By Sukant Deepak
Mandu, Jan 15 (IANS) For quite some time, hearing the name of the place, you would oscillate between melancholy and nostalgia. And thats further accentuated when you descend in January, a time when the air is wrapped in a slender coat of cold and the innumerable monuments all around suggest an unfinished promise coming back to haunt.
It’s as if dream and reality are at its most intense, and one is left in a space somewhere in-between. Tragic love stories have an attraction, maybe because somewhere deep down everyone can relate to the apocalypse that sadly does not promise any transcendence.
The trip to Mandu can therefore become an excuse to probe the romance that you have always associated with the place celebrated for its architecture. The sun’s refusal to come out from behind the clouds, eccentric wind marking its presence now and then, and a certain grey bleakness, close to longing.
The six-day Mandu Festival curated by E-Factor Entertainment (P) Ltd in association with Madhya Pradesh Tourism, held in January this year in the ancient fort city around 100 kilometres from Indore with 48 ASI buildings in 20 sq. km city was about reintroducing the people to an awe-inspiring heritage that dates back hundreds of years.
While the festival comprised diverse activities including Hot-Air Ballooning, Hop-on-hop-off buses to major places of attractions, Instagram tours to explore the hidden gems of Mandu and ‘Narmada Aarti’ at Rewa Kund, not to mention a music concert boasting of artists including Indian Ocean, Prem Joshua, Navraj Hans, Antariksh and Kabir Café, what was striking was the amalgamation of the modern with the old — local tribes and artisans showcasing and selling their handmade installations and paintings at the specially prepared art district.
Dotted with hundreds of monuments pregnant with tales interpreted and reinterpreted over the ages, Mandu, with rock solid palaces standing the test of time, Jain temples dating back to the 14th century and the Jama Masjid built in 1405 may have been an important military outpost in its time and witnessed several changes of power and political machinations, but in literary circles is mostly associated with the love story of Baaz Bhadur, the die-hard lover and Rani Rupmati, the one with a golden voice… a tale of delicate romance ravaged by brutally.
The most striking of places which you can visit more than once include Roopmati’s Pavilion, Baz Bahadur’s Palace, Darya Khan’s Tomb complex, Jami Masjid, the caves and the suicide point. Don’t bother too much about the guide, who might overload you with historical facts. Just read a bit and visit these places where silence speaks loudly. The ‘Narmada aarti’ at the Rewa Kund promises to make you still, very still.
Also, interestingly, the modern day city of Mandu does not contrast its ancient roots visually. You’ll notice that the city blends in comfortably with its heritage cast.
Talking about how the festival was conceived, Jai Thakore – Co-Founder & COO, E-Factor Entertainment (P) Ltd says Mandu as a destination has a fantastic amalgamation of heritage, culture, art, craft and food, and deserves to be on the global map of tourism. “But, despite that, it is yet to find its national footprint, forget the global foot print. “We were quite overwhelmed and excited seeing the willingness and forthcoming attitude of the MP tourism department to do something unique for the people of Mandu,” he says.
Agreeing that a large number of young travellers are waking up to heritage tourism, Thakore feels that with information at their fingertips, this particular demographic has much evolved tasters as compared to previous generations and knows about the trendiest travel destinations around the world. “There are heritage specific tours being curated that witness young Indians being active participants to that circuit. In the current scenario, where a large population of this young audience are educated abroad, they are all the more eager to return and connect back to their roots.”
Insisting that there was a plan is to make sustained efforts to promote Mandu as a preferred tourism destination with its wide plethora of offerings, he elaborates, “Many things that were initiated during the festival shall continue to happen round the year to find a firm footing in this region.”
As the festival concludes, Mandu quickly embraces back the quiet synonymous with a small sleepy town. Its forts continue to stand tall; ready to tell tales of love, coups and conquests next year too. But essentially, love.
(Sukant Deepak can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)