Driving 35kms from Dhar is Mandu, the intellectual center of medieval India. Situated at an altitude of 633mts, the city overlooks the plateau of Malwa to the north and Valley of Narmada River to the south. These factor which act as natural defenses convinced Raja Bhoj of Paramara Dynasty to set up a fortress retreat in the 10th century A.D. The roads leading to Mandu showcases the MP government’s effort to preserve the road built in 10th A.D (Pun intended). The medieval roads were not suited for my 21st century vehicle and in no time my car broke her silence, to protest in the form of damaged silencer.
Battling through the damaged highway, I entered the impregnable city of Mandu. This tiny city is a collection of ruins. I started off my ruins tour with a “govt trained tour guide” to get the essence of the place. Selecting the right guide is very important so I carefully selected my tour guide by conducting two rounds of interview to test his knowledge of this region. I promised to double his pay if he made the day interesting.
History of Mandu:
The Region of Mandu was ruled for over thousand years by Paramara (one that strikes the enemy) clan of Agni Kula warriors. They hold the reputation of eliminating Buddhism in India and establishing Vedic (Hindu) empire. Raja Bhoja from the same clan made Mandu his holiday retreat. The rule of Paramara dynasty ended with the defeat of Mahandev, the general of Raja Jaisal army, during the war with Alauddin Khilji. Ain-ul-Mulk Multani, the head of Khilji army was named the governor of Malwa in 1294 A.D. When in 1401, the Mughals captured Delhi, the Afghan Dilawar Khan, new governor of Malwa, set up his own little kingdom and the Ghauri dynasty was established. Hoshang Shah shifted the capital from Dhar to Mandu thus marking beginning of the glorious period of Mandu. During this period arts, music, literature, architecture flourished. It soon became the intellectual capital of central India.
Mahmud Khilji and his son Ghiyas ud din Khilji after overthrowing the Ghauri dynasty ruled for next 60 years. Ghiyas ud din Khilji was a womanizer and built Jahaz Mahal for housing thousand women who were often referred to as his wives. The reign of Khilji dynasty came to an end with conquest of Mandu by Bahadur Shah of Gujarat. Mughal emperor Humayun defeated Bahadur Shah to take Mandu in 1534 A.D. The next ten years saw the city pass hands between various dynasties with Baz Bahadur emerging in top spot. In 1561, Mughal Emperor Akbar’s army led by Adham Khan who was in love with Rani Roopmati wife of Baz Bahadur, attacked Mandu and defeated. Rani Roopmati hearing the news of the fall of Mandu killed herself by drank poison while her husband fled. Baz Bahadur regained his kingdom by defeating ruler of Mandu, Pir Muhammad (Akbar’s minister). Bez Bahadur was finally defeated by Akbar’s army in 1562 to regain Mandu. The city remained under Mughal control until taken by the Marathas in 1732. The capital of Malwa was shifted back to Dhar thus bringing an end to the glorious Mandu city.
The first monument we visited was Dilawar Khan’s Masjid. It made logical sense to visit that monument as it was him who first established the Ghauri dynasty which marked the beginning of glorious Mandu heritage. The mosque was built in 1405 A.D by Dilawar Khan. Because of its central entrance in the direction of the east, it is thought to have been built for the Muslim royal family in Mandu. However, the pillars show traces of Hindu style notwithstanding the arch-shaped central mirhab suggests that this mosque was built by Hindu workmen.
My guide mentioned about various water storage system found in Mandu and suggested we check out Champa Baodi. Named after an aromatic flower, this well features pumping equipment set in the underground, which suggest perhaps the earliest use of submerged pumps in India.
A very unique building caught my attention as we moved away from Champa Baodi. The building called the Hindla Mahal has a very unique shape which suggests that it might have been used as audience chamber. The unique features are the large arches which look very Gothic. It’s not very clear if it was intended to emulate western architecture or mere experiment.
A pond named Kapur Talao meaning camphor was built facing the front side of Jahaz Mahal. The forth emperor of the Mughal, Jahangir, loved this lakeside palace and he wrote that he enjoyed its lit-up scenery at night. His empress, Nur Jahan favored spending a night in this palace, when she visited Malwa.
The Royal Palace situated north lakeside is mostly two-tired. There are many rooms that have an arch-shaped entrance and fine staircases. These remind us of the prosperity of the rulers in Malwa in the past.
Feeling a bit tired, we decided to take rest in a park close by. A quick nap under the tree did the trick. We walked toward the famed Jami Masjid. The credits for this massive temple is given to Hoshang Shah, however it was completed sometime later probably by Mahmud Khilji.
The unique feature of the mosque is the numerous enormous praying rooms. Traces of Hindu craftsmanship are seen all over the mosque, however it cannot be concluded that a Hindu building was converted to mosque in later times.
Hoshang Shah’s tomb is perhaps the feature of the day. Hoshang Shah’s tomb is situated in the middle of the courtyard of the majestic mausoleum, surrounded by square-shaped walls. One can enter the mausoleum from the entrance gate, (which is built on a square plan with a marble dome) in the middle of the northern wall. The tomb of Hoshang shah is a grand construction, having a square plan and a dome. It is built on a basement of remarkable width and height. The entire building including the dome is covered in marble, providing majestic atmosphere. It is interesting to note that the main entrance and stairs are situated in the south side, the other side of the entrance to the courtyard. This beautiful structure served as a template for the construction of Taj Mahal.
Walking back to the car, my guide informed me that there were two very important building associated with the romantic story of Roopmati and Baz Bahadur. Rain began to lash out as we entered the Roopmati’s Pavilion. My guide began with a poetic note the love story of a Hindu poetess and the King, while waiting for the rain to stop. The pavilion was crowded with young couples, perhaps making their mark in the pavilion that once stood for true love.
A quick tour of the pavilion was followed by even quicker exit by car led us to Baz Bahadur’s Palace. Located on a hill east of a reservoir called Riwa Kunde, this building was built because of the picturesque scenery of the surrounding nature. It was built by Sultan Nasir ad-Din in 1508 A.D. Sultan Baz Bahadur let his beloved empress Roopmati occupy and visited this palace so often that this building came to be called by his name.
The day came to an end after multiple exchange of goodbyes. As I drove back to Indore, my thoughts lingered around a few unanswered questions. How did Ghiyas ud din Khilji manage to have thousand wives? Would he remember their name? What if some girl just swaps place with one of his wives? Would he know? He had only one son?
Filthy thoughts for the filthy road ahead?
- Paramara Dynasty
- History Of Mandu
- Architecture Of Mandu
- Khalji Dynasty
- Story Of Roopmati
- Mughal Empire