Jul 23, 2012

Heritage- Mandu, A Celebrartion in Stone

(Jahaaz Mahal)

Mandu is a sleepy remote big-village-or-small-town perched on the crest of Vindhya Range. Mandu is an old fortified city ruins, that dates back to 6th century. It was capital city of Rajputs, then invaded by afghans, Mughals called it a pleasure resort, then Marathas moved the capital to Dhar and the prosparity of Mandu started diminishing ... still the splendor of Mandu lives on ... I took a bus from Ujjain to Indore (71KM), then a bus to Dhar (66KM) and then to Mandu (35KM). Yeah ... long journey :) 

Numerous buildings are scattered inside the 45KM long fort wall. The fort had Baara Darwaza (12 gates) few of then still stand. The structures are grouped in four areas on three different routes. I hired a motor-cycle guide, a local (good) kid doing his graduation, and part-time guide. He was very enthusiastic and took most of the day to show me around.  The most popular and interesting structures are the Jahaaz Mahal and Hinadola Mahal in royal complex, Rani Roopmati's pavilion and Baz Bahadur's Palace, Jami Masjid and tomb of Hoshang Shah. There are many other tombs, mahals, sarai and watch posts. Also, interesting to visit are Lohani Caves.

The Jahaaz Mahal (ship palace), built in 15th century, is a major tourist attraction and was built connecting two lakes, Kapur talao and Munj talao,  and looks like a docked ship floating on the water. It has big halls and  at one end there is a bath. It was built for the women of then ruler Giyasuddin from Khilji dynasty. 

The same royal complex has several other mahals. Hindola Mahal (swinging palace) is a meeting hall built with the inclined side walls giving a look of a swing. The architectural style is unique- very bold with thick and high walls, very plain with no ornamentation. Definitely an interesting architecture! It has an interesting 'T' shaped structure. The side bar might have been added later, that's what wiki says.

Jal Mahal is located behind the Jahaaz Mahal and has windows of very interesting shapes. In January, there was not much water, or I must say no water, in the lakes and so Jal Mahal wasn't looking the way it should have.

Mandu is popular for the love story of Sultan Baz Bahadur and his consort Rani Roopmati.  Rani Roopmati was a great Rajput singer and a legendary beauty. Sultan Baz Bahadur, who loved music, went on hunting. In the forests he heard shepherdess Roopmati singing. Spellbound by her magical voice and beauty he asked her to accompany him to his palace. She agreed with one condition that she would live in a place from where she can everyday see sacred river Narmada. They got married according to hindu and muslim rites.

Baz Bahadur palace is at the slope of the hill and Rani's pavilion is on the crest.  From Rani Roopmati's pavilion distant River Narmada and also the Baz Bahadur's palace can be seen, both were close to her heart. The pavilion was initially built as a military observation point. The Rewa Kund was built to provide water to Roopmati's palace. As the news of Roopmati's enchanting beauty spread, Akbar decided to invade Mandu to capture Roopmati and sent an army in the leadership of Adham Khan. Baz Bahadur's small army was not any challenge to the mughal army and Baz Bahadur fled to Chittorgarh. Roopmati consumed poison to avoid her capture by enemies. The love-story had sad ending.

One of the best feature about these structures is the jalis (stone lattice work). From outside the building windows with jali-work look like art pieces with intricate carvings. From inside the building they look different ... with the play of light-and-shadow they are the designs of master artist. Every window has a different design. Jali Mahal is another popular structure on the way to Roopmati's Pavilion.

Jami Masjid is a monumental mosque known to be built with the inspiration from mosque of Damascus. It has three huge domes and numerous smaller ones. 

Behind the Jami Masjid there is Hoshang Shah's tomb. This white marble tomb, many years later gave architectural inspiration to build Taj Mahal. Windows of this mosque have very intricate jali work. Jami Masjid and Shah's tomb are in the same complex. Jami Masjid complex is right opposite to the bus stand. There is an entry fee of Rs.10 to enter. There is separate camera fee. 

Near by is ancient Sri Ram Mandir entrance of which is Ram Pol- a fort gate. The temple is still functioning. Morning and evening arti is something very nice to see. Temple also has a dharmasala for visitors.

There is a Neelkanth Mahadev temple 3KM away from the city almost in the forests. Very peaceful and serene place. Other structures are Dai-ka mahal, Dai-ki-choti-behan-ki mahal, Hathi mahal, Lal Sarai, Dariya Khan ki mosque and few more. All these mosques and other Islamic structures interestingly have many of the Hindu and Jain characteristics, like pillars, beams and arches. The reason behind is- these Islamic structures were built using the remains of destroyed Hindu and Jain temples. Some temples were converted to mosques or tombs with some modifications.

Pictures: Clockwise from left: Ashrafi Mahal, Dai-ki-choti-behen-ki mahal, Jami Masjid, and Hoshang Shah's tomb.

There is an Echo Point which is a must see place in Mandu. The point is on the road facing Dai-ki-mahal. When shouted from the road the voice echoes. The Dai-ki mahal architecture was so that when a royal woman had labor pains, someone shouted from here to call Dai, the echoing voice that Dai (nurse) couldn't miss!!

Mandu doesn't have any budget hotels. There are two Madhya Pradesh Tourism hotels one of which is good. The Malwa Resort is good in my opinion. The Malwa Retreat is okay considering the price.

Mandu, the city of joy- they called ... still humming the love stories and pleasure tales of whoever ruled it ... I said good bye to Mandu by humming the song from Rani Roopmati movie from my grandpa's time ... aa laut ke aaja mere meet tujhe mere geet bulate hain (come back my beloved, my songs are calling you) ... looking forward to my next destination ... Maheshwar.

Leave a comment to share your beautiful thoughts :)

Click HERE to read more articles about Madhya Pradesh. To check complete Backpacking India series click HERE.

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Scrapbook- A Travel Blog by Kusum Sanu is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


  1. Malwa region has some wonders worth exploring!

  2. Mandu looks beautiful. Nice description Kusum.


  3. The first palace and its reflections are gorgeous!1 Neat layout of photos, very well captured, and presented with sufficient details Kusum...I would add this to my list of yet to travel places!

    1. Thank you Vaish! I am sure you will enjoy the place.

  4. fantastic post and Thanks for sharing this info. It's very helpful.
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  5. ur blog is very helpful:) can you tell me whats the frequency of buses and how long they take..the google map distance dnt seem realistic:) we are planning a trip...indore to mandu to maheshwar and possibly to omkareshwar if it can fit in a day?? is it possible?? thanks a million K:)

    1. Well, if you are taking buses, that is public transport, you may able to do it in a day but it will be very tight. From Indore to reach Mandu, first you have to take a bus Dhar and then to Mandu. There is a lot to see there. Then to go to Maheshwar from there you have to take two buses. Though the distance is not much buses tend to be very slow.

  6. All the images in this blog really looking great i like all the images.

  7. Hi, I am planning to a trip to Mandu during First week of December. Could you share if you have the Guide details. Much Appreciated

  8. Very helpful indeed to me being a solo traveller. Thanx :-)
    Keep writing...


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