Mandu, Madhya Pradesh
Remember when parents used to say “Finish your college and then you will be sorted for life!” Well, that’s the first lie adulting teaches you! Somehow in this preaching, they forgot to consider medical students. While Bhopal was exclusively about heritage, art and history, I decided to reserve Indore exclusively for my batchmates! A year and lot of scruffiness later, I was glad they still are the same people I met in my fresher year.
I spent my first and last day in utter gluttony and gastronomical delight in Indore. But if I am visiting a new place, its important for me to pay a homage to the local sightings. Surprisingly, my lazy friends decided to accompany me in this venture for a change. Apparently, they were quite concerned about my inclinations and willingness to travel alone! So, we decided to opt for a road trip to Mandu. Mandu, or Mandavgad as it was known, is a ruined city located at a distance of 95 Km’s from Indore.
The limited information on Mandu speaks about a fortress town, currently in ruins, celebrated for its architecture. Geographically speaking, the town of Mandu is located at an elevation of 633 metres, perched on the Vindhya Range, overlooking the plateau of Malwa to the north and valley of Narmada River to the south. The location not only favored the defense factor for the city, but also provides the visitors with a picturesque view.
If you follow the highway, the roads are pretty good. But as you take the twist and turns to reach Mandu, you will definitely start appreciating your teeth, your back and the top of your head with a whole new level of respect. Nope…I am not kidding!! The roads are indeed that bad! Before the city of Mandu offcially starts (approximately 4 kms from Mandu), you will start hearing this faint furgling sound, hoard of vehicles parked unceremoniously, and people perfecting the art of poses. This is a popular spot called Kakra kho Mandu. I don’t know if there’s even a literal translation for this name, but Kakra Kho is a natural gorge that separates the main plateau of Malwa and Mandu. There is a water tank here which is known as Sant Raidas Kund, named after its namesake who is a famous poet and saint from 1436 AD. But the waterfall itself and the overall natural fortification captured our attention more than the water tank.
The military past of the city is reflected in the the wall that surrounds the city which has 12 majors gates or darwazas. Each named gateway feels like a prelude to the history lesson that is about to begin. Historically, Mandu gained prominence in 8th – 13th century under the Hindu kingdom of Parmara, but became a battlefield in the early 12th century because of various muslim dynasties from Delhi.
Under the protection of Archaeological Survey of India, the Palace complex comprises of beautiful architectural structures such as Taveli Mahal, Jal Mahal, Jahaaz Mahal, and the Hindola Mahal, that still depicts the finesse of an era that we can only imagine now.
My favourite part of the Palace complex was the Hindola Mahal. Hindola Mahal is a matchless example of an architectural feat – an unprecedented combination of beauty and simplicity that literally gives an impression of history leaning just to enhance credibility. It is a two-storeyed structure with a length of 27 meters, width of 8 meters, height of 11 meters, and wall thickness of 2.7 meters. The palace’s dais is covered with 6 arches. The palace was built in such a way that the royal women could enter the first floor from the backs of their elephants, which gave the windows their name “Haathi Chadhav”. The overall shape of the palace is in the form “T”, with the walls bent at an angle of 77°, thus giving an impression of the building oscillating in the air.
Going further south from the North Gate and the Palace complex, is a building complex that has been coloquially grouped as Jami Masjid. It’s a very simple structure, constructed with large courtyard and grand entrances, as a tribute to the great mosque of Damascus. The most popular building within this complex is the tomb of Hoshang Shah.
Representing finest Afghan architectures, tomb of Hoshang Shah is the first marble structure of India. The beauty of the tomb impressed Shah Jahan so much that the construction of Taj Mahal is based on this very template.
There are few more structures and buildings scattered around such as the Darya Khan’s tomb and the Hathi Mahal.
As you proceed further south, you will come across the South fort which comprises of Reqa Kund, Roopmati’s pavilion and Baz Bahadur’s Palace. I would suggest you to keep these three spots for the later half of afternoon – Not only they are located towards the other end of Mandu, but also visit during that time makes it for a pleasant and relaxing change.
History of Mandu is incomplete without the love saga of Baz Bahadur and Rani Rupmati and their dedication to music. While Baz Bahadur was known for his mastery over Raag Deepak, Rupmati was known for her expertise over Raag Malhar. It is said that when she sang Raag Malhar the sky became clouded. It was their shared passion that redefined their romance.
The unique geographical location of Roopmati Mahal also made it a startegic miliary centre to monitor all military movements. Another interesting feature of Roopmati Mahal is the unique water management system that was built to collect rain water from the terrace and stored in reservoirs on the western part of the palace. The waterproofing techniques used for the palace can still be appreciated even today.
Pro tip: Carry plenty of water with you. The bottled water that you will find in Mandu is unfiltered river water. And you will need to be rehydrated with all the hot sun.
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