The wind was cool on my face. My wife smiled at me and I felt good. We thought that we would not be able to make this trip. Well, fate had other plans and I found myself snuggling comfortably in the back seat of the Tata Indica. Indore was sleeping. It was 7 am but the city was still officially slumbering. Well, Indore is a city of nights.
(please click on the pictures for higher resoultion)
Mandu was 93.7 km away according to Google and that’s why we decided on a car to transmute. The driver was a willowy guy, prematurely grey with a druggy demeanor. (I am so fast in assuming, right?)
We sped through the highway and a peppy Hindi song started from the FM. The wind was unwinding me.
The road seemed to be un -ending .We have to travel to understand the pettiness of us and we have to think to understand the grandness in that pettiness.
We crossed a river and were happy to see clean water. Cleanliness is something that humans robbed from mother earth. It’s good to know at least some good remains.(I can’t talk much, mind you. I am travelling in a car which burns fossil fuel and I am adding my own bit of CO2 to the atmosphere.)
We got lost (some driver) and backtracked a bit. We went through a typical “Gaav” and I really understood why there are so many ads proclaiming the importance of Toilet. They literally had no place to shit!(well, they literally have the whole gaav to shit but no proper toilets.) The whole house sometimes resembled a toilet and life was not all like what we have experienced.
I could see a girl swinging on a swing in front of her mud house. She might be having more fun than me, though.Contentment is a concept and very few understand it. I think the poor understand it better.
After innumerable stops for asking direction and a loo break, we found the true path.(It’s like the real road was linked with my urea or something!)The road was bumpy, but the view was not.
Mandu was a forgotten city. Forgotten by time and remembered by posterity. There is something poignant in seeing a ruin. It tells us that there were people here. The echoes of their laughter, the heat of their tears and the perspiration of their desires have found solace here. It’s like seeing a ghost.
We reached the “town” of Mandu.A haphazard array of shops and broken roads which made a pleasing jumble and we were waylaid by a hoard of wool sheeps. They took their own sweet time crossing the road .After all, the world belongs to them too.
The hoard was controlled by a shepherd and his partner and both were in their elements and not to mention in formal attire. The word rural becomes alive here.
We could see a ghat section beginning and then Mandu emerged out of the rock unsuspectingly.The famous gates welcomed us and we went through the arches of time.The approach road was passing through the original city gates and I felt a sense of Deja Vu.
Who knows, I might have been here once! I might have had a life wrought in Technicolor. I might have climbed these walls and I might have cried out of joy seeing the sunset.I might have loved and I might have made love in one of those shades. I might have…..
Mandu was made, demolished and made again. Now it remains as study of endurance, culture and above all life.
We were stopped at the ‘tikit ghar’ and 10 rs were looted from us for the sake of culture.(Hmm, Google told me its free!!)We got a guide too, from the entrance.(registered!!he told us).
Mandu has grown to a settlement of sorts .There are houses inside the perimeter and you can see huts and huge pavilions existing nearby. They have made our curiosity their livelihood and I could even see a Mandu English medium school.
According to Wikipedia the earliest reference to Mandu is available in the Sanskrit inscription of 555 AD, which tells that Mandu was a fortified city even in the 6th century BC. It gained prominence in 10th and 11th century under the Parmars (who called it Mandavgarh), from whom the control was snatched by Khiljis in 1305. Then ruler Allauddin Khilji named Mandav as“Shadiabad” meaning the city of happiness (Anand Nagari).
Named after the name of princess Mandvi Chouhan of Khandwa,the town of Mandu, situated at an elevation of 633 metres (2079 feet),is perched on the Vindhya Range extending for 13 km (8.1 mi) while overlooking the plateau of Malwa to the north and the valley of the Narmada River to the south, which acted as natural defences for the fort-capital of Rajput Parmara rulers of Malwa,who originally built it. Towards the end of the 11th century, it came under the sway of the Taranga kingdom.
In the 10th century Mandu was founded as a fortress retreat by Raja Bhoj, but was conquered by the Muslim rulers of Delhi in 1304. According to famous legends of Nimar, the area covering Mandu, Narmada Valley and Katanera was ruled by Gautami Ahir in 14th century before it came into the hands of Muslims. When Timur captured Delhi in 1401, the Afghan Dilawar Khan, governor of Malwa, set up his own little kingdom and the Ghuri dynasty was established, and thus began Mandu’s golden age. His son,Hoshang Shah, shifted the capital from Dhar to Mandu and raised it to its greatest splendour. His son and third and last ruler of Ghuri dynasty, Mohammed, ruled for just one year till his poisoning by the militaristic Mohammed Khalji.
Mohammed Khalji established the Khilji dynasty and went on to rule for the next 33 years. He was succeeded by his son, Ghiyas-ud-din,in 1469 and ruled for the next 31 years, who was a pleasure seeker and devoted himself to women and music. He had a large harem and built the Jahaz Mahal for housing the women, numbering thousands. Ghiyas-ud-din was poisoned, aged 80, by Nasir-ud-din, his own son.
In 1526, Mahmud II the sixth Khalji ruler made no resistance against the invading Bahadur Shah of Gujarat who conquered Mandu on 28 March 1531.
In 1530 Humayun, the second Mughal Emperor, succeeded Babur. Babur had established the Mughal dynasty.
Humayun had two major rivals: Bahadur Shah of Gujarat and Sher Shah Suri. Humayun was engaged in a war with Sher Shah Suri when he learned of an imminent attack by Bahadur Shah of Gujarat who was being aided by the Portuguese. With an unusual swiftness, Humayun attacked and defeated Bahadur Shah. Thus in 1534 Mandu came underHumayun‘s rule. Humayun fancied Mandu so he relaxed here for a brief, peaceful interlude.
Humayun lost the kingdom to Mallu Khan, an officer of the Khalji dynasty. Ten more years of feuds and invasions followed and in the end Baz Bahadur emerged in the top spot.
By this time Humayun had been defeated by Sher Shah Suri and had fled India. Sher Shah Suri died in 1545 and his son Islam Shah died in 1553. Islam Shah’s 12-year-old son Feroz Khan became the king but was killed by Adil Shah Suri within 3 days. Adil Shah appointed Hemu, also known as ‘Hemu Vikramaditya’ as his Chief of Army and Prime Minister. Hemu had a rapid rise during Sur regime. A grain supplier to Sher Shah Suri’s army and then Chief of Intelligence or Daroga-i-Chowki (Superintendent of Post) under Islam Shah, he became the Prime Minister and Commander-in-Chief of the Afghan Army (Sher Shah Suri’s army) under the reign of Adil Shah Suri.
Adil Shah Suri was an incompetent ruler and many rebellions occurred against his rule. Hemu was sent to quell these rebellions.
During this period Hemu attacked Mandu also and Baz Bahadur ran away from Mandu. Hemu appointed his own Governor here. During this period Humayun had returned to India and in 1555 was again the emperor. In 1556 Humayun died after falling while descending a staircase.
Hemu was in Bengal at the time and sensing an opportunity to attack Mughals. Soon Agra, Bihar, Eastern UP, Madhya Pradesh were all won and on 6 October 1556 he won Delhi, defeating Akbar’s forces, and had his coronation at Purana Quila, the next day. Akbar defeated and killed Hemu in the second Battle of Panipat on 7 November 1556. In 1561, Akbar‘s army led by Adham Khan and Pir Muhammad Khan attacked Malwa and defeated Baz Bahadur in the battle of Sarangpur on 29 March 1561. One of the reasons for Adham Khan’s attack seems to be his love for Rani Roopmati(Baz bahdoor’s love interest). Rani Roopmati poisoned herself to death on hearing the news of fall of Mandu. Baz Bahadur fled[ to Khandesh. Akbar, soon recalled Adham Khan and made over command to Pir Muhammad. Pir Muhammad attacked Khandesh and proceeded up to Burhanpur but he was defeated by a coalition of three powers: Miran Mubarak Shah II of Khandesh, Tufal Khan of Berar and Baz Bahadur. Pir Muhammad died while retreating. The confederate army pursued the Mughals and drove them out of Malwa. Baz Bahadur regained his kingdom for a short period. In 1562, Akbar sent another army led by Abdullah Khan, the Uzbeg, which finally defeated Baz Bahadur. He fled to Chittor. Baz Bahadur remained a fugitive at a number of courts till he surrenedered in November, 1570 to Akbar at Nagaur. He joined Akbar’s service.
After Akbar added Mandu to the Mughal empire, it kept a considerable degree of independence, until taken by the Marathas in 1732 by Peshwa Baji Rao I. The capital of Malwa was then shifted back to Dhar by Marathas under Maharaja Pawar, re-establishing Hindu rule.
So, in essence, Mandu has seen a lot of pain, blood, love, heartbreak and war .If you close your eyes and listen, you can almost hear the din of a thousand swords clashing.
Our guide told us about the MP Tourism resort and we took a loo break there. The place had a water view and it was neatly maintained.
Now to the sightseeing!!!
The first place we visited was the Roopmati’s Pavilion.Roopmati was a singer of Malwa and she was a beauty.(the name Roopmati literally means “The beautiful one”)
Whenever she eats or drinks it was even possible to see the food moving through her gullet as she was so fair.(According to the guide at least!)
Baz Bahadur’s and Roopmati’s love story is so much dipped in romanticism that it’s difficult to understand where the fact ends and the legend begins!!Baz Bahdur was a muslim and Roopmati ,a Hindu.
Roopmati was an adamant woman (as most of the legendary princesses appears to be).She told that if he wants her to be with him then she must be able to see the Narmada river every day.
A military post which was used for surveillance was entirely dedicated for this purpose and that is now hailed as Roopmati’s pavilion.
The steps cut out of rock offered a steep climb and we found ourselves in an arched pathway. The guide started explaining to us in rapid Hindi and we were catching only half of what he was telling us.
Basically, the place was a military outpost and he showed us the water channel which was used to supply both horses and the men.
We climbed to the top and what was on display was just jaw dropping. To the East whole Mandu was lying in front us like an open book and we gladly accepted the gift.
On a clear day , the sun rays would reflect from Narmada and Roopmati used swathe herself in its glory. What a way to live!
Just imagine a gorgeous woman in an ornate dress watching a sunrise with a background as awesome and poetic as this!
I could almost see the sun rays touching her tresses!!
It is said that to grant Roopmati’s request the viewing platform was made overnight.
If you look from the west platform, the Baz Bahadur palace will be seen and that’s where our hero used to reside.
We alighted from the platform and walked to the King’s abode. We were greeted by broken pillars which used to be arches of the forgone era.
I could see the Rewa kund,a water reservoir which was used for the water supply for the Baz Bahadur palace and the Roopmati’s pavilion.The reservoir is in front of the palace itself.
The lore is that the ‘Kund’ was not there at the beginning of the construction at all and it was specifically constructed later when Roopmati complained about the difficulty to see Narmada on a cloudy day.
The Muslim King invited Hindu Sanyasins and they told a place where the Narmada water might be available. The digging was done and Tada!! up came Narmada!!
Nowadays Rewa kund has become a holy place and during the winter season devotees come to pay respect.
The water from the reservoir was collected and it was filled into the aqueducts present on top of the pillars .The water used to come and fill up the swimming pool inside and it was channelled through various tunnels for other purposes.
The palace even had a courtyard and it is heard that the famous Tansen and Roopmati once did a singing contest here .Tansen sung the famous Raag Deepak and Roopmati rendered the Meghmalhar.By the effect of the Deepak Raag,all the torches were lighted on its own and by Meghmalhar Roopmati produced such a torrential rain that all the lights were extinguished! In this contest, Roopmati emerged as the winner it seems.
A gypsy with a big flute started his song at this time and it became a tribute for the amazing acoustics of the hall.
Baz bahadur palace had a special Acoustic hall where the architecture was so fine that even a small voice will carry through clearly and we could understand that the claim was completely true.
We took a deep breath in and savoured the scent of history.(not to mention bird shit, but you know!!!)
Next we visited the Echo point. This was made near the Houses of King’s Dayimaa s(wet nurses).This place was used to carry messages between soldiers.
When we reached there an old guy with a walking stick came to us and offered us to demonstrate what is the significance of the point.(Our guide and the guy didn’t even know each other, of course!!)
He bellowed in Hindi which can be roughly translated as “Soldiers beware, there is an enemy in the compound!!” and his sound started coming from various parts of the compound even though the place was not exactly ‘echoey’. Those brilliant architects had always some ingenious ways to tackle the problems of everyday life, right?
I also took a turn and bellowed “Odikko”(Run in Malayalam) and I could hear lot of “Odikko” s echoing from various parts of the compound.
The Langur monkeys present at the sight sniggered at us (what in the name of god these dumbos are doing ,huh?) and we left the place before they could ambush us!!!( Yeah, yeah.I gave 20rs to the “bellow fellow’ for his services.)
The next stop was “The Mandu Shiv Mandir”.This place is unique as this is the only place that I have found a Shiva lingam in a Muslim setting. The building was made as an Inn but during one of the Hindu invasions, it was turned into a temple and that is what it is now.
The architecture reminds you of a Muslim Durgha but at the centre of it there is the Lingam.
The view from the place is exquisite .You can see a whole valley spreading to the zenith from its courtyard. A wonderful place to sit and meditate.(If, the other ‘tourists’ could shut their trap that is!!)
I raced with my wife while climbing the stairs back (real mature, you see!) and was awarded the “Sweatiest man alive on earth Award” by her.(claps!!)
After a Hindu shrine, it was our cue to visit the Muslim one.The Jami masjid , modelled after the Mosque of Damascus, is a beautiful structure.
The first image that came to my mind while alighting the steps to the mosque was from the song “Maula Maula” from the movie Delhi 6.There was something extremely heart lifting in that song and that I felt the same vibe here.
The jami masjid was exactly what it is supposed to be and it is absolutely spacious.Nowadays the chance to do Namas inside this wonderful structure is denied!!(Such a shame)
The domes on the roof were for amplification of sound and they added to the aesthetics of the place too.
The next destination was Hoshang shah’s tomb which was adjacent to the Jami masjid itelf.
He was the first Islamic King of the Malwa region of central India.(Wikipedia)
The Taj Mahal is believed to be made following the same pattern. The marble structure was cool and full of bat shit (again!).
The tombs looked mysterious and a bit creepy to tell you the truth.(Well, it’s a tomb, duh!).
We saw a hall nearby which was used for feeding the needy.
Next we visited another architectural gem, The Jahaz Mahal.
This place served as a harem for the “Pleasure loving” sultan Ghiyathud din. The structure stands between 2 artificially made lakes and at the time of heavy rains, the water would touch the walls and it would almost feel like the palace is floating!That’s why the name Jahaz Mahal(Ship Palace).The King used to conduct grand parties on its roof and even grander and raunchier parties under the roof! What a way to live.
Our guide showed us the aqueducts used to carry the water from the reservoir and the swimming pool of the King was simply a pleasure to watch!
The next destination was near to the ship palace itself. The Hindola Mahal.
Hindola means ‘swinging’ and the place got the name from its slanting walls.
It was an audience chamber and the whole structure was shaped like a “T”.
The strcuture was used for concerts and there is even an upper chamber with viewing windows, for the females.
Roopmati has rendered lot of Ragas sitting here and immediately behind the Hindola Mahal is our Roopmati’s living quarters. If our guide’s words are true then this was a multi storied structure and an earthquake has literally floored it.
He emotionally told us about the suicide of Roopmati. When Adham Khan , under the order of Akbar, attacked Mandu he was actually looking for glory but what he found was love!
He was mesmerised by Roopmati and asked her hand in marriage. Her hero, Baz Bahadur was in exile after the attack and rather than marrying Adham Khan she decided marrying death was better and she killed herself.
The lore is that she concealed a diamond ring in her ‘Pann’ and wedded death.
We sat on the dilapidated palace and took the calmness in. How serene it all looked and how much violence they all concealed!
Our guide showed us the “Bhool Bhulaiya”, an underground chamber immedialtely below the quarters which was used for camping when riots occur. He showed me the pit at the centre of the courtyard which was attached to the Bhul Bhulaiya and which was filled with water.
“This is for the king to jump down and escape when everything goes south.”He explained.
To jump down and escape!
From whom we are escaping? From what we are running from? There is nothing to run from and there is nowhere to reach to. After all there is death and before that there is the preparation for it.
There is immeasurable pain in this city and lot of beauty too. I think both are interchangeable, like the 2 parts of a coin.
The next stop was at “The Hamam” which was adjacent to the living quaters.Hamam iterally means the bathroom! This was made for Royal ladies and it even had a sophisticated heating system.There were circular openings on the roof for the supply for a shower.It was real royal way to bath for sure.
After the “bathroom visit” the guide told us that he is done and after drinking 3 glasses of refreshing Nimbu pani , we parted ways.
I felt empty suddenly. It was time to go back. No, I was ‘going back’the whole day! It was time to go ahead and leave the past behind, but can we?
Mandu is going to stay etched in my mind for some time to come. That’s the thing about past. It reminds us that we will also be ‘past’! There is an undeniable beauty in remembering it, in spelling out the names that’s long forgotten, in reliving an experience that’s already done with. It’s like…. living again and again and again.