The story of Baz Bahadur and Rani Roopmati endures to this day and resonates in the breathtakingly beautiful ruins of Mandu. Roopmati was a Hindu Rajput singer of Malwa and Sultan Baz Bahadur fell in love with her.
Legend has it that once Baz Bahadur was out hunting and he encountered a beautiful shepherdess singing with her friends. He was instantly transfixed by her striking beauty and enchanting voice and begged her to accompany him to the capital. Roopmati agreed to wed him on the condition that he build her a palace which would be within sight of the river Narmada which she venerated and loved. Her wish was the smitten Baz Bahadur’s command and he proceeded to build her the Rewa Kund reservoir which was equipped with an aqueduct to supply water to his beloved’s palace. The site is revered as a holy spot today and is one of Madhya Pradesh’s popular tourist destinations.
Baz Bahadur’s palace has an enormous courtyard flanked by halls, high terraces with a magnificent view of the beautiful surroundings. Whilst Rani Roopmati’s pavilion was built as an army observation post, it was also used as a retreat for her private time with Baz Bahadur. From the vantage point of her pavilion, Rani Roopmati could gaze at the palace of her beloved as well as at the Narmada flowing by.
They were married according to Hindu and Muslim rites. But there was no happily ever after in this love story which was doomed to end in tragedy. Miyan Bayezid Baz Bahadur was the last sultan of Malwa who reigned from 1555 to 1562. Unfortunately, Baz Bahadur was uninterested in affairs of the state and preferred to content himself with the arts and spending time with Rani Roopmati.
Their idyllic bliss was shattered when in 1561, Akbar’s army of Adham Khan and Pir Muhammad Khan launched an attack on Malwa and defeated Baz Bahadur in the battle of Sarangpur. Historical accounts say that one of the triggers for Adham Khan’s attack was his unrequited love for Rani Roopmati and his desire to possess her at all cost. Baz Bahadur abandoned his harem and treasures and fled.
When the news of the fall of Mandu reached Rani Roopmati, she poisoned herself. If she had lived, she would most certainly have been abducted by Adham Khan and forced to join his harem as was the practice in those days.
Baz Bahadur fled to Khandesh which was attacked by Pir Muhammad. Then Baz Bahadur joined forces with Miran Mubarak Shah II of Khandesh and Tufal Khan of Berar and attacked Pir Muhammad in Burhanpur. Pir Mohammed succumbed to his injuries while retreating and the confederate army of Baz Bahadur continued its assault on the Mughals and finally drove them out of Malwa.
Baz Bahadur thus regained his kingdom but unfortunately his hold lasted only a short while because Akbar was determined to annex Malwa and sent another army which defeated Baz Bahadur. After seeking shelter at various courts, Baz Bahadur finally surrendered to Akbar at Nagaur in 1570 and joined his service.
The fate of Adham Khan was an unhappy one too. When he annexed Malwa, he made the fatal mistake of sending back very little of the loot to Akbar and kept most of the spoils for himself. The emperor marched to Malwa and a cornered Adham Khan begged for his forgiveness. Akbar accepted his apologies but would not entrust him with further missions. The enraged Adham suspected the prime minister of tarnishing his name and murdered him in court. When Akbar came upon his body, he ordered his servants to throw Adham to his death from a parapet.