Introduction – Mandu is situated about 35 km from Dhar, district headquarter of the same name in Madhya Pradesh. The hill rises 633.7 m above the sea level and is endowed with a very attractive natural scenery, which is best during the rainy season. It is clothed in green with number of brooks and torrents, rushing down into the ravine winding about its sides below. The beauty is enhanced by about a dozen lakes and ponds interspersed on its top. This is probably the reason why the city, enclosed within its fort-walls, when in its prime, was called by the Muslim rulers as Shadibad, ‘The City of Joy’.
History – The earliest reference of Mandu is found in a Sanskrit inscription, when it was called as Mandapa-Durga. This inscription, on the pedestal of a Jaina image of Adinatha, is dated Vikram Samvat 612 (AD 555) and found at Talapur. It says that the image was installed in a temple of Parshvanatha, in a locality called Tarapur inside Mandapa-Durga, by a merchant named Chandrasimha Sha. Firishta, the celebrated Muhammadan historian, quotes a legend saying that in the days of Khusrau Parviz (AD 590-628) the fort was built by ‘Anand Deo Rajput of the tribe of Bies’, a name which is not traceable amongst the historical personalities of the day so far known to us. However the former inscription confirms that there must have a fort existing about that time and it must have been constructed some time before, before AD 555. Mandapa-Durga’s Prakrit or vernacular equivalent is Mandava, a name which is still in use. The word mandava is further corrupted to Mandu.
We do not have any history of next three centuries. In tenth century, this fort was a frontier outpost of the Guhara-Pratihara empire of Kanuaj. In an inscription of Vikrama Samvat 1003 (AD 946), found at Pratapgadh in Rajasthan, referring to the reign of king Mahendrapala of this dynasty, it is stated that prince Madhava was then acting as the great feudatory at Ujjain and his commander-in-chief Sri-Sarman was carrying on the affairs of The state at Mandapika (Mandu). By the end of tenth century, Mandu came under Paramaras, who ruled with their capital at Ujjain and later shifted to Dhar. This dynasty was in its golden period under King Munja and Bhoja, who put it to the glory unmatched in the history of North India. The memory of king Munja is still retained at Mandu in the name of the Munja-Talao. It is also probable that King Bhoja put a blockade to Mahmud of Ghazni when he was returning from Somnath, which made him to divert his route leaving Mandu unharmed.
An inscription on the sarpa-bandha (snake-diagram) in the local collection in the fort has the date Vikrama Samvat 1125 (AD 1068) and refers to Sri-Bhattaraka-Devendra-deva, possibly a vassal chief under the Paramara King Udayaditya. The Rasamala says that the Mandu chiefs were paying homage to Udayaditya, whose capital continued to be at Dhar. It is likely that Lohani caves and other Shiva temples at Mandu were of this time. From the inscriptions found in the debris of fort buildings, we get lengthy hymns to god Vishnu composed by Bilhana, who, the record states, was the minister for war and peace to the Paramara King Vindhyavarman, who ruled Malwa at the close of the twelfth century. Sallakshana was Chahmana chief in the court of Arjunavarman (AD 1210-1218) and he erected some temples in the fort in vicinity of Lohani caves.
In about AD 1227, Shamsu’d-Din Iltutmish invaded Malwa, sacked Bhilsa and Ujjain, but reigning Paramara King Devapala concluded a treaty with him hence Mandu was left untouched. This was the first Muslim invasion to the area. Paramara continued to rule from Mandu but their power declined. Jayavarman (AD 1256-1261) ruled from Mandu, as seen from his copper-plates discovered at Godurapura in Nimar. Jayavarman was succeeded by Jayasimha II, who is mentioned as the lord of Mandapa-Durga in a memorial pillar from Valipur in Dhar. He was defeated and killed in a battle by the Chahmana King Jaitrasimha in AD 1269. In about AD 1283, Bhoja II ascended the throne of Malwa, as seen from a seven line inscription at Rewa-Kund at Mandu.
In 1293,Muslim ruler of Delhi, Jalalu’d-Din Khalji attacked Mandu and returned with lots of booty to Delhi. Mandu continued to be with Hindu rulers till AD 1305 when the final onslaught came from Alau’d-Din Khalji. He sent his trusted general Ainu’l-Mu’lk to fight with Mahlak Deo, the Hindu ruler of Mandu. Mandu was added to Delhi Sultanate.
In the reign of Muhammad-bin-Tughluq, Dilawar Khan Ghuri was the governor of Mandu. When Delhi went into instability, Dilwar Khan declared himself independent and assumed royal titles in AD 1401. He kept his capital at Dhar but visited Mandu frequently. After his death his son Alp Khan, with regal name Hoshang Shah, ascended the throne in AD 1405. He shifted the capital from Dhar to Mandu. His career was busy with military conquests with Gujrat, Delhi and Jaunpur. Many architectural buildings were also constructed during his time including his own tomb and Jami Masjid. He also elaborated the fortifications, and these defenses of the fort were talked in eulogistic terms by Firishta and Jahangir.
Hoshang Shah, most beloved ruler to his subjects, died in AD 1435, leaving the throne to his son Ghazani Khan, who took title Mahmud Shah. His reign was short-lived and he died in AD 1436. He was poisoned by his confidante Mahmud Khan, who took the throne after his death. This put the end to the Ghuri dynasty and start of Khalji dynasty at Mandu. His reign was full of military conquests with Deccan, Jaunpur, Delhi and Gujrat. However, his usual target was Rana of Mewar. He died in AD 1469, reigning for almost 33 years. He was succeeded by his eldest son Ghiyathu’d-Din. He devoted his career to peaceful pursuits instead of military conquests like his father. He has extraordinary fancy for women, it is said that he had at one time 15,000 women of various classes and professions in his seraglio. He was poisoned by his own son, Nasir’d-Din, an incident narrated by Jahangir in his memoirs.
Nasiru’d-Din ascended to the throne in AD 1500. But he was never able to come out of remorse of killing his own father. He died of burning fever, leaving his throne to his third son Mahmud in AD 1510. Mahmud II faced the domestic feud, which was started in the reign of his father. But he fought this with the assistance of Rajput chief Medini Ray. Medini Ray gained quite an influence over the king that his power soon became unbearable to the king. Mahmud II fled Mandu with help of Muzaffar Shah of Gujrat and later ousted Medini Ray and gained Mandu again. However he did not keep good relation with Bahadur Shah, successor of Muzaffar Shah, so Bahadur Shah attached Mandu and captured Mahmud II.
Malwa remained a dependency of Gujrat till AD 1534 when Humayun conquered the fort, while Bahadur Shah fled from Songarh Fort. But as soon as Humayun left Mandu, Mallu Khan, an officer of the former Khalji dynasty retook all territory between Narmada and the town of Bhilsa and crowned himself at Mandu with the title of Qadir Shah in AD 1536. In 1542, Sher Shah invaded and conquered Malwa and appointed Shuja’at Khan as his governor in Malwa. He died in AD 1554 almost as an independent sovereign. His death resulted in a domestic feud amongst his three sons. One of them, Malik Bayazid, crowned himself as an independent ruler as Sultan Baz Bahadur.
Baz Bahadur showed some spirit of enterprise in the beginning, but after his disgraceful defeat by Rani Durgavati he almost forswore fighting. He gave himself of dance and music where the famous and beautiful Rupmati proved to be his most favorite associate and consort. Akbar’s general, Adham Khan, attacked Mandu in AD 1561. Baz Bahadur fled but Rupmati was captured. She committed suicide by taking poison instead of falling victim to the allurement of the enemy. Under the Mughals, Mandu lost its former glory. Emperor Akbar visited the fort about four times during his Deccan conquests. Akbar’s successor, Jahangir, was, however, more fascinated by Mandu. He stayed in fort for about seven months. He left many interesting descriptions of Mandu in his memoirs.
Shah Jahan also visited Mandu twice. Architects of Taj Mahal visited Mandu, in AD 1659, to pay homage to the architects of Hoshang Shah’s tomb. Though Mughal emperor visited Mandu during their military conquests, its fortunes had already passed away with the fall of Baz Bahadur.
In 1732, Marathas under Malhar Rao Holker defeated Diya Bahadur, the Mughal governor of Malwa in a battle of Tirla near Dhar. Mandu was with Marathas till the British rose to power.
Monuments – A majority of the standing monuments at Mandu were raised in the period of hardly 125 years, between AD 1401 and AD 1526. In this period Mandu was under Muslim rulers, and as elsewhere, they desecrated and destructed Hindu temples to raise their structures with their own ideas of architectural compositions. Visitors, who may have seen similar structures elsewhere in India, will see certain characteristics of Mandu buildings such as very minimal ornamentation and decoration on exterior and interior of its buildings. The luxury is disdained in the buildings but those do not lack and dignity and grandeur, which they achieve with simplicity, austerity and massiveness of construction.
We can group the monuments at Mandu in seven groups, 1. Ancient Monuments, 2. The Royal Enclave Group of Monuments, 3. Mandu Village Group of Monuments, 4. Sagar Talao Group of Monuments, 5. Rewa-Kund Group of Monuments, 6. Darya Khan Group of Monuments, and 7. Miscellaneous Monuments scattered around.
Lohani Cave & temple ruins – These caves are located on the way from Mandu village to Royal Enclave. These caves are ordinary excavations without much of carvings and without any inscription. In plan they represent a few rock-cut cells meant primarily for residence, perhaps for Shaiva Jogis. In front of the caves is a rock-cut cistern. After cleaning the debris from the caves, some 80 images were found which are kept in the local museum in the dharmashala of Hoshang Shah’s Tomb. On exploration, the entire surroundings of the caves were found scattered with carved fragments representing ruins of Hindu temples, mostly Shiva, which once stood there, but were presumably destroyed and their materials used in later Muslim buildings.
To the south of the caves is standing a monolithic pillar of about 5 m high which probably adorned the front of a temple. Many of Hindu relics are found near Champa Baodi and from inside Dilawar Khan’s mosque. There is also reason to believe that within the massive walls of Hindola Mahal such materials, Hindu temple elements, now lie embedded in huge quantities, for some of them can now be seen peeping out of the core of their fallen masonry.
The Royal Enclave: This is a ticketed monument, single ticket for all the monuments inside the complex.
Hathi Pol – This is the main entrance to the royal enclosure. This is called Hathi Pol, on account of two elephant images flanking on either sides. These elephants were broken down by Aurangzeb in later period.
Jahaz Mahal – Jahaz Mahal reflects the spirit of Mandu’s romatic beauty. It is artistically built, with frontage of little less than 121.9 m and width about 15.2 m and the height of its facade about 9.7 m, on the narrow strip of land between the waters of the Munj Talao and Kapur tank that it presents the sight of a ship anchored in between them. The best view of this building can be seen from uppermost terrace of the Taveli Mahal,which houses museum now. It is best in monsoon when both the tanks are full of water and nature around is all green with vegetation. The effect is most charming in the lusty silence of a clear moonlight against which the silhouette of the building, with the tiny domes and turrets of the pavilions gracefully perched on the terrace, presents a most delightful spectacle.
Made for the purpose of an assembly hall, the plan of the ground floor consists of three large halls, with corridors in between and narrow rooms at the extreme ends, and a beautiful cistern beyond the northern room surrounded a colonnade on its three side. Jahangir wrote in his memoirs about one assembly organized here, “It was a wonderful assembly. In the beginning of the evening they lighted lanterns and lamps all around the tanks and buildings and a lighting up was carried out the like of which has perhaps never been arranged in any place. The lanterns and lamps cast their reflection on the water and it appeared as if the whole surface of the tank was a plain of fire.
A grand entertainment took place and the drunkards indulged themselves to excess”. It has a spacious terrace, adorned with pavilions showing a pleasing variety in their domes and turrets. The pavilions on the ends are larger in dimensions and are divided into three compartments, the central one having domical roof a little higher than the pyramidal roofs of the side compartments. The artistic effect produced by this variety in the forms of the roof is indeed very appealing. There are two projecting pavilions on sides, one looking at Kapur Tank, left in the picture, and other looking over Munj Talao, right in picture. The room at the northern end of Jahaz Mahal has a beautiful water-cistern surrounded by a colonnade on its three sides.
Kapur Tank – It has masonry margin all around and in the middle of its waters was a pavilion, now in ruins, which was once connected with the west side of the tank by a causeway which has disappeared.
Hindola Mahal – Hindola Mahal literally means a ‘swinging palace’ a name given to it because of its peculiarly sloping side walls. The plan of the building is “T”-shaped, with a main hall and a transverse projection at the north. This projection seems to be added later on as seems from the masonry of exterior. On both sides of the hall, there are six arched openings above which there are windows filled with beautiful tracery work for admitting light and air inside. Architecturally, it marks itself distinctly from other palaces of Mandu by the extreme simplicity of its style of construction although having a definite aesthetic appeal.
The exterior of the building is extremely simple except for a band or two of carved moldings. The ornamentation have been reduced to minimum, even the commonly used colored tiles in other buildings of Mandu, are discarded here. It appeared that they had aimed to build a structure dignified and simple, yet majestic in appearance. The T shaped projection was later added probably to provide a well-guarded approach for the king. Main hall and this T shaped projection crosses each other at right angles in mid passage. There are flight of sloping steps, at back of the building, meant for royal ladies to go up in a palanquin or on a pony or on an elephant since it is popularly called as Hathi-Chadhao.
Nahar Jharokha – This balcony is within a building near to Hindola Bhavan. This building seems to be used to accommodate the court of Muslim rulers. Nahar Jharokha is called such because of an effigy of a tiger which once supported it. This balcony was meant for the king to show himself up to his subjects, a practice which is historically found more common with the Mughal emperors and from the style of the building at its back it was very probably built in the time of Jahangir when he was staying at Mandu.
Dilawar Khan’s Mosque – This is the earliest Indo-Islamic building at Mandu as is clear from an inscription datable to AD 1405 referring to reign of first Muslim king of Malwa. It was meant for the members of royal family. Its plan consists of a central courtyard enclosed by colonnade. The pillars and ceiling inside are in Hindu style. It seems that these were taken after dismantling some Hindu structure.
Hammam – Hammam is located a short distance from the well, Champa Baodi. This Hammam, bath house, is made on the lines of Turkish baths. There are two separate water channels, one for hot and one for cold, which merges into one after some distance and connected to the bath. The impressive feature of this bath is its ceiling, in which beautiful stars are cut through into this to pass light through. The light beams playing on the water of the bath would certainly have enhanced the pleasure of bath.
Champa Baodi – Champa Baodi, inside the Royal Palace building. This baodi, well, was used to supply water within the royal buildings, mainly to the Hammam. Because of the sweet flavor of its water, smell like champak flower, this well is called as Champa Baodi. There are inner compartments in the lower storey of the well. A subterranean path goes down the well and connects itself with a labyrinth of vaulted rooms, known as ‘Tahkhana’, which are almost on a level with the water of the Munj Talao. The tahkhana is thus so ingeniously constructed and connected with the well and pavilion on the bank of Talao that even in the worst parts of the summer the rooms were constantly kept cool and comfortable with gentle breeze flowing from the pavilion to the rooms through the gallery and the finally passing out of top of the well.
Jal Mahal – Northern side of Munj Talao are seen a number of structural ruins lying in such a confused mass that no idea can now be formed of their original layout or plan. Jal Mahal is one of those. From the splendor of the ruins, however, it can be said for certain that these were once the luxurious retreats of the Sultan of Malwa. Imagine when in monsoon, this tank would be full of water and these steps which you see now would be submerged in water. There are few rooms inside this building and it seems that it was used as a retreat in monsoon season. There is a water tank in the middle of the courtyard, in which steps are provided to descend to reach at the water level.
Gada Shah’s Shop – Gada Shah, literally, means ‘beggar master’, obviously a nickname, which, from the history of Malwa of these times, should more appropriately be applicable to the Rajput chief, Medini Ray, who, for a time, though a servant of the sultan Mahmud II, had virtually become the master of the realm. The so-called ‘shop’ probably seems to be a Hall of Audience for general public. The Hindola Mahal, to the west, was meant for selected assemblies, so this hall here could have been used for public audience. This fact is taken from the similar style of the both buildings, Gada Shah’s Shop and Hindola Mahal. The facade is similar to Hindola Mahal. This confirmed the basis of considering this building as a public audience hall. The present construction was, however, planned on a larger scale, the hall being much larger in size, the thrust of its gigantic arches being counteracted by extremely massive buttresses built along the walls in spite of which the building is now in a miserably ruined condition. Unlike the natural stone facing of the Hindola Mahal the walls of this edifice were plastered over and further adorned with colored tiles traces of which are still to be seen.
Gada Shah’s House – It is two storey building, the ground floor has arched openings and side apartments and upper storey consisting of a hall and two side rooms. In the center of the hall is a fountain, the surplus water from which is channeled out through a network of chanels and spouts carved into the heads of an elephant and tiger respectively. This animal head is a peculiar feature of Hindu art, so this building might be associated with Medini Ray, a Rajputa cheif under Sultan of Mandu. In the niche of south-west corner of the hall are two well-executed paintings. One painting is taken as of Medini Ray and another of his consort.
Ujali Baodi – This is called Ujala Baodi as this is an open well. Opposite to this is another well which is covered, hence called Andheri Baodi. There are two flights to steps on two sides of the well which leads to water level. Inside are a number of arcades and landings for the convenience of water carriers. At the northern top is a water lift and opposite it on southern top is a pavilion for royal guards to keep watch on the water.
Andheri Baodi – This is a closed well hence called Andheri Baodi. It is surrounded by a corridor at the top with a dome in center of its roof, just above the well. The dome having an aperture at its apex to admit light and air inside.
Taveli Bhavan – This building now houses a museum in its ground floor. In older times, this was used as a stable, hence called Taveli Bhavan. The terrace of this building gives a fabulous view of the monuments in Royal Enclave, thus it was converted into a rest house once. However this second storey is now closed for visitors.
Mandu Village Group of Monuments: This is a ticketed monument, applicable for Jami Masjid and Hoshang Shah’s tomb.
Jami Masjid – Construction of this mosque was started by Sultan Hoshang Shah Ghuri and completed by Mahmud Shah Khilji in 1454 AD. By far, this is the most majestic building at Mandu. It is said that the builders had designed it after the great mosque of Damascus. One is at once struck here by the hugeness of its proportions and stern simplicity of its construction, almost devoid of decoration except for the usual borders of ornamental arches inset with the colored tiles. On the both side below the porch the facade of the plinth has been arranged into a verandah 1.8 m deep with arched openings for a number of cells inside meant for visitors or staff of the mosque. The plan, elevation and design of the building were conceived on a very grand scale; for the plan is 97.4 m square with a huge domed porch, approached by a stately flight of nearly thirty steps. The whole construction stands with a huge plinth about 4.6 m high above the ground level.
The interior of the entrance porch is about 13.7 m square with the beautiful jali screen on the sides above which are seen fine bands of blue enamel tiles set as stars or lozenges. There are three huge imposing domes over the front, west, facade of the mosque. The space between those is filled up by seemingly innumerable miniature domes, a sight that must impel a feeling of smallness before the Almighty in the mind of faithful. The courtyard is enclosed on all sides by huge colonnade with a rich and pleasing variety in the arrangement of their arches, pillars, numbers of bays and in the rows of domes above. Side colonnade of the mosque, with miniature domes above the arches. The stern simplicity of the interior offers a most effective contrast to the seventeen niches along the western wall which bear beautiful sculptured crenellation along their heads and have their jambs worked out in polished black stone with carvings of Hindu design. Near the central niche, bigger one in the picture, is a raised pulpit with its elegant marble dome supported on four arches, the brackets and balustrade of which bear clear traces of Hindu influence. The central niche is the most beautifully designed of all and is further ornamented along its sides with a scroll of interwoven Arabic letters containing quotations from the holy Quran.
Asharfi Mahal – The buildings here belong to two stages, the earlier representing a college (madrasa) built by Hoshang Shah (AD 1404-22) to face the Jami Masjid as its adjunct. Later this compound was used to support the tomb of Mahmud Shah, now in ruins. From the plan of madrasa, it look that this was planned as a great quadrangle with a spacious open court enclosed on all sides by a number of small cells for students. Along its exterior were two rows of arcades, the inner ones affording entrance to the cells. The quadrangle had a projection to its west facing the porch of the great mosque and almost of equal dimensions, 10.7 m square, with the cells and the double arcades continued along its sides as in the main structure. This projection was extended further by about 9.1 m so as to present the main frontage to the building; but the superstructure is no longer in existence.
Tomb of Mahmud Khalji – Soon after the madarsa was built, Mahmud Khalji made changes in its construction. He filled up the central courtyard of the quadrangle so as to make it the basement for his own tomb. Very little of the mausoleum is now left; but the surviving remains clearly show that it must have been the most magnificent of all the buildings in Mandu. The dome must have been much larger in proportions to the domes of the Great Mosque and of the Tomb of Hoshang Shah since the interior of the building on which it rested is 19.9 m square, while of the Great Mosque is 13.7 m and of Tomb of Hoshang Shah is 14.9 m. For the load of such a huge dome, the 3.4 m thickness of walls and the foundations there under seem to have quite inadequate, and thus this great building collapsed hardly within a few generations after it was built. The tomb has three openings on each side, the middle one being loftier than the others.
The sarcophagus was placed on a beautiful carved yellow marble base which still survives. The facing of this grand building was done entirely in marble of various shades as white, yellow, black etc., which gave an added charm of the building especially in its various schemes of decoration. It will be an interesting thing to observe that the two great domes of Jami Masjid, one over the porch and the other over the center of its prayer hall, and the marble dome of the tomb of Hoshang Shah must have been in one line with the huge dome of this tomb, rising above about 7.6 m higher than the others, which must have been a very grand sight indeed when all the buildings were built afresh.
Victory Tower – Mahmud Khalji changed the north-east tower of madarsa, by raising it to seven storey high to commemorate his victory over the Rana of Mewar. Only its basement exists now with a height of 9.8 m indicating its enormous height when it was intact.
Sagar Talao Group of Monuments:
Jali Mahal – It is located about 200 m from the echo point where the road takes a turn to east. It is really a tomb of some noble, square in plan, with three arched openings on each side, which, except for the entrance in south, are filled with screens carved in geometric patterns of Muslim style. Though there is no perforated screen or jali work here still the building is popularly called Jali Mahal apparently because of the carved screen work.
Dai Ka Mahal – It is a tomb of a lady, standing on a lofty basement, having rooms with arched openings for the keepers of the tomb. At the north-east and south-east corners, remains of circular towers may be seen upon which in level with the floor of the tomb. Spacious terrace on the first floor with the remains of a beautiful mosque. The mosque consists of a double hall with vaulted ceilings with traces of tile decoration. In the middle of this terrace is the tomb. This is proper in square in plan with arched openings in the middle of walls, the upper portion of which is decorated with a row of miniature arches. The most noteworthy feature of the building is the elongated octagonal neck of the dome enclosed by an ornamented parapet with the tiny kiosks on the corners of the octagon. It is rarely to be found in Mandu though it is a common decorative device with the domes in Deccan.
Dai Ki Chhoti Bahan Ka Mahal – This building is associated to a certain wet-nurse of one of the princes of Mandu. It is really a tomb, though, called as Mahal or palace. It is , however, possible that it was her house in which she was buried later. Such practices are not uncommon with Muslims. It is octagonal on plan, crowned by a shapely dome which was originally adorned with tiles. The tomb is built of red chiseled masonry and has four arched openings facing the four cardinal points, while the remaining sides have been decorated with outlines of arches. The plan of the tomb is octagonal with arched openings in the four sides facing the main cardinal points, remaining four sides being decorated with outlines or arches. The exterior wall surfaces are divided into panels by means of bands of projecting masonry, a feature not found in earlier buildings at Mandu and obviously betrays the influence of Hindu craftsmanship. The shapely dome crowning the edifice bears traces of tile-work in blue on its exterior, the interior being tastefully adorned with carvings though rather sparingly.
Caravan Sarai – Built in AD 1437, Carvan-Sarai is a large inn comprising an extensive court resembling the medieval inns of Europe. The ceiling of the halls are vaulted. Its plan consists of a spacious open court in center enclosed, on each side, by a pair of halls with vaulted ceilings and rooms built at both ends.
Malik Mugith’s Mosque – This is the most important building in the Kapur Talao monument group. As stated in the inscription on its doorway this mosque was built by Malik Mughith, father of Mahmud Khalji in AD 1432. It belongs to the first phase of Muslim architecture in Malwa when material from earlier Hindu buildings was utilized for construction. The projecting porch, the arched corridors and the small turrets at corners provide an impressive frontage to the building. In front of the rooms is a well-designed arched corridor which, with the porch projecting in the middle and the small turrets at the corners, present rather an impressive frontage to the building. The porch was once surmounted by a dome which has disappeared but was supported by the existing pillars of Hindu design belonging to some earlier Hindu Temple. Like the mosque of Dilawar Khan, the plan of this building consists of a central court enclosed by colonnades, one aisle deep, on all sides except in the west where it is four aisles deep. The ceiling of the western colonnade consists of three small domes, with flat or star shaped compartments in between. Right below the domes, the halls are square in plan.
Darya Khan Group of Monuments:
Hathi Mahal – The name Hathi Mahal of the building seems to be have been given to it for its rather disproportionately massive pillars, looking like the legs of an elephant, supporting the high dome above. It seems that the building was originally constructed as pleasure resort and later converted into a tomb, since a sepulchre is now seen inside and a mosque is also standing nearby, rather too close, thus spoiling its external architectural effect. It is planned like a baradari with three arched openings on each side. The dome has here, externally, a high octagonal base divided into bands of masonry molding which have thus imparted an unusual height to the dome.
Tomb of Darya Khan – The tomb is within a rectangular complex, which has a water tank on one of its side. The tomb stands on a raised platform. Its exterior is faced with red masonry and was once decorated with colored enamels in various intricate patterns. Near the piers of arches are seen octagonal posts in the traditional style. The most interesting feature of the building lies in the small domes at four corners surrounding the main dome in center. They remind one of the similar dome on the Tomb of Hoshang Shah in comparison to which the domes here are rather clumsy.
Rewa Kund Group of Mnuments:
Rewa Kund – Earlier Hindu name of this tank has survived to the present day partly due to sanctity of its waters to the Hindu and partly because of its association with names of Baz Bahadur and Rupmati, who, it seems, widened and rebuilt it. Above its north-western angle are some halls with arched openings apparently forming part of the pleasure resort which once stood here facing the crystal waters of the tank.
Baz Bahadur’s Palace – The palace is built on the hill-slope of the east of the Rewa-Kund, on the entrance-arch is a Persian inscription stating that the palace was built by Nasirud-din in AD 1508. Baz Bahadur took a fancy for the palace on account of its close proximity to the Rewa-Kund which was frequented by Queen Rupmati. Situated on the slope of a hill in the midst of a picturesque natural scenery the main gateway to the palace is approached by forty broad steps with landings at intervals. As per a Persian inscription on the gate of entrance of this palace,
“This beautifully designed palace was built by Nasir Shah Khalji, the Sultan of Malwa, in AH 914=AD 1508-1509. This was later repaired by Baz Bahadur. The text was calligraphed by one Yusuf.”
This entrance passage further leads to the outer court of the palace with its main doorway in front. The main portion of the palace consists of a spacious open court with halls and rooms on all the four sides and a beautiful cistern in its middle. The eastern and western sides of the court have almost the same plan, i.e. they have square rooms at the ends, with entrance in the middle on western side, the corresponding portion on the eastern side being left open, the purpose of which is not clear. Beyond the colonnade on the northern side at it center projects an octagonal pavilion with arched openings over-looking the depth below in which there was once laid out a beautiful garden, traces of which are still seen. There are two beautiful chataris on the terrace of this palace. The southern side consists of a hall with two rooms on both sides and openings at the back side into another hall which affords access to another court in south. This court, as seen in this picture, is much smaller in dimensions than the former court, and was probably meant for the attendants of the palace.
Rupmati Mandap – This building, constructed on the edge of the precipice (365 m high) overlooking the Nimar valley, seems to have been originally a watch tower. A closer examination of the structure of the building shows that it had undergone two or three stages of construction in different periods. The building, without pavilions, belongs to the earliest stage and seems to have been built originally for maintaining an effective military watch over any possible enemy movement on this side of the fort. The remaining part of the building was built along the western side of the plinth of the original block on the slope of hill. However, it is the pavilions on the terrace of the original block, which have given a more distinctive appearance to the building.
The pavilions are square in plan at the base and are crowned with hemispherical domes fluted both outside and inside. The pavilions are known after Rupmati, who, it appears, used to come here daily from the palace nearby to have her darshan of the sacred river Narmada. From the style of their arches and pillars, however, the pavilions were probably built a century earlier than Rupmati’s time as they approximate more to earlier buildings in Mandu. There are two damaged inscriptions on the inner side of the wall of the chamber which do not admit of clear decipherment. But the style of writing and readable titles apparently ascribe them to period of the Sultan’s of Malwa.
Scattered Monuments around Mandu –
Chishti Khan’s Palace – This palace built in the sixteenth century as a retreat for the rainy season, is much decayed. The main wing in the south consists of a rectangular hall with a room at each end. There is a Persian inscription making a poignant reference to the desolation of the surroundings. As the building is much decayed so its plan cannot be made out for certain. It seems that its plan originally consisted of a central court enclosed by a number of halls and rooms of which traces are still seen in its south and north. Here we see the north side of the building, which seems to have rooms for army or a caravan. There are two entrances to this northern building.
Nil-Kanth – Nilkanth is a charming spot named after an old Shiva shrine which once existed here. The present structure, built of red stone, is a pleasure-house constructed by a governor of the Mughal emperor Akbar in the sixteenth century, as recorded in an inscription on the site. This building has no architectural pretentions but its style is typical of the period of Akbar. It is approached by a long flight of steps, sixty-one in all, leading down to western projection of its court. The main portion of the court is enclosed by rooms to its west, south and east, the northern portion being kept open to enjoy the view of the valley. In the center of the court is a fine cistern to which water was supplied by a channel or cascade built along the plinth of the apartment on the southern side.
Main apartment is on the southern side, where now a Shiva-linga is housed. An inscription on this building states that this building designated as Imarat-i-Dilkhusha (the heart pleasing abode) was constructed at the order of the great ruler Jalalud-din-Akbar in AH 982= AD 1574, written by Faridun Husain, son of Hatim-al-Hirawi in Thulth calligraphy. Another Persian inscription says that after the conquest of Deccan and Khandesh, Emperor Akbar set out for Hind (North India) in AH 1009=AD 1601. This is written by Masum Nami. One more Persian inscription says that, his exalted majesty Akbar the Great visited this place in his regnal year 44 AH 1008 = AD 1599 on his way to the conquest of Deccan. Also contains a quatrain in Persian composed and inscribed by Masum Nami. The inscriptions here by Akbar are of great importance. One interesting verse refers in a pathetic vein to the futility of earthly pomp and glory:
Songarh Fort – Marathas built this fort in eighteenth/nineteenth century and established Maratha Gadhi here.
Food and Accommodation – Mandu is very commercialized tourist location, though it is a small village. You will find all kind of sleeping and eating options, suiting everybody’s budget. MP Tourism runs two hotels here, Malwa Resort and Malwa Retreat. These are the best options to stay. There are a Jain and a Hindu dharmashala (inn) also in the village, which is a quite economical stay option. There are other small/medium hotels also in Mandu, Hotel Maharaja, Hotel Rupmati etc. Shivani Restaurant is a good option for food, it serves only vegetarian though.
How to Reach – Mandu is well connected by road to Dhar, Ujjain and Indore. Nearest railway-head and airport is Indore.
1. Mandu by D. R. Patil, Archeaological Survey of India
2. Mandu – City of Joy by S. C. Pathak, ISBN – 8173200459
3. Mandu – City of Joy by G. Yazdani, ISBN – 8173051844
4. Lonely Planet India edited by Sarina Singh, ISBN – 9781741791518