Late February and a pleasant chill kissed me as I walked down the lone road leading to the Gem of Mandu,the 14th century Jahaz Mahal. It seemed to be quite early, considering the ticketing counter was yet to open up. I glanced around, purposefully not pulling out my camera.That machine can take the soul out of the journey sometimes. As I walked inside the Lower level of the Mahal,an array of archways welcomed me.I tend to appreciate scale, proportions, details and the sheer aging of the structures with more devotion when I disassociate myself from my clicking. And Jahaz Mahal, deserves the devotion of a lover, considering it was erected to serve as a place for passion, a harem for the Sultan. Feminine charm and delicate intent speaks out volumes of the past to you through this graceful structure.
Built like a Ship between water bodies, Jahaz Mahal can easily be imagined as a place once full of mirth, frolic,mehfils,fragrance and romance. The architecture celebrates this and makes it possible for you to immerse in that era by just walking into those ingeniously crafted spaces. Huge Openings, high ceilings, arrayed archways, delicate floral motifs embodied in shaped, all are woven here, in the grandeur of the hallways, hamams and the wells.
As I moved around further to the Jal Mahal, passing the imposing Hindola Mahal, Champa Bouli and the genius Hamams,I realized there was still no one around , except the monkeys, who seemed perturbed by my presence as I hopped over weathered stone aqueducts surrounded by evaporating water bodies.Jal Mahal was like the last leg of ecstasy in this passionate 2 hour engagement ,walking around the Mahal, that was starting to get occupied by mist this morning. It was easy to imagine the ladies clad in royal finery walking amongst the brimming water bodies in the heat of summers to spend the afternoons in the Jal Mahal in midst of the coolness of evaporating waters around. The thought made me feel privileged as I walked down to the edge of the platform of the Jal Mahal to sit dangling my feet at the waters around.I sat here at the little island, blissfully soaking the sight of the elegance around, a few fishermen went about their usual activity at a distance within the pond of the Mahal.
Slowly, I became aware of the surroundings changing, the sights around becoming less visible, and the mist suddenly growing denser. Sitting right there in a matter of minutes I saw the scene change, and the two storeys of the Mahal before me, gradually starting to disappear.The mist moved in to cover everything in sight , even the Golden sun. That moment was sheer Magic happening, something very surreal and unexpected at 9.00am in the morning as I was just basking in the soft sun, moments ago. I rejoiced at the sudden fortune that I was experiencing, delighted beyond limits to breathe in the misty tranquility of this period structure. It enticed me to shed my drapes to feel the cool on my flesh, to melt into the magic of the moment. The thought that no one could spot me and I could not sight anyone , was sheer thrill.
And then, I turned around. There was absolutely nothing I could see behind, no Jal Mahal, no stone aqueducts no pathway to return, the mist had grown so thick it had shrouded everything , just everything behind had all vanished.My Camera could focus no more and so also my eyes. The joy turned into a little worry being alone, as I stuffed my camera and lit the torch on my cellphone to start my way back , half expecting some form to lurch forward from the mist.
I did make it back safely without any monkey pouncing on me..but it was a surreal experience to be relived in my memory again and again, never to be forgotten. Mandu means truly experiencing magic , living in a moment that spells fantasy.