The world has a history of many ruin cities; however, some cities leave behind their impeccable impression owing to their golden day’s stories, superb architecture and mystical aura. Mandu is one these cities, ruined yet so glorious! The town of Mandu is situated in a Malwa region which falls under Vindhya ranges of west central India and lies about 98 kms away from Indore- the capital city of Madhya Pradesh.
The saga of this town was begun by Rajput Kings or more correctly said as Parmar dynasty who laid down the foundation of fortress at Mandu. It was then was taken over by Delhi Sultan Hoshang Shah, who ruled over Malwa for 27 years. During his observance many monuments were built and some of these structures reflect the influence of Indo-Islamic architecture. He was the one who imposed the importance of strong military which can be seen even thru the solid structures of palaces and monuments built around. People say that he was in so love with this place that he named his kingdom at Mandu as “Shahidabad” which means the city of Joy. This fort witnessed many leaders ruling over it including famous Mughal emperors like Baber, Humayun and Akbar and has testified the days of glory as well as dark. The entire fort is spread into 80 Kms of the perimeter which holds many mosques, ruined palaces, beautiful pathways, canals and many other monuments.
(Garden in front of Jahaz Mahal)
There were plenty of reasons why I decided to visit Mandu; but, the one which stood prominently was its unconventional magnificent architecture. Mandu is located at an altitude of 2,000 feet encircled by 12 gateways. The main entrance is thru Delhi Darwaza or Delhi Gate as it faces on to Delhi side. An approach road thru this entrance is again marked with many gateways which are well-fortified with walled enclosures and strengthened by bastions. As I was ascending up to the hill I was accompanied by many monkeys and panoramic views of the Vindhya hill which was connecting me more to the nature.
The through-way “Delhi Darwaza” preceded me to the center of Mandu village. If we look at Mandu as a complete town, then we come to know that the concept of “Planned city” was prevalent in ancient times too. The monuments from Mandu have been categorized into three broader categories- The Central village group, the Royal Enclave Group and the Rewa Kund Group and each group is distinctly different from other group.
The central part of the town can be easily spotted with huge dome shaped structure famously known as Jami Masjid. The abstraction of this mosque is inspired by the world’s largest and oldest mosque of Damascus and one can make out its grandness thru lavish entrance and huge courtyard.
(Jami Masjid courtyard)
As I took a leap inside the dome my attention was grasped by the Minbar (a short flight of steps used as a platform by a preacher in a mosque) as it is the only structure located exactly at the center of the mosque surrounded by an open space.
(Jami Masjid Interior_with Minbar)
At the extreme right corner there is a small lane which connects you from the Mosque to the Hoshang’s tomb, India’s first marble structure. Whether you believe or not but it’s said that this marble structure served as a reference template for building the famous wonder Taj Mahal. Pretty interesting, isn’t it?
With lot of curiosity, I made my way to the Royal enclave group which is a collection of many palaces, lakes and beautiful garden. Out of all, two monuments from this group that won my heart include Jahaz Mahal and Hindola Mahal. The previous represents an incredible piece of architecture whose shape resembles to that of ship and moreover this structure is flanked by two artificial lakes on its either side creating the sense of Ship standing in the water.
(Jahaz Mahal entry)
This palace was built for summer retreat of royal families while others quote it as a stopover point for royal families on their pilgrim visits to Delhi. The Hindola Mahal is also known as swinging palace due to its sloping side walls and has a shape of letter “T”. The design of the building is simply beautiful and bold. This place was mainly in use as audience hall. Mandu is special in terms of its strong, sturdy and bold layouts. The construction is pretty different than normal decorative, delicate work which is found across plenty of the forts and palaces in India.
(Hindola Mahal Interior)
(Swimming Pool at Jahaz Mahal)
I could not wait to see the last group of this lovely town that has romantic air.
This place talks about the love story of the King Baz Bahadur and his lady of love Rani Roopmati! One day while King was out for hunting he encountered with shepherdess singing some sweet musical notes. When King saw her for the first time, he instantly fell in love with this alluring lady and couldn’t do but ask her for marriage to which she replied “Yes”.
He built the Roopmati palace for his lady of love at Mandu- at a height from where she could enjoy the view of the town and as well as could see the Baz Bahadur’s palace down.
The only difficult task I found was climbing up to this Roopmati palace however the soothing breeze and the panoramic view on the roof top threw away all the anxiety in me and instead made me wonder about the eminence of this ruined town. The air, the aura totally embraces you with the events happened in the history and these monuments stand by to the time preserving the moment lived by them. All I wanted to loose myself in to the charm of this place and breathe fresh air around me.
(Baz Bahadur’s palace)
Other monuments :
Asharfi Mahal, Rewa Kund, Nilakanth Mahal, Sagar Talao, the tomb of Darya Khan and Lohani caves are other fascinating attractions nearby.
How to Reach:
BY Air_ Nearest airport_ Indore, 98 km away
Nearest Railway station_ Ratlam, (124 km) on the Delhi-Mumbai main line
By Road_ Regular bus services from Dhar (35 km), Indore, Ratlam, Ujjain (154 km) and Bhopal (285 km via Indore).
Best time to visit:
July to Sep (I would prefer Monsoon)
Where to Stay and Eat:
The choices for accommodation are very limited at Mandu. One can opt for Hotel Roopmati, Hotel Jahaz Mahal or MP tourism’s Malwa retreat and Malwa Resort. Mandu can be covered in a day so better to catch up with nearby good cities for stay. Have good breakfast, carry water bottle and some snack items as the area to cover is spread wide and the options of food stalls are very limited.