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Mandu Memories

Mandu Memories

By Bindu Gopal Rao

“This festival incidentally is an annual event by Madhya Pradesh Tourism, curated and organised by E-Factor Entertainment Pvt. Ltd.”

Mandu has a history that dates back prior to the sixth century and is a town where history speaks from every corner.

The second edition of the Mandu Festival held in February 2021 was an amalgamation of history, culture, art and food as it showcased the destination in its new avatar that is also about promoting rural tourism.

History Beckons

Did you know that Mandu has over 48 ASI sites and over 3000 monuments spread over a radius of 29 square kilometres? Well, neither did I till I visited the town that is located 90 kms from Indore and can be accessed by a two-hour road trip. Mandu incidentally has been known by different names including Mandav and Shadiabad (the city of happiness), Anand Nagari which is why it also has the epitaph of ‘City of Joy’. The once prosperous town had a population of over nine lakh that has now dwindled to about 13000. One of the oldest cities in India in existence for the 6th century BC, a city that is home to a monument that inspired the Taj Mahal, a city that houses India’s biggest fort and a city that is an ode to a legendary romance between a Hindu poetess and Muslim ruler – Mandu is where stories unfold and heritage comes alive. And this is the ethos that the festival celebrated too. In fact the ‘Sound and Light’ show that is a must-see is a visual treat that perfectly encapsulates the story of this mystical town.

Legends and Tales

One of the legends associated with the city of Mandu, located about 100 km from the city of Indore in Madhya Pradesh is the legendary romance of Rani Rupamati and Baz Bahadur. Baz Bahadur, the last ruler of Mandu was out on a hunting expedition when he heard Rupamati a shepherdess sing. The couple fell in love and married; and Baz Bahadur constructed two structures atop the Rupamati Pavillion a watchtower, for her to pay homage to her favourite River Narmada. His palace is located close by and is a fine example of Islamic and Rajasthani architecture of the era complete with arches and cisterns. Baz Bahadur was defeated by the Mughal army a while later and had to flee to save his life. Rupamati is said to have killed herself before she was captured by the Mughals. This story was also narrated as part of the ‘Instagram Tour’ that was held as part of the festival.

Architectural Delights

Home to numerous ancient architectural marvels, Mandu is a delight for history buffs with several monuments strewn all over the city. Interestingly it was a city that was densely populated in the past but has seen fewer and fewer inhabitants with time. When here, exploring the architecture is a treat as there are several monuments that date back to history books. The Heritage Walk, a tour conducted as part of the festival showcased some key monuments like the Jami Masjid the starting point of the tour. Located on a raised platform, the monument dates to the 15th century and was constructed by Hoshang Shah and completed by Mohammed Khilji. The expansive space has a domed entrance hall, arcaded chambers, a large courtyard and aisles. A façade of pillared halls makes for the perfect photo opp when here. This space was said to be used for large gatherings and not really a mosque. Behind this is the stunning tomb of Hoshang Shah believed to be the first marble architectural structure in India said to have inspired Shah Jahan to build the Taj Mahal. We then walked to the Jahaz Mahal a huge palace complex that was built by Ghiyas-ud-din Khilji and is surrounded by a water body and the name translates to ‘ship palace’. The upper level has a series of balconies and there is an unmistakable echo that can be heard across the long corridors here.

Nature Beckons

Mandu is not just about monuments and the natural vistas here are a sight to behold. An early morning tractor ride through scenic vistas led me to Malipura Lake that was a revelation. A beautiful lake hugged by trees all around, the place is home to an abundance of bird life. This is also the place where you can indulge in a spot of angling and take a boat ride. I also enjoyed a meal in a local village that was all about local food and flavour. The Tourism department is working with locals to moot a rural tourism project and have villagers open their homes as homestays for guests. The best way to wind up your day is to head to Sunset Point near Lohani caves. The setting sun envelops the hill ranges swathing the sky in hues of orange giving the entire place a mystic aura. As I stood at the edge watching the sun go down on my last day here, I could not help but admire the sights of this town. A potpourri of heritage sites, Mandu has a charm that is ethereal and stepped in history entwined in a romance that is waiting to be discovered one monument at a time. When are you going?

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