It was a thriving city situated on the top of a hill, surrounded by the dense forest where history was made, lost and drowned with the passage of time. It is the story of the ruined hill fort of Mandavgad (or present day Mandu), situated close to the city of Indore in the Malwa region of western Madhya Pradesh (MP), India.
It was late evening when we reached Mandu, on our way back from the “Water Festival” (Jal Mahotsav) organized by the MP Tourism Board in the eco-friendly water sports destination known as Hanuwantiya. Even though it was too dark to see, I could not stop gazing at the splendid night sky from the window of my car. Aided by the light of the moon and light of our car, my eyes found the huge gray walls of the fort. Crossing those huge gates of the fort seemed to transport me to a time when civilization flourished in this fort with all its glory.
We reached the hotel and tired though we were, I waited for the sunrise, excited and unable to sleep. I used the time to flip through the pages of a book on Mandu I had read earlier and it made my imaginations go wild. Characters from the book – Rani Roopmati, Bazbahadur, Raja Bhoja, Shah Jahan, and even Nur Jahan, seemed to come alive straight from the pages of a history book and go about their ways in front of me. Needless to say, I couldn’t sleep all night. Here is what the History Book told me about Mandu..
The fort of Mandavgad is situated on a high plateau and the road to the fort passes through the dense forest. Sturdy gates were built along the passages for the extra protection. The ramparts of the fort and the outer periphery covered an area of seventy five square kilometres.
Mandu, a flourishing town during the sixth century, was not only an important trade centre, was an important military outpost due to its strategic location; and was eyed by numerous powerful kings during its lifetime. With more than three hundred palaces, forty large tanks, three hundred mosques and eight hundred temples (most of which are not there anymore), it was a place of architectural marvel and beauty.
The architecture was not only significant for its aesthetic value, but also for imbibing progressive and technical systems like rainwater harvesting. Situated high above the sea level, the fort had no access to ground water and had to depend on rainwater; and structures were created in a way to allow the preservation and utilization of rainwater to fulfill the needs of the palaces as well as the people living on the ramparts.
Jahaz Mahal – the harem built by Sultan Ghiyas-ud-din-Khilji showcases a fine example of the rainwater harvesting in Mandu. The two artificial water-bodies on the both the sides of the palace (named Munj Talao and Kapur Talao) not only ensured the supply of water, but also kept the entire building cool. Numerous such man-made water bodies were created to ensure supply; and is a fine example for today’s world which is struggling to find solutions for the (invisible) water crisis its facing.
Mandu is a huge city with numerous touristic opportunities; and one can easily plan for a week to sit by nature and get lost in the grandeur of its past. Sad I could not spend much time losing myself in the splendor, but I know I am coming back soon. Here is where I would stay when return…
Where to stay: Malwa Retreat and Malwa Resort, which are run by the MP Tourism Department and MP Tourism had arranged our stay there. You can also opt for dorm bed at these hotels. However, there are a lot of other hotel options available in Mandu to suit different budgets.
Malwa Resort – Tel (07292) – 263235,
Malwa Retreat – Tel (07292) – 263221,
Something I would not miss for the world when I am back…
Eat and Drink:
a) Baobab juice – The baobab tree, mainly found in Africa. It’s other species also found in Arabian Peninsula, and Australia. Baobab tree found plenty in Mandu. The juice made from its fruits is really a must try. Locally it’s known as “Mandu ke Imli”, its available widely for a paltry twenty five to thirty Indian Rupees per glass.
b) Dal-Paniya and Dal-Bafla – Most famous delicacies of Malwa region.