Maheshwar and Mandu: Two Gems of Madhya Pradesh

Hello after a long break, again! It has been a busy but an exciting month for me here in Scotland. Having now successfully progressed into the second year of my PhD I am back at my alternate passion: travelling (and blogging about it). While, I travel here and plan my next blogs, I am not yet finished with writing about my travels back home in India. Today I want to take you to these two unbelievably soulful places in the heart of India: Madhya Pradesh.

[dropcap]I[/dropcap] grew up, for a small part of my very early life, in Madhya Pradesh. I must have been about 5 or so but I still have vivid images of the place, especially these two: Mandu and Maheshwar. Nearly 20 years later, one day I had a sudden urge to relive these historical towns once more. Both these places are 3 hour journey away from Indore in the central state of Madhya Pradesh. So I planned my journey keeping Indore as base with some flexibility to when and where I would go.

Hoshang Shah's tomb
Hoshang Shah’s tomb, Mandu


I usually travel solo but not always. On this occasion, I was travelling with a friend. On arrival in Indore early morning, after an eventful incident (which is a long story), we checked in the accommodation I had booked through AirBnB. After some brainstorming, we decided to head out to Maheshwar and return by night. We had some quick breakfast and left for Maheshwar in the local bus.



The Holkar dynasty

The capital of Holkar dynasty of Maratha empire, Maheshwar retains its glory in the form of its picturesque temple/fort town on the banks of Narmada.  The moment you set foot in Maheshwar, its mellow vibes seeping through its ancient alleys and the remnants of what once was a fort make a lasting impression on you. You walk through the marketplace and up the hill through the grand old entrance gate and into almost a different world. The incredible view of the beautiful temples spread at the base of the fort and the swollen but calm Narmada beyond simply lifts you up with joy.

View of river Narmada and temples from the fort
View of river Narmada and temples from the fort
Maheshwar temple and fortifications from the Narmada ghats
Maheshwar temple and fortifications from the Narmada ghats

Narmada and the fort

[highlight]A short clip of sounds on the Narmada ghat[/highlight]

By the time we reached here it was already afternoon. We walked through the temple courtyard and onto the Narmada ghats. Sat quietly listening to the sounds. The mellifluous crashing of waves on the steps of ghats, the clinking of heavy chains, the shrieking of gulls, prayers of devotees and the infinite calmness in between. It was such a blissful experience that we just did not want to leave. But we had earlier decided to return to Indore.

Earphones in, he was dancing ferociously without a care in the world as if offering a tribute to the setting sun
Earphones in, he was dancing passionately without a care in the world as if offering a tribute to the setting sun

[highlight]Devotees singing bhajan on the Narmada ghat[/highlight]

So we went up the steps again, to the cozy  little cafe by the entrance gate in the fort. The place was quiet so we got into talking with the young lad who served us some coffee. He was a local weaver’s son and worked there to support his family. He offered to bring some samples of the famous Maheshwari sarees for us to buy since we would be leaving in an hour. We chatted for a while. Turned out, the Holkar family, after dissolution of their monarchy post-Independence, had converted the place into a resort. We decided to take sneak peak and we effing loved it! It was an insanely thrilling idea to stay in the dark and cold rooms built in the f****ng rampart wall of a fort!!!

Nice little cafe in the fort courtyard
Nice little cafe in the fort courtyard

Impromptu stay

We looked at each other. We had a “change-of-plans” look in our eyes with a big idiotic smile! Of course we decided to skip returning to Indore and instead stay right here at Maheshwar fort’s resort. This was we could get a morning experience of Narmada and we could hunt for more Maheshwari sarees in the town as well. It turned out to be a blissful and very interesting experience. Often, impromptu decisions make up for great experiences when travelling in a new place. This was a good example of that.

Can you believe this is inside the fortifications!! What an experience it was :)
Can you believe this is inside the fortifications!! What an experience it was 🙂

Maheshwari silk sarees

In the morning, after another leisurely walk by the river, we decided to go look for some nice Maheshwari silk sarees in the town. The Maheshwari sarees are made from traditional fabric and are native to this town. The legend is that the famous queen Ahilyābai Holkar, had the first saree made through skilled workers from around the region for gifting the royals. Adorned with the characteristic brick and diamond patterns the Maheshwari sarees were originally made of pure silk. However, nowadays, there are cotton versions as well. Obviously, these sarees are cheaper here than in a big city like Indore. It was fun to navigate through the narrow alleys in search of that famous weaver we heard of earlier. Content with the bargain haul, we hurried to catch the bus for the day’s destination: Mandu.

[highlight]Travelling to Mandu in the local bus listening to choicest songs :D[/highlight]



Hindola Mahal served as King's courtyard
Hindola Mahal served as King’s courtyard

Few centuries before the Holkars’, there used to be an extravagantly rich muslim kingdom in the Mālwā region of Madhya Pradesh. Mandu was an important city, at times the capital of this Mālwā kingdom. Less than 50 kilometres away from Maheshwar the ruins of Mandu tell a tale of profligate kings and their lascivious lifestyle. Mandu was abandoned some 400 years ago and now the only things that remain are the sporadic mud houses of the tribal who settled here among the ruins and their legends.

Mandu's ruins have an enchanting effect
Mandu’s ruins have an enchanting effect

Mandu’s beauty is hard to explain in words. Mandu is a feeling. A strong sense of enchantment yet a glimmer of melancholia persists as you walk through the ruins one after the other. Be it the delicate architecture of the Jahaj Mahal (Ship Palace) which held the King’s harem or the creative architecture of the Hindola Mahal which served as King’s courtyard you can’t ignore this feeling. There’s a lot to see on this 10 kilometre long plateau and one entire day isn’t truly enough.

Pool on one of Jahaj Mahal's (ship palace) decks
Pool on one of Jahaj Mahal’s (ship palace) decks

We strolled through the ancient Jama Masjid, visited the tomb of Hoshang Shah (the first ruler of Mandu), explored the ruins around Jahaj and Hindola Mahal where there are the step wells and the fountains. We also visited the Dilli Darwajā (Delhi Gate) which faces north (hence the name) and walked down the path to reach the tar road. It was time to catch the us and watch sun set over Malwā from the bus window as we returned to Indore, exhausted but happy.

Dilli Darwaja faces north towards Delhi, earstwhile Mughal capital
Dilli Darwaja faces north towards Delhi, earstwhile Mughal capital

Indore Again

Shinde Chhatri is really beautiful but lies derelict. I wish it were taken care of.

Indore, served as the capital of Holkar dynasty until it was shifted by Ahilyābai to Maheshwar. There exists a huge royal palace in the city…or what remains of it now. It remains closed sans the museum on the ground floor. If this sad reality wasn’t enough, we visited another gem of a place: Shinde Chhatri. Adorned with extremely beautiful artwork in wood, this too is a neglected and derelict place. Apparently, many famous bollywood songs are shot on the premises. We could only sigh. Visit to Indore isn’t complete without visiting the famous Chhappan Dukan (street food street).

We bid each other good bye as I was going to move to my next destination the next day: Aurangabad. I have already written blog posts about it, here and here. Do give it a read eh!

Have you visited Mandu or Maheshwar?
Which one did you like the most?


  1. Just heavenly places and beautiful piece of article which gave me a kind of tour to places by mind even sitting here in Ratnagiri. Waiting for next awesome experience

  2. perfect blog nice post of madhya pradesh

  3. Very informative, keep posting such good articles, it really helps to know about things.

  4. Marvelous work!. Blog is brilliantly written and provides all necessary information I really like this site. Thanks for sharing this useful post.Thanks for the effective information

    • Hey! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I am glad you found this post useful. Please do subscribe if you’d like a notification of new posts.

  5. Such a great blog it is! You have written well informative with various beautiful lines. Very interesting. Thanks.

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