August 19, 2010

Jami Masjid

Strolling through Mandu, I find another group of monuments comprising of the Jami Masjid, the Tomb of Mahmud Khilji and Ashrafi Mahal and the Hoshang Shah’s Mausoleum.

The mosque in red sandstone that greets me in the center of the village of Mandu, on a huge raised plinth with rows of tiny arched chambers, is the Jami Masjid.

Built around 1454, it is alleged to be modelled on the famous Omayyed Mosque in Damascus.

The monumental entrance through a flight of steps from the East to a main arched doorway leads up to a large porch. Screens and bands of glaze tiles decorate the main doorway.

I find the mosque simplistic in design. In the huge courtyard is the huge Qibla, the prayer hall, with numerous rows of majestic arches and pillars which go to support the domes.

There is a pulpit and some finely carved inscriptions on it.

The courtyard is enclosed on all sides by huge colonnades.


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August 15, 2010

Jahaz Mahal, the Ship Palace

It is a starlit sky. The dancers, musicians, the other artists and entertainers are dressed in their finest best. Lanterns are lit and decorated all over the palace grounds. Music fills up the open halls of the Jahaz Mahal. Sultan Ghiyathuddin Khilji and his trusted men wait for the arrival of the esteemed guest of the evening, Jahangir. The Kathak artists, well trained to be on their feet dancing till the wee hours of the morning, are ready to begin right from the moment the Mughal makes a grand entrance accompanied by his entourage. The night long celebration continues with mujras, thumris and ghazals and much more merriment while wine flows.
That is what I imagine as soon as I set my eyes on the Jahaz Mahal, popularly called the Ship Palace. The Jahaz Mahal is a part of the Royal Enclave of Mandu, the other main one is the Hindola Mahal beside which is the Champa Baodi.

After an idyllic walk through the serene rural atmosphere, passing through the Nagar Panchayat, I reach the gates of the Jahaz Mahal. I see the Palace perched on a narrow strip of land flanked on either side by the lakes, Munj Talao and the Kapur Talao, giving it the appearance of a ship anchored in water. Today, the Kapur Talao has water in it, but the Munj Talao hardly has any, though an underground channel is known to connect the waters of both.

Sultan Ghiyathuddin may have been a person content at his choice of venue to have this Palace built in the latter part of the 15th century. I can imagine the place coming alive during the monsoons when water fills up the lakes and ponds nearby, reflecting the architecture of the Palace. I can also visualize little boats bobbing in the overflowing waters when the pleasure-seeking Sultan went around partying with women and wine.

Though the Palace may have been a grand edifice in the past, it now is in ruins and has a despondent look about it. The history of the Palace, however, speaks volumes about the feasts of the Shab-i-Barat held in honor of Jahangir and his entourage.

In his memoirs, Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri, Jahangir describes how the palace served as a residence for his queen, Noor Jahan, and the grand parties held there. He writes:
“It was a wonderful assembly. As the evening began, they lighted lanterns and lamps all around the tanks and building....the like of which was perhaps never been arranged in any place. The lamps cast their reflection on the water and it appeared as if the whole surface of the tank was a plain of fire. A grand entertainment took place and the inebriates indulged themselves to excess.”

As I walk around exploring, I once again imagine the lit lanterns and festivity going on around the beautiful Palace in those days.

In the rear are attached pavilions probably for the women of the royal harem. I can visualize the curtains hanging from their arched openings whispering tales of the past.

I find carved niches around the swimming areas, and spacious terraces and more open pavilions, some of them ornamented with bands of tiles and bearing traces of paintings of the floral motifs.

It is late evening. At the terrace of the Jahaz Mahal, the cool monsoon breeze is palpable on my face like a nippy caress. Along with panorama of domes and turrets of the Palace, I watch the rain clouds above the Vindhya mountains gathering and rolling, ready to pour out from the heavens while the sun behind begins to descend at its steady pace. Shivering lightly, I keep glancing at the sky till the light fades, giving way to the approaching darkness.


Mandu can be reached by road from Indore via Dhar, and the nearest airport is in Indore, almost 100 kms away.

August 12, 2010

Hindola Mahal, the Swinging Palace

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The Hindola Mahal is styled as the 'Swinging Palace' for its unique architecture with its sidewalls sloping majestically as if swinging.

This Palace is presumed to be constructed by Sultan Ghiyathuddin Khilji (AD 1469-1500) mainly to use as an Audience Hall. The T-shaped projection at the northern end was added later probably for ladies of those times to have access to the Palace. Behind the Hindola Mahal is the Royal Bath and Champa Baodi, whose waters were alleged to be smelling of Champa flowers. Nearby is the Jahaz Mahal, all together forming the Royal Enclave.

I shall write about the Jahaz Mahal in my next post. Until then, here are a few pictures of the Hindola Mahal.