Mandu or Mandavgard is an ancient city in the present day Mandav area of the Dhar district. Mandu is a celebration in stone of life and joy, and the love of poet- prince Baz Bahadur for his beautiful consort, Rani Roopmati.
HISTORY OF MANDU
The word ‘Mandu’ is a Prakrit word meaning “hall, temple’ and the inscription indicates that Mandu was a flourishing town in the 6th century. Perched along the Vindhyan mountain ranges at an altitude of 2000 feet, Mandu, with its’ natural defences was originally the fort-capital of the Parmar rulers of Malwa. Towards the end of the 13th century, it had come under the sway of the Sultans of Malwa, the first of whom renamed it Shadiabad- the city of joy, indeed the pervading spirit of Mandu was of gaiety, and its’ rulers built exquisite palaces like the Jahaz Mahal, the Hindola Mahal, ornamental canals, baths and pavilions, as graceful and refined as those times of peace and plenty. Each of Mandu’s structures are an architectural gem some outstanding like the massive Jami Masjid & Hoshang Shah’s Tomb, which was an inspiration for the master builders of the Taj Mahal, centuries later. The glory of Mandu still lives on, as seen in the current palaces, lakes, and other monumental features.
PLACES TO VISIT IN MANDU
1. DARWAZAS (GATEWAYS)
Due to its’ strategic position and natural defences, Mandu was an important place with a rich and varied history. It was an important military outpost and its military past can be gauged by the circuit of the battlement wall, which is nearly 37 km and punctuated by 12 gateways. Most notable of these is Delhi Darwaza, the main entrance to the fortress city for which the approach is through a series of gateways well fortified with wall enclosures and strengthened by bastions such as Alamgir and Bhangi Darwaza, through which the present road passes. Rampol Darwaza, Jehangir Gate and Tarapur Gate are some of the other main gateways.
THE CENTRAL GROUP
2. HOSHANG SHAH’S TOMB
The Hoshang Shah’s Tomb is India’s first marble edifice and one of the most refined examples of Afghan architecture. Its’ unique features are the magnificently proportioned domes, marble lattice work of remarkable delicacy and porticoed courts and towers to mark the four corners of the rectangle. This tomb was constructed in the 15th century and it was so beautiful that Shah Jehan sent four of his architects to study the design and draw inspiration from the tomb. Among them was Ustad Hamid who was associated with the construction of the Taj Mahal.
3. JAMI MASJID
Inspired by the great mosque of Damascus, the Jami Masjid was constructed on a grand scale, with high plinth and huge domed porch projecting in the centre. Built in Moghul style of architecture, the mosque has been believed top have been built during the reign of Hoshang Shah and completed during the reign of Mahmud Khilji. The main entrance of the mosque is through the Eastern entrance. One is struck by the hugeness of the building’s proportions and it is enclosed on all sides by huge colonnades with a rich and pleasing variety in the arrangement of arches, pillars, number of bays, and the rows of domes present above.
4. ASHRAFI MAHAL
The Ashrafi Mahal was built by Hoshang Shah’s successor, Mahmud Shah Khilji. This palace faces the Jami Masjid and was conceived as an academic institution for young boys. An interesting folklore is associated with this Mahal which was known as ‘palace of gold coins’. Ghiyasuddin Khilji came up with a superb idea to make his queens reduce weight as they were obese. He thought of encouraging his queens by asking them to climb the staircase of Ashrafi Mahal up and down regularly for which in return he decided to gift Ashrafi (gold coins). The number Ashrafi were based on the number of steps climbed by each queen everyday, hence the name ‘Ashrafi Mahal’. In the same complex, Mahmud Shah Khilji built a seven storied tower to celebrate his victory over Rana Khumba of Mewar, of which only one storey survived.
THE ROYAL ENCLAVE
5. JAHAZ MAHAL
This 120 metre long ‘Ship Palace’ built between two artificial lakes, ‘Munj Talao’ and ‘Kapur Talao’, is an elegant two storied palace. Built by the Sultan Ghiyas-us-din-Khilji, it served as a harem for the sultan. With its’ open pavilions, balconies overhanging the water and open terraces, the Jahaz Mahal is an imaginative reaction in stone of a royal pleasure craft. Viewed on moonlit nights from the adjoining Taveli Mahal, this silhouette of a building with its’ tiny domes and turrets of the pavilion look graceful perched on the terrace and presents an unforgettable spectacle.
6. HINDOLA MAHAL
The Hindola Mahal or Swinging Palace is a large meeting hall or durbar in the ancient city of Mandu which is belonging to the Ghiyas-ud-din’s reign and derives the name ‘Swinging Palace’ from its’ sloping sidewalls. Its’ superb and innovative techniques are also evident in its’ ornamental facade with delicate trellis work in sandstone and beautifully moulded columns. An almost exact copy of the Himdola Mahal can be found in the fort of Warangal in Deccan. The copy can be possibly be constructed by the same architect, which is built on a smaller scale and unlike the Hindola Mahal, holds a water cistern in the centre of the main hall.
To the west of the Hindola Mahal, are several unidentified buildings which still bears traces of its’ past grandeur. Admist these is an elaborately constructed well called Champa Baoli which is connected with underground vaulted rooms where arrangements for cold and hot water were made.
Other places of interest in this enclave are Dilwar Khan’s mosque, the Nahar Jharokha (tiger balcony), Taveli Mahal, two large wells called Ujali (bright) and Andheri (Dark) Baolis & Gada Shah’s Shop and house can also be visited.
REWA KUND GROUP
7. REWA KUND
A reservoir built by Baz Bahadur with an aqueduct to provide water to Roopmati’s Pavilion. The reservoir is situated below the pavilion and hence is considered to be an architectural marvel.
8. BAZ BAHADUR PALACE
The Baz Bahadur Palace was built by himself in the 16th century. Its’ structure is famous for its large courtyards encompassed by large halls and high terraces that provides a superb view of the surrounding countryside. One of the most visited places in Mandu, Baz Bahadur Palace is visible from Roopmati Pavilion. The palace offers the other half of the love story between Roopmati and Baz Bahadur, a love that transcends religion and worldly ties.
9. ROOPMATI PAVILION
The Pavilion was originally built as an army observatory post. This pavilion still stands today as a testimony to Rani Roopmati and Baz Bahadur’s love story. Baz Bahadur, the last sultan of Malwa was very fond of music and art. Once out on hunting, he chanced upon a beautiful shepherdess frolicking and singing with her friends. Smitten by her beauty, he begged Rani Roopmati to accompany him to his capital. Roopmati agreed on the condition that she would live in a Palace within sight of her beloved and venerated river, Narmada. From the hilltop perch, this graceful structure with two pavilions was a retreat to the lovely queen, where she could see Baz Bahadur’s Palace along with the Narmada River.
Unfortunately their love story was doomed to failure when the great Akbar sent Adham Khan to capture Mandu. In turn, Baz Bahadur challenged him and got defeated with his small army. As Baz fled to Chittorgarh to seek help, Adam Khan had come to capture Mandu and was stunned to see Roopmati’s beauty. Rani Roopmati stoically poisoned herself to avoid being captured, thus bringing the end of the love saga between Baz Bahadur & Rani Roopmati.
10. NILKANTH MAHAL
The Nilkanth Mahal is from the Mughal era and close to the Nilkanth shrine (a scared Shiva shrine which is located at the edge of a steep gorge). This palace was constructed by the Mughal governor, Shah Badgah Khan, for Emperor Akbar’s Hindu wife. On the walls are some of the inscriptions from Akbar’s time referring to the pomp and glory back then.
The Hathi Mahal, Darya Khan’s Tomb, Dai-ka-Mahal, Dai ki chotte behen ka Mahal, Malik Mughith’s Mosque and Dal Mahal are some of Mandu’s other fascinating places. There is also the ‘Echo Point’, or the ‘Delphic Oracle’ of Mandu. The Lohani Caves and temple ruins, not far off from the Royal Enclave area, also merit a visit due to their association with Mandu’s history & monuments. The Sunset Point in front of the caves offers a panoramic view of the surrounding countryside.
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