Mandu is not connected by railway and the nearest significant railways station/ airport is Indore. So we took a train from Pune and arrived in Indore on one Saturday morning. Some direct buses run from Indore to Mandu but one often has to change buses at Dhar. We got a little lazy and took a cap instead. The roads were in excellent condition (4-lane for most of the time) and the 95 km journey took hardly 2 hours. So by around 10:00 AM, we were entering the gates of Mandu !
The monuments in Mandu are divided into three distinct groups – The Village group, the Royal enclave group and the Rewa Kund group. The monuments of Rewa Kund group are best to visit during the mornings and the Royal enclaves, being in the West, gives a good view of sunset. Considering these factors, we decided to visit them in the following order: Village group on the afternoon of our arrival, Rewa Kund group early next morning and the Royal enclave during the evening.
Since the Village Group was the nearest to our stay, we decided to walk to it first. This group has three monuments – the Jama Masjid (Mosque), Hoshang Shah’s Tomb and the Asharfi Mahal. Ticket can be bought for all the three monuments at the Jama Masjid so we took our tickets, hooked up with a local guide and started our tour.
The next day we woke up early as 6:00 AM and got ready for today’s sightseeing. After some debate, we had decided against taking a cab and opted for bicycles, and it turned out to be a better experience. We cycled our way through paths surrounded by greenery, lakes enveloped in morning mist and villages with yet more friendly people, towards our first destinations of the day – the memories of Baz Bahadur and Rani Roopmati cast in stone, the Rewa Kund Group.
By 10:00 AM, we left the Rewa Kund group. While coming back we started feeling the strain of cycling and got a little tired, but we went on determined that we will explore as much as possible. We stopped at the Sagar Talab, the picturesque lake which we had seen in the morning. Just in front of the lake, there are a group of monuments, collectively known as the Lal Bagh Group. The monuments on the right side of the Lal Bagh group are mostly tombs. We went a little further from the tomb in the middle of spectacular greenery and overflowing ponds to reach a building which was marked as a ‘Caravan Sarai’, a medieval inn for caravans coming from far off lands. In front of it was Malik Mughit’s Mosque. Built in 1452 AD, this building was one of the first Islāmic architectures built-in the region. We also saw the beautiful Darya Khan's tomb on the way back.
We visited the Royal Enclave in the evening. The Royal enclave is a group of palaces and monuments fenced together in one complex, the most famous of them being the Jahaz Mahal. Built mostly during the 15th and 16th centuries, these monuments are great specimens of Afghan architecture. Entry to the Royal enclave is from a road adjoining the Jama Masjid. Ticket is INR 5/ 100 (Indian / Foreigner). Still camera is free and video camera are charged INR 25. Taveli Mahal, a former stable inside the complex has been converted into a modest museum displaying the artifacts from the history of Malwa. Hindola Mahal and Gada Shah's shop are other important monuments in this enclave, notable for their majestic arches.
The choices to stay in Mandu are not a lot. There are three decent places to stay:
- Malwa Resort: Run by MPTDC. Family friendly resort with a good rating. The only problem is, being away from the village area, one should have a vehicle to stay here.
- Hotel Roopmati: Near the village and quite popular with the tourists. Provides a great view to the ravines which lie at its back.
- Malwa Retreat: This is where we stayed. Run by MPTDC. Friendly staff which is courteous in a silent way. The balconies provide a great view of the ravines which lie almost next to them. The in-house restaurant is quite good and the food was surprisingly delicious. Being nearer to the village, it was possible for us to walk to the village. The only problem was that the rooms needed maintenance. Many lights were not working, door won’t close properly and to make things worse, the walls and ceiling of our room were covered with fungus.
Food in Madhya Pradesh is generally delicious and Mandu is not an exception. Though there are not many restaurants, the ones available give some great stuff. As mentioned before, the restaurant at Malwa Retreat was quite good and served great veg and non veg stuff.
Shivani is a place where one must have at least one meal while in Mandu. We had amazing Daal Paaniya and Daal Bafne, Malwa dishes dipped in Desi Ghee which tastes heavenly. Strongly recommended.
For snacks and breakfast, one can go to the village square near the Ram Temple where joints like Refresh Point serve decent pohe and other stuff.
Common ways of going around are autos and taxis which can show one around in 300-500 rupees. However, if the weather is good and you are not too lazy, I would strongly recommend that you hire bicycles and explore the country side on your own. The terrain is not very challenging and the wind in hair while savoring the beauty of Mandu is a beautiful experience. Bicycles can be hired from Sonu Bicycle shop near the village square for Rs 35 a day.
Disclaimer: This overview has been published in parts on our travel blog before.