A visit to the largest fort-city in Asia in the
|We basically did not have a clue what Mandu is
all about. Oh yes, we heard a lot about its hills. Its greenery and scenery. Its lakes.
But we went there because it was mid-way for our friends from
Delhi. Before leaving, my wife did a cursory search on the Net.
All she could find was some vague references to some forts and
its hills and waterfalls. Didn't matter, we just wanted to get
out of our frantic lives in Mumbai for a while with some
The drive to Mandu in an excuse for a car was dreary and uneventful. We didn't even notice the slight uphill climb until confronted with an ancient gateway, and the sudden appearance of a gorge in front of us. Where the hell did that come from? As we moved on forward, the ruins of ancient constructions kept popping up from the overgrowth on either side. Still we were looking forward to the hill station, not the largest city-fort in Asia.
The first day was spent happily jabbering, eating, walking and sipping Bacardi and in animated abuse that passed for intelligent discussion on Fareed Zakaria. At 1 AM, we must have surely made the resort manager wonder who the hell is this trouble maker Fareed Zakaria.
The next day, with a mildly protesting stomach, we set about on a tour around Mandu in the company of Sanjay, a spanking new driver in a battered old Premier Padmini. The man was friendly, and doubled as our tour guide for the rest of the day.
Thus, it is over the course of the day that we learnt about the history of Mandu, walked through extremely well preserved (by Indian standards) palaces and forts of Mandu that it slowly dawned on us that we have been staying within the ramparts of one of the oldest forts in India, probably dating back to the 8th century, ruled by an un-ending succession of kings and generals - both Hindu and Muslim - all of whom have contributed to the fort in one way or the other.
I am no historian, and have minimal interest in architecture or what the kings did to each other. But the sheer import of the fort sunk in slowly as I realised we had just spent the night inside a 72 sq. km. fort, with six lakes and ten or more palaces inside, and this place once probably had a population of nine lakhs (.9 million).
My friends will be adding more relevant information to this section of the site. I am still waiting for their contributions.
An intriguing character, our driver, seemed determined to seek out some kind of revenge for the ancient indignities heaped on the temples inside the fort by the invading Muslim- Afghan kings. For me, this was one of the few times in my life when I have come face to face with someone with an ancient wrong to right. Nitin hopefully will be writing more about him here, as he was the one who spent the most time with Sanjay.
I would advise this to anyone who has n interest in forts - Mandu is definitely worth a visit. See if you can get some decent information before you go. And keep at least a couple of days to explore the place and a couple of days more to relax and enjoy the hillstation. And try go go during the monsoons, as these are the days when the ancient fort-city is at its best.
The nutcases ensured we landed in Mandu as excellent ignoramuses. What happened further will be described in these pages soon...
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