The next morning we bade farewell to Maheshwar. Our stay at the fort had been wonderful, but it was time to move on.
We weren’t going very far. Less than one hour away from Maheshwar lie the ancient ruins of Mandu, once a great city, and now one of India’s most wonderfully scenic ancient ruins. Mandu sees many local India travelers, especially during the monsoon season, as it is has many lakes and dams. But for most foreigners it’s a long way off the beaten track and we were the only foreigners the day we visited.
Dating to the 1400’s, Mandu was largely built by an Afghan sultan, and it is perhaps the best example of Afghan architecture outside of Afghanistan. It’s a huge place, with massive palaces, dungeons, temples and more, yet its very size helped its downfall as it was so difficult to defend. By the early 1600’s it already lay in ruins.
Mandu is the scene of one of India’s most famous love stories.
The Story of Roopmati and Baz Bahadur
Baz Bahadur was the last Sultan of the state of Malwa. He ruled from 1555 to 1562. One day while out hunting, Sultan Baz Bahadur spotted a Hindu girl, Roopmati, singing as she bathed in the Narmada river. Bewitched by her beauty and her voice, Baz Bahadur persuaded her to live with him in Mandu, the capital of Malwa.
Thereafter, he spent his time in the pursuit of love and music, leaving his kingdom vulnerable to attack. So when Akbar’s general, Adham Khan, attacked Mandu in 1561, the kingdom was his for the taking. Baz Bahadur fled the battlefield, deserting Roopmati, who was captured. But the courtesan proved more courageous than the king. Even as the Mughal general waited outside her room to claim her, she committed suicide by swallowing poison.
We spent the afternoon exploring the site. Our guide was hilarious, and he made us laugh all the time. He also took us to visit his brother, the gift shop owner, and his cousin, who sells snacks and drinks. It’s all in the family!
We stayed overnight at the very basic government run rest camp. Generally speaking, government hotels are poor in India – usually rating 2 stars at best, though the food is often surprisingly good.