Mandu: A royal legacy of Par­mars, Sul­tans and Mughals

The awe-in­spir­ing ar­chitech­tu­ral mar­vels of Mandu have lend in­spi­ra­tion to var­i­ous dy­nas­ties and con­tin­ues to en­thral dis­cern­ing trav­ellers from across the world.

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Mandu, a city ly­ing 100 km from In­dore is the me­dieval magic of Mad­hya Pradesh. Fa­mously as­so­ci­ated with the leg­ends of Rani Roop­mati and Bazadur, the city is an ar­chi­tec­tural gem, mainly re­flect­ing Afghan ar­chi­tec­ture. The royal love leg­end is doc­u­mented in the folk songs of Malwa sung by bal­ladeers. Nes­tled upon the crest of a hill, Roop­mati’s pavil­ion still gazes down at Bazadur’s palace.

Due to its strate­gic im­por­tance of be­ing sit­u­ated at an al­ti­tude of 2000 feet, Mandu was orig­i­nally the fort-cap­i­tal of the Par­mar rulers of Malwa due to its nat­u­ral de­fenses. It was re-named ‘Shadiyabad’ mean­ing city of joy by the Sul­tans of Malwa in late 13th Cen­tu­ary. Ja­haz Ma­hal, Hin­dola Ma­hal, baths and canals are the rem­i­nis­cences of this phase of Mandu’s past.

Each of Mandu’s struc­tures is awe-in­spir­ing. Some out­stand­ing like the mas­sive Jami Masjid and Hoshang Shah’s tomb, which pro­vided in­spi­ra­tion for the mas­ter builders of the Taj Ma­hal’s cen­turies later. For Mughals, Mandu was a plea­sure re­sort and its lakes and palaces rem­i­nisce the scenes of splen­did and ex­trav­a­gant fes­tiv­i­ties. Mandu is now one of the most sought-af­ter des­ti­na­tions of Mad­hya Pradesh with its mosques and palaces.

Hoshang Shah’s tomb

Hoshang Shah’s tomb is In­dia’s first mar­ble struc­ture with a beau­ti­fully pro­por­tioned dome and in­tri­cate lat­tice work lend­ing it its iden­tity. Shah Jahan sent four of his great ar­chi­tects to study the struc­ture and draw in­spi­ra­tion from it. It is said that one of them–Us­tad Hamid–was later as­so­ci­ated with the con­struc­tion of Taj Ma­hal.

Jami Masjid

The masjid is unique ow­ing to its huge struc­ture and the in­spi­ra­tion for its ar­chi­tec­ture was drawn from the great mosque of Da­m­as­cus. Its back­ground is dom­i­nated by sim­i­lar im­pos­ing domes. The struc­ture of the mosque is sur­rounded by colon­nades.

Asharfi Ma­hal

This struc­ture was con­ceived as an aca­demic in­sti­tute by Mah­mud Shah Khilji who was Hoshang Shah’s suc­ces­sor. A seven storey struc­ture in the same premises was also con­structed by him to cel­e­brate the vic­tory of Rana Khumba of Me­war.

Ja­haz Ma­hal

Built be­tween two ar­ti­fi­cial lakes, Munj Talab and Ka­pur Talab, Mandu is fa­mous for this palace known as Ja­haz Ma­hal. This is a grand re­flec­tion of a me­dieval plea­sure re­sort with its open pavil­ions, and bal­conies hang­ing over the wa­ter. The re­flec­tion of the sil­hou­ette of the build­ing in wa­ter dur­ing moon­lit nights give it a sur­real aura.

Hin­dola Ma­hal

Its slop­ing side-walls have lent it the name ‘Swing­ing Palace,’ which was con­structed as an au­di­ence hall. In­no­va­tive tech­niques are re­flected in the mak­ing of its or­na­men­tal façade, del­i­cate trel­lis work in sand­stone and its uniquely-molded col­umns. An elab­o­rately con­structed well, Champa Baoli which is con­nected with un­der­ground vaulted rooms is also seen by the side of Hin­dola Ma­hal. It is known to have ar­range­ments for hot and cold wa­ter.

Dar­wazas

Mandu is en­cir­cled by a 45 km para­pet wall with 12 gate­ways. Delhi Dar­waza is the main en­trance of the fortress city, for which the ap­proach is through a se­ries of gate­ways.

Other places of in­ter­est near these mon­u­ments are Di­lawar Khan’s mosque, the Na­har Jharoka, Taveli Ma­hal, and Ujali and And­heri Bao­lis. Mandu, fa­mous for the love sto­ries of Baz Ba­hadur and Room­pati, has many ar­chi­tec­tural mar­vels wit­ness to this royal love story. One such is the Rewa Kund which was an aque­duct to pro­vide Roop­mati’s palace with wa­ter. Over time this spot has gained re­li­gious sanc­tity. Built in the 16th cen­tury, Baz Ba­hadur’s palace is an­other such rem­i­nisce of the royal ro­mance and still an­other is Roop­mati’s pavil­ion. The pavil­ion was orig­i­nally built as an army ob­ser­va­tion post. How­ever it also be­came the fa­vorite re­treat of Queen Roop­mati as it of­fered a view of the Baz Ba­hadur’s palace and the river Nar­mada flow­ing through the Ni­mar plains far below.

A few more mon­u­ments in Mandu need men­tion for their ar­chi­tec­tural merit, viz,

Nilka­nth, the Shiva shrine at the very edge of a deep gorge, Nilka­nth Ma­hal, a palace made for Em­peror Ak­bar’s Hindu wife. The most im­por­tant fea­ture of this palace is the in­scrip­tion be­long­ing to the time of Em­peror Ak­bar which point to the fu­til­ity of ma­te­rial world. Hathi Ma­hal, Darya Khan’s tomb, Dai Ka ma­hal, Dai ki chhoti be­han ka ma­hal and the list is end­less. The Echo Point and Sun­set Point are the other two points which should not be missed.

Thanks to its lo­ca­tion, Mandu ex­pe­ri­ences mon­soon at its best. When it rains con­tin­u­ously for a few days, the clouds de­scend to em­brace this beau­ti­ful city. A walk in the rains gives an old world charm.

Fort of Dhar

On way to Mandu lies the fort built by the Par­mars, one of the ear­li­est rulers of this re­gion. Sheesh Ma­hal, in­side the Fort, Khar­buja ma­hal, Vishram Bha­van, Madan ki Sarai, Kothari Sarai, Karva Sarai Roza ki Dar­gah and the other mon­u­ments de­serve a visit. For all those who like the sweet sour taste, a va­ri­ety of tamarind, known as Khur­sani Imli is very com­monly found here.

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