Sunday, 1 April 2018

Mandav - The Poem etched in stone

     This began as a random article on one of the 'feeds' and a plan to see Mandav in person. This was around the time when the story of queen Padmavati was doing the rounds for all kinds of reasons, with questions about her existence being asked... Miles away we had our own real life love-struck story of Rani Roopmati and Baz Bahadur(more on it later).. It was after an amazing day spent food-surfing in Indore the early morning bus-ride to Mandu(Mandav, Mandavgarh, Mandap Durga and many more names...) took off.
The Jami Masjid
  The quaint town of Mandu now a tourist attraction speaks up from the very moment you enter the perimeter via any of the darwajas. The structures speak up of a time when the town was more than a tourist attraction. The twin capital of the Malwa Sultanate has much to offer. The first major monument that greets you is the Jami Masjid. This Masjid is unique in its existence because of the influence of Hindu style of architecture seen its construction. It was one of the largest masjids in its times.


The tomb of Mahmud Khilji
Lucky the Jumper
Right across Jami is the tomb of Mahmud Khilji and Wikipedia will tell you of an interesting war story. A story where both the parties assumed themselves to be the winners and had grand victory monuments erected in their commemoration. Also this was where I met Lucky - the overenthusiastic jumper (That is exactly what he excelled at). 

Just beyond the Jami Masjid is the tomb of Hoshang Shah. The monument which went on to apparently inspire the Taj Mahal. You can see the similarities and the intricate marble work. The tomb lies surrounded by lush green gardens even in the onset of Summer(hence it is the monsoons when you would want to visit here but there's the trade-off with touristy crowds).
Tomb of Hoshang Shah

By now the Sun had started giving off 'find-a-shelter' signals. I decided to squeeze a couple of more nearby monuments(misinterpreted nearby). It takes around a walk of 20 mins at average speed to reach the Chappan mahal and the nearby Ek Khamba Mahal. The first houses a mini-exhibit of the way of life of the adivasi tribes that once roamed these lands.

Ek Khamba Mahal
Adivasi Settlements
This was followed by a quick lunch and a nap at the MPTDC resort(which is the best place to book an accommodation). The second phase was to the far flung places and the real structures which provide Mandu with its romantic flair.
On the way to these structures, there is a group of monuments with the Darya Khan's enclosure. The Tomb of Darya Khan, the Somvati Kund and the Lal Sarai(Sarai = Inn). A thought which strikes you as you roam these abandoned ruins, is if only we could run back in time to relive a day in the lives of the people who once housed these rock constructions.
The Somvati kund was a refuge for many birds including a kingfisher and the Black Egret. Lal Sarai is the textbook version of how ruins would look. This group of monuments lend a mystical charm to Mandu.

The Somvati Kund

The Darya Khan Enclosure

Baz Bahadur's Palace Looking upwards towards Roopmati's Pavilion
     This is followed  by the drive to the extreme edges of Mandu. The Rewa Kund is revered till date by the locals. The Baz Bahadur Palace stands across the Kund and looms large over the scenic beauty that surrounds. It is a windy place with sprawling gardens and played an important role in the eternal love story of Roopmati and Baz Bahadur. The sultan preferred this palace as it was close to his beloved Queen's pavilion. It is here I met Alejo(Alee-ho as he instructed me, is the correct pronunciation). All the way from Argentina, he was here to teach at an NGO. We parted ways on many common conclusions about how he loved the rich history India has to offer (and obviously why Messi is and will always be the best!).

Alejo from Argentina

A short walk takes you to the towering pavilion of Rani Roopmati. It takes eternity for you to take in the entirety of the this grand place. The view, the story that it shouts aloud. The pavilion was supposedly built as a result of Roopmati's condition for the marriage. It was to provide her with the view of Ma Rewa or the Narmada River. From here you can literally see the horizon all around you in its pristine state. It took me an entire hour to let the vibes of this place sink in. The enormity of its existence and the climax it provides to the often repeated folklore of Baz and Roopmati, the queen, the poet.

Roopmati's pavilion

With a heavy heart I make my way to the now diminishing list of places to visit. The Lohani caves make for a pretty prologue to the upcoming sunset at Sunset point. 


This is it for the day with a bit of exploring for the next morning. The MPTDC resort welcomes you with its old-world charm.
The Malwa Retreat

The next morning is about waiting for the sun to rise and a shortcut which wasn't a short cut to the Jahaj Mahal group of monuments.
Wishing the Sun a Happy Morning

Finally I reach the Jahaj Mahal enclave after jumping over a couple of tricky barricades(not recommended if you aren't  aware of the way of the ninja)
The Jahaj Mahal

There is the Taveli mahal which now serves the purpose of a mini-museum of sorts(which was sadly not open...) Two Lakes border the Jahaj Mahal while the Hindola Mahal(gets its name from the sloped walls which make it look like a swing) precedes it.

The Gadashah's palace has an area of boxed foundations which for some reason reminded me of the digs we see in textbooks of Harappa..
The Boxed ruins 

The arches and the intricate patterns mesmerise you and keep you hooked to explore even further into the enclosure...


Beyond the Jahaj Mahal is a dried up lake which when full, reflects the Palace to aptly name it 'The Ship Palace'.

The Ship Palace -Jahaj Mahal  

    And as you are about to leave you sight a young peacock prancing around the dried up lake, foraging for breakfast - wishing you adieu...
The Majestic Peacock

Thus ends a sojourn to experience the love letter carved in stone. To imagine the tales and the seek the monuments who stood the test of time... Some falling to pieces and yet defiant in their existence. To forever proclaim of a world, of a time gone by...
A song of stone and lore