Magical & Mysterious Mandu


When our driver cum guide Munna bhai received us Mandu it was almost magical, he offered us to guide us with his knowledge & escort us on his old maruti 800. We never asked him to guide but he voluntarily came across to guide us with the knowledge of history, romance and mystery. He practically demonstrated the effect of a singing competition between Roopmati and Baz Bahadur inside the palace. Munna bhai began to sing an old melodious number of Mukesh, than my wife sang another old bollywood track and i wound up singing yeh dosti hum nahi chodege from Sholay film. Did Buz Bahadur marry Roopmati ? No they were just friends ! Thus began our tryst of tour at Mandu. We experienced the aura and atmosphere of the fabled love-story between a poet and singer.

We had read somewhere that Mandu was a ghost city abandoned suddenly for nearly more than 3 centuries. There are three to four theories floated as the probable reason for abandonment of Mandu as capital city. First of all the city was literally built over the dead bodies of the slaughtered local population. In 1305 the sultan of Delhi Allauddin Khilji captured Malwa and sent his deputy Ayan to cleanse the idolaters. They found a secret entry point which breached the massive fortress. Such a fury was unleashed all the prevailing temples and religious structures were destroyed. The second probable theory was that earthquake and famine struck the region it was left water less and the royalty migrated. The third theory might be that city was stuck with plague and malaria which forced to shift to Dhar. Final theory propounded was that it was the curse of Roopmati who committed suicide on hearing the death of her paramour Buz Bahadur.( 1555-1562 )

Raja Bhoja ( 1010 – 1055 ) ruled the Malwa Region and extended his empire upto Vidisha on the east and Sabarmati on the west. He was a versatile personality with mastery in yoga, philosophy, poetry, medicine and archery. He was religious person who commissioned almost 104 temples in his empire, which were primarily hindu temple and later stages Jain. Some even suggest that he converted to Jainism. Since he was a legend with a long reign of 45 years he was also compared with fabled Vikramaditya.
With his foresight he constructed 3 dams to tap the Betwa river for irrigation and drinking purpose. This particular dam was breached on orders by Hoshang Shah ( 1406 – 1435 ) . This heinous act bought plenty of sufferings to the people of the region with spread of malaria and famine. The amount of water which was drained took 3 years, imagine the scale of destruction of the valuable water body.

Another interesting fact is the seeding of Boabab trees in Mandu region. This species of tree even though beneficial for mankind in terms providing rich in calcium, iron seeds, it also sucks in and stores large amount of water upto 4500 litres when mature. This may have contributed to drying of water resources in the area too.
The amount of destruction of hindu and jain temples during the rule of Khiljis and Ghoris can be gauged from the salvaged sculptures in the region. All these artefacts are belonging to the time of these barbaric rulers destruction. They are all currently displayed and can be witnessed in central museums at Indore & Mandu.

Ultimately Mandu became a ghost town by rapid depletion of water resource by destruction of a planned dam and descent of famine on the territory. Over a period of time migration of royalty took shape and finally the capital of Malwa shifted from Mandu to Dhar when Marathas took possession under Peshwa Baji Rao I in 1732.
Roopmati’s Pavilion : The love story of Baz Bahadur begins with a hunting expedition wherein he spots a shephard girl singing in a melodious voice in a rustic atomosphere. He instantly falls in love with girl, who refuses intially to join the court or harem of Buz Bahadur. She lays down some conditions to Baz Bahadur that she should be able to witness the sunrise and sunset from a vantage point everyday. She wanted to have a dharsan of the Narmada river during this time. She will neither be converted or forced to marry him was the second condition. The conditions was fulfilled by Baz Bahudur by constructing a pavilion with two towers and plenty of chambers below. It was a three storied structure with water flowing into the superstructure and ensuring cooling during summer and heating of water during winter. Currently only two stories are opened to the public, the third storey is still buried.
One can witness the Baz Bahadur palace from Roopmati’s pavilion. During the festival days and full moon nights Roopmati and Buz Bahadur used to have a singing competition as it were in the chambers located just opposite to each other. The voice is transmitted in the form of echo to the other chamber at a distance. We experimented the same and were convinced of their love story.
The fabled love story naturally invited enemies in the form of Adham Khan who heard the beauty of Roopmati. In 1561 Adham Khan attacked Mandu and defeated Baz Bahadur’s army in the battle of Sarangpur. On his defeat Adham Khan wanted to marry Roopmati, who refused to be another man’s paramour. She committed suicide by swallowing a diamond ring gifted by Baz Bahadur. She cursed the rulers will never see prosperity or progress. Thus ended a sad love story.ma6
According to our guide Baz Bahadur managed to escape from Mandu through a tunnel but at the other end of the tunnel he was caught and hanged as an enemy of the moghul empire. But according to another theory Baz Bahadur escaped being caught alive and took refugee at Chittaurgarh fort for a period of 8 years till he surrendered to Moghuls in 1570. He joined the army of Akbar thereafter till his death.
Baz Bahadur’s Palace : This palace was originally built by Nasir-uddin in 1508 according to the Persian inscription on top the arch. The palace became famous after its occupant Buz Bahadur too an extreme liking to the palace since he used to have dancing and singing shows inside. It was located near the Rewa Kund which was frequented every day without fail by Roopmati. Even though it was much smaller palace when compared to Roopmati pavilion it had small tank inside the palace. The water source was Rewa kund obviously. The terrace has lovely view point of the valley and surroundings. A green canopy filled with trees and a tomb is present near the complex. There is one big Baobab tree too adjescent to the palace.

Rewa Kund : A reservoir was constructed by Baz Bahadur for the purpose supply water to Roopmati Pavilion and his palace. It is considered to be an architectural marvel since the water was channelised to feed the same to a higher place. Rewa Kund seems to apparently a temple premise originally because of the tradition beliefs of the hindus to have a pond alongside a temple.

Echo Point : A series of tombs, mosque and hospital are located nearby. One can hear their voice echo because of the hillock in the background. This was demonstrated by one tribal person seated over there. We purchased some Doabab seeds along with some herbs for reducing weight being sold by a hawker at this point.

Caravan Sarai : It is supposed to be a hospital for the sick and homeless during olden times. Even the injured soldiers were treated for recovery. It is a huge rectangular complex housing at least 60 plus chambers which was used as a recovery ward.
Malik Mughith’s Mosque : This mosque was constructed by Malik in 1452, who is considered to be father of Muhammed Khilji. The pillars and decorative panels of a temple which was earlier demolished by his father was used in construction of this mosque. The ASI tablet clearly indicates the same. Once inside the complex on can see the usage of the temple pillars in the entire complex which is meant to be a mosque. The arches of the temple bought down is a silent witness in one corner.

Somavati Kund & Dariya Khan’s Mosque : This complex too housed another hindu temple was later converted into a Mosque. The pond is very clean and rectangular in shape with steps only one side leading to the pond. The mosque was filled with huge langoors and we could not enter the premise. The mosque is well finished with domes and arches. It almost seems like a private mosque for the royalty rather than public one.
Another complex which probably housed the pilgrims seems to have collapsed besides the mosque. A little distant away there is a tomb belonging to another royalty.
Dai Ki Mahal & Dai Choti Behan Ki Mahal : These two complexes must have house the royal matrons who had a special place in up bringing of children of the royal couple. They were provided with special quarters so that their status is recognised in the kings scheme of things. Their contribution was ultimately recognised in construction of tombs.
Lalbagh : Another unexcavated portion of a garden is located between Dai Ki Mahal and Somvati kund. Probably it was a landscaped garden for the royalty to relax and enjoy their evenings. This portion too must have been significant with ASI marking the spot.
Jali Mahal : It is supposed to be a resting place or tomb which is currently barricaded and is in requirement of repairs. The place even though it does not have any screen is still referred to as Jali Mahal because of its compact structure. It seems to be a tomb built in honour of some noblemen or royalty.
Neelkant Mahadev Temple : We missed visiting this place due to paucity of time and our guide’s car breaking down. The sanctum sanctorium of this temple contains the Shiv Linga and some inscriptions on the wall. The complex is fed by a spring located nearby. The present structure of the complex resembles a palace. This palace has a lovely view of the valley below.
Jain Temple : This temple is almost a mini replica of the Palitana group of temples. It is also known as Mandavgarh teerth. The temple consists of many images of the theerthankaras from Jainism. A museum of paintings etc are on display inside the temple. This complex is one of the last remanents of the Jain relics in the Mandu complex, it is located near the village group.ma15
Taveli Mahal : It currently houses the ASI museum at the enterance of the Jahaz Mahal complex. Taveli literally means the stables which used to house the elephants and horses belonging to the guards and royalty of the age. It is two storeyed structure with the upper deck housing the guards and visitors. One can have a panaromic view of the Jahaz Mahal along with the Kapur Talav from this complex.

Jahaz Mahal : This magnificent super structure was built by Ghiyas Uddin Shah ( 1469-1500 ) as a palace of pleasure. His harem consisted of more than 12,000 women who were courtesans, dancers, masseurs, singers, musicians, tutors and maids to the royal women. Some of them were trans genders too. He set up a madarassa to educate the women folk. Even though he was a womanizer he abstained from drinking and strictly attended the prayers.
He built the palace which looked like a floating ship in between two tanks that is Kapur and Munj talav. When the water was filled in both the tanks on a full moon night it used to resemble like a ship floating on waters. There are numerous fountains and tanks built around the palace. The frontal portion of the palace has a staircase leading to the terrace which has three chatris built for viewing by the royalty. The ground floor contains three huge halls and a pavilion which has a projection towards the Munj tank. The ceilings are well decorated in hues of blue and yellow tiles. There are number of chambers which obviously was used as harems by the royal ladies, and it had a small cistern for them to bathe. The water was supplied through the Munj tank and the design of the cistern was such that women folk can easily slide in by steps without having knowledge of swimming as such. The bathing place had vents too, which could be heated up during winter season. A provision of the roof was created for the steam to escape.
The harems were designed in a manner of ensuring privacy with curtains and shadow lighting screens. The system of feeding water to the cistern was an architectural marvel considering it flowed through from southern end to the northern end in the process cooling the entire building during the summer months. The arched underground water channels exists even today reminding us that their planning was exquisite.
Imagine the celebrations and orgy sessions which royalty was engaged with a large harem. Giyasuddin had even penned treatise on pleasure known Nimatnama Or Book of delights. He penned the recipe as it for a Viagra in olden times. He mentions the key ingredients of the concoction by adding ginger, saffron, fried eggplant etc to make a snack food called samosa or cutlet. Further he seems have consumed sparrows brain fried in milk and ghee to ensure his potency. He also elucidates further to smear one’s penis with a mixture of cardamom oil, musk and honey to ensure that strong desire returns at old age. This combo will ensure “Strong lust…..potency returns, ecstasy is bestowed on the heart and erection & orgasm is attained

The biggest contribution of Nimatnama is importance of perfumery in enhancement of sexual desires. His treatise includes scenting various parts of women’s body to increase the lust quotient. He elaborates to massage armpits with musk aroma & spread sandlewood paste on throat region. He used the knowledge from Persia on the art of aroma to arouse sensuality among partners. The treatise is almost fashioned on the lines of sex education with elaborate exposure of the art of sensuality. However the book which in its original format was smuggled off to some private collectors library in 1799 by East India company officials. It was pleasure to bring in a nutshell the original article. For those who desire the entire treatise kindly browse this link.

Reference article
No wonder all the carnal pleasures had to end with a bitter war of succession between the sons Nasiruddin and Alauddin Shah. Nasiruddin shah was exiled but he planned and executed a conspiracy to kill his younger brother and his entire family after one year. He returned to Mandu and ensured that his father too was poisoned to death in 1500.
There is a well landscaped garden which maintained by ASI as a part of preparation to get Mandu enlisted in the world heritage monuments. The impediment is primarily because of number of tribal residents in the entire mandu complex who need to be relocated in some area nearby.
Lohani Caves and temple ruins : These caves are last reminders of a different heritage that existed prior to its conversion into Islamic one. These caves were basically featuring shiv lings and bestowed with a pond. All the traces of temple and its images have disappeared and some of them are housed in local Museum housing the Hoshang Shah’s tomb.
The fragments of remnants of the temple are purported to used in construction of Hindola Mahal and many of the remains are also found in Champa Bauli inside the Dilwar khan’s mosque. All these point towards the hindu heritage completely being erased.

Hindola Mahal : It is known as the swinging palace in lieu of the unique design in slanting façade. It was mainly used as a meeting place or durbar in the royal complex. The Hindola mahal construction is credited to Hoshang Shah ( 1406-1435 ). The complex has huge archways and doorways with a small portion being residential with balconies probably to house the women folks. The entire structure is built with red sandstone. The design takes care of ventilation and light for a huge assembly. The entire structure is T shaped. The entire complex seems to have been completed during the reign of Ghiyas uddin Shah.
Jamia Masjid : The majestic mosque complex construction was begun by Hoshang Shah and completed by Mahmud Khilji in 1454 AD. The planning and execution of the complex was undertaken in grand scale to ensure the Islamic domination of the area. There is a huge courtyard along with a prayer hall which can house nearly a 1000 people at one namaz session. Probably it was used during the celebration of id and other festivity for the entire populace to assemble. The entire structure is built in red sandstone with domes and minarets. The Chatris or umbrella form a unique style in construction of this mosque. Behind the Jamia masjid there is a burial place for Hosang Shah built in white marble.
Hoshang Shah’s Tomb : Hoshang shah was a clever strategic planner and executer of war games. He once tricked the ruler of Odissa into gifting 100 finest war elephants disguising himself and his men as traders. They abducted the ruler of Odissa when he came to inspect their merchandise of horses and demanded a ransom of 100 elephants. Thus Hoshang established his defenses at Mandu with the finest of horses from Persia and elephants from Odissa.
His tomb was begun when he was alive and completed by son Mahmud Khilji after his death. This tomb was finished in complete white Makrana marble from Rajasthan. It looks like a miniature version of the Taj Mahal minus the four minaretes. The single large dome in the centre of edifice looks exactly similar to Taj. The tomb was so impressive that Shah Jahan sent his architects to replicate the primary design of the original Taj.
The body of Hoshang was exhumed and interned inside the complex along with three other members of the family which included his wife. The architecture of the dome and crescent were fashioned on Persian design. The tomb is barricaded with a pillar like structure on one side. The entrance of the tomb is through a porch with three side entrances too to ensure smooth exit for the assembled crowd.
Hoshang Shah’s tomb is the first complete marble edifice constructed in the country. The claim to its being inspiration of sorts for construction of Taj Mahal seems to true in many ways.

Ashrafi Mahal : It was designed by Mahmud Khilji as part of Jamia Masjid. The main purpose was to house a madrasa to impart education for the children. Later probably a portion of it was converted into a mint and treasury and a victory tower.
It was finally converted into a tomb for Mahmud Khilji on top of the existing edifice with a Chatri at the enterance. The superstructure seems to have collapsed over a period of time.

Thus a tour Mandu can be quite revealing in terms of heritage, passion play and spookiness to add the aura of mystery of abandonment. No wonder the British did not want anything to heritage except for establishing and embellishing some of their artefacts for their private collection. Now the ASI is working hard to beget a World heritage status for Mandu complex which is spread over 12 square kilometers in area in its present format. The Buz word is that Mandu is definitely worth its weight in history and mystery.

Acknowledgement :

Wikipedia, William Darlymple, Scents and sensuality !