So you think of going to a place for years and years.
You read about the place; you watch documentaries about the place – shout out to Epic, the best Indian channel out there; you consult the oracles; you plan; you buy tickets; you book hotels; you invite Saurabh Singhanapally who also buys tickets but cancels at the last moment (I know I know my dear fellow, this is just for dramatic emphasis); you reach the nearest city; you eat a giant jalebi in anticipation the night before;
you undertake the journey with vigorous vim
you finally reach the destination
and what’s the first thing you see?
Well, when you are Fat Uncle Cheapo, the first thing you see look like bull’s testicles hung out to dry!!!
Anyway, after getting over the shock, I bought the tickets and started walking and realized that I am mano y mano with my auld enemy – stairs.
The stairs lead to the highest point in Mandu – Roopmati’s Pavillion.
For those of you who don’t know, here’s the story.
There was a Sultanate in Malwa. The last Sultan of said Sultanate was Miyan Bayezid Baz Bahadur Khan.
You might have heard very romanticized accounts of the man.
But here’s the truth – the man was an imbecile.
He was a bad administrator and a terrible general.
After becoming the ruler in 1555 due to sheer nepotism – he was he king’s son – he immediately set out to conquer new lands.
And got his ass handed to him by the Gond Queen Rani Durgawati.
He slunk back with his tail firmly between his legs.
So why is he famous?
He is famous because of his lust.
Once he was out hunting or any other such “kingly” pursuit. He came across a tribal shepherdess frolicking and singing with her friends on the Narmada.
Enchanted by her boobies and captivated by her voice, the king fell in lust.
Sultan: “I gots to fuck you”
Shepherdess: “Fuck off”
Sultan: “Fuck me or I will kill everybody.”
Shepherdess: “FML. Okok, no need to be so anal about it. I will fuck you. But on one condition.”
Shepherdess: “I love Narmada, and I will not live anywhere where I can’t see the Narmada.”
Sultan: “Challenge accepted.”
Minister: “What do you mean challenge accepted. How am I supposed to get the Narmada all the way to Mandu!!!!???”
King: “Don’t care, want sex”
Minister (aside): “MC, BC, I will show them.”
So the minister went and dug and interlinked a whole lot of lakes a few miles out of Mandu and filled it with rain water; then he went back to Mandu, dug another pond, named it Roop Kond and told the king: “Behold, thar she blows”
Baz Bahadur: “Where?”
Minister: “You see this pond? This pond is linked underground to the river all the way over there”
Baz Bahadur, being an imbecile, thought that to be true and went to the shepherdess Roopmati and said: “See, one Narmada, as ordered, now fuck me.”
Roopmati, being stupid, agreed, but said: “I want a palace from where I can see the river everyday.”
Thus Baz built the Pavilion for her
Roopmati: “Fine, I will fuck you now”
Baz Bahadur: “I am the king of the world!!!”
Akbar: “ROFL!!!! LMAO!!! Oye Adham Khan, bro, go spank him will you?”
Adham Khan: “Okie dokie bro. Thy wish is my command – literally!”
So Adham Khan goes to Mandu and opens a can of whoop ass on Baz Bahadur on 29 March 1561, who promptly runs away.
Roopmati: “Arre!!! Where are you going? What about me???”
Baz Bahadur: “I am scared LOL! Every man for himself.”
That’s right folks, this romantic numbskull abandoned his lover and family and ran away.
Fearing rape, Roopmati took poison and committed suicide.
And we are supposed to praise their love!!!
Anyway, so this is Roopmati’s Pavilion.
Those water bodies were the ones supposedly connected to Narmada. If you go here in monsoon, chances are that you will see clouds around you. Critics opine that the experience of clouds around you is supposedly romantic.
[Helpful tip for lady travelers – ASI has loos here; on the right side after you climb up]
Once back down to earth, I was thirsty. Stairs should be banned I tell you.
So I went to the giant imly shop and asked the lady shopkeeper for a nimbu-pani, or lime sherbet.
The only problem was water.
As you know, drinking unvouchable water from any old place is a recipe for stomach-related disaster.
And since my stomach and kidneys are pretty much the only two organs in my body that work without any medical assistance, I for one, do not want to disturb the status quo.
The next stop in this
As palaces go, its frankly meh. The swimming pool and a marble gated structure are the only things worth seeing. The rest is too unadorned.
More importantly, though Baz stayed here, he did not build it. Sultan Nasiruddin Shah did.
Just opposite it, lies the Roop Kund – the one the minister dug and said behold.
Even today, apparently there are pilgrims who come to this lake to start the Narmada Parikrama, a circuit of the Narmada.
Power of belief, eh?
All of these, plus the Dai’s Tomb, Dai’s Sister’s Tombs and another lake fall under one group of monuments.
There are 3 such groups or clusters in Mandu – the Rewa Kund group, the Hoshang group or market group and the Royal group.
Rewa Kund is the farthest when you are coming from Indore.
It was while coming back from the Rewa Kund towards the Royal Group that we came across the Echo Point on one side and well, these guys on the other
There are hundreds of tombs and ruined buildings in Mandu and to check all of them out would take a couple of days. I did not have a couple of days. So I remained content visiting the important ones and looking at the non-important ones from afar.
So Dai Ka Tomb, Dai’s Sister’s Tomb, Chorkot Mosque, Gada Shah’s Palace, Nilkanth Palace and Temple etc all remained at a distance.
But, there is a pit stop that I made.
Its for a museum.
Those of you who know me know that am a mix between a dork and a nerd.
My favorite places to hang out – libraries and museums.
And so I went to Ek Khamba Tomb, which ironically is now a museum containing ancient Hindu sculptures and parchments.
So, I went
And found it to be closed.
Apart from when it comes to women or his health, Cheapo is a determined persevering bugger.
So I started shouting, and soon the caretaker turned up.
He claimed that nobody other than dogs, goats and monkeys turn up in the afternoon so he locks up and goes off to sleep.
Judicious waving of INR 10 opened the tribal museum.
A further bodacious bribery worth INR 10 opened up the main museum.
Well spent, that money
This is one big ass enclosure.
And you start with the Museum.
It lies on your right after you enter through the gate. Its a single story structure containing a few sculptures and pottery and images of Mandu.
It takes about 5 minutes to cover, but the real problem is that for some odd weird reason, the powers that be orders you to take off your shoes to enter.
Only in India would you find such anachronistic mindless rules!
There has to be a logic to proceedings right?
But no some Commie jobber has decided that people must take off their shoes before entering a museum.
I met a couple of old ladies from Mumbai in the museum who were appalled at the destruction and desecration of the statues and sculptures. They thought that it was a result of ASI’s ineptness.
I have a lot of respect for the ASI. They are perennially under budgeted and short staffed.
They are pretty much one of the few government departments that try their best and have good intentions.
Therefore, I had to defend them.
I had to explain to the ladies that the headlessness and armlessness of the statues had nothing to do with the ASI. They found these that way. Rather, its our “secular” (according to Girish Karnad and Saikat Chakraborty) invaders from Turkey, Syria, Persia, Afghanistan and Uzbekistan who desecrated them as instructed by their “secular” religious leaders.
The ladies tried to counter by saying that the Turks did not desecrate Constantinople when they kicked Byzantine’s ass.
Well, of course they didn’t. Jesus, Moses, Mary etc are all revered figures in both Christianity and Islam. Who desecrates their own?
The Indian parallel would be Buddha – a god/revered leader for both Hindus and Buddhists.
Killing people, destroying buildings, burning crops and raping women are perfectly acceptable activities as per religious invaders of all hues. But no disrespect to “our” gods should ever come. Other people’s gods are fair game.
Religious people are weird.
Anyway, immediately in front of the museum lies the Kapoor Talao.
And in front of that?
The famed Jahaz Mahal.
I know what you are thinking.
You are thinking what ship?
Aha, good people, its all metaphorical.
This giant pleasure palace was built between two lakes (the Kapoor Talao being one) and so metaphorically its supposed to be like a ship in the middle of the seas.
Ergo the seas
Ergo the Jahaz.
Commies won’t understand; you need to have a soul to appreciate stuff like this.
After crossing the Mahal, you come to two other interesting structures.
One is Hindola Mahal or Swinging Palace. A swinger’s paradise if you will.
The other is
Once you cross these, you come to the Royal Palace.
Whoever designed it, deserve a prize.
I am a connoisseur of cold.
And the ancient architect gentleman had managed to make this building one of the coolest in central India – just by using strategically placed windows to tap up the natural winds and air currents.
Well done, that man.
There is plenty in this complex for the lovers of history and architecture. There is an extensive underground network of aqueducts that harvest rainwater. Its definitely worth studying.
Finally, at the centre of the town, beside the market lies the Hoshang Shah group.
Mr. Shah was a ruler of Malwa much before the Mughals came around. He built a giant Jami Masjid, decorated with niches, pillars, alcoves and weird bulbous protrusions on the roof. Its supposedly modeled on the famous mosque of Damascus.
Apparently, the architects who built the Taj Mahal took inspiration from this place. The tomb here kinda resembles the central part of Taj. There are no turrets though. Its just one rectangular building sitting o ntop of a rectangular platform covered by a huge dome.
Well, there was a tower once upon a time. Now only the base remains. You have to climb a whole bunch of stiars to reach the base. Mahmud Khilji is buried here.
There is some architectural significance to all three. The exact centre of the base lies in a straight line with the exact centre of the mosque and the tomb.
So there you have it – Mandu.
One of India’s most famed historical sites – for all the wrong reasons.
Like life, its some parts beautiful, some parts garbage.
But if you go there, it will leave an indelible mark on your soul.
Especially if you go there with good company.
I have two honorary didis.
One of them is the Argumentative Indian, the Mysterious Miss M.
Mysterious because it boggles my mind how one person can have arguments about everything with everybody.
First, she had a problem with Roopmati’s sleeping quarters.
Then she had a problem with Baz Bahadur’s swimming pool.
Then she had a problem with aunties blocking her way in the Neelkantha palace.
Then she had a debate with me regarding monkeys and langurs.
Then she had a problem with toothpicks which only ended with my suggestion to her to file a PIL against the manufacturers of double-pointed toothpicks.
Then she pissed off the driver by somehow denigrating tribes.
Then she segued into a lecture about how all tribes should be banned and that everyone should come under the umbrella of Hindi, and that all these tribes and races and languages are the faults of Commie anthropologists and Commie historians and Commie linguists (she is rabid anti-Modi btw)
As you know am a poorly trained quasi-linguist (5.12 out of 6 GPA, 100 out of 100 in Neurolinguistics, O (highest) grade in dissertation in Phonology, O (highest) grade in Sociolinguistics, 1st in national entrance exam for MPhil, paper presentation in two international conferences…….but of course its appearances and opinions that matter, not facts, and thus am a poorly trained quasi-linguist).
So anyone criticizing linguists transform me into Jhansi Ki Rani mode. Things like that tend to make me strap up my loins, strap up the Gudduda on my back and go into war shouting this is Naktalaaaaa.
To further aggravate the situation, she called me a Commie.
In the history of mankind, if you ave to name three of the greatest anti-Commies, you will have to name Senator McCarthy, Mamata Banerjee and me, Fat Uncle Cheapo.
My hatred and disgust for Commies know no bounds.
So you can imagine my feelings.
Since I would rather shave off my beard, cut off my testicles, take Bangladeshi citizenship and start supporting Liverpool before I would even contemplate of raising my hands on a woman, physical violence was off. (And anyway, any half-fit, well-fed 8 year old can beat the crap out of me)
That left the power of my mouth.
By the end of the day, when the sun was shutting shop for the night, and dinosaurs came out to roam the land again
I managed to convince her with irrefutable logic and arguments that the true enemy of humanity, progress, nature and civilization are lawyers and that lawyers should be banned.
The Mysterious Miss M is a lawyer.