The ancient city of Mandu perched on a rocky outcrop is a journey of discovery that I found out when attending the first edition of the Mandu Festival.
A two hour drive from Indore and the nip in the air is palpable. I am headed to Mandu to experience the first edition of the Mandu festival executed by E Factor Entertainment Pvt. Ltd. for the Madhya Pradesh Tourism Board.
With a theme of ‘Khojne Me Kho Jao’, that translates into lose yourself while exploring is the Mandu festival had a mix of events to showcase the myriad facets of the city of Mandu that was in the past the second most populous city in the world with a whopping 9 lakh plus people that is now a mere 9000. The camp site provided tented accommodation and each evening had a musical night with performing artists. To showcase the local art and culture, there was an exhibition of local textiles like Maheshwari and Chanderi as well as ceramic ware and local made organic staples. There were several art installations made using bamboo by local artists as well. An art exhibition was also on display with Gond art dominating the space as well as several other art works. Samit Garg, CEO & Co-Founder, E-Factor Entertainment Pvt. Ltd. says, “destination Mandu has a lot of content that many people are not aware about and when had a possibility to discuss this with the tourism department, we knew we could start at the grass root level. We are hoping to conduct the festival annually at least over the next three years and hopefully more people understand that the curated experiences of the place are immense.”
With close to 40 ASI sites, Mandu has history in every corner. Even as I was entering the city, I spotted so many monuments in a state of ruin that it came as no surprise that this place is steeped in history. Interestingly at the festival there were a clutch of activities that were all designed to experience the sights and sounds – cycling tours, walking tours, Hop-In-Hop-Out buses, hot air ballooning and water sports. “Mandu is a story of history of history and the various eras that ruled the place. Hence we have organised trails that showcase history and heritage and show why it was a pearl in the real estate of the past. So we show the Jahaz Mahal as well as the numerous monuments inside. We also do a romantic tour that is an ode to the timeless love story of Baz Bahadur and Rani Roopmati,” says Ajay Kapoor, Founder, Indi Hopper. An Instagram tour takes you to the best sites which make for stunning photographs courtesy the numerous arches that are part of the architecture of the monuments here. An evening aarti at Rewa Kund was a perfect way to end the evenings on a spiritual note.
Sights and Sounds
When in Mandu you must stop at the important sites especially the Baz Bahadur Palace and Rani Roopmati Pavilion. These are two spots that are located close by and are an ode to the epic love story between the two. The last ruler of Mandu Baz Bahadur fell in love with Rani Roopmati and he built the pavilion for her so that she could worship River Narmada. The pavilion incidentally located on a raised level also has a rain water harvesting system and overlooks the Baz Bahadur Palace. The beautiful arches and stunning views of the pavilion are interesting architectural elements. The Baz Bahadur Palace whose architecture blends Rajput and Mughal styles has a spacious open court that has rooms and halls around it. A stop at the Jahaz Mahal – dubbed as the ship that never sailed is a must. Built in the 15th century by Sultan Ghiyasuddin Khilji, this has several palaces and step wells inside its sprawling campus. The arches and structures here are reminiscent of a past where engineering was clearly the forte of the architects who designed the space. The Jami Masjid located here is another spot that is a must see again for its beautiful architecture. Behind the masjid is Hoshang Shah’s tomb a white marble structure that is believed to have inspired the Taj Mahal in Agra. On the opposite side of the road is the Ashrafi Mahal intended as an Islamic college and built by Hoshang Shah. It now houses the tomb of Mohammed Khilji. Kaushik Mukherji, Creative Consultant, E-Factor Entertainment Pvt. Ltd. explains, “we zeroed on Mandu as it was a walled city with so much history that there was a natural curiosity to know more. Also the idea was for people to come and discover not just the location but also become the feeder market for some of the crafts of the region especially the Bagh prints that has a mere 56 families left. We need to package the history of our country better and Mandu is a place that is steeped in history that needs to be discovered as it is a culmination of engineering, science, architecture and culture which makes it unique.” It was these words that resonated with me as I took a hot air balloon ride on my last day here. Mandu is certainly a destination like no other and is waiting to be discovered.
This story first appeared in Sakal Times dated 6 Jan, 2020 here: