We all know that India comes from a time when it had literally one of the richest cultural heritages in the world. Be it Harappa – Mohenjodaro, or the Vedic Ages or the Mughal empire or Chhatrapati Shivaji’s kingdom, India has always been a land of great cultural and historical importance to the world. In the old days, India was the leading exponent in the scientific field too but that’s a discussion for another day.
Having an illustrious and glorious past, most people love going to of historical places in India. And hence most of the historical sites are completely overcrowded today. But if you are looking for a site which isn’t on an Indian’s clichéd to-do list, then the ancient Indian city of Mandu: a fort and pleasure palace should be right up there on your bucket list. This offbeat destination isn’t known to many and hence provides the perfect vacation away from the din and hustle of day to day life.
Being situated in the western parts of Madhya Pradesh, Mandu enjoys a very cool and comfortable monsoon and winter season as opposed to the summer season, when heat waves are common. But the monsoon season offers a wonderful climate with average rainfall which doesn’t get hampered by heavy rainfall. Winter is also a good time for one to take a trip to Mandu. Yet, there is something magical about the monsoons at Mandu. It’s as if the entire city of Mandu gets rejuvenated and enjoys the monsoons along with you. Hence the best experience of Mandu can be had in the months of July and August. Monsoon travel at Mandu, though slightly uncomfortable, is totally worth it.
The nearest airport to Mandu is Indore, which is well-connected with almost all the major cities all over the country. From the airport, the city of Mandu is a two hour drive via local cabs and share cabs which are found in abundance. The nearest railhead is at Indore which is 97 km away from the city. Indore and Mandu are well connected by roads. Hence one can travel to Mandu from Indore via cabs, buses and rental or private cars.
The name of the city is generally regarded as a Prakrit corruption of the term Mandapa Durga. Legend has it that once a merchant by the name of Chandra Simha installed a statue at the Parsvanath temple which was situated in the Mandapa Durga. Ever since then the town has been a hub of culture in ancient times. Scrolls depict the advent and rise of Mandu as one of the primary centres of development around the 6th century.
This is a major architectural marvel situated in the heart of Mandu. This palace was built at the time of Ghiyas-ud-din Khilji who had as many as fifteen thousand women as consorts. And he built the Jahaz Mahal to accommodate these women. Built in the second half of the 15th century, this palace derives its name from the fact that it was surrounded by a pond on all sides, giving it the illusion of floating on water which led to the name of Jahaz Mahal which translates to ‘ship palace’. The balconies of the palace are built in such a way that any sound passing through them are reverberated across the entire Jahaz Mahal.
This is considered to be the first ever monument to be built in India. The then king, Baz Bahadur, took fancy to a young Hindu girl called Rupmati and built the pavilion for her. The queen loved the river Narmada so much that she wouldn’t even touch water without looking at Narmada first.
Baz Bahadur was the last independent king of Mandu. This palace was constructed before his coronation in the year of 1509. The magnificent palace boasts of Islamic and Rajasthani architectural styles and is worth witnessing by all means.
Upon drawing influence from the Omayyed Mosque in Damascus, Syria, Hoshang Shah ordered the construction of the Jami Masjid. It took 49 years to be completed and Mohammed Khilji had it completed.
This monument used to serve as the courtroom for the then Malwa-Sultanate. It was built by Hoshang Shah in a simplistic tone which was modified by Ghiasuddin Khilji who made it into what it is today. The name of the palace literally translates to swinging palace. The curious nomenclature is attributed to the fact that the sloping palace gives the impression of being on a swing.
This is widely considered to be the first marble architectural marvel in India. Its fine architectural style inspired Shah Jahan in building his Taj Mahal. He is said to have sent experts to study the style of architecture on this tomb. The crescent adorning the top of the structure is said to have been imported from Mesopotamia.
Originally designed to be a retreat for the Mughal emperors, this structure situated to the south of the Jahaz Mahal, presently contains archeological findings and artefacts which have been retrieved from Mandu.
Originally designed to be a school, this structure was extended by its ruler Mahmud Shah Ghazni and was turned into his own domain. Unfortunately, however, due to incompetent and faulty architectural designs, this building collapsed soon enough.
Inspired by the designs of the Turkish stepwells, this stepwell derives its name from the aromatic water which gave out an aroma similar to the Champa flower and hence the name. This architectural marvel had a subterranean conduction system to keep its insides cool, which is truly fabulous to say the least!
At Mandu, as you walk down an avenue or a block, you get to feel your history, your nation’s history, the history of your culture flowing under your feet, around you, everywhere. To enjoy a complete immersion in the nooks and crannies of history one must visit Mandu at least once in a lifetime. The ancient Indian City of Mandu: a fort and pleasure palace is one of the best places to know more about the country and its rich cultural splendor of the past.
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