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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.