The town of Mandu, overlooking the plateau of Malwa to the north and the valley of the Narmada River to the south, is situated at an elevation of 2079 ft (633 m) on the Vindhya Range extending for 13 km (8.1 miles). Mandu, which is now a ruined city in the Mandav area of the Dhar district, was a fortified city in the 6th century BC and acted as natural defences for the fort-capital of Rajput Parmara rulers of Malwa, who originally built it and ruled it with their capital at Ujjain, which was later shifted to Dhar. This fortress town is on a rocky ledge about 100 km from Indore.
Mandav, also known as Mandu, gained prominence in the 10th and 11th century under the Paramara, who called it Madhavgarh. It was founded as a fortress retreat by Raja Bhoj but was later conquered by the Muslim rulers in 1305.
During the reign of Ferozsha-bin-Tughlaq, Dilawar Khan Ghuri was the governor of Mandu, but made himself independent of the Delhi Sultanate in the year 1401. He renamed Mandav as “Shadiabad”, which means ‘the City of Joy’ and shifted the capital from Dhar to Mandu. This was the beginning of Mandu’s golden era.
Dilawar Khan was succeeded by his son Hoshang Shah. He ruled Malwa for 27 years and is remembered for his love for architecture. Among the many buildings built in the of Mandu includes – Jama Masjid (planned and begun by Hoshang Shah and completed by Mahmud Khalji), the Hindola Mahal, the Jahaz Mahal, Hoshang Shah Tomb, and Baz Bahadur’s and Rani Rupmati’s palaces.
Thereafter, Mohammed Khalji established the Khilji Dynasty and ruled for the next 33 years. In 1469, he was succeeded by his son, Ghiyas-ud-din who ruled for the next 31 years. He was poisoned by his own son at the age of 80. Mandu was invaded and conquered by Bahadur Shah of Gujarat on March 28, 1531. He was one of the two major rivals of Humayun, who succeeded Babur in 1530. The information that Bahadur Shah was being aided by Portuguese reached Humayun while he was engaged in a war with Sher Shah Suri, his other rival. Humayun attacked and defeated Bahadur Shah and captured Mandu in the year 1534.
From him the control of Mandu was passed on to Mallu Khan, an officer of the Khalji Dynasty and ten years later, subsequent to warfare and invasions, Baz Bahadur emerged as the ruler of Mandu.
By this time, Sher Shah Suri, who after being defeated by Humayun, fled India and died in the year 1545. Sher Shah Suri was succeeded by his son Islam Shah, who died in 1553, and Feroz Shah who was killed by Adil Shah. He later appointed Hemu, also known as ‘Hemu Vikramaditya’ as his Chief of Army and Prime Minister. Hemu attacked Mandu and defeated Baz Bahadur who ran away.
By this time, Humayun had returned to India and was again made the emperor in 1555 but died soon in 1556 following an accident. Hemu took advantage of this situation launched an open rebellion against the Mughals and captured the throne of Delhi after defeating Akbar’s army in the Battle of Delhi in 1556. Akbar was only fourteen when he was enthroned. Hemu was soon captured and beheaded by Akbar in the Second Battle of Panipat in 1556.
Thereafter, Akbar’s army, under Adham Khan and Pir Muhammad Khan, attacked Malwa in the battle of Sarangpur in 1561 and defeated Baz Bahadur, who ran away to Khandesh and formed allies with Miran Mubarak Shah II of Khandesh, Tufal Khan of Berar and himself. The alliance defeated the army of Akbar headed by Pir Muhammad who later died while retreating. Baz Bahadur regained his Kingdom after the allied army attacked the Mughals and drove them out of Malwa.
Baz Bahadur was attacked and defeated again in the year 1562 by Akbar’s army under Abdullah Khan. This time he fled to Chittor and remained a fugitive until he surrendered to Akbar in 1570 at Nagaur and later joined his court of service. Following which, Akbar added Mandu to the Mughal Empire which was later taken by the Marathas who shifted the capital back to Dhar and re-established Hindu rule. Mandu remained with Marathas till the British rose to Power.
Mandu is a place rich in architectural beauty. It was an important military outpost gauged by the circuit of the battlemented wall having 12 gateways at intervals. The wall encloses a large number of palaces, mosques, Jain temples of 14th century and other buildings. The oldest mosque dates from 1405; the finest is the Jama Masjid or great mosque, a notable example of Pashtun architecture.
Some of the notable places are: Hindola Mahal – said to have been constructed during the reign of Hushang Shah in 1425 and consists of the Jahaz Mahal, the Hindola Mahal, the Tawili Mahal, and the Nahar Jharokha.
There are a number of other, undated structures surrounding the palace – an evidence of the rich and glorious past.
Hoshang Shah’s Tomb – known India’s first marble structure, it is one of the most refined examples of Afghan architecture. Its unique features include the beautifully proportioned dome, intricate marble lattice work and porticoes courts and towers. It served as a template for the construction of Taj Mahal.
Jami Masjid Inspired by the great mosque of Damascus, this humongous structure is striking in both its simplicity and architectural style-with large courtyards and grand entrances.
Rewa Kund – a reservoir constructed by Baz Bahadur for the purpose of supplying water to Rani Roopmati’s Pavilion. The reservoir is situated below the pavilion and hence is considered an architectural marvel.
Roopmati’s Pavilion – a large sandstone structure originally built as an army observation post it is known today as Roopmati’s Pavilion. Rani Roopmati – the love interest of Baaz Bahadur lived here and is said to have gazed at the Baz Bahadur’s Palace – situated below and also at Narmada river, flowing through the Nimar plains far below, a river which the queen revered.
Baz Bahadur’s Palace – built by Baz Bahadur, this 16th-century structure is famous for its large courtyards encompassed by large halls and high terraces. It is situated below Roopmati’s Pavilion and can be seen from the pavilion.