Central Group or Village Group, Mandu, Madhya Pradesh (MP)
Central Group or Village Group, Mandu, MP
Jami Masjid, Hoshang Shah’s Tomb, Ashrafi Mahal & Mahmud Khalji’s Tomb
The Central Group or the Village Group is located at the very centre of the Citadel of Mandu. Today the area serves as the main market and bus stop for Mandu and there are several hotels in the vicinity. Thus the Central Group can well be the launch pad for exploration of Mandu.
The Central Group consists of four monuments. They are Jami Masjid, Hoshang Shah’s Tomb, Ashrafi Mahal and Mahmud Khalji’s Tomb.
Jami Masjid: Modelled as the Great Mosque of Damascus, the construction of Jami Masjid was started by Hoshang Shah and completed by Mahmud Khalji in 1454. The mosque stands on an elevated plinth of height 4.6 m and covers a square area of sides measuring 97.4 m.
The Jami Masjid is approached by a flight of about 30 steps through a porch on the eastern wall, which is crowned with a gigantic dome. The doorway consists of decorated marble jamb along with a decorative archway.
The interiors consist of a beautiful courtyard with manicured lawns with a central path way. Straight on the western side is the main prayer hall crowned with 58 small domes, which are dominated by three gigantic domes.
The prayer hall feels like an enchanting forest of pillars under the shadows of arches and domes. It presents a stark but lyrical symmetry.
The western wall contains 17 arched niches of Mihrab, decorated with blue tiles. The central Mihrab is larger and more decorative than the rest.
Located next to the central mihrab is a white marble pulpit approach by a flight of stairs.
The pulpit is crowned with a small dome, surrounded on four sides by battlement like structures. The pulpit served as the seat of the Imam, who lead the prayers.
On the northern and southern side of the courtyard are arched passage ways similar to those of the main prayer hall. These passageways numbering three on each side does have a similar enchanting effect of the main prayer hall.
The northern wall of Jami Masjid has two small gateways. One leads to the courtyard, while the other leads straight to the prayer hall on the west. The northern wall of the prayer hall also consists of beautiful Jali works.
Hoshang Shah’s Tomb: Hoshang’s Shah’s Tomb, the first marble built structure of the country was the source of inspiration for the country’s most well known monument of the country, the Taj Mahal.
The white marble tomb of Hoshang Shah’s is located on the western side of Jami Masjid is a stark contrast with the brown stand stone structure of the Jami Masjid.
The four black domes of Jami Masjid along with the white marble dome of the Hoshang Shah’s mosque have dominated the Mandu skyline for almost 600 years.
Hoshang Shah himself started the construction of his own mausoleum during his life time. But he died at Hosengabad (a town named after him) in 1435 with his tomb still unfinished. He was succeeded by his son Mahmud Shah, who was murdered within a short span of time by Mahmud Khalji.
In 1436 Mahmud Khalji ascended the throne of Mandu and marked the beginning of the Khalji dynasty. Strangely Mahmud Khalji not only completed the construction of Hoshang’s Shah’s unfinished Jami Masjid but also of his tomb. Hoshang Shah’s Tomb was completed in 1440.
The Tomb of Hoshang Shah is approached through an arched gateway on the north. The entrance leads to a grass laid courtyard at the centre of which stands the marble mausoleum of Hoshang Shah.
On the western end of the Hoshang Tomb complex is a long elongated hall supported by a series of decorated pillars.
This hall is known as Dharmashala, which literally translate into inn. Strangely the other inns of Mandu are referred by the Arabic term Sarai.
The flat roofed dharmasala is supported by a series of intricately decorated pillars forming a series of three parallel passageways. The complex also contains few unknown graves.
At the centre of the complex stands the magnificent white marble tomb of Hoshang Shah. The mausoleum is approached trough an arched entrance on the southern side. Right in the middle, on a slightly raised platform of black, white and yellow stones, stands the marble grave of Hoshang Shah.
The Hoshang Shah’s grave is flanked on the left by a single grave and there are two graves on the right. Sadly there are no records of who lay buried under these graves. The single dome towering above the graves gives the mausoleum a gigantic dimension.
The star attraction of Hoshang Shah’s Tomb are the intricate jail works. Two jali screens flank the entrance on the southern side. On the opposite wall are the jail screens, with the central one slightly larger than the two side ones.
More than 200 years after the construction of the Hoshang Shah’s Tomb, Shah Jahan sent a team of his favorite architect to survey the mausoleum. Lead by Ustad Hamid, the team of 4 architects visited Mandu in 1659 and gathered valuable inputs from the Hoshang’s Tomb, which were later implemented in the construction of the iconic Taj Mahal. A Persian inscription on the doorjamb of the Hoshang Shah’s Tomb records the historical visit.
Ashrafi Mahal: The ruined Ashrafi Mahal stands on the other side of the road facing the Jami Masjid. Construction of the building happened in two phases with the first one dating back to the initial years of Mahmud Khalji’s rule (1436 – 69).
It was initially built as a Madarsa and college adjoining the Jami Masjid. Built in typical madsrsa style it has a large central courtyard lined on four sides with cells, which served as living quarters for the student.
On the four corners were turrets the base of three of them are traceable even to this day.
Of these three turrets, one at the north – west corner (some say north – east corner) was converted into a 7 storey lofty tower, to commemorate the victory of Mahmud Khalji over Rana Khumba of Chitor.
Incidentally Rana Khumba also declared himself victorious in the same battle and constructed the Victory Tower of Chitor to commemorate its victory. The tower of Chitor still stands, while the one at Mandu has long collapsed.
According to historical records the tower was 150 feet tall and a set of 171 spiral steps lead to the top. According to legend Ghiyathuddin, son of Mahmud Khalji, forced his harem ladies to climb the tower so that they remain slim and trim.
As an initiative he placed gold coins on the steps. Gold coins were known as Ashrafi hence the name Ashrafi Mahal. Another legend says that a similar policy was initiated by the great Mughal Jahangir for his favorite wife Noor Jahan.
Mahmud Khalji’s Tomb: It was probably during the regin of Mahmud Khalji the madarsa was abandoned and the central courtyard was used for the creation of the magnificent tomb of Mhamud Khalji.
The tomb, with its gigantic dome, has long collapsed and only small fragments of its walls stand to this day. The grave of the emperor remains exposed to the open sky.
There is no concrete evidence of the structural nature of the mausoleum, but it can be estimated that its dome was much larger than the domes of Jami Masjid and Hoshang Shah’s Tomb.
The interesting fact is that the dome of Mhamud Khalji Tomb along with the two domes of Jami Masjid (one on the porch and the central dome) and the dome of Hoshang Shah’s Tomb were in a perfect straight line.
Sadly fractions of the side walls and scattered stone fragments are all that remains of this magnificent tomb. The entrance gateway, approached by a long flight of stairs, to the tomb still stands. Although the dome of the gateway have long collapsed but the arches are still intact and offers a grand view of the Jami Masjid.
The Central Group or Village Group is a hub of tourist activities and tourist can pick up small souvenirs from make shift stalls and refresh themselves with the freshly prepared Baobab Juice, and experience the taste of Africa in the heart of Incredible India!
Best Time to visit: Apart from the scorching summer Mandu can be visited throughout the year but monsoon is the bet time to explore the enchanting ruins and natural landscapes of Mandu
- Mandu (Bengali) by Prasenjit Dasgupta (a special thanks to Prasenjit da for his help and cooperation)
- Mandu, Archeological Survey of India (ASI)
- Mnadu Travel Guide, Good Earth
Note: This trip was part of a FAM (Familiarization) trip of Hanuwantiya (Jal Mahotsav), Omkareshwar, Maheshwar and Mandu. Special Thanks to:
- Abhijit Dhar, Madhya Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (MPTDC), Kolkata
- My fellow FAM participants Uttara Gangopadhyay, Soumya Mukherjee amd Ishandev Chatterjee