Places to visit in Mandu
Mandu is scattered with delicate monuments and have been categorized as per their location :
• Royal Enclave group
• Village group
• Rewa Kund group
Royal Enclave Group
These group of monuments are located in the north of the town. The following monuments are referred to as the Royal Enclave group :
• Jahaz Mahal
• Taveli Mahal
• Hindola Mahal
• Lohani caves
• Munj Sagar
• Champa Baori
• Gada Shah’s shop
• Dilawar Khan’s mosque
These are also known as the Central Group as they are located in the center of the city.
The following monuments are referred to as the Village group :
• Jami Masjid
• Hoshang’s tomb
• Asharfi Mahal
• Jain temple
• Ram temple
Rewa Kund Group
The mentioned monuments are referred to as the Rewa Kund group :
• Bazbahadur’s Palace
• Rupmati’s pavilion
• Dai ka Mahal
• Echo point
• Chappan Mahal
Other monuments like Darya Khan’s tomb, Hathi Mahal and Neelkanth Palace is also worth a visit.
Rupayan museum, consisting of ancient tools and crafts used by the erstwhile Mandu people, ASI museum and Shri Mandavgarh Teerth should not be missed.
A day trip to Bagh caves ( group of 9 rockcut monuments quarried in the 5th – 6th centaury AD ), located at a distance of 50 kms is recommended.
At leisure and in the evening, visit the old bazar’s of Mandu and spurge on the local handicrafts as souvenirs and mementos. Local fabrics having tribal influence are recommended.
Bargaining is definitely advisable.
The City Gates
The citadel of Mandu had 12 gate-ways but since the northern side has a natural causeway that winds up to the complex, the Delhi Darwaza, to the north of the fort, serve as the primary entrance. It is reached via a succession of fortified gateways. Made of red sandstone, the Delhi Darwaza has five arched openings with pretty inlay work.
Head eastwards from here to get to the Jehangir Gate, which is now inaccessible because it is overrun with vegetation. Slightly towards the north lies and embankment that was built over a gorge in the surrounding hills. This embankment comprises a series of steps and is known as Satosau Sidhi or Seven Hundred Steps. From here, head southwards until you come to a steep incline. It was widely believed that this path was inaccessible, but even this precipitous hill could not prevent the invading armies. In fact, Humayun seized Mandu by storming this entrance to the citadel, especially because no prevention was taken to protect this side of the fort. The only defense was a wall running along the length of the hill and a gateway, known as the Bhagwanpur Gate. The fort`s ramparts continue along the edge of the hill to its southwestern portal known as the Tarapur Gate.
Heading northwest from Tarapur Gate, near Songarh stands an arched gateway with more recent origins. Built by the Marathas in the beginning of the 19th century, the inner wall of this gateway has statues of a tiger and an elephant, made of plaster, it is believed that when Humayun invaded Mandu, a chieftain of Songarh defended this entrance; hence the name.
Jahaz Mahal literally translates to ‘Ship Palace’. The palace owes its name to its unique shape: built on a narrow strip of land between Munj Talao and Kapur Talao, it has the appearance of an anchored ship. Believed to have been built by Sultan Ghiyasuddin Khilji for his harem, this structure extends over a length of 110 m and a width of 15 m.
The main entrance is situated on the eastern side of the palace. On each side of the entrance stand six arched openings, with a cornice supported by stone brackets. There are three large halls on the ground floor, which are connected to each other by corridors with narrow rooms at either end. The soom at the southern end has a water channel which is believed to have supplied water to a beautifully designed cistern beyond the northern room, the rear end of each of the halls opens into pavilions that overlook the Munj Talao. They are believed to have been built for the womenfolk in the king`s harem, who remained hidden from public view by the curtains that hung from the arches of the pavilions.
Visitors can see more such pavilions on the terrace; the one directly above the central pavilion on the ground floor is still decorated with tiles and floral motifs. There are two more rectangular pavilions at each end of the terrace, along with the domed Chhatri.
This structure was called Hindola Mahal or the ‘Swinging Palace’ because of its slanting, buttressed walls. It is believed to have been built in the latter part of the 15th century, again under Ghiyasuddin`s reign. Shaped like the alphabet T, the aesthetic appeal of this simply constructed building remains unparalleled. Such a unique monument still remains to be found anywhere else in the country.
The main hall of the palace is 27-m long, 8-m wide and 11-m high. Six deep arches run along the length of the hall, with doorways below and trace-worked windows above. The east and west walls of the main hall are2.7-m thick, excluding the buttressed projections.
The cross way projection has two stories, the upper storey being reserved for the royal womenfolk. A flight ot sloping platforms leads to the upper apartments from the north: it is believed that the royal ladies came up this way sitting in their palanquins or riding on elephant`s backs.
The simple façade of the structure fails to give a true impression of the interior, which boasts an imaginative design and pretty embellishments.
To the north of Munj Talao lies a cluster or ruins, believed to be remains of the royal retreats of the Malwa Sultanate. The royals probably retired here to enjoy music, poetry and art.
Within the enclosure is Taveli Mahal, which derives its name from tabela or stable. It is assumed that the ground floor served as stables while the upper floor had apartments that accommodated guards. At present the apartments have been converted into a guesthouse run by the ASI. A terrace offers splendid views of the surrounding area.
Set amid the ruins is a stepwell called Champa Baoli, named thus since its water is said to have tasted like champak flowers (Indian magnolias). An underground passage connects the base of the well to a labyrinth of vaulted rooms called tahkhana (basement). These rooms were further connected to a pavilion on the western bank of Munj Talao. This ensured that even during the scorching summers the tahkhana was uniformly cool. Nearby is a hammam, with star-shaped openings in the ceiling.
Next, head to the Nahar Jharokha or Tiger Balcony within the royal enclosure, assumed to have been built during Jehangir`s stay at Mandu, for the kings to give darshan to the public. The royal enclosure can be entered through a gate known as Hathi Pol, named thus because it is flanked on either side by derelict elephant figures. The gate is fortified with basti side either side meant for mounting guns.
There are two more baolis in the complex, known as Ujala Baoli and Andheri Baoli. The former, true to its name, is open and bright, while the latter is enclosed and hence dark. The Andheri Baoli, topped by a dome, is the larger of the two step wells, with two flights of steps leading down to it.
There are two more ruins within the royal enclave, which are believed to be the living quarters of a person of significant social standing, it is largely accepted that this man was Medini Ray, a Rajput chief, who had risen to great powers from the position of Sultan Mahmud II`s servant. One of the two buildings is believed be his house, an the other, a shop. The former is a two-storied structure with apartments on the ground floor. The upper story has a hall with two side rooms.
At the northern edge of the Royal Enclave is Dilawar Khan`s Mosque, the earliest Indo-Islamic monument at Mandu, evident from the its inscriptions that refer to the rule of the first Muslim king of Malwa. It is said that this mosque was exclusively meant for royalty. It has a central courtyard, surrounded by colonnaded galleries and a mihrab or niche on the western side. Hindu influence is eident in the structure, especially in the design of the pillars and the ceiling of the prayer hall. Scholars believe this form of architecture to be from the first phase of Islamic architecture at Mandu when mosques were constructed from various parts of dismantled temples. The main door and the richly ornamented niches in the western hall are worthy of note.
THE CENTRAL GROUP
Hoshang Shah started building this mosque, but it was completed by Mohammad Khilji. A flight of stairs leads to the grand, domed entrance to the east. An engraved inscription on the doorway mentions that the building`s design was based on the Mosque of Damascus Reminiscent of Hindu architecture, the doorway is a beautifully embellished structure. Another entrance will lead you to the open spacious courtyard, enclosed on three sides by colonnaded verandahs covered with domes.
Across the courtyard is the prayer hall, which has 58 small domes and three large ones. The pillars supporting the structure are plain and simplistic, quite a stark contrast to the 17 impressively carved niches, which run along the western wall. The central niche, decorated with verses from the Quran is the most exquisite of them all. The upper apartments, which were built to accommodate royal visitors, are located at the farthest ends of the prayer hall. There are two entrances along the northern wall, one that leads to the prayer hall and another that leads to the courtyard.
Hoshang Shah`s Tomb
Believed to be the inspiration for the builders of Taj Mahal, Hoshang Shah`s Tomb was the first structure to have been made in white marble. This massive tomb is austere in its appearance and built on a square platform with walls rising from it. There are domed turrets on each corner of the building, which look up to the celestial dome at the center. The finial of the central dome is crowned by a crescent.
The interior of this monument is somber. Perforated screens allow light to filter in, illuminating the delicate ornamental carvings. This monument, in its structure, emulates the immense reverence that the subjects held for their beloved ruler.
The construction of this monument was completed in two phases. The foundations were laid when a madrasa was built adjacent to the Jami Masjid, in the same layout as the mosque. However, after Mahmud Khilji`s victory over the Rana of Mewar, the existing structure was converted and extended to create a monument commemorating his triumph. Unfortunately, the inadequate thickness of the walls led to its collapse. What remains of this structure is the basement, which is 9.8-, deep. Later on, Mahmud`s tomb was constructed here.
What was once a glorious example of Muslim architecture now lies in ruins. However, its beauty and design still manage to impress visitors. It must be mentioned that when viewed from Mahmud Khilji`s tomb, the halls of Hoshang Shah`s tomb and the Jami Masjid appear perfectly aligned.
The Hathi Mahal gets its name from the elephantine pillars that support the massive dome. Dating back to the reign of Nasiruddin Khilji, the palace is believed to have been intended as a pleasure retreat, which was later converted to a tomb for the royal family. The base of the dome is octagonal, which lends the building an imposing appearance. The bands on the base bear traces of attractive patterns made with inlaid tiles. There is also a mosque adjacent to the Hathi Mahal.
Darya Khan`s Tomb
The tomb of Darya Khan, an official of Mahmud II, bears traces of an intricately decorated exterior. The tomb is similar to the tomb of Hoshang Shah; there are four small domes at each corner that surround the main dome. However, the overall structure seems much subtler in comparison to Hoshang Shah`s tomb. Arches that support the central dome enclose a hall, which is square in its layout. Miniature arches embellished with blue tiles decorate the otherwise bare hall.
The tomb must have been a centre of much activity as more minor ruins can be seen around the main mausoleum.
SAGAR TALAO GROUP
Dai Ka Mahal
Though referred to as a palace, Dai ka Mahal is the final resting place of a royal wet-nurse. The tomb is situated in the building`s basement, and locals claim that it was once supported by beautiful pavilions.
The tomb is a square, domed structure with openings in the wall. Above these are a row of miniature arches. Towards the western side are the ruins of a mosque.
Dai Ki Chhoti Behen ka Mahal
Like Dai ka Mahal, Dai ki Chhoti Behen Ka Mahal is also a mausoleum, the house of the wet-nurse`s sister, where she was buried after her death. It is located to the south of Caravan Sarai and the surroundings appear especially beautiful after a heavy downpour. To the south of the pavilion are the remains of a planned garden.
The floor plan of the tomb is octagonal, with arched openings. Patches of original blue tile work are still visible in the dome.
Jail Mahal, a tomb of an unnamed nobleman lies to the south of Sagar Talao. The south facing wall of this monument is fitted with intricate jails or screens.
REWA KUND GROUP
This reserved lake was built by Baz Bahadur so that Roopmati could pay homage to the holy Narmada every morning. It is said that so great was her devotion that once when the clouds descended over the plains and made it difficult for Roopmati to see the river, she took up an indefinite fast. Then the river goddess visited her in a dream and told her to construct a lake near her quarters. After the lake was dug, water from the Narmada came surging up to fill it. Such is the legend of the Narmada.
Rewa Kund has steps that lead to the water level. There are arched doorways to its northwest side, which from a part of the resort facing the pristine water of the lake. It is frequented by people undertaking the arduous Narmada parikrama or circumlocution. In fact, pilgrims often start their journey from this sacred lake, whose waters are believed to have curative powers.
Baz Bahadur`s Palace
Built much before Baz Bahadur came to power, this palace is an example of Mughal and Rajput grandeur. The main gateway situated on the slope of a hill is approached by 40 grand steps interspersed with landings. The passage through the gateway and a vaulted ceiling above, the openings being arched at both ends. This passage leads to the outer court of the palace approached through a main door.
The main feature of the palace is a courtyard with halls and rooms on all four sides. These were the king`s quarters as well as spaces used for public meetings. An octagonal pavilion juts out from beyond the colonnade. The pavilion overlooks a garden which still bears traces of its ancient glory. To the south of the palace are rooms thought to have been constructed for the king`s attendants. An opening at the back leads to another court. A flight of stairs leads to the terrace, where marvelous views of Roopmati`s pavilion backed by the lush green countryside can be enjoyed.
Beyond the palace of Baz Bahadur lies Roopmati`s pavilion on the lofty crest of the hill. It offers a breathtaking view of Baz Bahadur`s palace as well as the Narmada flowing through the Nimar plains. It is believed that the structure had undergone two to three different stages of construction at different periods of time.
During the first stage a massive low-roofed hall was built, with rooms at both ends. This hall served as an army observation post to keep a check on enemy movements. This post was later extended to include two square pavilions to domes, to accommodate the demands of queen Roopmati, who desired that a vantage point be built from where the river as well as the king`s quarters be visible.
While the beauty of this pavilion is magnified manifold at sunset, it is at its breathtaking best on a moonlit night. The glow of the silvery moon seems to envelope it completely, transforming the stone pavilion into an unforgettable, surreal sight.
Located in the heart of the woods, near the tomb of Darya Khan, is Lal Mahal or Ruby Palace. Also known as the Lal Bungalow, this palace is considered to have been another retreat of the Mandu Sultans.
Even though not much is left of Chishti Khan`s Palace, the remains stand all on a cliff. The structure is assumed to have been a retreat for the rainy season, and traces of murals and paintings can still be found in its eastern wing, even though it is difficult to make out much of its original floor plan.
Hindu decorative style fused with Islamic architectural techniques lends a kind of simplicity to Chhappan Mahal, the tomb of an unidentified noble. It derives its name from the year it was renovated, 1956 or Unnis-Sau Chhappan in Hindi. Currently, it is the property of the Maharaja of Dhar and his permission is required for a visit.
Nilkantha Palace derives its name from the site it was erected on, which was apparently an old temple dedicated to Shiva – also referred to as Nilkantha or the one with a blue throat. This monument is popular for its charming location, which offers a beautiful view of the valley below. The palace, also known for its architectural designs, consists of a court with rooms on three sides, with the north side facing towards the valley. Not without reason, Jehangir deemed this palace as one of the most pleasant in Mandu.
Take a small tour of the Lohani Caves, which are rock-cut cells probably meant for yogis and yoginis. Believed to have been excavated in the 11th or 12th century, these caves are where many sculptures of gods and goddesses and several temple ruins have been discovered. Many of them are displayed in the ASI museum.
Similar to other archaeologically rich places, Mandu too boasts its division of the Archaeological Survey of India Museum. It is located inside the Mandu Fort and possesses a collection of early-Medieval Paramara sculptures.
Do not miss the large and exquisite white marble statue of a Jain tirthankara. Very well preserved, this statue shows a tirthankara in deep meditation with his hands folded on his lap and his eyes closed in meditation. Another sculpture of note is that of Vishnu reclining on his serpent, Sheshnag. Vishnu is shown in a stretched position with his head being supported by one of his four arms.
The museum also has a great collection of ancient pottery.
Dhar was home to one of India`s most celebrated artists, Raghunath Krishna Phadke. The studio where he worked, Phadke Museum, is open to the public. Among other exhibits are his portraits of leaders of the nationalist movement.
The District Archaeological Museum of Dhar is located in the Old Church Building. The building itself is a heritage site dating back to the Colonial period. This museum displays antiquities from neighboring archaeological sites and has a good collection of coins and inscriptions.