You may be curious to know the name of the place I am so passionate about. It is Mandu – a ruined city of Madhya Pradesh, central part of India. I know my IIMI friends have visited and enjoyed this place. They will also have their memories attached with it. I visited Mandu twice – once in 2005 and then again in 2008. I have not seen many changes. But both the time it embraced me with all its offerings.
My first visit to Mandu was on a bike. I was pursuing my MBA from Indian Institute of Management, Indore that time. For those who are not familiar with Madhya Pradesh and Indore, it is the financial capital of MP. For last few years, it has developed a lot and is still developing at a rapid pace. Mandu is around 100 km from Indore by road. This distance is from Indore airport and actual distance from my campus may be slightly higher.
I always read that best time to visit Mandu is monsoon…………
We were in 2nd year of MBA that time and for coming few days, there were no classes. One day I and Pramod decided to make it to Mandu. We tried to pull few other guys as well but some of them already visited it by that time and some of them did not want to spend money. Money was an important consideration as none of us were earning that time. This is the same reason we did not book a hotel for us while we landed in Mandu. The only hotel was run by MP tourism and it was expensive for us. Cheaper options were too dirty, so finally we were put up in the Jain Mandir Dharamshaala. A very small room with no electricity was given to us – cost was some 30 rs a day. Both of us were fine with it as we knew we would not spend much time in the place. We were there for 1 night and 2 days only and wanted to utilize our time in the valleys and historic monuments.
We had a map where all historic monuments were mentioned. We started with Hoshang Shah’s tomb. We also hired a guide who was willing to show us all the places around for 2 days for just 80 bucks. He is not certified neither he belongs to any of the tourism organizations. But he claimed to have known the history well. In Mandu, you will find many such people whose main occupation is farming and in the leisure time, they act as guides. The information that they share may not be accurate or same with what is documented in the history books. Still I wanted to know the history from his mouth. May be, he is narrating from what he has heard from his predecessors. May be some unknown, unnoticed part of history is still alive in their version.
Hoshang Shah’s tomb is a beautiful structure made of white marbles. Hoshang Shah is the sultan who shifted his capital from Dhar to Mandu and from then, Mandu gained the focus. There is a saying that this structure was used as a template for Taj Mahal, but I doubt. It has some similarity with Taj Mahal in its look indeed, but Shah Jahan or his chieft architect Isha was inspired by a tomb located in some other city and build Taj Mahal looks slightly unlikely to me. In Mughal times, kings and sultans and badshahs were very conscious of their images and novelty factor. So using another small tomb as a template to build something unique such as Taj Mahal does not seem to be possible. This is my personal opinion though.
Adjacent to the tomb, you have Jami Masjid. It is a massive mosque inspired by great mosque of Damascus. If you look carefully, you will find numerous lotus kind of flowers engraved on the walls and ceilings of these architectures. I searched but did not find much reference in the books. My guide told me that these were build by Hindu workers – else use of lotus flower is something that was not common in Muslim architectures. I noted that point. After that, I have seen many old Muslim architectures where I found this kind of carvings. Were all of them influenced by Hindu working style?? I don’t have an answer.