The Abandoned Mandore Gardens of Jodhpur

posted in: Heritage, Asia, India, Rajasthan | 93
First Published on February 19, 2016

Mandore, the erstwhile capital of the Jodhpur Kings, is an amazing yet abandoned tourist destination in the city of Jodhpur. Though right in the middle of the city, this one is often ignored or skipped for varied reasons. I for one, am glad that we did not miss visiting this ancient capital of Mandore.  Of course, I have my friend Swati to thank, as it was she who suggested including it in our Jodhpur itinerary. Take a virtual tour right now and you will also, be adding this to your list of things to do in Jodhpur.

Mandore Gardens - a forgotten Jodhpur attraction

History of Mandore, Jodhpur

Mandore is the old capital of the Jodhpur Kings and finds a mention in history, as early as the Ramayana. They say that Ravana is considered as the “son-in-law” of the Brahmins here as he married Queen Mandodari from Mandavyapur – the old name of Mandore. It was established in the 6th century CE as the capital of the Rathore dynasty. Actually, the Mandore fort was given as dowry by the Pratiharas dynasty when the Princess married Maharaja Rao Chunda. Mandore grew in power and was primarily with the Rathore clan – except for that one time when Rana Kumbha of Mewar. This was in the late 1430s. However, Rao Jodha fought it back in the 1450s.

The capital went into ruins once the Maharajas of Jodhpur abandoned it and moved to Meherangarh Fort. The place has witnessed many invasions – some from famous names like Mohammed Tuglaq, Allaudin Khilji and Iltushmish and that is one of the main reasons for moving to Meherangarh as the latter offered better protection to the Royal Powerhouse.

Remains of the old Mandore Palace in the gardens

Today, what greets its visitors are gorgeous green gardens with mischievous monkeys, cute birds, some street vendors and stunning pieces of architecture and craftsmanship from the eras bygone. There isn’t much information that I could find here – at Mandore as well as on the internet and which is why, this particular post is going to be more of a photo-journey, punctuated with my anecdotes.

The start of my tour of Mandore Gardens

My visit starts with the Cabbie in Jodhpur, who told us that it was not worth going to Mandore as no one goes there anymore. Instead, he insisted that he take us to other places like Umaid Bhawan or the emporiums. Having firmly declined the offer, we were unceremoniously dropped off at the main entrance of Mandore Gardens. The first impression that I got was that this was just a green garden with lots of vendors and maybe the cabbie was right. Probably, we should turn back and check out the other places in Jodhpur. However, being a street shopper, those little wares along the road, kept me going further into the gardens.

Having walked hardly a few meters, I was blown over with a sight that made me feel that I was in Angkor Wat.

The first glance of the ruins of Mandore Gardens

I knew then, that coming to Mandore Gardens was definitely not a mistake. The lovely sites that you see in the pictures were the cenotaphs of the Jodhpur Maharajas. This cluster of red buildings surrounded by the green trees is bound to bring out the photographer in you. You will feel the urge to capture these stunning pieces of history from every possible angle.

The cluster of cenotaphs at Mandore Gardens

Cenotaphs of Mandore Gardens, Jodhpur

Little did I know that the cenotaphs were just the first of the many wonders of Mandore Gardens Jodhpur. For those of you who do not really know what a cenotaph is – it is a tomb that is erected in the memory of a person. These paid respect to the Royal house of Jodhpur.

The Royal cenotaphs of Mandore

The lack of signage and information left us wandering on our own and resorting to some guesswork with respect to the architecture and the sculptures within the cenotaphs. The smaller ones belonged to the royal princes of Jodhpur. Some of them were dedicated to the Queens and princesses too. There were a few elaborate ones that we chose to step into and explore in detail. Check them out.

The Chatris of some of the princes of Jodhpur at Mandore Gardens

Maharaja Jaswant Singh’s Cenotaph

Against Maharaja Jaswant Singh's Cenotaph at Mandore Gardens, Jodhpur

The picture above has the cenotaph of Maharaja Jaswant Singh in the background. It almost resembles a mini palace with those intricate jharokhas (windows). With that tall spire at the back, you might even mistake it for a temple.

The cenotaph was simple from within but the view from the top of the stairs was quick stunning. They say that Mandore was a center of arts and craft and sure enough, these cenotaphs are testaments of the same.

View from Maharaja Jaswant Singh's Cenotaph at Mandore Gardens, Jodhpur

I would have loved checking out each of these smaller chhatris or cenotaphs. However, a single day may not have been enough and well, I just had a few hours. Thus, I hopped onto the bigger and the more elaborate ones – of which, the one built for Maharaja Ajit Singh stole my heart.

Maharaja Ajit Singh’s Cenotaph

The Spire like roof of Maharaja Ajit Singh's cenotaph

Maharaja Ajit Singh’s cenotaph has this stunning roof that makes it look like a Jain temple. What made this cenotaph stand out was not just its size and its multiple stories but the artistic engravings all around it. From the floor to the ceiling and literally pillar to post, every inch had something to offer.

Inside Maharaja Ajit Singh's Cenotaph, Mandore Gardens, Jodhpur

Frankly, I could have spent my entire time at Mandore gardens just at this cenotaph. With every inch telling you a story, there is no other option. This one also, had a floor but the staircase seemed to be closed, leaving no chance for us to explore it any further.

The ceiling of Maharaja Ajit Singh’s Cenotaph

Ceiling of Maharaja Ajit Singh's Cenotaph, Mandore Gardens, Jodhpur

The most magnificent thing about this cenotaph was its ceiling. High up there, you could see the lovely carvings of celestial damsels (apsaras) in various poses. Here are some pics that I managed of them.

Zooming into the details of the ceiling
Apsara holding an instrument carved onto the ceiling

Pillars and walls of Maharaja Ajit Singh’s Cenotaph

Adding on some more of those corners and niches that enthralled me. As you will see, they have not been maintained well as some of these sculptures had pieces falling off.

Carved Pillars of Maharaja Ajit Singh's Cenotaph, Mandore Gardens
Corners within the Cenotaphs, Mandore Gardens
Carvings on the walls

The story behind the death of Maharaja Ajit Singh

The cenotaph is associated with a bit of a “bloody” history. It is said that when Maharaja Ajit Singh died, as was the custom, his six wives committed Sati – basically jumped into the funeral pyre. If that wasn’t enough, 25 of his concubines and some 30 odd female slaves also, jumped it. I wasn’t aware of this when I was busy clicking pictures and admiring his cenotaph and possibly, could have gone on to fill my entire memory card with pics but then, that one thing to stop me happened – which was Monkeys 😀 .

Meeting the Inhabitants of Mandore Gardens

Monkeys of Mandore

As I bent over to do my laces, one of them took a flying leap right over my bent head to catch – not me, but another of his mates. My daughter had a fright of her life and burst into tears, while my wicked friend Swati laughed and cried for not having captured the moment in her camera. Me? I was just stunned and amused! They were not just restricted to the gardens but were all over the cenotaphs and were eyeing my camera and lens very longingly. The mere presence of them had my daughter whimpering and as they started chasing each other around the pillars, we hurried out of the Cenotaph.

Imagine, if I had decided to look up right then as the monkey flew over my head!!!

Parakeets at Mandore Gardens

It took a few parrots to calm my daughter down. This place is full of them, especially this one dead-wood tree that had so many of these green beauties fluttering around, preening themselves up for me as I captured them on my camera.

Mandore Fort and Palace

Part of the Mandore Fort

As we moved further on, we saw the old Mandore Palace and Fort. Unfortunately, the visiting hours for the same seemed to be over and the place was shut down. All I could treat myself was with some photos of the exteriors but well, I guess, better than nothing! There is a government museum that is set up within these monuments, which I hope you have better luck checking out.

Hall of the Heroes, Mandore Gardens

We turned around towards the exit at this point and glanced upon the Hall of Heroes and the Deities on the way. The Hall of Heroes has the statues of the erstwhile rulers and heroes of Mandore. They were built to honor them for their deeds.

Hall of Deities at Mandore Gardens

The Hall of Deities is actually called the Temple of 33 crore Gods. This is where you will see some stunning craft of that era. The carvings and the details within make this an unmissable stop when visiting Mandore Gardens.

Somewhere behind all these, are caves of Mandore. These caves are believed to date back to the time of Ravana. I even heard that they lead all the way back to Lanka. However, owing to the hazard of people missing and found dead within, they are out of bounds for the visitors. Guess, that is one more mystery for me left unsolved. Sigh!

While we exited, we saw some more of those Langurs hanging on the trees. I just had my daughter calmed down when one of them fell down like ripe fruit from a tree. Plonk! Right in front of her. That marked the end of my exploration as I had to rush my bawling child out of the park 🙂

The last glimpse of my the cenotaph area that I would love to explore again

I would have liked to have one of those pesky guides here to explain things here. Just when you need them, they weren’t around, The lack of information made my visit seem incomplete. Somewhere with its history of being abandoned by rulers, we, the present generation, too seem to have abandoned this amazing bit of heritage. The sad fact is that there isn’t much documented on the web either and my quest to know more about Mandore remains incomplete.

Despite its poor maintenance, this place has its own charm and appeal – something that any visitor to Jodhpur should not miss.  I would definitely recommend Mandore Gardens as one of the key places to visit in Jodhpur. Leaving you with a picture of the Gardens  – you might just want to pin that one!

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How to reach Mandore Gardens?

  • Jodhpur has an airport of its own. It is connected to the key airports in India, however, the flight frequencies are low.
  • Jodhpur is well connected by rail and road to all the major cities in Rajasthan.
  • Mandore Gardens is quite central to Jodhpur and can be accessed by the local transport in Jodhpur.

Booking resources for Jodhpur

If you are heading to Jodhpur, you will find these website links useful. Booking through these links will not cost you anything additional but will definitely help me earn a few bucks to keep this website going.

  • Get a tour of the Mandore Gardens along with the famous Mehrangarh Fort and other Jodhpur attractions through GetyourGuide. You get an English speaking guide and a pick up from your hotel in Jodhpur. The same link will allow you to browse through the other interesting Jodhpur tours.
  • Klook Tours for booking private cars, airport transfers and tours in the blue city of Jodhpur.  Most of these are instant confirmations. 
  • Booking.com to book your stay in Jodhpur. 
  • Check out the reviews of the various Jodhpur hotels and book through Tripadvisor.com

Klook.com

Travel Tips:

  • The entry to Mandore gardens is free. However, the museum has a minimum charge for it. The gardens are open from 8 am to 8 pm, but the museum closes by 5pm.
  • Wear comfortable clothing and flat shoes as there is lots of walking to be done. Also, when entering the cenotaphs, you are required to remove your shoes.
  • When street shopping here, remember to bargain well.
  • There are no guides here and hence, be prepared to explore on your own.
  • Beware of monkeys. Avoid carrying food in your bag. Remove your shoes near the guard stations within the cenotaphs.
Disclaimer: This article includes affiliate links. This means that at no cost to you, I will receive a small commission if you purchase through my link. Thank you for supporting me with this.

 
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