in this series:
Today’s post is about the ancient fortress town of Mandavgarh, popularly known as Mandu, located in the Malwa region of western Madhya Pradesh. Picturesquely perched on a rocky spur of the Vindhya mountain range, the fortress is one of the finest examples of fusion of Hindu and Afghan style of architecture, and famous for the romantic saga of Rani Roopmati and Baz Bahadur. It is about 100 KM from Indore, 300 KM from the state capital Bhopal, and 35 KM from Dhar (the district headquarters).
First read a bit about the fort’s interesting history, and then proceed to my travel story of 26th of April, 2015 🙂
Happy reading 🙂
Located at an altitude of 2000 feet, overlooking the valley of the Narmada and the plains of Nimar, Mandu is a huge ancient fortress town housing numerous Islamic ruins – palaces, mosques, ornamented canals, baths, pavilions, etc. – dating from the 15th century AD. As a matter of fact, it is home to India’s finest examples of Afghan architecture.
Endowed with scenic natural beauty, Mandu is at its magical best during the monsoon season from late-June to September. Built on a mountain plateau some 37 miles in circumference, surrounded by a battlemented wall, it is the largest fort in India. A Sanskrit inscription dated 555 AD proves the fort’s existence during that time when it was known as Mandapa-Durga (or Mandava). So it must have been constructed prior to the 6th century. A 10th century inscription mentions this fort as a frontier outpost called Mandapika. Some rock-cut caves are the earliest structures in the fortress.
During the 9th century, Mandu belonged to the Parmara kings of Malwa, ruling from Dhar. This dynasty was in its golden period under King Munja and King Bhoja, who put it to the glory unmatched in the history of North India. This was in the 10th and 11th centuries. One of the lakes in the fort, Munja Talao is named in his memory. In the 11th century, some Shiva temples were built in the vicinity of Lohani Caves. The Parmara rule ended in 1305 when its last king was killed by the conquering forces of the ruler of Delhi Sultanate, Alauddin Khilji. During the decline of the Delhi Sultanate, the Governor of Malwa was an Afghan, Dilawar Khan Ghori. In 1401, he declared himself independent ruler of Malwa. He retained his capital at Dhar, but visited Mandu frequently. After his death in 1405, he was succeeded by his son, Hoshang Shah (the founder of Hoshangabad), who shifted his capital from Dhar to Mandu.
The Muslim rulers built magnificent palaces, tombs, and mosques displaying Afghan architecture. However, all these were built from the remains of the 10th to 12th century AD Hindu and Jain temples destroyed by them in Dhar and Mandu. Hoshang Shah strengthened the fortress and its defences, and also built many architectural buildings. These include his own tomb of white marble (the architectural inspiration for Shah Jahan’s Taj Mahal, two centuries later) and Jama Masjid, both of which still exist in good condition. Hoshang Shah’s Tomb is the oldest marble mausoleum in India. He named Mandu as Shadiabad, ‘City of Joy’. When Hoshang Shah died in 1435, his son Ghazni Khan ascended the throne. But he barely ruled for a year. He was poisoned to death by his military general, Mahmud Khilji. This ended the Ghori dynasty and the Khilji dynasty took over Mandu. Mahmud Khilji reigned for 33 years. After his death in 1469, his son Ghiyasuddin, succeeded him. Instead of pursuing military conquests like his father, Ghiyasuddin devoted his time to peaceful pursuits and extravagant pleasures, including women. He had a large harem and built the Jahaz Mahal for housing the women, numbering thousands, of his harem. He ruled for 31 years before being poisoned to death in 1500 by his son, Nasseruddin in lust of the throne. Nasseruddin ruled for ten years before his death in 1510 due to burning fever. His son, Mahmud II Khilji took over the throne. In 1526, Mandu was conquered by Bahadur Shah of Gujarat. In 1534, the Mughal emperor Humayun attacked and gained control of the fort-city. But after his departure, in 1536, an officer of the former Khilji dynasty took over the fort. Then, in 1542, Sher Shah Suri of Delhi conquered Malwa and appointed his commander Shujaat Khan as its Governor. Shujaat Khan died in 1554, almost as an independent ruler. His son, Baz Bahadur, succeeded him. After a disgraceful defeat at the hands of Rani Durgavati of Gondwana, Baz Bahadur stayed away from military fights and devoted himself to music and dance.
Mandu is renowned for the fabled love story of poet-prince Baz Bahadur and his favourite consort, the beautiful Rani Roopmati, who was a gifted Hindu poet and singer. Their tragic love story is a theme of Malwa folk songs, and lingers over the fort’s beautiful structures like Roopmati’s Pavilion, Baz Bahadur’s Palace and Rewa Kund.
In 1561, Mughal Emperor Akbar’s foster-brother and general, Adham Khan marched to Mandu. Baz Bahadur fled from the battlefield in Sarangpur. Rani Roopmati was captured by Adham Khan, but to avoid his lusty advances, she committed suicide. Baz Bahadur was the last ruler of Malwa. As Mandu was no longer the capital of an independent kingdom, the city lost its former glory, and began to decline. Nevertheless, the Mughal emperors were fascinated by the city.
The Mughals ruled over the fort-city for more than 150 years till the mid-18th century. Akbar visited the fort in 1564 and 1598, and as his son Jehangir wrote in his memoirs, destroyed most of the buildings to prevent the place being used as a base by his enemies. Jehangir was totally enamoured by the magical beauty of Mandu and made it his monsoon retreat. He stayed here in 1616 from March to September and spent around three lakhs in restoring buildings. In his memoirs, he praised Mandu and its architecture, and mentioned his experiences as well as those of his wife Noor Jahan. He celebrated his birthday here and was, as usual, weighed against gold and precious stones.
The first English travellers, who were merchants, visited the fort in 1585 on their way to Delhi. Later in 1610 and 1611, two other English merchants travelled here. One of them, Jourdain, wrote about the difficult road, steep and stony to the fort. Both noted the fort’s ruined state with nothing standing except for tombs and mosques. And some sixteen tanks around the fort. Sir Thomas Roe, ambassador from British King James I, who visited Mandu on Jehangir’s invitation documented the beauty and inaccessibility of Mandu. While he wrote about the extensive ruins and desolation all around with lions, tigers, wild elephants, etc. freely roaming around, he also mentioned water problems.
In 1623, Jehangir’s son Shah Jahan took refuge here while rebelling against his father. He was much influenced by it. He even restored some of the old palaces. And later in 1635, after he became emperor, he stayed here during the rains.
In 1732, Hindu rule was re-established when the powerful Maratha ruler, Peshwa Baji Rao I defeated the Mughal governor of Malwa and took over Mandu. The capital of Malwa shifted back to Dhar under Maharaja Udaji Pawar, a Maratha of Parmara descendency. The Marathas reigned till the British rose to power.
In 1820, Sir John Malcolm proposed to make Mandu his summer headquarters. The British Viceroy, Lord Curzon visited Mandu in 1902 and was deeply impressed with its architectural richness and natural grandeur. With time, Mandu slowly fell into ruin.
Today, some surviving works of Hindu art from pre-Muslim rule in Mandu are displayed at a museum inside the fort. It was customary for Muslim rulers in India, without any exceptions, to ransack and destroy Hindu temples and build their mosques and tombs upon them, using the remains of the temples to build their structures with their own ideas of architectural compositions. Hence, almost all the standing monuments at Mandu represent Islamic art and architecture belonging to the period between 1401 and 1526, when the Afghans ruled the fort. Several palaces like the Jahaz Mahal and Hindola Mahal, lakes, attractive canals, baths, ornate pavilions, and other architectural wonders still exist, providing a glimpse of Mandu as a pleasure resort with extravagant festivities under them.
MY TRAVEL STORY
Someone told me that there’s nothing much to see in Mandu, everything is in ruins. Ruled by the Muslims for 400 long years, its buildings and structures represent Islamic art and architecture. However, these very buildings and structures were built with stones from Hindu temples destroyed by the Muslim rulers. Ruined palaces are fine, but mosques and tombs don’t appeal to me. And if you add wandering ghosts to it, the place is most definitely not for me. And yet, I’m curious to visit this “fortress-in-ruins”. Because ancient forts high up in the mountains have always fascinated me.
I have to reach Indore airport by 3 PM to catch my flight back home to Mumbai. It’s a two-hour drive from Indore to Mandu. So if I start at 6:00 AM, I can get to explore the place for four hours, at the most. That too, in the pleasant morning hours before the scorching heat sets in. Keeping this in mind, I start off from my hotel in an AC Santro. I think 2500 rupees is a bit pricey for a 200 KM ride. If I had booked through an agency instead of my hotel, I would have got a better price, perhaps 2000…
The roads are good, and at this early morning hour, mostly deserted. It’s a lovely drive, but after half an hour or more, the front tyre gets punctured. The driver rushes off in search of a nearby repair shop. In his anxiety, the old man forgets to carry his mobile phone. Sigh. I call up the hotel desk, and relate the bad news to the manager. It’s close to 7:00 AM. There’s no habitation alongside the deserted road, except for the occasional heavy vehicles passing by.
After about forty minutes, the driver arrives huffing and puffing with the repaired tyre. Fortunately, the repair shop was just a kilometre away. He compensates for the wasted time by speeding on the smooth road.
Close to 8:00 AM, the car is snaking up the hill. I see quite a number of ancient structures along the road.
A large part of the fort ramparts has been reduced to boulders and rubble. Due to its strategic position and natural defences, Mandu was an important military post. The approach road to the walled city passes through 12 darwazas or gates, with walled enclosures and bastions. Some of these have remained intact till today.
The more than fifty ancient buildings and structures scattered within the 45-km wall encircling the fortress, are grouped into categories, each having an entrance fee of ten rupees per person (for Indians and citizens of neighbouring countries, while entry is free for those below 15 years). The driver is well-versed with the fort. He drives towards the Rewa Kund Group at the southern end of the plateau. It is quarter past eight and I’m the first tourist at the entrance to this group of monuments.
More than the fort itself, Mandu is famed for the romantic folklore of Rani Roopmati and Baz Bahadur, both of whom were accomplished musicians. The story of Roopmati’s eternal love for Baz Bahadur and their musical soirees linger over the Rewa Kund group of monuments.
There are three monuments in this group: Roopmati’s Pavilion, Rewa Kund and Baz Bahadur’s Palace. Roopmati Pavilion is the most interesting place in Mandu. Hence, it is the face of Mandu. This is where Rani Roopmati was known to spend her mornings, singing in praise of the Narmada flowing through the Nimar plains far below.
Perched atop a lofty hill, overlooking the Nimar plains, Roopmati’s Pavilion is a large sandstone structure originally built as an army observation post. According to Malwa legends, Baz Bahadur built it to persuade Roopmati, to move to Mandu from her home close to the Narmada.
Rani Roopmati was a Hindu girl of rare charm and beauty. An ardent worshipper of Narmada river, she began her day and took her daily meals only after a darshan of the sacred river. She was a great poetess, composer, reciter and singer. The holy river inspired her. One day, Baz Bahadur saw her singing alongside the river and immediately fell in love with her beauty and captivating voice. He persuaded her to come to Mandu with an assurance that her wish for a palace within the sight of Narmada River would be fulfilled. They married with much pomp and glory in Hindu and Muslim traditions. From this pavilion, Rani Roopmati would gaze at the distant glint of the Narmada and the palace of her beloved, a few kilometres away. She was deeply devoted to Baz Bahadur. Like him, she was a skilful rider. Almost all old paintings depict them on horseback. In 1557, their son Miya Mahmud Mirza was born.
The love story of Rani Roopmati and Baz Bahadur came to a tragic end. This happened when Mughal emperor Akbar’s general and foster-brother, Adham Khan attacked Mandu in 1561. Baz Bahadur fled from the battlefield in Sarangpur, leaving Rani Roopmati in Mandu. She committed suicide to avoid the lusty advances of Adham Khan.
Adham Khan would conquer a kingdom for himself and enslave all its women to add to his harem. Women in the conquered kingdoms preferred to commit suicide rather than face him. Before he could touch Rani Roopmati with whom he had fallen in love, she committed suicide. Furious, he unleashed his terror and killed hundreds of innocent inhabitants of Malwa. Akbar had to recall him and hand over the command of Malwa to Pir Muhammad, another general who was part of the victorious Mughal army in Mandu. Both men soon faced death.
Adham Khan had brutally murdered the husband of Akbar’s other foster mother, whom he had made his Chief Minister, allowing him to investigate and document the military excesses and financial embezzlement perpetrated by Adham Khan as an army general. And then, in blind fury he had burst upon Akbar with his sword unsheathed, prompting the infuriated emperor to immediately have him arrested and thrown down the ramparts of his fortress in Agra, twice for good measure. Pir Muhammad drowned in the Narmada river, while retreating from his defeat to Baz Bahadur, who was supported by neighbouring kingdoms.
Baz Bahadur regained Mandu, but only briefly. The Mughals soon returned, and he ran away for the second time, without facing them. This time, he wandered around seeking refuge at different kingdoms, and in 1562, was provided shelter in Chittorgarh by Maharana Udai Singh of Mewar. He finally submitted himself to Akbar in 1571 and was graciously received and raised to rank and honour.
In 1599, the story of Rani Roopmati was written in Persian. The author included 26 poems written by Roopmati in his work. A copy of the manuscript changed hands over the years. It came to British military officer Major C.E. Luard. It was translated into English by L.M. Crump under the title, The Lady of the Lotus: Rupmati, Queen of Mandu: A Strange Tale of Faithfulness in 1926.
Roopmati’s Pavilion represents a baradari structure with twelve doors designed to allow the free flow of air. A baradari structure has three doorways on every side of the square shaped structure. They are known for their outstanding acoustic features and for hosting performances by dancers, the noble courtesans, and other artistes. They were also used for fresh air during hot summers.
Lush green lawns…
The two chhatris (or dome-shaped pavilions)…
Watch my video: Roopmati’s Pavilion
Beautiful stone corridors with arched openings…
Rainwater harvesting system, as well as water purification system through different channels using charcoal and other natural methods, are seen here.
The narrow staircase to the top…
Watch my video: Inside Roopmati’s Pavilion
From the window of the chhatri…
Watch my video: View from one of the Chhatris of Roopmati’s Pavilion
Unlike Rani Roopmati, I’m unable to see the holy Narmada which is 26 KM away. Despite the early morning haze, the view is fascinating…hills and valleys, plateaus, forests and the green Nimar plains.
Mandu has long been famous as a perfect monsoon destination. I can imagine the place in the midst of scenic mountain landscapes clothed in green with waterfalls and streams gushing down its sides into the valleys below. A magical sight with clouds and mist.
Returning to the fabled past, the thick cloud cover in the monsoon season deprived Rani Roopmati her of the glimpse of Narmada from the pavilion. She would go without food for long periods. And then, she had a divine dream that the waters of Narmada were also present in a nearby pond. This pond is the sacred Rewa Kund. The reservoir supplied water to Baz Bahadur’s Palace through an aquaduct. It is surprising that despite the long period of Muslim reign, the Hindu name of the pond has survived till today. This maybe partly due to its association with Rani Roopmati and Baz Bahadur, who, it seems, widened and rebuilt it. Halls with arched openings still stand, a part of the palace which once stood here facing the tank.
View of Rewa Kund from Baz Bahadur’s Palace…
As per another version, Baz Bahadur built the Rewa Kund to store water from the Narmada at the request of his lady love. Baz Bahadur’s Palace stands on a hill close to the Rewa Kund. It’s a short drive from Roopmati’s Pavilion.
Baz Bahadur’s Palace…
A Persian inscription on the entrance arch states that the palace was built by Nasiruddin in 1508 AD, long before Baz Bahadur occupied it. It represents a blend of Rajasthani and Muslim architectural styles.
A colonnade along the flight of steps to the palace…
Watch my video: Inside Baz Bahadur’s Palace
The palace has a spacious courtyard encircled by halls. In the middle stands a tank…
Watch my video: Tank inside Baz Bahadur’s Palace
View of the tank from the terrace…
Watch my video: View of tank from the terrace
Small square rooms…
A narrow staircase leads to the terrace which offers a lovely view of the surroundings and the palace lawns.
One of the two chattris on the terrace…
View of Roopmati’s Pavilion from the terrace…
Next, the driver starts for the Neelkanth Temple which offers picturesque views of the western side…
Ruins are found almost everywhere around Mandu, most of which are tombs and mosques. And as usual, all of them were built from the ruins of Hindu or Jain temples destroyed by the Muslim rulers. Generally, Muslim kings ruled in the plains. So their rule over the mountain top fortress of Mandu was an exception.
Between Rewa Kund and Mandu village, towards the centre of the plateau, is the Sagar Talao group of monuments, dating to the 15th century. It includes Malik Mughti Mosque (mosque of Humayun Khan, father of Mahmud Khilji) built in 1432, tombs like Jali Mahal, Dai Ka Mahal and Dai ki Choti Behen ka Mahal, and a courtyard called Caravan Sarai.
Just opposite the Sagar Talao, is another tourist attraction called the Echo Point. It is so named because its location near the mountains creates an echo when you clap or shout aloud.
To prove that it works, the driver gives a demonstration. His loud shout echoes back in an instant. Amazing. It must have been of great help to the fort’s army during the olden days.
Neelkanth Temple has a fabulous mountain location, overlooking steep valleys. Originally an old Shiva shrine existed here, but it was destroyed to make way for the present 16th century structure made of red sandstone – designated as a pleasure house constructed by a governor of Mughal emperor Akbar in 1574. This is recorded by a Persian inscription on the site.
Another Persian inscription by Akbar refers to the futility of earthly pomp and glory. Very funny. Mughal pomp and glory is well-known in history, and clearly visible in the present through its monuments and structures. It was probably a snide remark at the extravagant festivities of the erstwhile Afghan rulers of Mandu who made it a “City of Joy.”
The shiva linga is in the central hall…
There is a small stream in front of the entrance which trickles through a spiral channel, before flowing into the valley…
Watch my video: Neelkanth Temple
View from Neelkanth Temple…
Watch my video: View from Neelkanth Temple
Songarh Fort was once an impregnable citadel of Mandu. Accessed by a narrow strip of land, it was from here that Bahadur Shah of Gujarat and Humayun successfully entered Mandu. Today the only thing standing is the Songarh gateway built by Rani Maina Bai of Dhar in the 19th century, a kilometre away.
I have just a few hours to explore the huge fort, so I immediately proceed to the next group of monuments. It is located in the centre of Mandu.
One of my reasons for visiting Mandu was to check out “the world’s biggest tamarind” which grows here in abundance. In fact, I was told this is the only place in the country where I can find it.
This is the tamarind tree or rather, the baobab tree, which is native to Africa…
Mandu is surrounded by baobab trees, all looking parched with leafless branches. Well, it’s the dry season. Also known as the tree of life, it bears fruit only in the rainy season. The fruits are plucked and dried for months. Then, they are broken into two and the soft core is extracted. Besides baobab, there are plenty of banyan trees around. Much to my surprise, fruits like mangoes, custard apples and chikoo (or sapota) are widely found here. It’s not the season of these fruits, but I do see a few small blackish and dried-out custard apples hanging from the branches alongside the road.
The Village Group of Monuments is located along the main road in the centre of Mandu village. It comprises of three 15th century monuments built by the Ghori and Khilji dynasties: the main mosque – Jama Masjid, a madrassa (Islamic school) – Ashrafi Mahal and Hoshang Shah’s Tomb. The entry to all three monuments is covered by a single ticket sold at the entrance to the Jama Masjid.
A flight of steps leads to the 17-metre-high domed porch of the magnificent example of Afghan architecture in India. Its construction was started around 1406 by Hoshang Shah and was completed by Mahmud Khiji in 1454. The simple and austere work of massive grandeur was inspired by the Umayyad Mosque of Syria, also known as the Great Mosque of Damascas.
The entrance porch of Jama Masjid…
The interior of the entrance porch has beautiful jali (stone-lattice) screen on the sides above which are fine bands of blue enamel tiles.
Across the courtyard, the majestic red stone structure houses a huge prayer hall with numerous arches and pillars which support the ceiling of the three large domes and fifty-eight smaller ones.
The prayer court inside the Jami Masjid…
Watch my video: Inside Jama Masjid
The mosque was once a place of worship of thousands, but today I’m the only visitor around. This is my second time inside a mosque, the first time being at Taj-ul-Masajid in Bhopal just three days ago. This mosque is no longer a place of worship. It’s a 17-bay-wide prayer hall with Hindu-influenced pulpit and prayer niches.
Outside, on the road, I find a few food vendors selling nimbu-pani, roasted corn, and… baobab, the famous Khusrani Imli (or tamarind) of Mandu…
I buy one whole tamarind and a small pack of its sour and tangy core. It tastes good.
Just opposite the Jama Masjid are the ruins of Ashrafi Mahal which was originally built as a Madrassa or a school for Islamic Studies.
View of Ashrafi Mahal from Jama Masjid…
Ashrafi Mahal ‘Palace of Gold Coins’, was built by Hoshang Shah’s successor, Mahmud Khilji between 1405 and 1422. It was a quadrangle with rows of cells and arcaded corridors on the outside, and four corner towers. Now it is in ruins, but the small cubicles meant for studies can still be seen. The north-east corner tower of the madrassa was later converted into a seven-storey circular tower” Tower of Victory” in 1443 to commemorate the victory of Mahmud Khilji over Rana Kumbha, the Maharaja of Mewar. Of the seven-storeyed tower, only one has survived.
Climbing the staircase, I reach the roof to find a carved marble base – the tomb of Mahmud Khilji.
Tomb of Mahmud Khilji…
Close to Asharfi Palace, there is a Ram Temple built by Maharani Sakarwarbai Pawar in 1769. And not far, are some Jain temples along with a museum housing a replica of the Palitana temple complex and colourful murals.
The place behind the Jama Masjid hosts a colourful weekly haat (market) on Saturdays, which is similar to the ones found in central Indian tribal areas.
It’s nearing 11:00 AM, and the driver advises a start for the Royal Enclave. From the car, I catch a view of the marble-domed Hoshang Shah’s Tomb, which is located right behind Jama Masjid and can also be accessed from the back exit of the mosque. This was the first marble mausoleum built in India. Prior to this, Islamic tombs were built of sandstones. The work on this white marble tomb was started by Hoshang Shah himself and it was completed by Mahmud Khilji in 1440. The round Afghan dome, as distinct from the onion-shaped Mughal dome, is crowned with a tiny crescent which is believed to have been imported from Persia or Mesopotamia. The finely-carved rich white marble tomb so impressed the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan that he sent his team or architects to study the design and draw inspiration from it to build his Taj Mahal. An inscription dated 1659 records the visit of the architects.
Though it is a wonderful example of Afghan art and architecture, Hoshang Shah’s Tomb also combines Hindu architectural style. A Dharamshala built of Hindu remains and in Hindu-style runs along the west of the enclosure.
The Royal Enclave is the largest group of monuments, a huge complex of palatial buildings from the 15th and 16th centuries set near two artificial lakes – Munja and Kapur – in the North-western corner of the mountain plateau.
The first among them is Jahaz Mahal…
Jahaz Mahal ‘Ship Palace’ is noted for its romantic beauty. Standing lengthwise on a narrow strip of land between the waters of the Munja and Kapur tanks, the 120-metre long and 15-metre wide palace resembles a large ship anchored at the port. It was built somewhere around 1436-1439 by the pleasure-loving, devout hedonist Sultan Ghiyasuddin Khilji for his large harem of 15,000 women. It is said that 500 young and beautiful Turkish females in men’s clothes and an equal number of armed and uniformed Abyssinian females, used to stand as guards to his right and left sides respectively.
I can imagine Jahaz Mahal with its fountains and cascades. The sprawling grounds are well-maintained…
Watch my video: Sprawling grounds of Jahaz Mahal
The ground floor of the palace consists of three large halls, separated by corridors, having narrow rooms at the extreme ends. At the northern end is a beautiful pleasure pool surrounded by a colonnade on its three sides.
Mughal emperor Jehangir wrote in his memoirs about a wonderful assembly organized on the ground floor. “Early in the evening, they lit lamps and lanterns all around the lake and buildings. The illumination was such that has never been arranged in any place. The reflection of the lights in water looked as if it was a place on fire.”
The terrace was for festive parties. Jehangir wrote about a lavish and very entertaining party hosted by his wife Noor Jehan, at which guests overindulged in drunken revelry.
Close to the northern end of the terrace is a small pleasure pool overlooking the larger one on the ground floor.
Watch my video: Pleasure pool on terrace
The terrace offers superb views of the two lakes and the surroundings. There are two projecting pavilions on each side – one facing Kapur Talao, and the other, Munja Talao.
Yours truly in the pavilion facing Kapur Talao…
Munja Talao is dry…
There is another palace, Jal Mahal at the corner of the lake. It is believed to have been a private retreat for noble couples, with several step-wells and pools. There are many palace ruins in that area.
Watch my video: View of Munja Talao
The Royal Enclave is best in monsoon when both the lakes are full and there’s greenery everywhere. The palace with its open terrace and pavilions offers a mesmerizing spectacle on moonlight nights from the terrace of the neighbouring Taveli Mahal.
Once upon a time, Taveli Mahal was used as stable and a guard room. Today, it houses a small museum of the Archaeological Survey of India exhibiting artefacts dating from 11th century found inside the fort, and paintings as well.
A painting depicting a Muslim ruler enjoying a dance performance…
The Royal Enclave also includes several other structures bearing traces of their past grandeur. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much time to explore them.
There is a Gada Shah’s House and a few metres away, two large wells – Ujala Baori ‘Bright Well’, an open well and Andheri Baori ‘Dark Well’, a covered well.
Hindola Mahal ‘Swinging Palace’, named so because of its sloping side walls which look like the ropes of a swing.
Champa Baori, an elaborately constructed subterranean well with its tah-khanas or cool hot-weather retreats. Near it stand the remains of some hamams or baths, made on the lines of Turkish baths. These were necessary adjuncts to the comforts of a palace in those days.
Nahar Jhirokha, so called from the marble-framed window in the north wall from where the king would hear petitions and receive his courtiers’ salutations.
Dilawar Khan’s Mosque is the earliest Indo-Islamic building at Mandu, erected from the remains of a Jain temple. It bears an inscription to the effect that it was built by Dilawar Khan in 1405.
The earliest structures inside the fort, the Lohani Caves, are located near the Royal Enclave. The entire surroundings of the caves were found scattered with carved fragments representing ruins of Hindu temples, mostly Shiva, which once stood there, but were presumably destroyed and their materials used in later Muslim buildings. To the south of the caves stands a five metre-high monolithic pillar which probably adorned the front of a temple.
Among other 15th century monuments are Hathi Mahal and Darya Khan’s Tomb, both of which lie near the village. Hathi Mahal was originally constructed as pleasure resort and later converted into a tomb. It has massive pillars resembling the feet of an elephant. Darya Khan’s Tomb was built around 1510- 26. There are ruins in every nook and corner, so it’s best explored by foot or by cycle.
There are two state tourism hotels in the fort: Malwa Resort near Sagar Talao and Malwa Retreat near the Royal Enclave. And close to Malwa Retreat is Hotel Rupmati.
The never-ending ruins of tombs and mosque in the fort, have washed away the memories of the pre-Muslim era, when it was the capital of Paramar kings. The dashing and gallant Vairasinha (914-941); Munja (973-995) and Bhoja (1010-1055), the scholar kings and builders of delicately-carved structures, which were razed to the ground by Muslim invaders from the north who drove away the fort’s original inhabitants from their land…
As for me, I’m glad I decided to visit Mandu. Although it was a hurried one, it was totally worth it. Mandu is a magical place and a perfect monsoon destination for nature lovers. If you are visiting Indore, don’t give it a miss 🙂
I hope you have thoroughly enjoyed my Madhya Pradesh travel series. My next travel series is on the royal state of Rajasthan. So keep visiting me 🙂