Once upon a time there was a king named Baz Bahadur. He was the last independent Sultan of Malwa. During one of his hunting trips, Baz Bahadur chanced upon Roopmati, a divinely beautiful shepherdess, frolicking and singing with her friends. Being a great lover of music, he was bowled by Roopmati’s melodious voice. It was love at first sight and Baz Bahadur asked for Roopmati’s hand in marriage to which she agreed on the condition that she would live in a palace from where her Maa Narmada, which flows beneath the Malwa spurs in Nimad Plain, a few kilometers away, was visible.
Isn’t this how fairy tales begin? And it was a fairy tale romance where Baz Bahadur went all out to please his lady love and built the Rewa Kund where the waters of Narmada turned into a placid lake by a palace. But destiny had a different plan. Mughal Emperor Akbar on hearing of Baz Bahadur’s immersive marital life decided to capture Malwa and sent Adam Khan to invade Malwa. Baz Bahadur met the mighty Mughal army with his small force and was defeated. He escaped leaving behind his kingdom and Roopmati to fend for themselves. Sensing her fate at the hands of Adam Khan, Roopmati killed herself, thus ending the fairytale romance that still attracts thousands of tourists to Mandu every year.
But there is more to Mandu than this epic romance and its vestiges found in spectacular palaces, pavilions and lakes. Mandu’s landscape is dotted with hundreds of monuments against the picturesque spur of Malwa plateau, the most talked about being the Jahaz Mahal, Jama Masjid, Roopmatis’ pavilion, Hindola Mahal, Baz Bahadur’s Palace and Hoshang Shah’s Tomb.
On a recent drive through Mandu’s historic terrain, I came across three spectacular monuments that are yet to figure on the itineraries of the tourists. They are located close to each other, off the road that leads to Roopmati’s Pavilion on the eastern bank of the sprawling Sagar Talav.
The first one of the series is Malik Mughith’s Mosque. Built in 1452 CE by Malik Mughith, father of Mahmud Khilji, the third Sultan of Malwa, is one of the earliest Islamic monuments to be built in Malwa. One of the key attractions of the mosque is its projecting porch which can be reached by ascending a flight of steps. The entrance porch consists of beautiful arched doors and windows, once profusely covered with floral decorations and blue tiles, traces of which can still be seen.
Malik Mughith’s Mosque
The second in the series is Dai Ki Chhoti Behan Ka Mahal. This is the tomb of a woman, called Malik Magi. The tomb is octagonal in shape and crowned by a beautiful dome, once covered profusely with blue tiles. The tomb has four arched openings in four cardinal directions and stands on a raised plinth. The other attraction of the monument is its attached Char Bagh garden built over the slope.
Dai Ki Chhoti Behan Ka Mahal
A few meters away is Dai Ka Mahal, a tomb complex standing on a plinth with arched openings, a domed roof and traces of pavilion topped towers at corners. It is the tomb of a wet nurse having rooms with arched openings. The mosque, situated within the tomb complex, is adorned with brackets and jharokas showing distinct Hindu architectural influence. Mandu was a prominent seat of the Parmar dynasty till the end of 10th century CE. So the Hindu influence found here can be traced to the architectural legacy of the Parmars in Malwa.
Dai Ka Mahal
Both the above monuments (Dai Ki Chhoti Behan Ka Mahal and Dai Ka Mahal) were probably used as residence quarters of Sultan’s favourite wet nurses or mid-wives. When they died their mahals were converted into tombs. These buildings together with other splendid structures of Mandu give an important insight into the provincial style of Indo-Islamic architecture. Marked by elegance and simplicity, this style, later influenced the more majestic Mughal style of architecture as seen in Agra and Delhi.
Author – Jitu Mishra
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