Dhār is located in the Malwa region of western Madhya Pradesh state in central India. It is the administrative headquarters of Dhar District. The town is located 33 miles (53 km) west of Mhow, 908 ft (277 m) above sea level. It is picturesquely situated among lakes and trees surrounded by barren hills, and possesses, besides its old ramparts, many interesting buildings, both Hindu and Muslim, some of them containing records of cultural and historical importance.
Historic Places and Monuments
The town of Dhār, the name of which is usually derived from Dhārā Nagara ('city of sword blades'), is of considerable antiquity, the first reference to it appearing from Jaunpur of the Maukhari dynasty.
Fort: The historic parts of the town are dominated by an impressive sandstone fortress on a small hill. It is thought to have been built by Muhammad bin Tughluq, the Sultan of Delhi. One of the gateways, added at a later time, dates to 1684-85 in the time of 'Ālamgīr. Inside the fort is a deep rock-cut cistern, of great age, and a later palace of the Mahārāja of Dhār incorporating an elegant pillared porch of the Mughal period that probably belongs to the mid-seventeenth century. In the palace area is an outdoor museum with a small collection of temple fragments and images dating to medieval times.
Tomb of Shaykh Changāl: On the over-grown ramparts of the medieval city, overlooking the old moat, is the tomb of Shaykh ‘Abdullah Shāh Changāl, a warrior saint. The tomb has been rebuilt, but the inscription, now incorporated into the compound gate, is written in Persian and dated 1455. A record of historical interest, it recounts the Shaykh's arrival in Dhār in the 13th century and his conversion of Bhoja to Islām after the local people had committed an atrocity against the small community of Muslims who had settled in the city. The story probably refers to Bhoja II, the last Paramāra king who ruled around 1285.
Lāl Masjid. The Lāl Masjid or 'Pillar Mosque', to the south of the town like the tomb of Shaykh Changāl, was built as the Jami' Mosque by Dilāwar Khān in 1405. It derives its name from a pillar made of iron which is supposed to have been set up in the 11th century. The pillar, which was nearly 13.2 m high according to the most recent assessment, is fallen and broken; the three surviving parts are displayed on a small platform outside the mosque. It carries a later inscription recording a visit of the Mughal emperor Akbar in 1598 while on campaign towards the Deccan. The pillar's original stone footing is also displayed nearby.
Kamāl Maula Campus: The Kamāl Maula is a spacious enclosure containing four tombs, the most notable being that of Shaykh Kamāl Maulavi or Kamāl al-Dīn (circa 1238-1330). He was a follower of Farīd al-Dīn Gahj-i Shakar (circa 1173-1266, see Fariduddin Ganjshakar) and the famous Chishti saint Nizamuddin Auliya (1238-1325). Some details about Kamāl al-Dīn are recorded in Muhammad Ghauthi's Azkar-i Abrar, a reliable hagiography of Sufi saints composed in 1613. The cloak presented to Kamāl al-Dīn by Nizam al-Dīn is still displayed inside the tomb. The custodians of Kamāl al-Dīn’s tomb have served in an unbroken lineage for 700 years and are still resident.
Bhoj Shala:. The mosque next the tomb is made of re-cycled temple columns and other architectural parts except for the Mihrab and Minbar which were purpose-built for the monument. It is similar to the Lāh Masjid though earlier in date as an inscription of A.H. 795/C.E. 1392 found nearby records repairs by Dilāwar Khān. A Sanskrit and Prakrit inscription from the time of Arjunavarman (circa 1210-15) was found in the walls of the building in 1903 by K. K. Lele, Superintendent of Education in the Princely State of Dhār. The inscription, which is engraved with exceptional beauty, is displayed inside the entrance. The text includes part of a drama called Vijayaśrīnāhikā composed by Madana, the king's preceptor who also bore the title 'Bālasarasvatī'. The other inscribed tablets recovered by Lele, among them a serpentine inscription giving grammatical rules of the Sanskrit language. The finds, particularly of the grammatical inscription, prompted Lele to describe the building as the Bhoj Shala or 'Hall of Bhoja', because King Bhoja (circa 1000-55) was the author of a number of works on poetics and grammar, among them the Sarasvatīkahhhābharaha or 'Necklace of Sarasvatī'. The term 'Bhoj Shala' was first published by Luard in 1908. The subsequent controversy surrounding the building and its identity is discussed under Bhoj Shala.
Cenotaphs and Old City Palace: The old city palace of the Pawar Rājputs at Dhār, now used as a school, is a modest building put up in the late 19th century. A marble statue of the Jain goddess Ambikā, found in 1875 on the site of the city palace is now in the British Museum. Of the same period as the palace are a collection of domed cenotaphs of the Pawar rulers on the edge of the large tank known as Muñj Talab. The name of the tank probably derives from Vākpati Muñja (circa 895-920), the Paramāra king who first entered Mālwa and made Ujjain his main seat.
Museum: A number of sculptures and antiquities from Dhār and its neighborhood are kept in the local museum, a utilitarian stone building in the British style of the late 19th century. The most important pieces from the collection have been moved to Mandu where the Department of Archaeology, Museums and Archives has created a new museum with a wide range of displays.
Jheera Bagh: Outside the town the Pawars built a palace at Hazīra Bāgh from the 1860s. Known as the Jheera Bāgh Palace and presently run as a heritage hotel, the complex was renovated by Mahārāja Anand Rao Pawar IV in the 1940s. Graciously designed in an unpretentious art deco style, it is one of the most elegant and forward-looking examples of early modern architecture in north India.
Pilgrim Centres and Jatras
There are many religious place scattered throughout the district where people congregate at annual fairs arranged on auspicious occasions.
Koteshwar, Khakrol and Badnawar in Badnwar tahsil; Bhopawar, Sagwal and Amjhera in Sardarpur; Mandav, Kesur Dhar and Sagor in Dhar tahsil; Lingwa and Kotda in Kukshi tahsil Dhamnod in Dharampuri tahsil, Manawar, Bakaner and Singhana in Manawar tahsil, are a few out of a total about 40 such pilgrim centres.
Hanuman jayanti and Shivratri respectively attract thousands of pilgrims from the interiors of the District and outside, to the places of worship where special worship is offered to the concerned deities.
Gal and Hazrat Biyabani Yatra, Shantinathji ka Mela, Tejaji ka Mela, Ambikaji ka Mela, Urs Kamal-ud-din and Gular Shah Urs attract thousands of followers.
Mother goddess in various forms is worshipped with special reverence. Ambika Devi (Dhar and Dhammod) Mangala Devi (Manawar) Shitalamata Devi (Bakaner) Harsiddhi Mata (Singhana) and Jagni Mata (Jhiriya pura), are a few examples.
Mandu is the famous place where Jehangir came and stayed with Nur Jehan. He was accompanied by Sir Thomas Roe, the English ambassador. Jehangir wrote "I know of no place so pleasant in climate and so pretty in scenery as Manu in the rainy season. Shah Jahan too spent the rainy season of the year 1622 in Mandu. The famous Ram Navami fair is organised here by the mahant of the temple on Chaitra Sudi (March/April), in which thousands of people participate.
Amusement and Festivals
Dhar district has been on the cultural map of India since time immemorial. People used to engage themselves in fine arts such as painting, sculpture, music, dancing, etc. Many of the Bagh cave paintings of the Gupta period have now been destroyed but whatever remain tell us about the high attainment during that period. There is a beautiful painting regarding music and dance, which is an example of the oriental Hallisak dance. The depiction of nature in its affluent forms, together with male and female figures in various emotional poses is the treasure of these caves. The construction of magnificent buildings, forts, temples, mosques, etc., during the medieval period at Dhar, Mandu and the surroundings indicate the engagements and amusements of the people of those days.
Young people even today draw inspiration from the famous love story of Baaz-Bahadur and Roopmati. In literature, music, dance, painting and sculpture Dhar has a very rich heritage.
During the middle of the 16th century, the science of music had attained considerable perfection in Malwa and it is said that Baaz Bahadur devoted himself to its cultivation and ecouragement. His attachment to Rani Roopmati at that time become famous and the "Loves of Baaz Bahadur and Roopmati " have been handed down to posterity in song.
In rural areas, community bhajan singing at the village chaupals in the night with the accompaniment of harmonium (peti) mridang, tabala, dholak-manjire, mandal, zanch, kundi, thali, payli and dhak, etc., is the most common amusement. Vasant Pnchmi, Maha Shivaratri, Holi, Ramnavmi, Raksha-Bandhan, Nag-Panchmi, Janmashtami, Ganesh Chaturthi, Anant Chaturdashi, Sarva Pitri Amavsya, dusshera, Deepawali, Dol Gyaras, Hanuman Jayanti, etc., are celeberated with great religious zeal and enthusiasm by the Hindus Shradha Paksha (fortnight) is celeberated from poornima of Bhadra to amavasya Kunwar.
Popular festivals of Muslims include muharram, Id, Miladunabi, etc., which they celebrate with their traditional gaiety.
Christians celebrate Christmas and Good Friday and Jains, Mahavir Jayanti and Paryooshan etc. In some castes, Radeoji and Tejaji are worshipped once in a year on their jayantis and their respective kathas are performed. The dates of celebration are different in the various tahsils.