Mandu: Mosiacs of History and Architect

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Mandu travelling reminds me of these lineages: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes’-Marcel Proust, Mandu or Mandavgad was earlier known as Shadiabad (city of joy), named after a long-gone monarch Hoshang Shah. Even thus, the pleasure is gone, & laughter dies down; what stands tall among the crumbling fortresses is the rustic history of several dynasties- their rise & fall, the destiny written within the places, and the battles fought outside the ramparts. Now a UNESCO Heritage City.

Night View of Mandu Fort

I started for Mandu post afternoon from Omkareshwar; it was a smooth drive of 3hrs 30min (120 km approx); you can either go via MPSH 38 & NH52 or via Khandwa road. Since it was Holi, streets were deserted with minimum traffic; only that could be seen were the long stretch of black & red landscape, dry vegetation, and small & large villages with narrow lanes. While looking at the view passing by, I realized monsoon is the right time to visit Mandu, as nature is at its titillating best, her captivating beauty under the green vile across the valley. 

Panorama View of Mandu

Upon reaching, we checked into The Malwa retreat-a MPDTC hotel. Entirely the same, there’s an option too, like Hotel Roopmati close to my hotel near the main market area. If you like to stay overlooking the lake, you can opt for Hotel Malwa Resort- an MPDTC hotel or Jahaz Mahal near Sagar Talao. Apart from these hotels, guest houses are available in the primary marketplace. All hotels are decent to stay in, don’t expect luxury; they a budget-friendly, starting from Rs 700 up to Rs 3500. Since it was late evening, & we were exhausted due to day-long travel, I ordered a cup. Meanwhile, I surveyed the resort & inquired about a local guide who could help explore the vast & rich history of Mandu. Mandu was cold at night, even in March; thus, after a sumptuous dinner, we hit the bed.

Malwa Retreat

I roused up with the shout of a rooster, & thanks to him, I could see the sunrise- changing colours from fiery red to molten gold. Subsequently a quick shower & breakfast, I got to meet my Local guide, Mr Vishwanath Tripathi, an ASI-certified guide and a historian by passion. He told me the forts here are not just forts. Each ruin has life in it, a philosophy, a mystery & many old threads of history. Our day one tour of Mandu commenced with the Royal enclave, but before it, the history of Mandu was told to us.

Mandu: Mosiacs of History and Architect

Mr Tripati started with the name of Mandu- the new colloquial name of the city; but as per a Sanskrit inscription sated 555 AD, it was called Mandapa Durga, later changed to Mandavgad & now Mandu. Around the end of the 10th century, engraving confirms the frontier outpost was named Mandapika too. Overlooking the Narmada and the Nimar plains, Mandu is perched at an elevation of 2000 feet. It is the home of magnificent Afghani architecture- places, mosques, ornamented canals and many more buildings from the 15th century. Mandu is built along a mountain plateau approx 37 miles in circumference, surrounded, by barricade walls, making it the largest fort in India.

Mandu: Mosiacs of History and Architect
Entrance Gate

Over the period, Mandu has seen multiple successors. It began with the Parmar dynasty, which ruled from Dhar in the 9th century. However, Mandu saw its golden period & the moment of glory under king Munja & King Bhoja. It was during the 10th & 11th centuries. In that respect, a lake named in memory of Raja Munja is inside the Jahaz Place- Munja Talao. Also, many Shiva temples were constructed during the 11th century in the vicinity of Lohani caves by Raja Bhoja. Only the fortune arose during the reign of Afghans- it started with the Dilahar Ghori khan, a governor of Malwa, who declared himself as an independent ruler in 1401. He passed away in 1405 when his son Hoshang Shah succeeded the throne (the founder of Hoshangbad), & shift his capital to Mandu from Dhar.

The extensive Mandu

Hoshang Shah beefed up the defence & fortress but also added many architectural marvels, including his tomb and the Jama Masjid. His tomb is the oldest marble mausoleum in India. In 1435 Hoshang Shah died,& his son Ghazni Khan ascended the throne. Only he was poisoned by this military Mahmud Khilji in a year as ruler. He was so ending the rule of the Ghori dynasty & beginning the Khilji dynasty. Mahmud Khilji ruled for 33yrs. After he died in 1469, his son Ghiyasuddin succeeded him.

Mandu: Mosiacs of History and Architect
Ruins of Hosanabad

Ghiyasuddin was not inclined towards military conquest; instead, he devoted his time to peaceful pursuits and extravagant pleasure, which included women. He built the Jahaz Mahal & a huge harem for housing women in the thousands. He was poisoned in 1500 AD by his son Nasserundin in the lust for the throne, though he ruled Mandu for 31 years. Naseeruddin died in 1510 due to a burning fever, and they led Mandu for only ten years. The last ruler of the Khilji dynasty was Mahmud II Khilji, son of Naseeruddin.

Mandu: Mosiacs of History and Architect
Mandu Fort Map

Finally, in 1526, the rule of the Khilji dynasty ended when the Bahadur Shah of Gujarat conquered Mandu. But in 1534, the Mughal Emperor Humayun gained control of the fort city; but he deviated in 1536 when an officer of former Khilji took over the fort. Finally, Sher Shah Suri conquered Malwa in 1542, and Shujaat Khan was named the governor of Mandu. He ruled Mandu independently till 1554.  

The Skyline beyond the fortress

Altogether, there are 12 Darwazas or gates within the walled bastions. Few are intact, like the Jahangir Gate, Tarapur Gate, and Rampal Gate; the main entrance to the fort is called Delhi Darwaza. He updated us further that more than fifty ancient structures are spread out within the 45km wall circling the fortress, each grouped in categories. Strolling across the roads, I eventually reached the first category- the Royal enclave.

Taveli Mahal:

As we get introduced to the royal enclosure, it’s the first monument we come across an ASI museum. In ancient times it was used as the rest house of the guards or as a horse barn. Only now, it showcases a few collectables, statutes, paintings & carvings found by ASI during their diggings.

Mandu: Mosiacs of History and Architect
Taveli Mahal

Jahaz Mahal:

The palace looks like a ship in its reflection on the water. She was standing tall on the narrow strip of land between the water of the Munja & Kapur tanks. However, the palace resembles a ship that never sailed—built around 1436-1439 by Sultan Ghiyassudin Khilji. It served as Harem for 15000 women, 500 young and beautiful Turkish females clothed in men’s attire. And an equal number of armed and uniformed Abyssinian females as guards of the Sultan.

Mandu: Mosiacs of History and Architect
Jahaz Mahal

I was baffled listening to the count. It was way too huge. Moving forward in the palace, it’s two-storied building, with stairs leading to the terrace and rooms with coloured tiles. What astounded me was the palace’s water technique. It channelled water to each floor, pool, and garden. I captured a panoramic view of the Mandu fort from the terrace, along with a mini pleasure pool that overlooks the larger one on the ground close to the northern end of the patio. Jahaz Mahal captures the medieval times of Mandu, as the structure has an amalgamation of Mughal, Afghan, Mesopotamian and Hindu architectural styles.

Mandu: Mosiacs of History and Architect
Water Navigation technique

Hindola Mahal

A swinging palace that displays beautiful arches north of Jahaz Mahal. The walls of the Mahal are majestically slopping, giving it a swinging feel. Yet, the primary reason behind such construction is better acoustics, as Hindola Mahal served as an open-air theatre or audience gallery. It’s a T-shaped two-storey building, with a different passage for men & women.

Mandu: Mosiacs of History and Architect
Hindola Mahal

The upper floor was built later for women to sit & watch. Sandstones were used to construct the Hindola Mahal. It has elaborately carved panels with facilities for cold and hot water connected to the underground rooms of the palace. I was mesmerized looking at the beautiful golden hue on the arch made by the sunlight reflecting through the roof on the floor.

Mandu: Mosiacs of History and Architect
Ruins of Two Storey Building


Royal Palace and Hamam: 

Only the palace ruins are left, though you can walk along the corridors. What is still intact is the Hamam- which delivers several exciting water features, including a sauna, & provision for hot as well cold water for bathing.

Mandu: Mosiacs of History and Architect
Royal Palace

The style of construction was prompted by a Turkish bathing system, with small water tanks running around, along with a window for Intel of light & air. It is an elaborate & complex piece of architecture.

Mandu: Mosiacs of History and Architect
Turkish Hamam

The Champa Baodi

It was well-used by the majestic palace, present before the royal palace’s entrance. The Baodi, an elaborately constructed subterranean well with its tah-khanas (incredible hot-weather retreats), has wells and underground chambers with numerous channels to allow free-flowing water, keeping the royal apartments cool.

Mandu: Mosiacs of History and Architect
Champa Baodi

Nahar Jharokha:

Proceeding towards the north from the Champa Baodi is the Nahar Jharokha, a marble-framed window from where the king would hear petitions and receive his courtiers’ salutations. A tiger once supported this balcony. The use of jharokha is observed in the Mughals. It suggests that it was built under the Mughal empire in 1564.

Mandu: Mosiacs of History and Architect
Nahar Jharokha

Dilawar Khan Mosque

It is the oldest tower in the Royal Enclave, an earlier Indo-Islamic building. It was built in 1405. Stones and pillars from Hindu and Jain Temples previously existed at the site. These are most evident on the principal doorways and the collonaded hall. In that location is an inscription confirming that Dilawar Khan built it in 1405.

Mandu: Mosiacs of History and Architect
Dilawar Khan Mosque

Jah Mahal:

It was built in the middle of Munja Talao, which is well connected to the royal palace by a bridge. It’s also recognized as the royal pleasure palace or summer palace. The castle has an elaborate water and ventilation system to keep royal apartments cool.

Mandu: Mosiacs of History and Architect
Ruins of Jal Mahal

Thus we decided upon a lunch break, as it was 1 pm already, before proceeding to the village cluster. 

How to reach:

 By Air:

The nearest airport, Indore, is from Mandu, 94 km away. This airport is connected to many cities in India.

 By Rail:

The Patal Pani is the nearest Railway Station at a distance of 43 kilometres from Indore. It is well connected with other major cities.

 By Road:

 Several cab services that connect Mandu plies on frequent, 94 km from Indore.

You can drive too, and the distance is 858.5km from Gurgaon.



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