Ever since I read the love stories of Roopmati and Baaz Bahadur, I had been yearning to visit the small town of Mandu. This small fortress town, a part of Dhar at an altitude of 2000 feet is perched in Vindhya ranges of Malawa. It is believed to be fortified first by Raja Bhoj in 10th century A.D. The town got importance and prominence during reign of Afghan governor of Malwa, Dilawar Khan and even more during the tenure of his son Hoshang Shah, who shifted the capital of Malawa from Dhar to Mandu in 15th century. The fortified wall around Mandu ran for over 37 km and had 12 gates. The famed love story of Mandu took place in Mandu in 16th century. Rani Roopmati was a not only outstandingly beautiful but was a melodious singer too. Baz Bahadur, the ruler of Mandu fell for her charm. They married and Baz Bahadur got built a Rani Roopmati pavalion from where she could watch a flowing Narmada. The love story ended unfortunately when she poisoned herself after an invading Mughal army led by Adham Khan conquered Mandu and she was told that Adham Khan was interested in her.
The town of Mandu is spread over a large area and the prominent buildings inside Mandu, include Jahaj Mahal, Jama ,Masjid, Tomb of Hoshang Shah, Asharfi temple and Shri Ram Temple. The most prominent one of these is the Jahaj Mahal. The Jahaj Mmahal was conceptualized by Ghayasuddin Khilji(1469-1500) and was so built between two lakes that it looked like floating in water. It was primarily used to house, scores of beautiful wives and concubines of Sultan. Some say there were more than a thousand ladies living in this beautiful harem. Our guide explained to us in detail the intricacies of Jahaj Mahal. The intricate pattern of water harvesting and water storage was one highlight of this 15th century building.
The other prominent structure is Jami Masjid. It was started by Hoshang Shah but completed by Mahmud 1st. The masjid with its raised platform was also used for dispensing royal justice for some time.
The Hoshang Shah’s tomb built entirely of white marble is also one fine architecture of 15th century and predates very well the white marbled Taj Mahal of Agra. Just besides the tomb there is a Dharamshala compound having hints of some Hindu architectural style.
The Ashrafi Mahal of Mandu is bang opposite the Jami Masjid and has a big courtyard in front. There is a staircase and the legend says that a King placed an Ashrafi each on the step, her queen could ascend. The queen could make a maximum of 160, leading to collection of 160 Asharfis or gold coins, distributed later as alms among poor, thus the name Asharfi Mahal.