Fairy tale love story of a Muslim Prince with a local poor shepherd girl, brings the mythological face to Mandu. Mandu is a celebration in stone, of life and joy, of the love of the poet-prince Baz Bahadur for his beautiful consort, Rani Roopmati. Under Mughal rule, Mandu was a pleasure resort, its lakes and palaces the scenes of splendid and extravagant festivities and the glory of Mandu lives on, in legends and songs, chronicled for posterity.
Perched along the Vindhya ranges at an altitude of 2,000 feet, Mandu, with its natural defenses, was originally the fort capital of the Parmar rulers of Malwa in 11th and 12th century, then known as Mandhavgarh. Towards the end of the 13th century, it came under the sway of the Sultans of Malwa, the first of whom named it Shadiabad - 'city of joy'. And indeed the pervading spirit of Mandu was of gaiety; and its rulers built exquisite palaces like the Jahaz and Hindola Mahals, ornamental canals, baths and pavilions, as graceful and refined as those times of peace and plenty.
Antiquity and Artistry merges here to bring the some of the marvelous structures, the massive gateways to Mandu is an example of this ancient artistic excellence.
Mandu is one of the few places where the very rare Baobab tree grows. Though native to Madagaskar, no one knows how it got in cantral India centuries ago.
Baz Bahadur and Rani Roopmati
The legend of Baz Bahadur and Rani Roopmati remains a favourite with the balladeers of Malawa till date. The romance of these royal lovers has been the inspiration for many forms of art, including cinema. Baz Bahadur rules Malwa from 1554 to 1562. It is said that he was of a romantic nature and gave up warfare to devote himself to music and poetry.
Once when he was on a hunting trip, he chanced upon a shepherdess frolicking and singing with her friends. Baz Bahadur was immediately smitten by the singer’s beauty and her melodious voice and began composing ballads to serenade and woo her. Soon he begged Roopmati to accompany him to his capital. Roopmati agreed to go to Mandu on the condition that she would live in a palace within sight of her beloved river Narmada and gaze her king in his palace. Thus was built the Rewa Kund at Mandu. It was so strategically placed that it fulfilled her desire and she agreed to be Baz Bhadur’s queen.
Tragically, the romance between the sultan and the shepherdess was doomed. The great Mughal Akbar decided to invade Mandu and sent Adham Khan to capture Mandu. Baz Bahadur who challenged him with his small army was no match for the great Mughal army. Mandu fell easily. Adham Kahan, mesmerized by Roopmati’s beauty made several advances towards her. Taken over by despair, Roopmati consumed poison gave up her life to avoid capture, thus ending this magical love story that inspired poetry and folklore.
The ruins of this inspiring testimony to love still remains in Mandu.
Mandu has over 40 monuments which are divided into three broad categories: the Royal Enclave Group, the Central Village Group and the Rewa Kund Group. Below we have listed major monuments only.
The 45 km parapet of walls the encircles the citadel of Mandu are punctuated by 12 gateways, most notable of these is Delhi Darwaza, the main entrance to the fortress city. It is reached via succession of fortified gateways. Made of redstone, the Delhi Darwaza has five arched openings with pretty inlay work. Rampol, Jehangir and Tarapur gate are some other main gateways.
The Royal Enclave Group
It literally translates to ‘ship palace’. The palace owes it s name to its unique shape: built on a narrow strip of land between two ponds, it has the appearance of an anchored ship. Believed to have been built by Sultan Ghiyasuddin Khilji for his harem. This structure is 120 meter in length with 15 meter width. With its open pavilions, balconies and open terrace, Jehaz Mahal is an imaginative recreation in stone of a royal pleasure craft. Viewed on moonlit nights form the djoining Taveli Mahal, the silhouette of the building, with its tiny domes and turrets of the pavilion gracefully perched on the terrace, presents an unforgettable spectacle.
This monument was called Hindola Mahal or ‘Swinging Palace’ because of its slanting, buttressed walls. It is believed to have been built in the latter part of the 15th century under Ghuyasuddin’s reign. Shaped like T, the aesthetic appeal of this simply constructed building remains unparalleled. Main hall of the palace has six deep arches that run along the length of the hall, with doorways below and trace-worked windows above. The simple façade of the structure fails to give a true impression of the interior, which boasts an imaginative design and pretty embellishments.
To the north of Munj Talao lies a cluster of ruins, believed to be remains of the royal retreats of the Malwa Sultunate. The royals probably retired here to enjoy music, poetry and art.
With in the enclosure is Taveli Mahal which was stable and guard quarters, stepwell called Champa Baoli, a royal enclosure called Nahar Jharokha and two more baolis or stepwell of Ujala and Andheri Baoli.
Central Village Group
Hoshang Shah’s Tomb
Believed to be inspiration for the bulilders of Taj Mahal, Hoshang Shah’s Tomb was the first structure to have been made in white marble. This massive tomb is austere in its appearance and built on a square platform whit walls rising from it. There are domed turrets on each corner of the building, which look upto the celestial dome at the centre. The finial of the central dome is crowned by crescent.
Shah Jehan, a Mughal emperor who built Taj Mahal, is believed to have sent four of this great architects to study the design and draw inspiration from the tomb. Among them was Ustad Hamid who was also associated with the construction of the Taj Mahal.
Hoshang Shah started building this mosque but it was completed by Mahamud Khilji. A flight of stairs leads to the grand, domed entrance to the east. An engraved inscription on the doorway mentions that the building was based on the mosque of Damascus. One is struck by the hugeness of the building’s proportions and the enclosed on all sides by huge colonnades with a rich and pleasing variety in the arrangements of arches, pillars, number of bays and in the rows of domes above.
Built by Mahmud Khilji, this ‘palace of gold coins’ was conceived as an academic institution for young boys. Sundry cells still remain in a fair state f preservation. In the same complex he built a seven story tower to celebrate his victory over Rana Khumba of Mewa; of which one story has survived.
Rewa Kund Group
This revered lake was built by Baz Bahadur so the Roopmati could pay homage to the holy Narmada every morning. It has steps that lead to the water level. The arched doorways to its northwest side, which form a part of the resort facing the pristine water of the lake.
Baz Bahadur’s Palace
This palace is an example of Mughal and Rajput grandeur. The main gateway situated on the slope of a hill is approached by 40 grand steps interspersed with landings. The main feature of the palace is a courtyard with halls and rooms on all four sides. These were the king’s quarters as well as spaces used for public meetings. A flight of stairs leads to the terrace, where marvelous views of Roopmati’s pavilion backed by the lush green countryside can be enjoyed.
Beyond the palace of Baj Bahadur lies Roopmati’s Pavilion on the lofty crest of the hill. It offers a breathtaking view of Baj Bahadur’s palace as well as the Narmada flowing through the Nimar plains. While the beauty of this pavilion is magnified manifold at sunset, it is at its breathtaking best on a moonlit night. The glow of the silvery moon seems to envelope it completely, transforming the stone pavilion into an unforgettable, surreal sight.
It is located inside the Mandu fort and possesses a collection of early-medieval Parmara sculpture. Do not miss the large and exquisite white marble statue of a Jain tirthankar, which shows titthankar in deep meditation with his hands folded on his lap and eyes closed in meditation. The museum also has a great collection of ancient poetry.
Best time to visit
July – March