The picture of the “State of Royals” or Rajasthan is mostly consisting of marvellous palaces, massive forts, rich culture, colourful costumes and turbans, sand dunes, camels etc. Also these are the main reasons of almost every one’s excursion to Rajasthan. But if you don’t want to be a part of the crowd and want to set a different theme for your trip to Rajasthan, then Mandore must be a name in your itinerary.
For the last day in Jodhpur, we had two plans; either we had to head for the desert/village safari or we could make it to Mandore. Since we had already been to desert safari (to know more about our fantastic experience of an offbeat desert safari, read An unforgettable night in Thar) so we decided to go to Mandore. Mostly skipped from the lists of the tourists, the wonderful town of Mandore is situated almost 10 KM away from the glorious ‘Blue City’ of India. (to know more about our excursion to this wonderful city Jodhpur, read The City of Azure Abodes). This town of Mandore is really unique because of its rich association with history and mythology.
In entire India the festival of Dussehra is celebrated with great festivities to mark the victory of God Ram over the demon king Raavan but in Mandore the death of this demon king is mourned. While the entire nation glows with colourful lights, no glowing lights burn in this town on that day. Rather than burning effigies of Raavan, Shraadh and Pind Daan (post cremation Ceremonies) are performed as per Hindu rituals by his descendants – the Maudgil Brahmins of Jodhpur. Sounds strange!! Well, the name Mandore can give you a hint. It is believed that Mandore is the birthplace of Mandodari, Raavan’s wife. She spent her childhood here and was married in this town.
The Maudgil Brahmans of Jodhpur, are said to have their roots in Sri Lanka and travelled all the way from there during Raavan’s marriage with Mandodari. The marriage was performed at Raavan Ki Chanvri (in Marwari chanvri is the place where the couple take their wedding vows) at Mandore. In this way the demon king Raavan is treated as a son-in-law among Mandore Brahmins. There is also a temple known as Raavan temple in the premises of Mahadev Amarnath and Navgrah temple.
The previous capital of Marwar, Mandore was known as Mandavyapur till the foundation of Jodhpur in the mid of 15th Century AD. We reached Mandore at around 10 AM. The way to the cenotaphs is through Mandore Garden. Its a beautiful lush green garden. There is no entry ticket to enter the garden or visiting cenotaphs although if you wish to visit the Govt. Museum, there is an entry ticket of Rs. 20/- for Indians and Rs. 10/- in case of Indian students (Rs. 100/- for foreigners and Rs. 50/- for foreigner students).
The Mandore garden is the collection of of the Marwar dynasty. The major attraction of Mandore gardens is the Royal cenotaphs or Chhatris.
As we progressed through the clean wide road that leads to the cenotaphs, we met a local artist performing beautiful instrumental tune.
Unlike the usual Chhatri-shaped cenotaphs, those are typical of Rajasthan, the cenotaphs at the Mandore garden are built along the lines of a Hindu temple resembling temples of Khajuraho to some extent. Also one can find a glimpse of Angkor Wat temples (as I’ve read somewhere) but since I have never been to Angkor Wat I could compare Mandore only to Khajuraho as far as architectural brilliance is concerned. To know more about our experiences of Khajuraho, read Khajuraho: The Epic written on Stones.
The cenotaph of Ajit Singh is a fantastic example of architecture of Rajasthan. It was commissioned by the son of Ajit Singh, Maharaja Abhay Singh in 1736 and was completed in reign of his grandson Maharaja Bheem Singh in 1799. It took 63 long years to complete. Made up of red stone, this Deval is unparallel in scale and ornamentation. Sculptures of Hindu Gods and Goddess give this Deval almost the status of a Hindu temple. The interiors of the cenotaph depicts the legacy of Hindu architecture.
I’ve heard that to mourn the death of Maharaja Ajit Singh in 1724 AD, his 64 queens and concubines committed ‘Sati’ ritual (The act of a Hindu widow willingly cremating herself on the funeral pyre of her deceased husband). Just think of this and I’m sure you’ll get goosebumps..
You can see lovely carvings of damsels in various poses in the ceiling of the cenotaph of Maharaja Ajit Singh. Stories of damsels have always been a part of Indian folklore. It is not just size and multi stories which make this cenotaph different but it is actually engraving which is very artistic, intricate and detailed. Not even a single inch is left untouched. The sculpturers literally made stones alive.
‘Hall of Heroes’ and ‘Devtaon ki Sal’
‘Hall of Heroes’ is another famous spot in Mandore garden, built by Maharaja Ajit Singh (1707-1724 A.D.) while ‘Devtaon ki Sal’ was built by Maharaja Abhey Singh (1724-1749 A.D.). The wall of the ‘Hall of Heroes’ is filled with beautiful paintings and rock statues of Rajput heroes. Statues of heroes, colourful paintings are crafted on a huge rock depicting local heroes like Goga Ji, Meha Ji, Harbu Ji, Pabu Ji etc. An interesting thing of ‘Hall of Heroes’ is, all 16 figures are carved out from a single rock. Giant statues of Ganesha, Ram Darbar (Court of God Ram), Surya (Sun) on his chariot pulled by seven horses (Symbol of seven different spectrum present in sunlight), Bramha (The Creator of life), Shiv etc are carved and vibrantly coloured on the wall of ‘Devtaon ki Sal’. It remains open from 9:45 AM to 5:15 PM.
Opposite to the ‘Hall of Heroes’, there situated Mandore Palace, which was the residence of the royal family of Jodhpur. This palace have been turned in to a small but rich and well kept museum. Various artefacts of medieval era have been displaced here. It remains close on govt. holidays and on Monday. On rest of the days, it remains open from 9:45 AM to 5:15 PM.
I was told by the security personnel at the entrance that clicking pictures form DSLR or digital camera isn’t allowed inside the palace but you can click using your phone camera (God better knows the logic behind it) while it was strictly prohibited inside the galleries (which is though justified). As a result I absolutely didn’t click any but my better half couldn’t resist her temptations to click a masterpiece of craftsmanship. A wooden slippers with blooming lotus on wearing.
There on the uphills are situated the ruins of the old fort of Mandore, way to which is just adjacent to the Mandore Palace. This place is now mainly occupied by grey langures, dogs etc. Due to shortage of time (yes.. even good 6+ hrs were fell short) we couldn’t make it, but whatever we have gathered in Mandore Garden can’t be expressed in words. It could only be experienced.
A word of Caution
There are many Grey langurs (monkeys or Semnopithecus) in the garden. So one should be very careful for their children and costly belongings like wallets, camera etc. Don’t stare at them even avoid eye contact. Don’t carry eatables openly.
Jodhpur being a city close to desert so carry plenty of water with you specially if you are roaming in summers. Dress comfortably. Wear cap/hat and comfortable shoes as you have to walk a lot. Carry extra battery and memory cards with you lest you found yourself out of space and power in middle.
How to Reach
Mandore Garden is merely 10 km from main city of Jodhpur. You can easily find local transport (although not very comfortable) or cab services like Ola and Uber from every part of the city.