July 29, 2010

An Evening in Mandu

“There is fragrance in the air” I said, as I tried to recall memories of the familiar scent in the air. It reminded me of my childhood. “Yes,” concurs my travel companion, walking along with me in that remote part of Mandu, Madhya Pradesh.

Mandu is a fort on top of a plateau in the Vindhya mountain range protected by what the locals call it Khakra Khoh, a deep ravine surrounding it from three sides and multiple number of gates protecting its entrance from north. Considered to be one of the largest fortified forts in the world, its historical buildings, monuments and palaces are now in ruins.

Spread out in a small region, Mandu can be covered by foot. Most of the tourists travel to Mandu in private vehicles for a day's trip or extend it to two, but I was here, not just to see the sights, but to stay and experience Mandu in the monsoons. My trip would last 5 whole days and nights!

I had reached Mandu just an hour back. Setting out after breakfast from Indore, the 70 kms journey to Dhar took almost three hours. The remaining 30 kms from Dhar to Mandu in a rickety local bus lasted another hour. I did not get an opportunity to have lunch anywhere at a decent place. So, the moment I reach Mandu Retreat, I have some snacks with a cup of tea and immediately set out to explore the place, not knowing where the road would lead me that evening.

Closest to the Retreat is the Gada Shah’s Shop, a Palace supposedly used by Medini Ray, a Rajput chief during the reign of Mahmud II. Why is it so named? I have no idea. Next to it are the stepwells, Ujali Baodi and Andheri Baodi.

I stop briefly to watch a couple working in a field nearby while their kids frolicked around with stones and sticks. In the background, I can view the famous Jahaz Mahal.

I cross the Delhi gate and yet another similar majestic one, and I climb a path to reach a wooded area with a narrow road that shows a sign to Chisti Khan’s Palace.

A cuckoo sings, and in the distance, at a gazebo, I see a movement and through my cam, find a couple in a secluded spot. From the height I get a better view of the Vindhya mountains at a distance. The sun lies low and is ready to set for the day.

Because of the monsoons, the entire ground has turned into a carpet of green grass. The sky is a beautiful sight with its warm colors, in contrast to the green hues of the abounding flora.

It was on this serene road at a height, with no traffic and no urban disturbance, that I get the first whiff of sweet smell in the air. Walking a little ahead, I begin to recognize the fragrance, as it brings back memories of my childhood when I was used to seeing women plait and adorn long hair with sweet-smelling flowers.

“It’s the fragrance of jasmine,” I squeal in delight. The fragrance of unseen jasmine blossoms fills up my senses and then I see this plant, and walking ahead, I catch sight of a few more such plants.

Yes, it is jasmine growing in the wild and as I head towards the ruins of Chisti Khan’s Palace, the fragrance only gets stronger. I come across many more wild jasmine blossoms and the sweet smell in the air is overwhelming.

At the end of the road on the edge of a projecting spur to the east stands the Chisti Khan’s Palace. Built in the 16th century as a retreat for the rainy season, I can view a central court enclosed by a number of halls and rooms, but is in ruins. There is a Persian inscription making a poignant reference to the desolation of the surroundings. The Palace certainly must have seen better times in its days of glory. The view from the top is worth a few more shots. Cool breeze and changing sunset colors only adds to the overall pleasing effect.

The joy of being in a new place and the scenery with views of the Vindhya mountains fills me up with joy. The wisps of clouds kissing the valley, the calming sounds of birds retiring to their nests, blowing cool breeze, trees swaying lightly, leaves rustling in the serenity of the place, light drizzle on and off, the changing colors of the sunset - being in the midst of all this gives an intoxicating feeling.

I take some more pictures of the sun setting far away in the Vindhyan mountains.

As cool breeze blows, I descend, and the flora continues to sway gently in the scent of the jasmine night.


"Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on,
deep and permanent,
in the ideas of living."
~ M. Beard


Anu said...

wow! you took me there with your words!! i have wanted to go to mandu for a long time, and this one just makes that feeling stronger...

Arun said...

The first picture looks beautiful. I so wanted to go to Mandu when I was visiting MP last year. Just could not make it. I should, some day..

Mridula said...

I have heard that Mandu is very beautiful. How are the stay options?

indicaspecies said...

Thank you. Hope you make it there sometime, and you get to enjoy it too.

Hey, I've got more than 500 pics of those 5 days in Mandu alone. Am sure you, being the traveller that you are, will reach there too one day!

I like the place.
There is the Malwa Retreat and Malwa Resort Mandu, two better places which belong to MPTDC. I stayed initially at the Retreat and then moved to Resort because the water at former was from a borewell and unpleasant. Rates in these hotels are from Rs.1,500 to 1,800 p.d. I also checked out the privately run Hotel Roopmati next to the Retreat which is pretty decent, with valley views and good avi-fauna for company.

Regina said...

Beautiful place and captures.
Happy weekend.

Lakshmi said...

Beautiful pictures Celine..and you do have a way with your words..should plan a trip sometime

Trotter said...

Hi Celine! Another wonderful post!! Loved to see...

There is a weird post at Blogtrotter Two... Enjoy and have a great Sunday and a gorgeous week ahead!

indicaspecies said...

Thank you!

Thank you for your encouraging words, and I hope you get an opportunity to be in Mandu.

Thank you, and am now on my way to Blogtrotter.

Cajie said...

Amazing blog. I came across it by chance through a comment you made on nicoleb.org.

I plan to do something similar (explore the vast beauty of India) through photography. Stuck in Kuwait for the time being.

PN Subramanian said...

Hi! Celine, Thanks for dropping in. It's amazing.I mean your blog. Your account of Mandu was so beautiful. I regret for not having scribbled about that place. In fact, I tend to go into details and every monument there, for me, needs a very detailed mention. Needless to add that when I visited that place, I was not having the digital camera. Incidentally if you are able to understand Hindi, you should visit my blog at: http://mallar.wordpress.com
I am fond of writing in Hindi and only occasionally in English.

indicaspecies said...

Thank you very much for the nice words.
I realized at one point in my life that "time and tide waits for none" and so started travelling as much as I could now and hope to be a "nomad" in future...:D

There are more places and monuments that I've been to in Mandu about which I hope to write in more detail in days to come. I can read, write and speak in Hindi fairly well...so will certainly visit you.
Thank you for dropping by and leaving behind kind words.

magiceye said...

magnificent place brought alive by your wonderful post of images and commentary!!
thank you

NicoleB, Kuwiat said...

What an incredibly magical place.
It must be wonderful to stroll around that nature and architecture.
So different from my current views ;)
This is a real treat to the eye.

Trotter said...

Hi Celine! Thanks for the comment!!
After an odd post, Blogtrotter Two has a bit of Catalonia in Sardinia... ;)
Take pleasure in it and have a stunning week ahead!

Rajesh said...

Beautiful shots. This is one place I have not covered in my tour of the state.

GB said...

It looks very beautiful and green Celina! I lived in MP for a few years as a child....brought back fond memories.
Thanks for sharing!

EG Wow said...

The ruins are still very beautiful! I very much like your shots through the remains. The sky colours are indeed warm. Isn't it amazing how the aromas of our childhood bring back such strong memories?

Saibal Barman said...

You lead us to an orphaned space of history that satiates itself in painting colours of its dreams upon wide azure eyes of mother nature...the hammock swings...the hymns are chanted...outcast, the mother and the child play far away in seclusion...someone writes an elegy...
Truly touching one....I look forward to hear the dirge too...
Best regards,

Indrani said...

Hope to make it to Mandu some day, thank you for this superb virtual tour.