I traveled with the clouds from Baz Bahadur Palace to Roopmati Pavilion with his message of love. Roopmati Pavilion is an imposing three storeyed structure set between green Nimar plains. The sloping road from the car park area to the entrance is dotted with makeshift kiosks selling a strange fruit, glasses of home made lime juice and spicy cool cucumbers. On closer look, the strange fruit was revealed as Baobab a local tamarind, far less tangy but left a nice after taste.
A narrow stairway took us to the Ist level which is marked by a hallway with arched gateways. The stone walls stared back stoically having concealed a story of love and loss for centuries. The structure seems like an army watch tower given its stone structure that sharply declines on one side making it effective to watch over for approaching enemies. The other striking feature was the water purification system that was designed through different channels using charcoal and other natural methods. With all the knowledge that we as possessed as a nation it is ironical that several centuries later, we are struggling for clean drinking water.
The top level or pavilion has 2 domes on either side and provide a beautiful view of the Nimar countryside. I was nearly swept away by the wind when I stepped on to the pavilion. It was teeming with people and each one was experiencing their tryst with her romance in their own way. I leaned against the parapet wall watching Baz Bahadur Palace on one side and the illusive Narmada River on the other. Roopmati was known to spend her mornings here singing in praise of Narmada. The once sighted Narmada (several centuries ago) seem to be lost behind the clouds and mist, maybe the river changed its course once Roopmati gave up on life.
A shepherdess turned queen, Roopmati and Baz Bahadur were married in Hindu and Muslim rites. He was a dreamy musician king and she was a nightingale and together they made music that was etched in history so much so that Baz Bahadur was accused of neglecting his kingdom. Like all love stories, trouble in Roopmati and Baz Bahadur’s paradise came in the form of Mughal General Adam Khan who wanted to win over Mandu and capture Roopmati. Roopmati poisoned herself to foil the lusty plans of Adam Khan while Baz Bahadur fled the scene. Some say, he left to seek help from neighbouring kingdoms, while other texts narrate that he simply fled to save himself. He did regather troops and come back to conquer Mandu for a short while until his final surrender to Akbar. I wonder how Roopmati felt; did she feel betrayed, was it a moment of sacrifice, was it a moment of sadness that she could not meet her love one last time or simply a moment of womanly pride to not bend to be vilified by men with evil intentions… I tried to decode the message from the floating clouds, the howling winds but the real answer lies with Roopmati !! buried deep in her heart lost in the sands of time…..
Travel Tip: Mandu is about 80 kms from Indore and 40 kms from Maheshwar. The closest airport is in Indore. The roads are good and the green countryside is soothing to the eye. It is best experienced in Monsoon months though the weather is pleasant and charming through July to March. Plan to include Mandu if you are visiting Ujjain and Maheshwar. You can cycle around Mandu for sightseeing or hire a car for the day @ Rs 500-600.
Place to Stay: MPTDC run Malwa Retreat and Hotel Rupmati are located next to each other on the road to Indore and pretty close to most of the sites. Both the hotels overlook a valley. A first floor room in Malwa Retreat will ensure a view of Jahaz Mahal. MPTDC run Malwa Resort is 3 kms away overlooking the Sagar Lake.
- Mandu Monsoon Romance: Baz Bahadur Palace
- Mandu Ruins – Enduring time and tide
- Hindola Mahal – Swing Palace of Mandu
- Nilkanth Mahadev – Shiva’s Abode in a Palace with Islamic Inscription