Originally named as Shadiabad, meaning the city of happiness byAllauddin Khilji, who was the ruler then, Mandu or Mandavgarh is a ruined city in the Dhar district of Malwa region. Located 35 km from Dhar, Mandu stands testimony to the depth of love of poet-prince Baz Bahadur for his beautiful wife, Rani Roopmati. This romantic destination, dotted with magnificent palaces, ornamental canals, baths and pavilions may appear to have emerged out of a fairytale romance, if your visit to Mandu coincides with a splashing rain.
How to get there
Both state-owned and private buses connect Mandu with many cities in Madhya Pradesh and outside. The capital Bhopal is 278 km away. The nearest railhead is Ratlam (125 km). Ratlam is well-connected to major cities in India and is an important junction in the western railways. The Indore Ahilyabai Holker Airport (100 km) is the nearest airport to Mandu.
m Places of interest
Located northwest of the bus stand near Delhi Gate, the Royal Enclave has some once- majestic structures, now in ruins. Being the most impressive of the three main groups of monuments, the Royal Enclave, not surprisingly, finds a place in the travel itinerary of many.
Jahaz Mahal: A landmark building in Mandu, the Jahaz Mahal was built on a narrow strip of land between Munja and Kapur Tanks, with a small upper storey resembling a ship’s bridge. This 120 meter long and 15 meter wide structure has scalloped arches, airy rooms and pleasant pools which served as the harem of Ghiyas-ud-din.
Traveli Mahal: Once used as stables, this building was converted into a guest house and now has the Antiquity Gallery, maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India. It features artefacts which were excavated from here, which include stone slabs with Quranic texts dating back to the 15th century.
Hindola Mahal: The Hindola Mahal or Swinging Palace, built in 1425, is a peculiar palace. This palace was named so because of its swaying sidewalls and simplicity. On both sides are windows filled with delicate stone tracery. The ramps are said to have been built to enable royal ladies ascend on ponies, palanquins and even elephants. This T- shaped structure was built as a hall, during theruleofGhiyas-ud-Din.
Mosque of Dilawar Khan: Built in 1405, the Mosque of Dilawar Khan (the founder of Mandu), is the earliest Islamic building in Mandu. It comprises a central court enclosed by a colonnade and has Hindu elements incorporated at the main entrance, columns and ceiling. At the south end of the square, which lies to the east, are the ruins of a balcony, the NaharJharoka or Tiger balcony.
Champa Baodi: Champa Baodi, once a favoured retreat ofthe Sultans of Malwa, runs adjacent to the north of the Munj Talao. Champa Baoli is an underground well, called so because its water supposedly smelt like the champak flower. Adjacent to the well, there is a hammam, which has intricately designed domed roofs.
■ VILLAGE GROUP Tomb of Hoshang Shah: An outstanding example of Afghan architecture, the Tomb of Hoshang Shah is India’s first marble monument. Set in a square enclosure near the Jami Masjid, it has a well proportioned dome, exquisite marble latticework and porticoed courts and towers.
Jami Masjid: Considered the most majestic building in Mandu, the Jami Masjid is located near the tomb. The construction was begun by Hoshang Shah and later completed by Mahmud I. It is said to be modelled on the great Omayyed Mosque in Damascus. The mosque’s qibla wall has 17 niches with crenellations, and the central one is adorned with Quranic inscriptions.
Ashrafi Mahal: It was built by Mahmud Shah Khilji, who intended it to be a Madrassa. Ashrafi Mahal means palace of gold. Even today the rooms and cells tell a story of teaching and studying. Facing the Jami Masjid, the Ashragi Mahal has the ruins of a seven-storeyed tower, built by Mahmud Shah Khilji to celebrate his victory over Rana Khumba of Mewar.
Baz Bahadur’s Palace: Built by Baz Bahadur in the early 16th century, the palace is located by the Rewa Kund Tank, where a water lift at the northern end supplied water to the palace. The special features of the palace are its spacious courtyards surrounded by halls and high terraces which offer a fine view of the surrounding countryside. It is a curious mix of Rajasthani and Mughal architectural styles.
Roopmati’s Pavillion: On the elevated crest of the hill to the south beyond Baz Bahadur’s palace stands Roopmati’s Pavilion. Originally built as an army observation post, the pavilion was a retreat of queen Roopmati, from where she could see Baz Bahadur’s Palace and the sacred river Narmada.
There are also some interesting monuments in Mandu, which do not fall in any group but deserve special attention. Nilkanth Mahal was a palace built by Mughal governor Shah Badgah Khan for Emperor Akbar’s Hindu wife. The walls of this palace have some Persian inscriptions recording Akbar’s delight on visiting here. Once a pleasure resort, the Hathi Mahal was converted into a tomb. At a short distance from the Hathi Mahal, you can see Darya Khan’s tomb, which has domed corners akin to Hosang’s tomb. The Lohani Caves and Temple Ruins close to the royal enclave area also merit a visit. The Sunset Point in front ofthe caves offers a panoramic view ofthe surrounding countryside.
Tourist information MPSTDC Ltd, # 10 Sill, Jhabua Tower, R.N.T. Road, Indore. Ph: 2528653