Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Mandav - A Walk in Ancient Mandu

Association of Mandu with its ancient avatar of Mandav begins to fall into place on your third trip to Mandu. The magnificent hill fortress of Mandu probably existed as early as sixth century and was then called Mandapa-Durga. Later Mandu formed part of kingdom of Gurjar-Pratihars of Kannauj and then passed into hands of Parmars. Mandu is possibly corrupted form of Mandav or Mandavgarh. Most of the buildings that you see across the town are medieval and were built during the Sultanate period. But if you get off the tourist route, you will be rewarded with the vestiges of the ancient Mandapa-Durga.

Apart from the fortifications and gateways around the hill originally built by the Hindu rulers that may have been further fortified in the later years, there are a number of minor structures spread across the hill that takes you back in time to Mandav. Let us go around these little known places in Mandu.  

Chappan Mahal Museum
On the south of Jami Masjid, a track takes you to the Chappan Mahal complex. The complex has an outer boundary wall and inner walled compound. The good work by MP Tourism along with ASI continues here. The MP Tourism sign says the site has been developed as part of Central Government project to promote Mandu as tourism destination.

Chappan Mahal in Mandu

The 16th Century Baoli at Chappan Mahal Complex
Baradari like structure
The walled compound consists of a regular looking tomb, a number of which you can see across Mandu. There is a relatively new whitewashed structure next to it. This structure is probably a Kothi. On the north of the Kothi is the Baoli with green tinged water. The Baoli was built in 16th century. South of the tomb there is a Baradari like structure with chambers. The Baradari probably housed the attendants.

The whitewashed structure to the west of the tomb was built by Dhar King. It is supposed to be Rest House or Warne’s Kothi. Other accounts say that the structure housed the Dhar province’s post office that serviced fifty six villages and therefore the name Chappan Mahal. Yet another version says that it was in Vikram era 1956 (1899 AD), the rulers of Dhar started conservation work at the monument as relief work for the drought affected local population - Hence the name 56 or Chappan Mahal. Exactly hundred years later, the property was donated by the Royal Family to the Collector of Dhar for setting up the museum. The four galleries of the museum depict history of Dhar from Stone Age to twentieth century.

The compound gate leads you to steps that take you to the high platform on which the Tomb and Warne’s Kothi are built. Both sides of the steps have images from temples that existed in Mandu and Dhar before the arrival of Sultanate. Up on the platform, the area around the structures has been landscaped. Pedestals with images are installed all around as usually seen in museum complexes across India. This is the first time you are seeing Hindu images in Mandu and is quite a revelation.

The Tomb at Chappan Mahal Complex in Mandu
Interior of Tomb turned into Museum
The tomb is simple square construction with a dome rising on top. A chajja goes around the walls. The entrance is on the south side. As you step inside you are surprised to see the interiors turned into a museum. The lower part of the walls has been painted over. Though mercifully the original blue tiles decorating the drum of the dome have been left unmolested.

Surya belonging to Mandav of 14th Century 
Aindri from Manawar - 12th Century at Chappan Mahal. Aindri is Queen of Indra and Goddess of Wrath & Jealousy

12th Century Brahmi from Manawar
A number of statues, sculptures and other paraphernalia are seen exhibited and labelled neatly. Shesashai Vishnu takes the place of pride in the centre along with Gautam Buddha. Most sculptures like Parvati, Brahmi, Aindri, and Trivikram belong to the 12th century. The museum also has collection of coins, scriptures and pottery fragments found during excavations in the region.
Vishnu from Budhi Mandav 12th Century
The images possibly were excavated by ASI in several mounds throughout Mandu and Dhar while some survived the dismantling of the temples. Most of the temple stone material was used in building of the later Sultanate buildings that we see today in Mandu. This is a familiar pattern that you have seen in Delhi, Champaner and Ujjain.

So while the Chappan Mahal houses archaeological antiquities, the Rest House or Warne’s Kothi exhibits tribal cultural artefacts. Scenes from a tribal village are shown with inhabitants going around with their daily lives.

Though the idea of usurping a tomb to set up a museum is not exactly laudable, but it is a low cost model and quite novel. The museum opened up a new window to Mandu and now it is time to explore more ancient connections with Mandav.

Foota Mandir

Foota Mandir
Girbhgriha of Foota Mandir

Steps made up of Temple Fragments at Foota Mandir in Mandu
As you make your way from the Gadi Gate towards the village, you see the ruins of Foota Mandir or Ruined Temple on the right. The structure was initially built during the Parmar Dynasty in the 12th century. 

Upper Level of Rebuilt Structure
West Facing Wall with Niches
There are remains of a small temple with a girbhgriha but no deity. The roof has collapsed while the walls built of blocks of stone survive. The structure was rebuilt and expanded in the 14th century during the Sultanate period. In the rear, built on a high plinth is another structure. The western wall has three niches built of dressed red sandstone. Traces of a baodi are seen in the rear. This is the only temple or part of an ancient temple that you can remember seeing in-situ here in Mandu while all others have seemingly disappeared from plain sight. 

Dharamshala in Hoshang Shah Tomb Complex

Dharamshala - on the west of Hoshang Shah Tomb
The Pillared Dharamshala at Mandu
Dharamshala - Interior Cloister
On the west of Hoshang Shah Tomb, a long colonnaded verandah stretches into the distance. This part of the tomb complex is called Dharamshala probably due to its Hindu architectural elements. The S shaped brackets that almost look like an elephant trumpeting look especially beautiful. Parallel to the colonnade, another passage but without supporting pillars runs across the western boundary of the tomb. 

Broken Architectural Members
The passages lead you to an apartment with few dark rooms at the south-west corner. Familiar smell hits you and you can hear squeaks inside. Of course the chances of being hit by a bat in a dark room full of bats is, well, zero. You step inside the room. As your eyes become accustomed to the dark, you can make out outlines of broken stone fragments scattered across the floor. In the neighboring room with sunlight filtering in, you can clearly see that the fragments have come from temples. So the temples have not completely disappeared here in Mandu.

Temple Fragments at Dharamshala
The story repeats itself. Most of these temples probably belonged to the Parmar era. Sultans came, demolished the temples and used most of the material in the new buildings. Hindola Mahal and Dilawar Khan’s mosque are reportedly built from temple materials. Architectural members like carved amalaks, shikhars, lintels and pillars can be seen here in the pile. While some of the unused broken architectural members of the temples are stored here in Dharamshala, the surviving images are housed in Chappan Mahal Museum.

Deep Stambhs on way to Lal Mahal

Deep Stambhs on the way to Lal Mahal - at Mandu MP

On the way to the summer palace Lal Mahal which lies outside the village on the east, you are surprised to see these three pillars that look like Deep Stambhs. Two are erected on either side of the road. The third one is off the road on the left. You are not sure if the pillars are in-situ. And if they are then the associated temples are long gone; the material probably used up in the later buildings of Mandu.

Ancient Hindu Baodi

Ancient Hindu Baodi in Jahaz Mahal Complex at Mandu

Mandavgarh - Ancient Baoli
In the Jahaz Mahal Complex, there is a baoli called Ancient Hindu Baodi. We are not sure how old the baoli is and whether there was a temple nearby. The baodi still has water but is not as elaborate as the other baolis here like the Champa Baoli few yards away.

Sat Kothadi

Sat Kothadi - View from Andha Tomb - The two tanks can be seen, while the cave entrance is at the lower level - at Mandu
Circular Water Tank at Sat Kothadi, Mandu

Saat Kothri at Mandu Madhya Pradesh
Before you enter the first gateways into Mandu, on the right a narrow path leads to interestingly named Andha and Andhi Tombs. The ground drops just before you start climbing the steps to the tombs. Below is circular tank and next to it a bigger square tank. The circular tank is filled with water while the other tank is dry.

The narrow steps leading into the caves
View of Sat Kothadi with the Pillar in the centre
Steps lead down from the square tank to a group of caves excavated in the vertical rock face. A gate leads into an apartment with several caves on all sides. You cannot step inside as water fills up the courtyard. A roughly hewn monolithic pillar is present in the centre of courtyard. 

Shivling in the central cave - Sat Kothadi outside Mandu Gates
The front cave has a shivling. The shivling could be a later addition as the caves are believed to be Buddhist. The water source is a mystery. Even as you stand in the doorway, water can be seen dripping from the top. This is strange. The square tank which is almost on top of the caves is dry. So where is the water coming from? Maybe there are some water channels running through the rock that bring water from an unseen reservoir inside the rock. You are not sure if these are the seven caves as the name indicates or whether there are more caves in the rock face beyond.

Lohani Caves

The Descent into the Lohani Caves
As you walk from Hoshang Shah Tomb towards Jahaz Mahal Complex, a sign on the left indicates Lohani Caves, Lohani Gate and Sunset Point. ASI has done great job here in Mandu. Recently built steps take you down into a valley.
Lohani Caves at Mandu MP
Plain Bare Walls - Inside Lohani Caves
Lohani Caves is a group of small caves probably excavated in the 11th or 12th century during the Parmar dynasty. The caves are quite basic with bare walls and no noticeable carvings inside. As you duck into the caves look out for bats and wasps. In front of the caves is a cistern filled with green water. During rains, water flows into the rock cut cistern from the hill above. The caves probably housed Shiv Jogis.

Lohani Caves with the Water Cistern
The caves were filled with debris and when cleared unearthed sculptures and carvings that are now seen in the dark room in the Dharamshala and Chappan Mahal Museum.
The Monolithic Pillar and Sunset Point Above
It is in this area, that a number of Shiv Temples were built. Some plinths were seen by ASI during the clearing up operations. At the base of the steps an orphaned monolithic pillar can be seen with the associated temple missing. Overlooking the valley, the lone sentinel pillar has seen Parmars, Delhi Sultanate, Malwa Sultanate, Mughals, and Marathas come and go.  This is what you like about heritage. The connections of long ago are made in an instant; compressing thousands of years into fleeting moments. And those fleeting moments gives you the heady feeling that makes the mad rush, breathless climb and rumbling walk all worth it.  

Below just beyond the edge there is a sheer drop into the valley. It is this fascinating topography that provides natural defense to Mandu. Some remains of the possible Lohani Gate can be seen below. Time stops and all becomes quite. Up, behind you, Sunset Point can be seen. The scene of setting sun over the valley and hills must be breathtaking. You will come back for the sunset some day - a day when you will have few hours to spend with the lonely pillar. You are sure the pillar and the itinerant visitor will have many stories to share.

Reference: Mandu by D. R. Patil, published by ASI


  1. I am enlightened. Thank you for the wonderful write up/

    1. Hi PN Sir,

      Your comments are always awaited and appreciated.

      Yes Mandu has several colours, seasons and themes to it. Everytime I dive in I find something new here. Now thinking of exploring the various gates that are kind of into the jungles on east west and south sides. Also, yet to see Mandu in rains.

      Thanks for reading as always!


  2. Thanks for the stellar post and beautiful crisp photographs. It made me feel like booking the tickets and packing my bags. But better sense prevailed. I know i can never battle with bats and for sure i can never see 'elephants trumpeting" in s shaped brackets. I wisely dropped the idea, scrolled the post to the top and read it once again.
    Now whenever the urge to visit Mandu will rise, i will just trip on your post!

    Aparna Misra.

    1. Thanks Aparna! Don’t ever drop plans of travelling. Always think about a place and believe me you will get there. It keeps happening to me! Mandu needs to be visited once! Keep tripping and you will get to Mandu! Bats, monkey and dogs add to the fun!

  3. There are lot of places which I missed during my visit to Mandu. Your blog post is very helpful in getting to know them.

    1. Arjun, Mandu has so much to offer that after three trips, i have readied another list of places to see there!

      Thanks for taking time to read.


  4. U missed some awesome places on about Mandu. I reckon u saved it for next trip. We need more on Baz Bahadur and his wife. Darya Khan's mosque and Sarai? Khiljis? Also How cud u miss the fact that when Hoshang Shah tomb was built, Shajahan was not even born....yet see the similarities between his Tomb and Taj Mahal. Nahi?

  5. Hi Ye Manzilen,

    You are so right – Mandu has so much! Okay the thing is I have done three trips to Mandu and have probably seen 80% of the town. If I get another chance I want to walk through the scrub to see the gateways spread all around on the edges of the spur. Yes I need to start writing on the more popular monuments here. In this post I tried to bring out the lesser known attractions that predate the Sultanate. One of these days I will write about the remaining monuments and the evergreen story about Baz Bahadur and Roopmati! And yes they say Taj Mahal architects had visited Mandu and probably got inspired by Hoshang Shah's marble tomb.

    Thanks for reading and dropping a note. Your blog seems interesting – will be visiting it!

    Here are two other links of Mandu posts:




  6. Good description. Every corner and niche needs a personal touch.

    1. Thanks Sir for reading.

      Yes going forward will try to incorporate more personal touches in the descriptions.


  7. Hi! Did you see Andha and Andhi ka mahal? I found an explanation for the Andha Mahal when I visited today...but any idea about the 'Andhi ka Mahal'??
    Glad to see your posts about Mandu. I adore the city.

    1. Hi Lady Martella,

      Yes Mandu is special and even so during the monsoons. I hope to go back there during the monsoons. Yes there is so much to see around Mandu even before you enter the first gate! I hope to write about the remaining monuments soon. Let me see if I can find anything about the Andhi ka Mahal - all I think I have now is the photo of the sign at the site (if there is one!).

      Thanks for reading!