Mandu brings to mind tales of Rani Roopmati and the dashing Baz Bahadur and their eternal love story. The palaces and pavilions of Mandu and its inner city are well known, shrouded in sheer romance. One can very well visualize the beautiful and coy Roopmati waiting for Baz on the top of the hill in the windy pavilion, her garments and hair flying, while the rest of her maids and friends would giggle and play music.
The Ujali Baodi needs a special mention. Of course Ujali seems to be much, much more modest and simple compared to the Chand Baodi … but she still seems so timeless and beautiful. Her criss-crossed steps lead one deeper and deeper into the distant well. And when one looked up one could imagine people around, talking, washing clothes, bathing, filling their pots, tinkles of bangles and jhanjhars … Yes, it does have a magic of its own.
But what took my fancy during my travel in Mandu were the abandoned, neglected ruins that dotted the landscape for miles. And the way the present integrated with a distant past seemed eerie. The current day villages blended with the old, old domes while the baobabs provided their own stark silhouettes as a background.
The current-day wells seem as magical. The stepwell where the cattle drank seemed like a page out of history books, the shadows under the trees so very dark, the water a dark green, while the cattle came white and glowing with the bells around their necks tinkling. The cool light breeze rustled the leaves and the place was blanketed in a great sense of peace.
The Jhira Baug where a friend of a friend put us up kindly seemed surreal. With its elegant balconies, swaying trees, and luxurious, princely rooms, one lived the life of a princess for the one night we stayed there.
As we returned to the chaos of Indore, the Magic of Mandu clung to us with sticky fingers, leaving an indelible mark in our memories …. forever.