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  • Ajaz Shaikh

Perfect Travel Blueprint for Mandu & Maheshwar Backpacking Trip

Mandu and Maheshwar are two gems of Madhya Pradesh. Maheshwar is situated on the bank of river Narmada and 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 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 - Maheshwar - Mumbai

To start with the trip I would recommend to do Mandu first. 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 Mandu and Maheshwar on two weekends from Mumbai or you can combine trip over a long weekend (Like I did). 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.

For return journey from Indore, you can take 12962 Avantika Express on Monday leaves from Indore at 04:15 PM and will reach Mumbai Central next day early morning around 06:10 AM

Indore to Mandu

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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 ₹2000 to ₹3000 for 3 days. 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.


You won't miss out on anything, click here to download the one-page itinerary


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:

  1. Rewa Kund Group

  2. Sagar Talao Group

  3. Darya Khan's Tomb Group

  4. Royal Enclave Group

  5. 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 -

Sagar Talao Group

MPT Malwa Resort is also categorized under Sagar Talao Group.

Echo Point

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 (Gumbad)

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.

Caravan Sarai

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.

Entry Fees (Sagar Talao Group): No Fees

Timing: Sunrise to Sunset


You won't miss out on anything, click here to download the one-page itinerary


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.

Ujali Baodi

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.

Jami Masjid

Designed alike Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, the 15th century Jama Masjid is a huge structure on a high plinth, featuring a dome, which is 17m in height.

Ashrafi Mahal

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.

Entry Fee (Mandu Village Group): ₹ 25 per person (Indian) and ₹ 300 per person (foreigners).

Timing: Sunrise to Sunset

Sunset Point

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.

Light & Sound show at Hindolo Mahal

Set against the magnificent backdrop of Hindola Mahal (Jahaz Mahal premises), a spectacular sound and light show will unfold the 1400-year-old history of the historic Mandu region in Madhya Pradesh.

Timing: 07:00 PM to 07:30 PM (Hindi) and 07:45 PM to 08:15 PM (English)

Entry: ₹ 200 per person


You won't miss out on anything, click here to download the one-page itinerary


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

Jahaz Mahal

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 - storied 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.

Hindu Baodi

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

Hindola Mahal is also known as the Swinging Palace because it's sidewalls slope considerably. This is a t-shaped two-storey 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.

Champa Baodi

This is unique, it is a usual large well, fed by the rainwater. The inside of Champa Bavdi is square while its wall is round with niches in it. The innovation lies in building multiple stories of living apartments surrounding this round wall. Believe it or not, there are four stories 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. The name Champa comes from the fact that the well top looks like a Champa Flower.

Jal Mahal

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