Mandore is a mere 9 kilometers north of central Jodhpur. It is officially part of the district. But way before the accession of Jodhpur and the rise of the Rathore clan, the capital of the Marwari state was Mandore! It dates back to the 6th century. If there was ever an existing ancient town, this would be it. And the structures that still stand on its grounds have been sturdy witnesses to its past glory.
The name Mandore has an interesting origin. A Sri Lankan king named Ravan had a wife named Queen Mandodri. Their marital union happened here when it was then called Mandavyapur . It has been renamed as such to honor the queen. King Ravana was the most powerful Tamil king of Lankapuri in the Ramayana epic. It seems like a long way from Sri Lanka though, considering the antiquities of travel of the ancient past, but Ramayana is steeped with mysticism making such displacements possible!
My auto rickshaw drove past ordinary looking abodes. I’ve read about this ancient capital’s garden and rock terraces, but they all seem footnotes, lost in the voluble clutter of magnificent Rajasthan. In fact, it’s basically an inconsequential two-paragraph item in my old LP. But I wanted to see vestiges of what should be a glorious past. We parked in front of the gate leading to the Mandore Garden. Had this been treated with an iota of significance, there would have been payment for entrance. This one was free. There was no fan fare at all. In fact, what greeted me was a gardener down on his knees picking weeds; a monkey that was practically uninterested with my presence; a friendly horde of Boy Scouts (see photo above) and a little boy in white playing his ravanhatha (a guitar-like string instrument) for a few rupees.
NEGLECTING HISTORICAL GRANDEUR
A block or so from the gate, I gasped when I saw some of the most beautiful structures this side of India. Dark red stupas (sacred Buddhist spot) rise beside each other, most of which house cenotaphs (sepulchral monuments that honor deceased persons) of a few of the kings who ruled the region for 700 years or so. Seven hundred years can’t be inconsequential, as it is several lifetimes and piles of generations! Unfortunately, most of these solitary temples are left to “rot” and crumble, it made me wistful walking around seeing rubbles and proof of gradual disintegration. Such neglect feels like a mystery to me. If we had these temples in the Philippines, they’d all be declared cultural gems. Maybe India has lots of these, thus the Mandore structures are mere leftovers? Was there really a vibrant ancient kingdom here?
PARIHARS AND RAJPUTS
It was indeed the seat of a branch of the Parihar Dynasty which ruled the region in 6th century A.D. lead by King Nahar Rao Parihar. Sometime 1395, Mohil, a princess from the Parihar rulers of Mandore, married Chundaji, a scion of the Rathore clan of the Rajputs. In 1459, Rao Jodha (chief of the Rathore clan), in an effort to unite the irresolute region under his rule, shifted the capital to Jodhpur. Mandore has since been relegated as an afterthought, underlining the decline of an ancient capital.
Despite this, it’s hard to ignore the staggering beauty of these rock terraces, built on a stony hill. Yes, you’d need wide steps to climb up the temples. The pillars are imposing, and the designs are intricate – many of which depict plants, birds, animals and even interplanetary objects! The devals (cenotaphs) of Maharaja Jaswant Singh (of “Jaswant Thada”) and Maharaja Ajit Singh are housed here. Some of these reddish structures have turned almost black, further adding character to these domed edifices. There are no guards manning these “temples”, and visitors are few.
There is a Hall of Heroes somewhere in the garden, as well as a Hall of Demigods. There’s also a small Mandore Museum in the compound (photography not allowed) as well as a spare temple. We shall feature the Hall of Heroes in our succeeding posts. Right now, we shall bask in the ancient beauty of these rock terraces.
This is the Eye in the Sky!
My rickshaw driver poses for posterity.
Animal magnetism. Gray langurs are large and fairly terrestrial, inhabiting forest, open lightly wooded habitats, and urban areas on the Indian subcontinent. They are primarily herbivores, with leaves of trees and shrubs as their preferred choice of food. They have less aggressive behavior compared to other primates, thus they are not considered pests in India.
From the gate, this is the view towards the cluster of rock terraced temples.