Magical Mandu: Cycle Through The Ruins Of The Empire
Mandu is endowed with a very attractive natural scenery, the best of Mandu is further enhanced by about a dozen of lake and ponds interspersed on it. The hill may therefore very well be styled as the beauty spot of Malwa and this is probably the reason why the city, enclosed within its fort walls when in its prime was called by the Muslim rulers as Shadiabad (The City Of Joy).
Mumbai - Mandu - Mumbai
Well for starters and low budget traveller, Indore is the nearest city to Mandu and Indore has an airport which is 84 kms away and takes 2 hours to reach Mandu. So plan your trip in a way that you reach Indore first and then make your way to Mandu. But, the flights to Indore will be costly which can raise your travel expenses by a great deal.
The cheapest and convenient way to reach Indore is by train. Due to train connectivity, it makes sense to either explore it as a weekend trip from Mumbai or you can combine it with a day trip to Maheshwar (Like I did) over a long weekend. By train, it will take 14 to 15 hours to Indore from Mumbai.
From Mumbai, you can take 12961 Avantika Express on Friday from Mumbai Central at 07:10 PM and will reach Indore the next day around 09:15 AM.
Alternatively from Mumbai, you can also take 22943 Pune Indore Express on Friday leaving Kalyan Junction at 06:23 PM and will reach Indore the next day around 08:30 AM.
For return journey from Indore, you can take 12962 Avantika Express on Sunday leaves from Indore at 04:15 PM and will reach Mumbai Central next day early morning around 06:10 AM
Indore to Mandu
Local Bus Services: Mandu is well connected from Indore and Dhar. From Indore, there are few direct buses to Mandu. You need to check for it at Gangwal Bus Stand or Sarawate Bus Stand. Alternatively one can take a break journey to Dhar and from Dhar, they are regular buses and even local transport which goes to Mandu. Most important bus frequency to Dhar is must better than the direct bus frequency to Mandu. As per local, they are hardly 2-3 direct bus from Indore to Mandu.
Hire A Cab: Probably one of the most expensive options as it can easily cost you around ₹5000 to ₹6000. If you are 3-4 people then you can consider this option but if you are travelling solo or in a group of two, then this will again be a little expensive.
Two Wheeler: The road between Indore to Madu is in good condition, driving all the way to Mandu make sense. So you can hire a bike/scooty in Indore. This is perfect for solo travellers and budget travellers. A scooty or bike will cost you around ₹1000 to ₹2000 for 2 days and it will take around two hours to reach Mandu from Indore. However, make sure you have your driving license with you.
Where to Stay?
Malwa Resort a property of MPT (Madhya Pradesh Tourism) located in the centre part of the town which makes it an ideal place to stay. Base category room will cost you around ₹ 3500 per room/night. Apart from the fabulous view of Sagar Lake from the room, you must check for "Puri Bhaji" at breakfast. They make amazing Puri Bhaji.
If you are travelling in a group of 8-10 peoples you can also check out Malwa Retreat another property of MPT (Madhya Pradesh Tourism), which has a dormitory. Including breakfast per bed will cost you ₹ 550 per night.
Day One: Magical Mandu
If you have travelled to Mandu through hired cab or bike you don't need to worry about local transport. But would recommend exploring the town on a cycle. You can easily get a cycle on rent at the bus stand or at the Main Market area. Simply, you can just request your hotel front desk to arrange, they will surely do it.
Apart from a few isolated ruins of Mandu are clustered around a small area. The first thing that you will notice is the Alamgir Darwaza one of the twelve ghats of the Mandu Fort.
The archaeological sites of Mandu can be classified into five broad groups:
Rewa Kund Group
Sagar Talao Group
Darya Khan's Tomb Group
Royal Enclave Group
Mandu Village Group
Apart from these major groups, there are several scattered archaeological sites all over Mandu. There are also several gateways leading to the fortified medieval settlement of Mandu.
On day one you can easily cover the first two groups. So let start with -
Rewa Kund Group
Rani Rupamati Pavillion
The original structure is actually a sandstone structure built as an army observation post. This can be clearly seen from the east which consists of a lower but massive hall with two rooms
at both ends. The building with the pavillion above belongs to the earliest stage built originally for maintaining an effective military watch over any possible enemy movements. The corridors in these basements have a number of arched opening across their width to support the ceilings. The western area at the basement contains a large cistern to which only rainwater could be supplied during monsoons by means of a channel running from the roof to the reservoir below.
Rani Rupamati Pavillion knows after Rupamati who used to come here daily for darshan of
the sacred river Narmada. To enjoy the romantic beauty of the site one should visit it at the time of sunset or in a clear moon-light.
Baz Bahadur Palace
Baz Bahadur's Palace is situated on the slope of a hill in the midst of a picturesque nature of this setting the main gateway palace is approached by forty broad steps with landings at intervals. It was constructed in the early 16th century and is notable for its spacious
courtyard fringed with halls, and high terraces which give a terrific view of the lovely surrounding. The main palace consists of a spacious open court with halls and rooms on all the four sides and a beautiful cistern in its middle.
On the terrace are seen two beautiful baradaris which provide an enchanting view of the surrounding country. There is an inscription in Persian over the main entrance which assigns its construction to Sultan Nassir Shah in A.H. 914 (A.D. 1508-9).
This is an artificial lake/pond which was witness to the legendary love story of Roopmati and Baz Bahadur. It was constructed to ensure regular water to Rani Roopmati's Pavilion. The Kund is fringed with pillars and arches of beautiful design and style under the shadow of which tourists and pilgrims can rest and enjoy the beauty of the reservoir. The place is not grand but historical. Bathing is not allowed in the Kund nowadays but the water is clean. We did see a few village boys having a dip and enjoying themselves. As per local this places is now also used for Antim Sanskar - cremation ceremony under Hindu religion.
Sagar Talao Group
MPT Malwa Resort is also categorized under Sagar Talao Group.
At just a walking distance from the hotel is the Echo Point on the road where a fine echo can be heard because of the deep and wooded valley below.
Dai Ka Mahal is the tomb of a royal wet nurse situated on a basement. The basement has arched openings towards the western side and the remains of circular towers on the southeastern and northeastern corners. It is said that these once supported lovely pavilions
which were in level with the floor of the tomb. The notable feature of this tomb is the elongated octagonal neck of the dome enclosed by an ornamental parapet with "guldastas" or tiny kiosks encircling the drum. This is a feature rarely found in Mandu but common in the architecture of the Deccan.
Dai-Ki-Chhoti Behan Ka Mahal (Gumbad)
Other than the Dai Ka Mahal, the Dai ki Chotti Behen ki Mahal seems to reinforce the social
strata of power that wet nurses enjoyed in Mandu.
As the name states, this used to be used to provide shelters for travellers possibly. Usual Mughal Architecture with Pillared hallways and a huge courtyard. You can still distinctly see
the rooms that were a part of this complex. It is dilapidated now and good for a few pictures of the facade
Malik Mughith's Mosque
The main entrance to the mosque is from a projecting porch on the east. Strong pillars once supported a dome that did not survive the ravages of time. hough the floor plan of the porch
is square this is transformed into an octagon towards the top, by arches built across the corners. The courtyard is surrounded by carved pillars taken from ruins of Hindu temples. The western colonnade- the prayer hall- is the most imposing with intricately carved niches in the wall which are inlaid with blue tiles and floral designs
One of the iconic sunset points I have seen. Just be there on time and you can see the sun setting in the valley. The views are awesome and people are doing their pre-weddings photoshoots here. Too good a place to go, should not miss it.
Day Two: Magical Mandu
Today will be covering the most visiting and popular location in Mandu, so it better to start the day earlier to beat the crowd.
Royal Enclave Group
The main building of Royal Enclave Group is Jahaz Mahal (Ship Palace) the 110 m long and 15 m broad double-storeyed building is located on a narrow strip of land between the Munj Talao and Kapur Talao, giving the appearance of a ship floating on a lake built by Sultan
Ghiyathuddin Khalji in the later part of the 15th century. It served as a large harem for the sultan and accommodated a staggering 15,000 women. Later it also served as the residence of Noor Jahan, the favourite queen of Mughal Emperor Jahangir.
The southern end of the double - storeys building has stairs leading directly to the terrace. The northern end of the terrace contains a swimming pool of floral design there is a similar pool just below it on the first floor. The terrace has two domed pavillion on the southern and northern end of the long Jahaz Mahal. The northern pavillion is not at the very end of the terrace but just south of the swimming pool. The pavilions still contain blue and yellow tiles.
The hilltop means no groundwater. So how did people live on this hill for thousands of years? Well, they had incredible water management and purifier system for the royal family and people living inside the Palace. You can still see them in some shape, and believe me, each water management point will pleasantly surprise you.
Hindola Mahal is also known as the Swinging Palace because it's sidewalls slope considerably. This is a t-shaped two-storeys solid-looking building. Thought to have been constructed by Ghiyathud-Din in the late 1400s A.D. as the Royal Assembly Hall, it has massive walls which were constructed leaning inwards to form buttresses in order to support
the heavy roof. Hence the impression that the building swings in the breeze. A steep ramp allowed the Sultan and his entourage to ride on elephants right up to the second storey. A T-shaped building was added at a later date and this had an upper storey which was used by the ladies of the court - access was by two different passages.
The Hammam is situated within the Royal Palace complex and features several really interesting water features - including a sauna and the provision of hot and cold water for bathing. Much of the quite complex water system can still be clearly seen.
This royal hammam or hot bath is of Turkish style was used by the royal persons. Its ceiling is decorated by beautiful stars have been cut for light gives the appearance of a twinkling star, shining in the sky around full moon night and even in the day time.
This is unique, it is a usual large well, fed by the rainwater. The inside of Champa Baodi is square while its wall is round with niches in it. The name Champa comes from the fact that the well top looks like a Champa Flower.
The innovation lies in building multiple storeys of living apartments surrounding this round well. Believe it or not, there are four storeys of living quarters of the palace surrounding this. The final level is almost at the level of Munj Talao. The buildings stay cool because of the Baodi next to them. The long corridors allow circulation of air. What an intelligent way to store water and make it work as an eco-friendly air conditioner.
Adjoining the Jahaz Mahal is the Jal Mahal or Water Palace, surrounded by water
Mughal Emperor Jahangir writes in his memoirs Jahangirnama: "What words of mine can describe the beauty of the grass and of the flowers? They clothe each hill and dale, each slope and plain. I know of no places so pleasant in climate and so pretty in scenery as Jal Mahal in rainy season"
Dilawar Khan Mosque
The Dilawar Khan's Mosque is the oldest building in the Royal Enclave and was built in 1405 and used stones and pillars from Hindu and Jain Temples which has previously existed on the site. These are most evident on the main doorways and the collonaded hall.
Nahar Jharokha - Tiger Balcony
Built of marble, this Jharokha originally rested on an effigy of a tiger, hence the name Nahar Jharokha or Tiger Balcony.
Darya Khan's Tomb Group
The name Hathi Mahal for its building seems to have been given for its rather disproportionately massive pillars, looking like the legs of an elephant, supporting the high
dome above. It is planned like a bardari with three arched openings on each side.
Darya Khan's Tomb
Darya Khan ruled Mandu between 1510 AD to 1526 AD. He built the tomb himself and his body is stored there. The tomb is a grand specimen of Muslim art and architecture. It is
located between the Hosai Village and Rewa Kund. Square in shape and supported by enormous arches, it has walls exhibiting fine and intricate arrangement of tiles.
Darya Khan's Tomb has been spaced around a large tank now called as Somvati Kund.
Chappan Mahal Museum is a showcase of tribal arts and crafts and ancient artefacts. As a recent addition to the geography of Mandu. Although there are many monuments in Mandu,
it becomes difficult to choose which place to visit. But this has a high historical value and has a good collection of items. Proven to be a memorable visit!
Mandu Village Group
Gada Shah's Shop & House
If the size is a factor, Gada Shah’s shop is more than a shop. It could easily be classified as a medieval shopping mall. It’s a huge building, featuring tall walls and high arches. The roof at the middle of the building is collapsed and the only structure that remains here is the arch.
Gada Shah (Beggar King) is often thought to be the Rajput merchant-noble who lived in Mandu and flourished the trade of ivory, saffron and musk.
Ujala Baodi is beautiful and it has geometric steps. The steep steps lead to the base of the Baodi. It looks beautiful from the gazebo-like pavilion on its sides.
Tomb of Hoshang Shah
One corner of the Jama Masjid has a small opening, which goes towards another courtyard—Hoshang Shah’s Tomb. India's first marble structure, it is one of the most refined examples of Afghan architecture. Its unique features include the beautifully proportioned dome, intricate marble lattice work and porticoed courts and towers. It served as a template for the
construction of Taj Mahal. Shah Jahan apparently sent his architects to study this building before they started working on the Taj. The imposing white dome of this tomb is adorned with a Crescent, which was imported from Mesopotamia. The inner walls are adorned with intricate stone jaalis (lattice) in interesting geometric patterns.
Designed alike Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, the 15th century Jama Masjid is a huge structure on a high plinth, featuring a dome, which is 17 m in height. The mosque was started by Hoshang Shah in 1406 AD and was finally completed by Mohammad Khilji in 1454 AD. This mosque is characterised by huge domes, and long corridors flanked by massive pillars. It is considered to be one of the largest specimens of Afghan architecture.
The term ‘mahal’ in Ashrafi Mahal is a misnomer, as it was not a palace but a madrasa built by Muhammad Shah that serves as his tomb. After a series of battles with Rana Kumbha of Mewar, which ended in a stalemate, Mohammad Shah built a seven storeyed victory tower in
Ashrafi Mahal to commemorate his victory of which you can only see the ruins now. Rana Kumbha erected a tower in Chittod for the same war. As per the guide, the tower of the truth still stands in Chittor while the tower of the lie collapsed long back.
Tomb of Mahmud Khalji
It is just opposite to Jami Masjid inside Ashrafi Mahal, now it is in ruins and in total destruction.
There is so much to learn about water management/water conservation/water harvesting from this ancient water management system/planning and practice. Hopefully, more will learn from these ancient wisdom practised in India.
Goodbye Mandu - See you later
Before saying goodbye to Mandu do try Mandu ki Imli aka Baobab fruit. Baobab is a native of Africa but grows abundantly in the Mandu. Sadly there are no records of exactly when the baobab trees were introduced in India. But as per the local guide, it was introduced in the Indian Sub-Continent by Arab traders.
You find makeshift stalls of Baobab juice and dried baobab pulp & seed in major tourist spots like.
Baz Bahadur’s Palace & Roopmati’s Pavilion, Rewa Kund Group
In front of Jami Masjid and Ashrafi Mahal, Mandu Village Group
In front of Jahaz Mahal, Royal Enclave Group
A glass of baobab juice cost ₹ 10. Dried pulp chunks and dried powdered pulp & seed are available in pouches of different sizes with prices starting from ₹ 20 each.
Go Next: Other Places Around Mandu
Listen To Me:
June to March is the best time to visit Mandu due to pleasant weather. From June to September (monsoon) the region receives below the average rain showers, it's better to avoid monsoon season unless you are on a photography trip. Monsoon washes out and makes the place more fresh and bright in photographs. November to February is the peak tourism time in this region. The only downside is that you can find a large crowd in the heritage sites, especially during weekends and holidays.
Except for the Rewa Kund Group and Sagar Talao Group, all location has been touristy so generally, they are very crowded, so I would advise you reach as early as possible if you don’t want to ruin your photographs.
Don’t forget to hire a tour guide as a one to one attention is exactly what you will need for a wonderful, unforgettable experience. Authorized Tour Guide for a full tour of all the location given above will cost ₹ 1500 for a group of 1-9 person. Remember to check their Id Card issued by MPT (Madhya Pardesh Tourism).
Please be polite and gentle with the native people, because you are their guest.
It's best to dress modestly and act conservatively.