Love in Mandu

17 Feb, 2021

I spent 3 nights and a lifetime in Mandu. It was the annual Mandu Festival and I was invited. Fed by beautiful images in my head from memories of Bollywood films shot amidst the beautiful buildings of Mandu, stories my friends have told me about the beauty of Mandu.... here I was !

Like all lost secret places on earth, Mandu deserves to be celebrated with joy and sensitivity. A curious landscape which the ritual travellers insist is breathtaking in the Monsoon, Mandu is set in a shallow valley surrounded by gentle sloping mountains with smooth level tops, Lakes and reservoirs, fields of wheat in various hues that begin as green at the fringes to a startling gold. Everywhere one looks, you can’t miss the robust Baobab trees with gawky bare arms reaching  out to the sky while history awaits you at every turn. Silence speaks as walls, doors and numerous arches, low muscular roofs like that of the Jami Masjid, tanks and waterways, jaalis and staircases that inveigle a story to explain its unique design.... Mandu fascinates.  

The city’s glorious history, given its strategic position in Malwa made Mandu the coveted capital, many pledged  to take over Malwa. Still... the story of Rani Rupmati and Baaz Bahadur the ruler of Malwa always seems to be the gist of a travel itinerary. Everything invariably circled back to this poignant love story and their love for Classical music.

There was a timeless quality to a short trip, time seemed irrelevant as our days gently spun around conversations hung somewhere between the past and the present. We did so much yet the day rolled out like a fresh canvas everyday, time for an afternoon siesta and met so many people.

We lazed under a tree, sat up to attention at presentations set up in a mango grove , voiced our thoughts on rural tourism, had freewheeling chats and enjoyed  home made local cuisine set up in a farm. Best to skip the potent ‘mahau-tinis ‘, I fear it’s hold on me, even remotely.

A group that changed with individual moods followed a dramatic storyteller through Jahaz Mahal while we marvelled at every pavilion, views and the texture of decrepit walls, foresight of the sultans and Parmar kings to preserve and recycle water so many hundred years ago.

Finally the pièce de résistance, sitting in a crumbling monument stalled by the ASI ( the archeological survey of India ), what was a mall in the fifteen century - ‘Gada Shah ki Dukan’ turned to be the back drop for Bharati Dixit’s  passionate account of the original love story. Accompanied by a flautist, Bharati may have retold the story for the millionth time. ‘Love in Mandu’ was the perfect present to the romantic in everyone, given it was the Valentine’s Day - she made the hall, now open to the sky, ring and echo with the intensity of her voice and sent chills when she paused. Her silence conveying as much as her fluent Hindi did. When she called out ‘Roop’ and ‘Baaz’ - Roopmati and Baaz Bahadur seemed to appear and slowly float away, ‘war’ she said and hooves rang in our heads and when she came to the end of the story.... every eye had an unshed tear.

Mandu is for the romantics, creators, poets and artists. To pack it into a two night program would require ruthless elimination, but if you go once, you will already be planning your next journey. And I only touched the soft wings of this city....

Every bit of travel nudges me towards something as it is meant to, in Mandu I marvelled at the magic of silence - alone at sunrise at the Caravan Sarai, in the midst of people, quiet walls and Bharati’s pause.  Silence..... is also awe in appreciation. ????

#mandufestival2021 #mptourism #exploredifferently #EFactor #mandu #ilovemandu