Indo-Islamic Architecture in Mandu

The Malwa kingdom, the capital of which was Dhar, was subjugated in 1305 by the Khalji Dynasty. When Alauddin Khilji was hiding himself in the Siri Fort to save himself from the Mongols, the Afghan-origin governor Dilawar Khan took advantage of the opportunity and declared himself independent. His son, Hoshang Shah (1405-35) relocated his capital in 1405 from Dhar to Mandu, a hill-plateau surrounded by deep gorges with magnificent views, and renamed it “Shadiabad”, the City of Joy.

These were the days of prosperity for Mandu. An array of mosques, mausoleums and palaces were built in the so called Malwa Style of Architecture. But later, Malwa was annexed by the Gujarat kingdom in 1526 and finally by Mughals in 1566.  Later, Malwa was taken by Marathas, who reverted capital of the region to Dhar. After that, Mandu became a Ghost town.

Notable Structures

During monsoon, Mandu is most romantic. Today people visit Mandu not for ruins but for the stories of unparalleled love of Baz Bahadur and Rani Roopmati. Here are the monuments of note at Mandu:


Mandu is the largest fortified city of medieval India. The wall encompassing Mandu has 12 major gates or darwazas.

Jahaz Mahal

This palace is located between two artificial lakes. It was built by Ghiyas-ud-din-Khilji, and it served as a harem for the sultan, with a reportedly aggregation of 15000 ladies inside.

Hindola Mahal

This Swing palace has sloping sidewalls.

Hoshang Shah’s Tomb

This tomb is said to be India’s first marble structure and one of the best examples of Afghan architecture. It is truly Islamic in architecture with a beautifully proportioned dome, intricate marble lattice work and porticoed courts and towers. The Hoshang Shah’s tomb may have been used as a template for building the Taj Mahal.

Jama Masjid

Built on the rubble of the Hindu Temples, the most is a simple structure with large courtyards and grand entrances.

Rewa Kund

Rewa Kund was a reservoir that supplied water to the Rani Roopmati’s Pavilion. It was constructed by her lover Baz Bahadur.

Rani Roopmati’s Pavillion

It was actually an army observation post. Rani Roopmati – the love interest of Baaz Bahadur lived here and is said to have gazed at the Baz Bahadur’s Palace – situated below and also at Narmada river, flowing through the Nimar plains far below, a river which the queen revered.

Baz Bahadur’s Palace

Built by Baz Bahadur, this 16th-century structure is famous for its large courtyards encompassed by large halls and high terraces. It is situated below Roopmati’s Pavilion and can be seen from the pavilion.

Features of Architecture at Mandu

The architecture of Mandu is described as Indian functionalism. It generally lacks the expression and decoration. The mosques at Mandu are of Arabian type, lacking even a minaret, and their hypostyle worship rooms and cloisters surrounding a courtyard are built continuously and homogeneously.

Jahaz Mahal of Mandu and the Rainwater Harvesting System

Mandu is located 2000 ft above sea level and had no aquifers or ground water; and had to be dependent upon rainwater during monsoon months.  The Jahaz Mahal at Mandu is known for an elaborate rainwater storage tank which not only harvested the rainwater but also provided a soothing climate around the palace. Jahaz Mahal was built by Ghiyasuddin Khilji mainly to house the 15000 ladies of his harem. There was a system of curlicues for filtering the rainwater and set of wells and baoris to store the filtered water. The water also fed two ponds (munja Talab and Kapur Talab) at both the sides of the palace. When these ponds were full of water, evaporation frm them combined with the breeze and cooled down the building. This, coupled with the ship like site plan of the palace gave a feeling of sailing a ship; thus named Jahaz Mahal. Further, there were also swimming pools of heated water. In summary, Jahaz Mahal used rainwater as well as passive solar energy harvesting in conjunction with natural processes around it. Most of these structures have become defunct now except the wells and baoris which still provide some water to local inhabitants.

The question is: Can Mandu’s antique water system be restored and revived? Can it help to solve the drinking water problem in the surrounding areas?

The answer may be yes but we have already lost the minute details of these ancient and medieval technologies of water harvesting, filtration, passive solar energy harvesting, natural cooling and heating etc. Further, pumping up water was more convenient than maintaining these structures, which although boasted of excellent architecture but also were primarily built around luxuries for the rulers. The interest in rainwater harvesting has revived only in last few decades when we are on brink of a water crisis.

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