Not far from Darya Khan’s Tomb lies the Ruby Palace or Lal Mahal. These days it goes by the name of the Lal Bungalow. On its hay day, Mandu’s sultans used it as a summer retreat. According to DR Patil, the remains of water channels and cascades are evidence enough.
This palace is in such a state of ruin that its original layout is difficult to decipher. It perches high on top of a cliff and as far as can be detected was also used as a royal retreat during the monsoon season. A room in the east wing shows traces of paintings and murals. A cellar can be accessed from the pavilion.
An unidentified nobleman is interned in the Chhappan Mahal, and it derives its name from the exact year of its renovation, namely Unnis-sau chhappan in Hindi (Samvat 1956). The domes and arches of the structure show an elegant proportion. The architectural style displays the Islamic simplicity which combines elegantly with the application of Hindu decorations. The finesse of this structure indicates to archeologists that its time of construction must be during the sixteenth century; the last phase of Mandu architecture. Today the Mahal belongs to the Maharaja of Dhar, so visitors are required to make prior arrangements to view it.
It is said that a Shiva Temple once stood where this palace was built. Hindus also refer to Shiva as Nilkantha, literally ‘blue throat’, and thus the building was named after the deity.
Nilkantha Palace is set in charming surroundings, with a wonderful view over the valley down below. A courtyard has chambers on three sides, leaving the northern side open to overlook the valley. The campaigns of Akbar in Khandesh and Deccan are recorded on one or two walls of one of the rooms. Jahangir considered this palace amongst the most pleasant in Mandu.
There is a verse on a wall in the palaces:
“The whole of a life well spent we deem in the building thus if o’er us gleam
Some faintest hope that the soul of grace
Shall find repose within this place.”
Baobab trees, also locally called khurasani imli, are not found in many other parts of India. The tree seems to grow upside down, with its roots above ground, and only acquires leaves during the rainy season. It probably came to Mandu from Africa through trade which existed between Malwa and parts of Africa during Mahmud Khalji’s reign. A French botanist, Adanson, who supposedly discovered this extraordinary tree is of the opinion that baobabs are the longest living trees in existence, even dating one to the ripe old age of 5150 years!
It is generally believed that these caves were excavated around the eleventh or twelfth centuries and that the small rooms cut from the rock inside were occupied by Shaiva yogis and yoginis. The ruins of numerous temples were discovered in this area as well as just behind the ‘seven cells’ or Sat-Kothari. There are also remains of images of deities of which many are on display in the local ASI Museum.