While reading about the glories of the past, the Afghan & Islamic Architecture, the pleasure-loving Khilji sultans and the Peshwas, I discovered a gem. An ancient city that once stood tall and regal amongst the kingdoms of the Deccan, a place that exemplifies the folklore of Indian heritage and hints at its many dynasties. Situated in the heart of the country, Mandu is a silent little town located 95 km southwest from the city of Indore in Madhya Pradesh. As I familiarized myself with the history of the city, the art lover in me decided to embark on a journey back in time to this ancient town.
From Bhopal, I decided to take a reliable cab to Mandu so as to be able to view the scenery that surrounded this age-old beauty without interruption, whilst also being able to explore the quaint villages on the way. As one of my friends was to join me on this trip from Indore, the courteous chauffeur suggested that we take the NH52, which is approximately 288 kms via Bhopal-Dewas-Indore. Leaving behind the crowded city of Bhopal, we started at 6 am and reached Highway Treat Dodi near Dewas at around 7.45 am for some refreshments and a much needed hot cuppa tea. Through tiny villages enveloped in greenery, we continued our journey to reach Indore at around 10.30 am. We picked up Rashi (my friend) from Atrium Mall (where she was busy hogging at a Subway) and headed straight to our final destination – Mandu.
We entered the city of Mandu at dot 12.30 pm and headed straight to our hotel, Malwa Retreat. Located in between the jungle and the main city, the hotel is managed by MP tourism and frequented by tourists travelling to the city. Surrounded by the serenity of a lake and the greenery of nature, we enjoyed a hearty lunch before we headed out to explore the treasures of Mandu.
Mesmerized by the ancient gates that punctuated the cityscape at regular intervals, both of us were in awe of the bygone opulence of this once glorious town. With our explorer hats on, first on our list was the Hindola Mahal or as it is popularly known, the Swinging Palace. The unique sloping walls of the monument give this structure its name and the powerful & elegant simplicity indicates its early Islamic origins. Backlit by the afternoon sun flare, we could see the striking Jahaz Mahal at some distance from the Hindola Mahal. The shadow of this palace in the noon-sun resembles that of a formidable ship standing on a thin strip of land between two lakes, hence the name.
To understand the palace better, we booked a tour guide who narrated stories about pools shaped like a tortoise and lotus flowers. He also went on to tell us that the bathing area for women was adorned with a moon and star carved ceiling because the queens wished to bathe under the stars. We were completely engrossed in his intriguing stories, more because of the manner of his fascinating narration than the actual content of the tales.
Built entirely of marble, a visit to the Hoshang Shah’s Tomb was inevitable. Believed to be the first marble tomb built in that era, much before Taj Mahal, this structure also boasted simplicity and elegance and was adorned with carvings and tiles around the arches.
With the sky changing its colours to dusk hues, we went back to the hotel and post-dinner, we retired to bed early, as it had been a long day.
At the break of dawn, we went around the hotel property and explored it on foot. The view of the lake from the hotel was absolutely breathtaking and waking up early had definitely been the right call. With our morning chores done and breakfast consumed, we stepped out for day two. It was time to explore Baz Bahadur’s Palace & Roopmati’s Pavilion which were famous for the legendary tragic love story of Prince Baz Bahadur and Roopmati. Influenced by the Rajasthani and Afghani building styles, we entered the Baz Bahadur’s Palace through an arched entrance, and a lush green courtyard, which then escorted us to the main palace. The simplicity of the palace design deserved a 1 MB space on both our smartphones – CLICK!
Afterwards, we took a rather steep walk to reach Roopmati’s Pavilion. The southern dome affords a spectacular view of the endless fields of the Narmada valley and this is one of the most stunning features about the palace.
It was 2 pm when we climbed down. The sun was still beating down on us when we halted near Sagar Talao for some refreshing lemonade and lunch. With smiles on our faces and our thirst for art quenched, we checked out from the hotel and took the route back to Bhopal. I do recommend renting a good car in Bhopal for a hassle-free experience.
Exploring this beautiful city was one of the most riveting chapters in my expansive yet, modest, travel diary and one that definitely merits a longer visit.