Mandu

Legends of Love in the City of Joy

Located at an altitude of 2000 feet, Mandu, in Madhya Pradesh, was originally the fort - capital of the Parmar rulers of Malwa.Towards the end of the 13th century, it came under the rule of the Sultans of Malwa. The first of these kings renamed it Shadiabad - the City of Joy. The subsequent ruling clans built grand palaces like the Jahaz and Hindola Mahals, ornate pavilions, and other architectural gems.

Mandu is a celebration of life and love, a tribute to the tender love of the poet - prince Baz Bahadur for his consort, Rani Roopmati. The balladeers of Malwa still sing of their love, and perched atop a hill, Roopmati's pavilion still gazes down fondly upon Baz Bahadur's palace, an outstanding example of Afghan architecture. The other structures of interest are the massive Jami Masjid and Hoshang Shah's Tomb, which served as models for the masterbuilders of the Taj Mahal, centuries later. The magic of Mandu lives on in its palaces, mosques, and in its ballads.

Sightseeing

The 45 km parapet of walls that embrace Mandu are marked by 12 gateways. Amongst these, the most famous of these is Delhi Darwaza, which serves as the main entrance to this city. The approach is through a series of gateways, armed with walled enclosures and bastions, such as the Alangir and Bhangi Darwaza. Some of the other gateways are the Rampol Darwaza, Jehangir Gate and Tarapur Gate.

The Central group of ancient monuments include Hoshang Shah's Tomb, India's first marble edifice and one of the supreme examples of Afghan architecture. The impressive dome, the intricate marble lattice work, the porticoed courts are some of the memorable features of this ancient structure. It is said that Shah Jahan sent some of his renowned architects to study the design of the tomb, and to use it as a role model for other such structures. Among them was Ustad Hamid, the architect, who was closely associated with the conception of the Taj Mahal. The famous Jami Masjid of Mandu, was inspired by the mosque of Damascus.The sheer hugeness of the structure coupled with a stark simplcity of design, is really overwhelming. The mosque's court is encircled on all sides by massive columns, complemented by arches and pillars. The Ashrafi Mahal, 'palace of gold coins', built by Hoshang Shah's successor, Mahmud Shah Khilji, was conceived as an academic institution for young boys. To commemorate his victory over Rana Khumba of Mewar, Mahmud Shah also added a seven - storeyed tower, of which only one storey has survived.

The Rewa Kund group of monuments is of deep historical interest, which deal with the legendary, poignant love story of Rani Roopmati and Baz Bahadur. The Rewa Kund is a reservoir built by Baz Bahadur, equipped with an aqueduct to supply Roopmati's palace with water. Today, the site is revered as a holy spot. Baz Bahadur's Palace was constructed in the early 6th century, and is notable for its spacious courtyard fringed with halls, and high terraces which give a terrific view of the lovely surroundings. Rani Roopmati's Pavilion was built as an army observation post. It served a more romantic purpose as Roopmati's retreat. From this picturesque pavilion perched on a hilltop, the queen could gaze at her paramour's palace, and also at the Narmada flowing by, below.

The Nilkanth shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva, is mounted in an awesome setting - at the very edge of a dramatically steep gorge. A pond deemed sacred flowing in its courtyard, fed by a stream, this temple is still an active site of worship. Near the Nilkanth shrine is the Nilkanth Mahal, belonging to the Mughal era. It was constructed by Shah Badgah, a Mughal governor, for Emperor Akbar's Hindu wife, Jodhabai. The walls sport some inscriptions dating back to Akbar's times, referring to the futility of human vanity.

The Royal Enclave comprises of the famous Jahaz Mahal and Hindola Mahal. The Jahaz Mahal, a 120 metre long 'ship palace' lies between two manmade lakes, Munj Talab and Kapur Talab. This two - storeyed palace was in all probability built by Sultan Ghiyas - ud - din Khilji for his large harem. Built to resemble a royal cruiser, as it were, the palace with its open terrace and pavilions, offers a mesmerising spectacle on moonlit nights, from the neighbouring Taveli Mahal. The Hindola Mahal, an audience hall derives its name 'Swinging Palace' from its sloping sidewalls. Its ornate facade, also, boasts of innovative styles of design, with beautiful columns and intricate trellis work. To the west of the Hindola Mahal, are many unidentified structures which, nevertheless, heighten the presence of the glorious past. Amongst these, is an ancient well, Champa Baoli, which is connected with underground vaulted rooms, wherein arrangements for hot and cold water were made. Other interesting sites falling in this group, are Dilawar Khan's mosque, the Nahar Jharokha (tiger balcony), Taveli Mahal, and two huge wells namely the Ujali (bright), and Andheri (dark) Baolis.

Some of Mandu's other attractions include Hathi Mahal, Darya Khan's Tomb, Dai ka Mahal, Dai ki Chotti Behan ka Mahal, Jalil Mahal and Malik Mughith's Mosque. Another tourist attraction is the Echo Point. A shout from here reveberates down below, and echoes back clearly. Near the royal enclave are the Lohani caves and ruins, which have direct association with Mandu's history. Sunset Point here provides a breathtaking spectacle of the surroundings.

Access

By air: The nearest airport is at Indore (100 km), connected to Mumbai, Delhi, Gwalior and Bhopal.

By rail: The nearest railheads are Ratlam (124 km) on the Mumbai - Delhi main line, and Indore (100 km).

By road: Regular bus services connect Mandu with Indore, Dhar, Mhow, Ratlam, Ujjain and Bhopal.

Accomodation

Tourist Cottages (MPT), Traveller's Lodge (MPT), Taveli Mahal Rest House (ASI), SADA Rest House, Jain Dharamshala, PWD and Forest Rest Houses are the available means of accomodation.

Madhya Pradesh