Jahaz Mahal, Mandu

Jahaz Mahal, Mandu

A ship like pleasure palace

Also see: Familiarization (FAM) Tour of Madhya Pradesh (MP)

If the great mosque and the tombs of Hoshang and Mahmud, ……………, represents the serene grandeur of the building art of Mandu, the Jahaz Mahal may be said to reflect the spirit of its romantic beauty and joyous hilarity…….

Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) booklet on Mandu

Mandu, the city of joy, in the heart of incredible India, is often refereed to as the site of the eternal love affair of Baz Bahadur and Roopmati (Also see: Rewa Kund Group, Mandu).

Jahaz Mahal (Ship Palace), Royal Enclave, Mandu, Madhya Pradesh (MP)

Jahaz Mahal (Ship Palace), Royal Enclave, Mandu, Madhya Pradesh (MP)

On the other hand the magnificent marble mausoleum of of Hoshang Shah, first of its kind in India, dominates the Mandu sky line (Also see: Central Group, Mandu).

Marble arched entrance, eastern side of Jahaz Mahal, Mandu, Madhya Pradesh (MP)

Marble arched entrance, eastern side of Jahaz Mahal, Mandu, Madhya Pradesh (MP)

But the building, which best captures the medieval romance of Mandu is Jahaz Mahal, it serves as a icon of Mandu.

Ornamental Dome, inside Jahaz Mahal, Mandu

Ornamental Dome, inside Jahaz Mahal, Mandu

Jahaz Mahal is located in the Royal Enclave, which is situated in the northern part of the Citadel of Mandu.

An elongated building measuring 110 meters in length and only 15 meters in breadth it stands on a narrow stretch of land with two water bodies on either side, thus giving it a ship like appearance, hence the name Jahaz Mahal or Ship Palace.

Built during the reign of Ghiyathuddin Khalji (1469 – 1500) the double storeyed of Jahaz Mahal tower to a height of 9.7 meters with Munj Talao on the west and the Kapur Talao on the east. Jahaz Mahal was built in the later part of the 15th century and served as a pleasure house of Ghiyathuddin Khalji and his 15,000 harem ladies.

Ruined north western part of the Jahaz Mahal, with portions of the Munj Talao, Mandu

Ruined north western part of the Jahaz Mahal, with portions of the Munj Talao, Mandu

Mughal Emperor Jahanigir, who stayed at the Jahaz Mahal more than a century after Ghiyathuddin Khalji puts it as:

They say that [Ghiyathuddin Khalji] had collected 15,000 women in his harem. He had  a whole city of them, and had made it up of all castes, kinds and descriptions – artificers, magistrates, qazis, kotwals, and what ever else is necessary for the administration of a town.

Tuzuk i Jahangiri (Memories of Jahangir)

Lower pool of Jahaz Mahal, Mandu

Lower pool of Jahaz Mahal, Mandu

On the southern end of the eastern side of the Jahaz Mahal is a long flight of stairs leading directly to the terrace. This steep staircase adds an extra element to the ship like appearance of Jahaz Mahal.

Bird's eye view of the lower pool, Jahaz Mahal, Mandu, Madhya Pradesh (MP)

Bird’s eye view of the lower pool, Jahaz Mahal, Mandu, Madhya Pradesh (MP)

But the interiors of Jahaz Mahal is best approached through a recessed arched marble gateway at the middle of the eastern wall.

The main gateway is flanked on both sides by several other smaller pointed arched gateways.

The main gate is topped by a huge projected pavilion supported with decorative stone brackets.

The ground floor has three large halls connected by corridors. More over there are narrow rooms at both the southern and northern ends. Each of the three halls have balconies over looking the Munj Talao. The southern and northern hall have small hanging balconies, but there are no traces of the hanging balcony of the northern hall.

Jahaz Mahal's Pavilion

Jahaz Mahal’s Pavilion

The western side of the central hall houses a large balcony, but is not hanging, it is supported by a room beneath it.

It has a domical ceiling and offers great views of the Munj Talao extending up to the Royal Palace in south and Jal Mahal in the south east.

At the far northern end of the ground floor of Jahaz Mahal a couple of steps descends to large swimming pool shaped like a blooming flower.

A series of steps and pavilion descends to the bottom of the three meter pool. The pool is surrounded by colonnade on three side, leaving the eastern side open.

A flight of stairs leads to the northern end of the terrace of the Jahaz Mahal, which too houses a similar pool but much smaller in size. The northern end of the terrace provides a bird’s eye view of the lower pool.

On the south east corner of the upper pool is a spiral aqueduct, which supplied water to the pool. The channels were probably built to reduce the flow of water and induce luxurious bathing for the sultan and his harem women.

Upper Swimming Pool, Jahaz Mahal, with Kapur Talao in the background, Mandu

Upper Swimming Pool, Jahaz Mahal, with Kapur Talao in the background, Mandu

The southern end of the Jahaz Mahal houses the remains of a large well. It was probably a Persian wheel that lifted the water from the well to the upper reaches of Jahaz Mahal.

Spiral aqueduct leading to the upper pool, Jahaz Mahal, Mandu

Spiral aqueduct leading to the upper pool, Jahaz Mahal, Mandu

From there aqueducts transferred the water to the two swimming pools at the far end of the Jahaz Mahal.

The two open air pools provided the ultimate aquatic entertainment to the sultan and his 15,000 harem inmates.

Adjacent to the upper swimming pool on the northern side is a large pavilion leading to the huge open terrace of the Jahaz Mahal.

The terrace provides great views of the Royal Complex on the northern part of the Citadel of Mandu. On the east are great views of Kapur Talao, with Taveli Mahal on its southern side. On the west us Munj Talao with the Royal Palce to the north and the Jal Mahal on the north east.

Kapoor Talao from Jahaz Mahal

Kapoor Talao from Jahaz Mahal

The spacious terrace of the Jahaz Mahal is adorned with several pavilions showing a pleasing variety in their domes and turrets, that offers the most delightful view to a spectator.

Terrace Pavilions, Jahaz Mahal, Mandu, Madhya Pradesh (MP)

Terrace Pavilions, Jahaz Mahal, Mandu, Madhya Pradesh (MP)

In the crimson glow of the Indian sunset, the wild beauty of the natural scenery and panorama of domes and turrets presents a spectacle ……

Ghulam Yazdani (Archaeologist)

Jahaz Mahal 8

Pavilion on the northern end, Jahaz Mahal terrace, Mandu

The two pavilions at the northern and southern end of Jahaz Mahal are larger in size and are divided into three compartments. The central compartment is crowned with a massive dome while the two side compartments have pyramidal roofs. The dome towers above the the two adjacent pyramidal roofs.

Each of the two longer sides of the two pavilions have three arched entrances. The arches are pointed and the curved part of the arch is separated from the pillars by a horizontal beam.

At the middle of the eastern side and above the main marble arched entrance is a projected pavilion supported by four decorative arched brackets. It has three rectangular entrances on all four sides, with the central one bigger than the side ones. It is crowned with a pyramidal roof.

Jahaz Mahal, from Gada Shah's Shop, Mandu, Madhya Pradesh (MP)

Jahaz Mahal, from Gada Shah’s Shop, Mandu, Madhya Pradesh (MP)

Just opposite this pavilion on the middle of western side is another square pavilion, but much larger in size and crowned with a gigantic dome. On the open three sides is a balcony supported with ornamental brackets. Each side has a  arched opening, flanked on both ides by decorative windows.

Western side of Jahaz Mahal from Jal Mahal, Mandu, Madhya Pradesh (MP)

Western side of Jahaz Mahal from Jal Mahal, Mandu, Madhya Pradesh (MP)

Sadly after Ghiyathuddin Khalji death in 1500 Jahaz Mahal lost much of its splendor. More than a century later in 1617 Mughal emperor Jahangir visited Mandu with his favourite wife Nur Jahan. The emperor his experience as:

It was a wonderful assembly. In the beginning of the evening they lighted lanterns and lamps all around the tanks and buildings and a lighting up was carried out the like of which has perhaps never been arranged in any place. The lantern and lamps cast their reflection on water and it appeared as if the whole surface of the tank was a plain of fire. A grand entertainment took place and the drunkards indulge themselves to excess.

Tuzuk i Jahangiri (Memories of Jahangir)

This was probably the last royal splendor of Jahaz Mahal and today the ruins of this magnificent ship palace reminds us of the grand splendors of Citadel of Mandu.

Royal Palace and Jahaz Mahal from Jal Mahal, Mandu

Royal Palace and Jahaz Mahal from Jal Mahal, Mandu

Reference:

  1. Mandu (Bengali) by Prasenjit Dasgupta (a special thanks to Prasenjit da for his help and cooperation)
  2. Mandu, Archeological Survey of India (ASI)
  3. 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
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  1. September 14, 2017 at 10:19 AM

    Beautiful Historical piece . One Jahaz Mahal is also in Delhi .

    • September 23, 2017 at 2:13 PM

      Dear Yogi, you are very right. Building on or next to water bodies have fascinated architects since the ancient time, so Jahaz Mahal or ship Palace is nothing uncommon in the world of architecture.

      I have visited Jahaz Mahl in Delhi’s Mehruli region. Her is the blog post Jahaz Mahal, Delhi

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