Giving due respects to the architect within me, I shall start with the experience of my brief visit to this little town where the stones play a visual symphony. As one is travelling towards Mandu, one can already sense the teleportation back in time, as you pass through ruins of fortified entrances, formidable and graceful. The green landscape fusing between the peculiar stone hillocks, cradling the remains of what might once have been a beautiful capital of the Malwa rulers. The setting of the capital at an altitude of 2000 ft in the Vindhya ranges evidently puts forth its natural defences. By the time you actually reach the main street of Mandu, you are already breathing in the romance of this place and seeking more. Mind immersed in such eagerness, you are greeted by sheer magnificence of one of the most commanding architectural gems…the Jami Masjid.
Jami Masjid with its high plinth and awe full simplicity strikes the visitor with its massive scale. Not a structure with intricate motifs or carvings, the beauty of this UNESCO monument lies in the grandeur of the huge Central dome and a multitude of smaller yet imposing domes flanking symmetrically on either sides of this gigantic dome.
Together they translate into huge colonnades which enclose a central court, now maintained with gardens. And where there are stone domes, there are bound to be colossal arches, deftly translating the weight of the vaults down to the ground.
The simple architecture embodies a variety of arches, which are a treat for the structural genes within. One can’t wonder enough, just how they would do it in 12th&13th centuries.
The scale of all elements in the place is simply larger than life, occasionally adorned by little intricately carved marble flowers and jalli works making one relate to the grandness ever more.
This is a truly celebrated gem of Mandu. Interestingly the whole 120mt long palace shaped like a huge ship, sailing between artificially constructed lakes ‘Munj & Kapur talao’ was built for his huge Harem by Sultan Giasuddin Khilji. The place is a breathtaking example of how architects then, translated feelings with the help of the lifeless stones and build immortal larger than life expressions for love that somehow seems to narrate lost sagas to you.
I spent half a day at Jahaz Mahal and then returned next morning, losing track of time roaming into the deserted expansive remains of the glorious place with only langurs for company. As one walks through the various nooks, alleys, terraces and gardens, he is very easily drawn back into the timeless age of such opulence and celebration for passion. Passion is gracefully embroiled in every space you walk into, romance tugs at the sleeves of your imagination.
You find yourself becoming one with the lost souls that celebrated life within this stone palace. The various spaces of this royal enclosure, Jal mahal with its metaphor of a floating private shikara, Champa kund with its mysterious underground passages, Hindola mahal with its lovely colonnade of arches, the Taveli mahal now converted into exclusive guest house, the exotic hamams with their ingenious steam baths, and the vastness of the constructed artificial water bodies and beautiful Moghul gardens, would all pull you away with them into an era of leisure and indulgence.
The mysteries of the gone era lurking in the dark archway does envelope you and compels you to relive the moment lived by a soul sometime in the lost history of these stones. So it did to me as I wrote these words, wandering amongst the vastness of Jahaz Mahal.