Among the plethora of monuments that adorn the landscape of the historical city of Mandu in Madhya Pradesh, is the Rani Roopmati Palace, an ode to love. The sandstone structure is perched regally on the edge of a 365m cliff overlooking the Nimar Valley and the Baz Bahadur Palace to the south. It bears witness to the legendary tragic love story of Baz Bahadur, the mid-16th century Sultan of Mandu and renowned singer, and his queen, Rani Roopmati. Roopmati Palace echoes a love saga from the hardest of hearts, regardless of the era. This palace still stands as a testament to their love story today. The love story transcends religion and worldly ties and is a story of love and sacrifice etched forever on the ground in Mandu.
[Also read: Explore the magic of Mandu]
The Love Story
The story of Baz Bahadur and Rani Roopmati lives on in the breathtakingly beautiful ruins of Mandu to this day. Bayazid Baz Bahadur Khan reigned as the last Sultan of the Malwa Sultanate from 1555 to 1562. According to legend, Baz Bahadur was an avid hunter. He once heard captivating music sung by a woman in the middle of a vast wilderness while on a hunting trip, and that is how he discovered Roopmati, singing the praises of her revered river Narmada.
Roopmati, a Hindu Rajput singer from Malwa, was exceptionally beautiful and blessed with a melodious voice, one that drew the forest animals to her every time she sang. On a hunting trip, Baz Bahadur came across her surrounded by a large herd of deer, rabbits, and birds of various feathers while her voice reverberated through the forest.
The singer’s beauty and melodious voice intrigued Baz Bahadur, who loved music. The prince soon forgot about state matters and began writing ballads about her. He desired to marry her and pleaded with Roopmati to accompany him to his capital, but Roopmati set a condition. “When the Rewa (Narmada river) flows through Mandu, I will be your bride,” she replied. Roopmati was a great devotee of Narmada, and she didn’t eat until she had prayed to the river every day. Roopmati agreed to go to Mandu if she would live in a palace overlooking the Narmada River.
Unlike other rulers, the Mandu Sultan had no intention of forcing her into his harem. According to legend, Baz Bahadur was moved by her poetic response and went down to the river to request that it climb the mountain and flow through Mandu, which is 20 kilometers and 1,000 feet higher. He built a palace for her with a pavilion on the edge of a cliff next to his palace, along with an artificial lake called RewaKund to ensure water supply from the River Narmada to her pavilion. The structure was originally built as an army observation post before being transformed into Roopmati’s abode, which provided stunning views of the distant Narmada meandering below. Book a cab from Indore to Mandu to view the palace in its full glory. Soon enough, they got married and lived a blissful life of music and poetry together.
[Also read: Taramati Baradari – A Symbol of Musical Love]
The Beginning of the End
Unfortunately, the happy days of Baz Bahadur and Roopmati were cut short when dark clouds of cruel fate began to gather over the idyllic and romantic land of Mandu. The king lost sight of his responsibilities, leaving his kingdom vulnerable to enemies. At that time, Akbar is said to have heard of Roopmati’s beauty and divine voice and requested that she be sent to his court in Delhi. However, Baz Bahadur refused and returned to the emperor with a terse letter stating that his wife was not leaving.
Frustrated, he dispatched his general, Adham Khan, to capture the rebel king. The battle was fought at Sarangpur between Baz Bahadur’s small army and Adham Khan’s large Mughal army. Baz Bahadur was no match for Khan, and after one bloody battle in which he lost many of his men, he sensed defeat. He fled for his life, leaving his kingdom, his people, and his love, Roopmati, in Adham Khan’s hands.
Roopmati’s Tragic Fate
Adham Khan marched into his kingdom and demanded Roopmati to marry him. When he was about to take her possession forcibly, she disguised herself as a flower seller and fled. Adham, on the other hand, gave orders to fifteen of his best cavalry to capture and return her. She was captured and returned to Mandu under strict guard. The queen resisted Adham Khan’s advances with tenacity. He refused to listen to her entreaties, so she agreed and invited the general to her bedroom chamber at a designated time. When Khan arrived at her chambers, he was greeted by her lifeless body. Roopmati had poisoned herself, choosing death to Adham Khan, bringing an end to this magical love story that had once inspired poetry and folklore.
Rani Roopmati’s Palace Today
The love story of Baz Bahadur and Roopmati has been retold so many times that no one can now claim to know the truth. Today, the scenic views from the palace transport visitors to another dimension where love triumphs over all. Hire a cab in from Indore to Mandu to visit the gorgeous palace that is a magnificent blend of Rajasthani and Mughal architectural styles. A flight of steps to the pavilion’s top leads to nature’s enchantment, with never-ending views of lush forests, plateaus, valleys, and vast stretches of distant hills.
Rani Roopmati’s Palace also serves as an excellent sunset location in Mandu, and as visitors watch the sunset over Mandu’s vast rocky outback, they are reminded of the eternal love stories of Baz Bahadur and Roopmati, which still reverberate through the Ruined Citadel of Mandu.
How to Reach Mandu
The nearest airport is Devi Ahilyabai Holkar Airport in Indore. Flights are available from Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Jaipur, Hyderabad, Bhopal, Ahmedabad, Nagpur, Raipur, and Kolkata regularly. For a comfortable journey to Mandu, book an airport taxi from Indore.
Indore is the nearest city with railway stations that are well connected to major Indian cities. Check with the Indian Railways website for the most updated schedule for Indore to Mandu train timings.
Mandu is easily accessible from Indore and Dhar. Book a taxi from Indore to Mandu for a comfortable ride to the city drenched in history. The distance is about 95 kilometers, and the roads are in good condition.