With the very reference of Mandu that first thing that comes to mind is the “Ship that never sailed”. For those who are not too familiar with this historical site of Mandu, I shall introduce Mandu through the very known Jahaz Mahal. By now all must have come to a conclusion that is a ship is in a land how will it sail. That is a thought very correct. But wait. There is a huge water body too. But still, the question remains the same. How do a palace sail? I would take you through Mandu from sailing to climbing. You just need to stay with me until the end.
The Historical city of Mandu or Mandavgad, which is now known as Mandav. Ah! Too many names. It hardly matters what you call it. But it is still the place of the eternal love of Rani Roopmati and Baz Bahadur, the home to the magnificent Jahaz Mahal and many other ancient structures – some in shape while others in ruins.
Mandu has seen the reign under a large number of rulers. The control changed from ruler to ruler but the importance of the capital remained the same. During the Paramaras reign, Mandu gained importance. Later to be captured by the Khiljis. Which was again conquered by the Bahadur Shah of Gujarat. Then again a change of hands and this time it came under the Mughals under Humayun.
After this followed a decade-long feud between the Mughals and the officials of the Khilji dynasty. This when the hero of Mandu’s love story emerged – Baz Bahadur. His full name as Miyan Bayezid Baz Bahadur Khan. No, this was not the end of the glorious past. Mandu remained under Baz Bahadur for a considerable amount of time. Then to be defeated by Hemu, an official of the Suri rulers. And again on the absence of Hemu, it came under Baz Bahadur.
Akbar’s army led by Adham Khan attacked Mandu, with a quest of attaining the kingdom and the beautiful queen Roopmati. Baz Bahadur fought to be defeated and Rani Roopmati poisoned herself to death to prevent the disrespect and capture in the hands of the Mughals. Baz Bahadur fled. It remained under the Mughal rule for a considerable amount of time and then came under the Marathas under the rule of Peshwa Baji Rao I.
Gradually this capital of such historic importance transformed into a sleepy village of today. Here people stay peacefully within the vicinity of this ancient monuments. Sometimes reusing the leftover structures of the ruins as the base of their own little home. Surrounded by thin green cover the remain of the beautiful Afghan Architecture is an astonishing sight to behold.
The undulating plateau with these remarkable structures can keep you engaged the day long or rather long enough to fill one’s soul with the beauty and mind with stories from the past. Coming back to the Jahaz Mahal. The compound enclosing the Jahaz Mahal is an enormous area. There are many other mahals within this enclosure.
Again returning to the Jahaz Mahal, this is a double storied structure sandwiched between two water bodies namely Munj Talao and the Kapur Talao. This beautiful architectural splendour resembles a ship. This reflection of the palace on the rippling water of the tanks seems to be a ship on the sail. The unique design pattern of this palace is a beautiful example of the creative art.
The palace was built by Ghiyas-ud-din Khilji to maintain his large harem comprising of 1500 women. The arches, walls and windows are built distinctive with the water tanks within the palace are constructed in various shapes and floral patterns. The monsoon provides the best view of the ship palace with the water bodies filled with water the reflection quivering in the windswept waters.
The other places and sites within this Royal palace complex are the Hindola Mahal, Tawili Mahal, Nahar Jharokha, Champa Baoli, Hamam and many others. These structures date back to the different period and were built by various rulers of Mandu. This is an ideal place to take a leisurely walk through the ruins and unearth the historical stories associated with every site.
This is not the end of Mandu. Although the major attractions lie within a small area, they are many. Every ruin scattered in every direction of this plateau narrates its own tale. So stood the Hoshang Shah’s tomb, the Jami Masjid, the Sarai Kothari and so many others to name. And finally the palace of love – Rani Roopmati’s Pavilion.
Mandu is also the place of the untold love story of Baz Bahadur and Rani Roopmati. The beautiful Roopmati was a Hindu singer. Baz Bahadur an ardent music lover on a hunting expedition happened to meet the shepherdess Roopmati, singing and dancing with her friends. Her beauty and her melodious voice cast her charm on the Sultan.
He requested Roopmati to accompany them back to Mandu. She agreed on the condition of staying in a palace with the view of the dear and revered river the Narmada and also the palace of baz bahadur. To fulfil her wish the Rewa Kund and the Roopmati Pavillion was constructed. They were tied in a nuptial knot following the Hindu as well as Muslim rites. Thereafter they remained immersed in each other’s love. Love blossomed further with the Rani composing songs and writing poetries, while the Sultan totally absorbed in this musical journey.
This is when the ill fate crossed their path. Akbar sent his troops under Adham Khan to capture Mandu. And this brought the tragic end to their love story. The Roopmati pavilion by the edge of the ravine built on a small hillock is a serene location with the panoramic view of the surrounding area. The Baz bahadur palace is situated near to it and can also be seen from here.
Coming down the zigzag road from the Roopmati’s Pavillion, I kept wondering about the life in those times. It was like a time machine trip with mostly all monuments in place, just the characters missing. Mandu trip was not just enjoying the beauty of the vistas and exploring the monuments. It was gaining more knowledge of the historic past and hearing stories of a beautiful love affair.