Sunday, 17 September 2017

Mandu - Arches Of The Malwa Sultanate

Introduction

Mandu - or Mandavgarh or Mandav - is described as a place lost in time. The old fortress of Mandav is perched at the southern edge of Malwa, overlooking the Narmada. It assumed importance in the 13th century when the Parmara kings of Dhar shifted their capital here due to its elevation and strategic natural defences. Mandav saw its glory days in the 15th-16th centuries under the Khilji Dynasty - an offshoot of the Delhi Sultanate. Subsequent power struggles saw the gradual decline of Mandav. The 18th century gave the last fatal blow to the town when the Marathas shifted the capital of Malwa back to Dhar.

The arches of the Hindola Mahal in Mandav

Almost three centuries later, the old town still reminds people of its glory in the magnificent monuments that have remarkably stood the test of time - with their timeless arches and design synergy between the earth, the light and the water.

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Getting In And Around

The primary access for Mandav is through Indore, via Dhar. Mandav is 40km away from Dhar, which in turn is 70kms from Indore. Local buses are available at a good frequency. There are a few direct buses between Indore and Mandav via Bagri-Digthan. Both these routes converge near Bagri and pass through Lunhera-Nalchha and approach Mandav through the Almgir Darwaza and Bhangi Darwaza in the north.

Mandav on the map

An alternate access is available for people coming from Maheshwar via Dhamnod. The road forks off the Mumbai-Agra Highway at Palash Hotel and approaches Mandav through the Sonagarh Fort in the south via the hamlet of Bamanpuri. The road is narrow and has spotty bus connections. This route though makes up for the rough ride with imposing views of the Malwa plateau and the crest of the Roopmati Pavilion.

Mandav - the crest of the Malwa

Getting around Mandav is a different ball-game altogether. Mandav is located on a plateau with moderate inclines and hence is cycle-friendly to an extent. The northern-most point is the magnificent Delhi Darwaza, while the southern-most is the Baz-Bahadur Palace. The distance between these two is about 8kms. The Roopmati Pavilion is located close to the Baz Bahadur Palace but has a steep gradient. Basic cycles can be rented at two small shops next to the ubiquitous Shivani Restaurant. Alternately, rickshaws and other transports can be rented near the Jama Masjid.

 
My rented steed at Mandav

I rented a cycle at one of the stores and covered Mandav through the day from south to north. The sites are organized in clusters accessible from a common entrance.

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The Royal Cluster
- Roopmati Pavilion, Baz Bahadur's Palace and Rewa Kund

This cluster is located at the southern end of the Mandav. The cluster monuments are ticketed at a combined price of Rs. 15.

The Roopmati Pavilion rests at a lofty elevation at the edge of the plateau, overlooking the Nimar plateau and the Narmada. The pavilion was actually a sentry outpost which was converted during Baz Bahadur's time so that his consort - Roopmati - could view her beloved Narmada flowing through the Nimar plateau. The pavilion also overlooks the Baz Bahadur's Palace and Rewa Kund to the north.



The Roopmati Pavilion


The view from up there

The Baz Bahadur Palace seen from the Pavilion


There is a toilet at the western end of the monument and even that has fantastic views of the Nimar.

 
 The washroom blue hues

The Baz Bahadur's palace is a multi-storey building with open spaces, arches and a pool (now defunct). The upper terraces have brilliant views.

Entry to Baz Bahadur's Palace

The stepped pool

A lady in the arches

The arches of the main hall

The Rewa Kund is located next to the palace. It actually predates the palace and was a usual 'hangout' of Roopmati and hence, by extension, of Baz Bahadur himself. There is a dilapidated structure next to the Rewa Kund.

The Rewa Kund

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The Malik Mugith Cluster
- Malik Mugith's Mosque, Caravan Serai, Lalbaugh, Tombs

This cluster of monuments is located about 2km to the north of the Royal Cluster and about 300m from the Echo Point. The Echo Point is actually a point on the road which directly faces a building called the Dai Ka Mahal of this cluster. The walls of the monument act as a echo surface for the sound.

 
The Malik Muglith Cluster

The Malik Mugith's Mosque is 15th century construction by Mahmud Khilj, the father of Malik Mugith. The mosque has been refurbished from an earlier Parmara era temple - most of the pillars are of a Hindu origin. The mosque has an extended semi-circular front porch, akin to a sabha-mandapa of a temple.

The extended porch of Malik Mugith's mosque with Parmara style designs

 The courtyard of the mosque

Opposite the Malik Mugith's Mosque stands its contemporary Caravan Serai. The structure is a large inn with rooms for travelers with a large ground in the middle. There is a small pond in the middle of the ground.

 The chambers of the Caravan Serai

A little ahead of the Caravan Serai one sees three tombs spread out over an area. The first one is very specifically called the 'Dai Ki Chhoti Behan Ka Mahal' - the tomb of the wet nurse's younger sister. The monument has a dome on an elevated octagonal platform. The next tomb is more elaborate though with a simpler name of 'Dai Ka Mahal' - tomb of the wet nurse. The monument has multiple tombs and a central dome on an elevated square platform with an octagonal neck. The last tomb is similar to the first one in design but is nameless.

Dai ki Chhoti Behan Ka Mahal

Dai Ka Mahal - also, the echo point

 
 An unnamed tomb

The Lalbaugh Garden is located next to the Dai Ki Chhoti Behan Ka Mahal. The garden had an elaborate system of waterworks and at the extreme end overlooks a ravine that descends to the lower Malva from Mandav.

The Lalbaugh Garden


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The Darya Khan Cluster
- Darya Khan's Tombs and Mosque, Somwati Kund and Lal Sarai

This cluster is located about 1km north of the Malik Mugith Cluster. The Somwati Kund is a simple tank and the Lal Serai is a smaller version of the Caravan Serai.

 The waters of the Somwati Kund

 
 The entrance to the Lal Serai

There are two tombs of Darya Khan. The larger one is next to the Somwati Kund. It has an outer structure of vaulted corridors that surrounds the main tomb which has one dome, surrounded by four smaller domes mounted on a square elevated platform. 

 
The larger tomb of Darya Khan

 
The other tomb of Dayra Khan

The Mosque of Darya Khan has three domes, the larger of which has suffered some erosion and is tumeroid in appearance.

The mosque of Darya Khan

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The Jami Masjid Cluster
- Jami Masjid, Hoshang Shah's Tomb, Dharamshala and Ashrafi Mahal

This cluster lies in the centre of Mandav, next to the local market. The cluster monuments are ticketed at a combined price of Rs. 15.

The Jami Masjid lies to the east of the main street. The monument, completed in mid 15th century, is one of the largest mosques in India. The northern, southern and western walls feature a series of arches and domes facing the central courtyard.


The plaque at the door of the Jami Masjid


The Jami Masjid

The arches and the niches

A small door in the northern wall leads to the Hoshang Shah's Tomb and a Hindu style Dharamshala. The tomb of Hoshang Shah belongs to the mid 15th century and is entirely built in marble. The monument may have served as an inspiration for the Taj Mahal, with its architect Ustad Hamid having paid homage at this tomb in the 16th century.


The tomb of Hoshang Shah
The pillared Dharamshala is seen in the background

Other tombs in the complex

The Ashrafi Mahal is opposite the Jami Masjid on the west. The monument was originally a madarsa built to accompany the mosque. It was later used by Mahmud Khilji to erect a victory tower and as a platform for his court and grand tomb. The tower and the tomb are ruined.

The erstwhile Ashrafi Mahal

The tomb of Mahmud Khilji

Jami Masjid as seen from the Ashrafi Mahal

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The Jahaz Mahal Cluster
- Taveli Mahal, Jahaz Mahal, Kapoor Talab, Munja Talab, Hindola Mahal, Champa Baoli, Jal Mahal, etc.

This cluster, tucked away to the north-western corner of Mandav, is its prime architectural attraction. The cluster monuments are ticketed at a combined price of Rs. 15. The Taveli Mahal is the first monument here, and has been converted to a museum and administrative office. The museum closes at 5pm - I had to skip it consequently.

The Taveli Mahal

The Jahaz Mahal is a narrow but long palacial monument between the water bodies of Kapoor Talab and Munja Talab. The apparent boat-like shape gives it the name of Jahaz (boat) Mahal. This 15th century pleasure-house has beautiful views over the surrounding water-bodies. The monument also had numerous water bodies of its own which are dry now.

 The iconic Jahaz Mahal

 The intricate pools in Jahaz Mahal

The Kapoor Talab as seen from the Jahaz Mahal


The Hindola Mahal to the north of the Jahaz Mahal served as an audience hall. This 15th century construction is shaped like a swing and has beautiful arches on the inside.

The Hindola Mahal

The Jal Mahal is located at the far end of the Munja Talab and appears to be a mix of a pleasure-house and bath-house due to its pool-like water bodies. The Jal Mahal along with the Jahaz Mahal on the opposite side put on display the amazing earth-water synergy that would have made Mandav a jewel of the erstwhile Malwa.

The Jal Mahal

A stepped pool in Jal Mahal

There are a couple of baolis (stepwells) here, along with ruins of other royal monuments which occupy the eastern and norther sides of the cluster. These would be an ideal setting for some ruin-exploring with its multiple levels both above and below ground level, although I'd shudder to be stuck here after dark.

 The underground levels near Champa Baoli

Champa Baoli

An old baoli near Kapoor Talab


Some ruins

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The Northern Group
- Andheri Baoli, Ujala Baoli, Delhi Darwaza, Bhangi Darwaza and Alamgir Darwaza

These monuments are scattered along the road that leads from the centre of Mandav towards Dhar. If time permits, one should take the descending walk from the magnificent Delhi Darwaza to the Alamgir Darwaza and take in the amazing views of the Malwa crest with numerous valleys trailing in different directions. Its unfortunate that I could not take pictures of this small walk - I would rank it among the best in Mandav.

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The Parting Shot

Mandav is truly a place lost in time. The plateau had been virtually untouched for three centuries. The decay of the ruins has now been arrested. The glory of this old jewel is being restored. The town is welcoming its visitors with its paniya and boabab imlis. So, what are you waiting for?

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© One Of The Road

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

The Veerabhadra Swamy Temple At Lepakshi

Introduction

The village of Lepakshi is located at the south-western corner of Andhra Pradesh, at its border with Karnataka. The otherwise nondescript village is now well known for the beautiful temple of Veerabhadra Swamy and its monolithic Nandi (bull; Basava locally). The temple belongs to the Vijayanagara school of architecture. The construction of the temple is attributed to Virupanna Nayaka and Viranna who were officers of King Achyutaraya of Penukonda. The construction is dated to the first half of the 16th century.

Inside the Veerabhadra Swamy Temple

The Veerabhadra temple can be divided in to two sections - the outer enclave and the inner enclave. The inner enclave further has the main temple, the Nagalinga section and the western pillars.

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The Outer Enclave

The temple complex has a double enclosure. The outer enclosure has a square plan with three gates - northern, eastern and western. The northern gate has a tower and is the main entry gate for the temple. The other two are closed. The northern gate of the outer enclosure opens to a gilded flagpost, followed by the northern entrance to the inner complex.

The entrance to the temple complex

Make way for the monkey king

The gilded flagpost

The outer complex has open halls on all four sides. The temple has been build on a rounded and unflattened stone and the walls follow the topography. Consequently the southern side is at an elevation while the western side is depressed. The halls feature the typical motifs of the Vijayanagara Cavalry on the pillars.

The sloping ground of the temple

The halls of the outer enclave

Apart from the northern entrance, the inner complex also has an entrance from the south and the west. The southern entrance is simple. The western entrance is guarded by a Hanuman temple on the outer side. There's also a footprint engraved in the stone next to the gate. There is also an inscription detailing the construction of the temple on the western side.

The Hanuman Temple

A footprint next to the temple

The inscription in Telugu


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The Inner Enclave

One enters the inner enclave from the entrance to the north. This entrance directly leads to the outer hall (natyamandapa) of the main temple. The outer hall has an octagonal space in the centre, set by eight exquisitely carved pillars. These pillars feature life size forms of deities indulging in dance and/or music.

The entrance to the temple

The music

The dances

And the cavalry (on a griffin this time) - a staple of the Vijayanagara school

The outer pillars of this hall are comparatively modest. However, one pillar at the north-eastern side of the hall literally stands out - the floating pillar. Pass a string or a sheet of paper under the pillar and have fun verifying it. Seek the explanation locally - I'll not post the secret here.

The floating pillar of Lepakshi

While you are at it with the pillars, take some time to glance up as well. The ceiling of this hall features exquisite frescoes of the Vijayanagara style.

Frescoes - hunting scenes

Further in from the outer hall, is the inner hall (mukhamandapa), the main sanctum (garbhagriha) and the circumambulation (pradakshina) path . The inner hall itself has multiple shrines dedicated to Vishnu, Shiva (Papanatha), Parvati and Durga among others.

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The Nagalinga Section

This sections refers to a series of shrines carved out of two rectangular monoliths to the south of the main temple. The eastern monolith features a beautiful depiction of the Nagalinga - a Shivling guarded by the open-hooded Naga (serpent). The hood faces the Nandi monolith at the edge of Lepakshi.

The Nagalinga shrine

The northern face of the monolith has a depiction of a king/priest and an elephant worshiping a Shivling. The western monolith has a larger-than-life depiction of Lord Ganesha.

The Ganesha idol

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The Western Pillars Section

To the west of the Nagalinga section, one comes across an arrangement of highly ornate pillars which are most likely the ruins of another temple. This arrangement has a spire at the western side, while there's an open space like the outer hall of the main temple on the eastern side. The depictions are more formal in this section which makes me believe that the hall would have been used for meetings or debates. At the northern side of this section is a series of pillars depicting a sage (probably).

 The western pillar section

The central open space

The ornate pillars

An example of the art - three-in-one poses for this cow

The sages on the pillars

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The Basavanna (Nandi) Temple

The Lepakshi Nandi sits by itself in a small, but maintained park at the eastern edge of the village. The Nandi is monolithic and well adorned. The Nandi faces west towards the Nagalinga sculpture adjacent to the main temple.

The Lepakshi Nandi

Across the road from this park, one can see a hillock with minor temples. Access to these temples is tricky and is best left to the local kids.

The small temple on top - hard to reach

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Getting In And Around

The primary access for Lepakshi is through the town of Hindupur. Frequent buses connect the two places. Rickshaws are also available. Hindupur is well connected to Bangalore and Anantapur by local buses. Lepakshi can also be directly approached from Bangalore-Hyderabad highway by taking a detour at Kodikonda.

Lepakshi on the map

There's an APTDC Haritha complex between the Lepakshi Nandi and the bus stand which can be used for accommodation and food. There is also a paid toilet here.

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© One Of The Road