Not far from Maheshwar, Mandu was the capital of a vast and extremely wealthy Islamic sultanate. In the 14th century, it was the biggest city in India with a million inhabitants.
One of the sultans had returned from a trip to Africa with 150,000 baobab saplings. With their strange, unique forms, they still stand proudly today among some of the most magnificent Islamic monuments.
During the days of the Emperor Akbar in the 16th century, Mandu was ruled over by the sultan Baz Bahadur. He was a dilittante, and composed, played and sang music. He fell deeply in love with another musician who, like himself, wrote and performed very skillfully. Her name was Rupmati. She was a Hindu, while he was Muslim.
They could therefore not marry, and for a long time their relationship – while passionate – remained strictly platonic. They played music together and found harmony through their instruments.
He would often ask her to perform on stage at various musical evenings he organised in a palace he had especially built for the purpose.
One day, the Emperor Akbar sent his best general to Mandu in order to take over the sultanate and further expand his empire. Baz Bahadur was quite simply unprepared for such an encounter. He was severely beaten, attempted to escape, and was killed.Abar’s general, Adham Khan Koka, arrived in Mandu to find Rupmati alone, abandoned by Baz Bahadur. She was the most beautiful woman in India. She was blonde, with very pale skin, and in addition to her musical prowess, she was also a well-known poet:
Day by day, it grows a little,
Never loses e’en a tittle,
But through life will ever go
With Baz Bahadur, weal or woe.
The conquering general wanted to make Rupmati his mistress. He urged her and encouraged her and threatened her… and finally, one day, Rupmati agreed to meet him. The general was sure he had won her over. Rupmati put on her finest clothes and most magnificent jewelry and covered herself in perfume. The general found her lying on a couch with a veil over her face.
At first, he thought she was sleeping. He lifted up the veil. Rupmati was dead. She had killed herself by ingesting crushed diamonds and had attempted to assuage the agony with opium.
She had prefered to die rather than to submit to the all-conquering general.