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Walking through the memories of Mandu

by Payel Kundu on September 10, 2017
View of Sagar Talao Group of monuments
View of Sagar Talao Group

The boy sat in a bright orange shirt amongst the monotonous grey rocky walls of the faded palace. He hung his legs from the edge of the roof and sang on top of his voice. The palace was once called “Hathi Mahal”, or maybe it’s the name that people remembered. It had lost all its colours a long ago and now just stood like a pile of rocks amongst the aged trees and new born grasses. The land around stretched for miles only with different shades of greeneries. The palace stood alone like a lonely old man, tired for so long and yet surviving through another page of history. And the boy? The boy was contradiction to this whole image. He was bright and young, shining in the afternoon’s soft sunlight. And yet his voice vibrating through the empty landscapes, somehow captured the same essence as only a lonely old palace could bring out. His voice reflected the solace of eternity.

The image somehow had intrigued me, as I approached through the muddy roads amongst the empty landscapes towards this abandoned palace. With so many heritage monuments across India, it is still rare to find a place where a young boy could find peace within an age old structure. And even though the palace didn’t look much impressive, I couldn’t stop myself from being drawn towards it. He paused his singing seeing another human approach, but resumed soon. So I stood under those rocky roofs with broken walls and listened to this melancholic tune for a while, until I felt satisfied. And then after storing this picture safely in my memory, I moved on to discover the other enigmas of Mandu.

Mandu is a place where present and past live together in a perfect harmony. The modern road made of asphalt & concrete passes through those old rocky fort gates to enter the town, the brick made buildings stand shoulder to shoulder with palaces and mosques of another time, the fields of new corps makes place for a small tomb to stand as it had done for hundreds of years. It’s a place where you stumble upon a monument in every turn and every corner. I tried to soak in all I could while I was there and managed to capture some of the details in memory or through the lens. Here’s what I learned about monuments of Mandu…

On the roof of Baz Bahadur Palace
On the roof of Baz Bahadur Palace


The fortification and the gates

Mandu is located on a hill 35 km away from Dhar which had once been the capital for Malwa kings. A part of this hill is separated from the plain land by a deep ravine called Kakra Khoh, making it unapproachable from those sides. Remaining sides have been fortified over the years during various Hindu & Muslim king’s reigns. The earliest mention of the fort was found during 555 AD. The fort has 12 gateways, some of which are Jahangir Gate, Tarapur Gate, Rampol Gate. The main entrance to the fort is called Delhi Darwaza. While approaching from the north from Indore/Dhar, one has to pass through Alamgir Gate in order to enter the town.

Map of Mandu Fort
Map of Mandu Fort


The Royal Enclave

Apart from a few scattered ones, most of the major monuments inside the fort are located in clusters. The northern most cluster is the Royal Enclave which includes the royal palace, Jahaz Mahal, Taveli Mahal etc.

The Taveli Mahal, corrupted from Tavela, near the entrance of the enclave was meant to be a stable and resting place for the guards.

Taveli Mahal
Taveli Mahal

Inisde the enclave, there are two water tanks called Munja Talao & Kapur Talao and the iconic Jahaz Mahal is placed somewhere in between and is made in the shape of a ship. It is said that the Munja Talao gets its name from the Paramara king Munja (aka Vakpati) who ruled during end of tenth century.

Jahaz Mahal
Jahaz Mahal viewed from Royal Palace
Kapur Talao
Kapur Talao in front of Jahaz Mahal

Farther inside the enclave, the ruins of royal palace and the great well called Champa Baodi is located. One can still lose his way while walking through the corridors of the royal palace.

Royal Palace
Remains of Royal Palace viewed from Jahaz Mahal
Fountain in Royal Palace
Fountain inside of Royal Palace

Hindola Mahal, or the swinging palace, is known for its peculiarly sloping and thick (2.7m) side walls. Both Hindola Mahal and Jahaz Mahal is believed to be built during the era of Khalji king Ghiyathu'd Din (1469-1500 AD), whose fancy for women was so great that he hired women from different regions to stand guard for him.

Hindola Mahal
Hindola Mahal

Jal Mahal was built in the middle of Munja talao and is connected to the royal palace by a bridge. Currently with lack of water in Munja talao, this palace fails to justify its name.

Jal Mahal
Bridge to Jal Mahal

Two buildings by the name of Gada Shah's house and shop are located at the east of Hindola Mahal. While Gada Shah literally means Begger Master, it's very evident from the location and status of these buildings that it belonged to someone powerful. Historians believe that Gada Shah was a nickname for the Rajput chief Medini Ray, who had tactfully taken over control of Malwa from the Khalji ruler Mahmud II around 1515 AD.

Gada Shah's House and Shop
Gada Shah's House and Shop

Nahar Jharokha is a balcony which once was supported by a tiger. This is a practice observed amongst Mughal rulers which meant to show the king up to his subjects. This indicate this balcony was built or was renamed after Mandu came under Mughal kingdom in 1564.

Nahar Jharokha
Nahar Jharokha


Mandu Village Group

About a kilometre south of Royal Enclave, lies the village of Mandu and also some of the popular monuments like Hoshang Shah's tomb, Jami Masjid and Ashrafi Mahal.

Hoshang Shah (aka Alp Khan) was the second king from Ghuri dynasty and the first sultan to move Malwa's capital from Dhar to Mandu, ruled Malwa from 1406 to 1435. Two important monuments of Mandu, the Delhi gate and Jami Masjid was built during his reign.

Jami Masjid
Inside Jami Masjid

Hoshang Shah's tomb built with white marble is placed right next to Jami Masjid. In 1659 AD four architect of Shah Jahan had visited this tomb to pay homage to the builder, of them one was Ustad Hamed who was closely associated with building of Taj Mahal.

Hoshang Shah's Maqbara
Hoshang Shah's Maqbara (going through renovation)

Right opposite to Jami Masjid, there's huge platform like structure with an arched gateway. This building was called Ashrafi Mahal, which was built as a college during the reign of Mahmud Khalji (1436 to 1469 AD). Later he modified the building to build a seven storeyed tower on the north east side as a celebration of his victory over Rana of Mewar. His tomb was also placed inside Ashrafi Mahal after his death in 1469 AD.

Ashrafi Mahal
Entrance of Ashrafi Mahal
Md Khalji's Tomb
Md Khalji's Tomb inside Asrafi Mahal


Group between village & Talao

Two km further south, in the middle of farmlands there's located the tomb of Darya Khan, a lonely palace called Hathi Mahal, a few mausoleums and a Sarai.

Darya Khan was an employee to the court of Sultan Mahmud II (1510 to 1526 AD). His tomb stands on raised platform and is built from red masonry. There are many other ruined buildings located around this tomb, indicating the area as important place at that time.

Darya Khan's tomb
Darya Khan's tomb from back side

Originally built for a pleasure resort and later transformed into a tomb, Hathi Mahal had been named so because of its disproportionately large pillars.

Hathi Mahal
Grey stones of Hathi Mahal


Sagar Talao Group

Further down southward, near the Sagar talao, there are a few more monuments placed close to each other. Some of the popular ones are Malik Mughith's Masjid and the big inn called Caravan Sarai.

Built in 1432 by Malik Mughith, father of first Khalji ruler Mahmud Shah, this mosque stands at the entrance of Sagar Talao group of monuments.

Malik Mughith's Mosque
Malik Mughith's Mosque

The large inn called Caravan Sarai stands opposite to Malik Mughith's morque. It is believed that they were built at the same time point.

Caravan Sarai
Courtyard of Caravan Sarai

Towards the east from the mosque, there are two structures called "Dai ki Choti Behen ki Mahal" & "Dai ka Mahal" which are presumed to be associated with a wet nurse of some prince of Mandu. Although called palace, they are basically tombs of these two ladies placed inside two buildings. It is possible that prior to death they lived in the same houses where the tombs are now placed.

Dai ki choti behen ka mahal
Dai ki choti behen ka mahal
Dai ka Mahal
Dai ka Mahal


Rewa Kund Group

The southernmost cluster of monuments include the Rewa Kund, the palace of Baz Bahadur and Rupamati Pavilion.

The Rewa Kund is a water tank, which probably was built during the reigns of Paramara kings as the name sounds more relatable to hindu kings. However the tank was rebuilt and widended during Sultan Baz Bahadur's time. It is said that the lake was a favorite place of visit for his consort Rani Roopmati.

Rewa Kund
Rewa Kund

The Baz Bahadur palace is located near the Rewa Kund on the slope of a hill. Although named after the last independent ruler of Mandu, this palace was constructed much before his time. Based on the inscription near the main entrance the palace was built in 1508 during Khalji king Nasiru'd Din's reign.

View of Baz Bahadur Palace from Rewa Kund
View of Baz Bahadur Palace from Rewa Kund
Baz Bahadur Palace
Innside Baz Bahadur Palace
Roopmati's Pavilion visible behind the dome of Baz Bahadur Palce
Roopmati's Pavilion visible behind the dome of Baz Bahadur Palce

On the top of the hill beyond the palace, the pavilion is built from where the palace is visible at one side and river Narmada on the other. The building is named after Baz Bahadur's wife Rani Roopmati since she visited this place regularly from the palace to pray to the sacred river.

Roopmati's Pavilion
Roopmati's Pavilion


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