Scattered across a high plateau overlooking the Narmada Valley are the ruins of a once great city dating from the earliest phase of Muslim expansion into central India. Echoes of Persia, Samarkand, Herat and Kabul are clearly discernable in the ruins of Mandu, the ‘City of Joy’ founded by the Ghuri Dynasty in the 14th century, most of whose weed-infested tombs, tumbledown palaces and exquisite mosques now languish forgotten amid dhak scrub and rocks.
The finest buildings, which include the white-marble tomb of Hoshang Shah (said to have been the primary inspiration of Taj Mahal), date from the Khalji era of the 15th century. After admiring the elegant symmetry of the Jama Masjid and majestic Jahaz Mahal (‘Ship Palace’), head south to the rim of the plateau where the palace of Mandu’s last ruler, Baz Bahadur Shah, overlooks the Narmada Valley.
Legend has it the king fell in love and married a beautiful shepherd girl called Roopmati, for whom he built a beautiful palace on this lofty high. Numerous Bollywood films have been made about their romance, which ended in tragedy after the Queen took poison to avoid capture by the Mughals. Conclude your tour with a visit to Roopmati’s Pavilion at sunset, a pleasure palace overlooking the vast expanse of the distant river.