Mandu (also Mandav) is situated on a 2000 feet high plateau on the crest of the Vindhya Mountain range, and is encircled on three sides by a deep gorge called the Kakra Koh (winding chasm). Mandu is connected by good roads to Dhar, Mhow, Indore and Ratlam. The major tourist attractions in Mandu are given below:
1. The Royal Enclave: The Taveli Mahal was formerly used by the royal people. The terrace of the building commands a wonderful view of their surrounding area which is strewn with ruins. All the other buildings in the Royal Enclave are situated close by.
2. Hindola Mahal: The Hindola Mahal with its extremely thick walls sloping at an angle of over 77 degrees, is known as the ‘Swinging Palace’ because its peculiarly loping sidewalls create the illusion that the entire building sways. The structure is in the form of the letter ‘T’. The hall was, probably, used for the purpose of royal audiences. The exterior of the building is puritanically simple and stern.
3. Jahaz Mahal: The Jahaz Mahal, situated on a narrow strip of land between two lakes, the Kapur Talao and the Munj Talao, personifies Mandu’s romantic beauty. Its name means ‘Ship Palace’, for it resembles a vessel. It has an appearance of lightness and airiness. On the roof on the Jahaz Mahal are tiny domes, airy kiosks and overhanging balconies. A very charming effect is produced when the still waters of the lakes reflect the beautiful silhouette of the building in clear moonlight. It appears almost as if the building would float and move gracefully in the gentle breeze.
On the ground floor are three large halls with cool corridors in between. Pavilions project from the back of the halls over the Munj Talao. The central pavilion has a domical ceiling decorated with a band of blue and yellow tiles. There is a beautifully designed bath at the northern end. It is said that the palace was staffed entirely by women.
4. Ruins of former palaces: Along the northern side of the Munj Talao are the ruins of the former palaces. Among them is a well, known as Champa Baodi, because the water has the fragrance of the champak flower. The well is connected by a subterranean passage with a labyrinth of low-lying vaulted rooms. These rooms remain cool even in the height of summer as a result of cool breeze originating from the well and the lake. There is a hot bath near the well.
5. Dilawar Khan’s mosque: Nearby is Dilawar Khan’s mosque, built in 1405, one of the earliest Muslim buildings at Mandu, and intended for the members of the royal family. There are the ruins of several other buildings in the Royal Enclave.
6. Tomb of Hoshang Shah: The Tomb of Hoshang, containing the remains of Hoshang Shah (1405-1434), a great warrior king, was begun by him but completed by his son and successor who died early. The sarcophagus of Hoshang, carved in the form of a casket with receding bands, stands in the centre of a square enclosure surmounted by a large central dome with a small domed turret at each corner. The exquisite doorway from the south is decorated with bands of half-blown lotus flowers along the sides.
So great indeed was the fame of the building that master builders from Agra were sent by Emperor Shah Jahan to study its architecture before preparing a design for the Taj.
7. Ashrafi Mahal: Ashrafi Mahal (Palace of Gold Mohur) was originally a school. Later, it was converted into the tomb of its builder, Mahmud Shah (1436-1439), whose sarcophagus was placed on a finely carved yellow marble base. The walls were finished with white, yellow and black marble. The seven-storey tower is believed to have been 150 feet high. Because of poor workmanship, all the three buildings crumbled, but their ruins are still impressive.
8. Dai-ka-Mahal: Dai-ka-Mahal in fine natural settings near Sagar Talao is another interesting monument. Near the building on the road is an extremely interesting echo point.
9. Nilkanth Mahadev Temple: Nilkanth Mahadev Temple astride a deep gorge commands he best view in Mandu. A small stream at the back of the building is guided into a small pond in the centre of the courtyard which overlooks the gorge. Here Akbar stayed on his way to the conquest of Khandesh and again on return from there. Appropriately enough, inscribed on the wall here is a warning to those intoxicated with wealth and power.
10. The Rewa Kund Lake: The Rewa Kund Lake (two miles to the south-east of the Royal Enclave) was held in great sanctity by the Hindus. It was widened and deepened by the famous Rupmati. At the north end is a water-lift to supply water to the nearby palace of Baz Bahadur. This pleasure palace was built on all the four sides of a spacious courtyard with a beautiful cistern in the middle. To the south, on the crest of a hill are the pavilions named after Rupmati, Baz Bahadur’s wife. The scenery as viewed from here, particularly at sunset or under a full-moon, is magnificent.