Mandu is an ancient ruined town located in the heart of India. Mandu is best experienced in monsoon when nature is at its titillating best, encouraging suitors to embrace her bewitching beauty under the green veil. A few centuries ago, it was in the midst of a power struggle between the ruling Mughal Sultanate (Emperor Akbar) and local chieftains of the Malwa Region who were reluctant to relinquish control. As you drive around this small town, ruined remains of old buildings, mausoleums, palaces and structures reveal the life style of the era gone by.
As I turned the pages of history with the rustic fragrance of earth, cool breeze, floating clouds and fluttering birds for company the love ballads of Poet Prince Baz Bahadur and his love the beautiful Rani Roopmati of Mandu came alive. They lived and loved in the 16th century but nearly 500 years later, I was standing in their abode recounting their romance. Their story is an inspiration of many a fairy tale.
Prince Baz Bahadur was smitten by his lady love, reportedly a shepherdess and both of them made music with their love for poetry, melody and rhythmic beats. Like all love stories, the villainous Adam Khan a commander in the Mughal Sultanate during Akbar’s time arrived at their doorstep to conquer Malwa and the bewitching beauty of Roopmati. Baz Bahadur failed to defend his kingdom and escaped to seek help from neighbouring kingdoms while Roopmati poisoned herself to avoid the lusty advances of Adam Khan.
I stopped by at Rewa Kund, which was built by Baz Bahadur as an artificial tank to store water from the Narmada river at the request of his lady love. A short distance away is Baz Bahadur’s palace which seem to have seen better days. The structure built around a tank was simple and functional allowing a lot of cross ventilation. I was awestruck by the reflection of the dome.
We walked through the hallways in the ground floor with natural acoustics where Roopmati and Baz Bahadur would have their musical soirees and jugal bandis (modern day jamming). I wondered about the chord and the rhythm which seemed to be muted over the years. My guide entertained me with one of the ballads encouraging me to try out my vocal chords. I hesitantly did and while my voice echoed through the hallway, a few tourists looked approvingly leaving me in thought whether I made the cut to Roopmati and Baz Bahadur’s troupe 🙂 A narrow stairway leads to the terrace where Baz Bahadur would be often found crooning while his eyes sought his lady love enjoying views of the Narmada from Roopmati Pavilion which can be seen from here. I sat there for a while, under the clouds, gazing at Roopmati Pavilion which I was to visit later.
Mandu is about 80 kms from Indore and 40 kms from Maheshwar. The closest airport is in Indore. It is best experienced in Monsoon months though the weather is pleasant and charming through July to March. Plan to include Mandu if you are visiting Ujjain and Maheshwar. You can cycle around Mandu for sightseeing or hire a car for the day @ Rs 500-600.
Place to Stay:
MPTDC run Malwa Retreat and Hotel Rupmati are located next to each other on the road to Indore and pretty close to most of the sites. Both the hotels overlook a valley. A first floor room in Malwa Retreat will ensure a view of Jahaz Mahal. MPTDC run Malwa Resort is 3 kms away overlooking the Sagar Lake.
- Mandu Monsoon Romance : Roopmati Pavilion
- Mandu Ruins: Enduring Time and Tide
- Hindola Mahal; Swing Palace – Mandu