This post has been long due, and it’s only after I saw Highway (read about Highway here and ‘my Ode to…’ it here), I feel highly motivated to jot down what my trip to Gwalior felt like. Listening to: Ali, ali and others from Highway’s Music as I write this.
History of Gwalior: Gwalior’s according to a famous legend was formed in 8 A.D when a king called Suraj Sen, suffering with an incurable disease came across a saint named Gwalipa. The hermit saint Gwalipa, cured him and gave him the gift of life. Suraj Sen, in the gratitude of this saint founded a city named after saint’s name Gwalipa and called it Gwalior.
Gwalior since centuries has been a land of great dynasties that reshaped it and gave it a new dimension with its every new ruler. It’s been the land of warriors, kings, musicians, poets and saints alike who brought with them great culture, art and music from all corners of the world, making Gwalior a shining gem of the Indian history with an enduring magnificence.
A visual treat and feast for architects and historians alike, its beauty lies in its varied old havelis, forts, temples and exquisitely carved doorways and windows that leave both locals and visitors mesmerized. This last Royal capital of India, is ideal for both a short (2 days trip) and long (7 days) trip.
We stayed at Deo-Bagh, Neemrana hotel which further enhanced our experience, read about it here.
Few of the places that I visited and fell in absolute love with are:
1. Gwalior Fort: The majestic greatness at the very glance, Gwalior fort was the first site that we visited after checking in DeoBagh, a Neemarana Hotel non-hotel. Constructed over 1,000 years back by Raja Surya Sen, it is the largest and probably the most beautiful fort of its kind.
The slim, steep and twining road towards the hilltop of the fort is flanked by the statues of Jain tirthankaras carved in the rocks of the adjacent hill. It is one of the well preserved Hindu ruins site and gives a good idea of its beauty and strength.Becuase of its beauty, strength and invincibleness, Emperor Babar addressed it as “the pearl amongst the fortresses of Hind.”
Man Mandir Palace: One of the Medieval architecture marvel in Gwalior fort is the Man Mandir Palace built between 1486 and 1517 by Raja Mansingh. The remains of the blue tiles and lakh adornments on the façade of the main fortress still remain in bits and pieces and depict a story of its glory days.
Small jharokas, vast chambers, music halls all make for a pretty place for the royal princesses and queens. They’d learn music, laugh and sing here. The circular rooms at the lower part of fort were lit by the highly sophisticated lighting systems of mirrior reflections of the sun and the moon light. It’s said that even the deep, underground halls of the Mandir, never got dark. Initially used as bathing places and singing chambers by royal ladies, these circular rooms were later used as dungeons and housed prisoners of the Mughals. Jauhar Pond located close to these chambers was the place were queens committed mass suicide ‘sati’ after their husbands had been defeated in the battle to avoid humiliation at the hands of the future ruler.
Gujari Mahal: Another architectural marvel is the 15th century Gujari Mahal. It’s the monument that Raja Mansingh Tomar built for his Gujar queen, Mrignayani. Story goes that Mrignayani demanded the king to build her a separate palace with a constant water supply, after he wooed her to marry him.
We stayed back for the Sound and Lights show at Gwalior Fort: At sunset, the Fort stands illuminated and echoes the famous and infamous legends and stories of all that it’s gone through over centuries. I’ve seen better executed light and sound shows, like the one at Kala Pani in Andamans. However, it’s worth your stay, if you didn’t hire a guide during the fort tour.
The show happens every night in an open foyer adjescent to the fort. We visited in Jan, so it got pretty chilly towards the evening and fatigue further added to our shivers. Carry sufficient warm clothes in your car that you can park at the entrance parking, just a five minute walk from the fort.
2. Teli Ka Mandir: An excellent example of Hindu Architecture, Teli ka Mandir is a 9th century edifice and worth a quick visit. This 100 ft tall, Pratihara Vishnu temple is a beautiful blend of architectural styles ranging from Dravidian style roof to Indo-Aryan decorative elements inside and on the façade of the temple.
Few other gorgeous Gwalior sites include:
3. A graceful Vishnu temple built in 11th century called Sas-Bahu-ka-Mandir.
4. And historic Gurudwara Data Bandhi Chhod that is built in the memory of Guru Hargobind Sahib who was the 6th Sikh Guru. At the time of his release from prison, he freed 52 Hindu kings who were his fellow prisoners. This Gurudwara built in his memory is located very close to Scindia School.
5.Scindia School ranks high in the list of finest schools in India. Surrounded by so much history and culture, it’s lays a solid foundation of rich Indian culture and values, married with modern education among its young students.
6. Jai Vilas Palace: I found it a tad bit narcissistic with gazillions of images of Madhavrao Scindia and his wife. I’d suggest to skip a visit to it, unless you’d like to witness all the riches that were showered on Indian kings and rulers for their loyalty to the East India Company. European style palace converted into museum is a unique architectural blend of Italian, Tuscan and Corinthian architectural styles.
Constructed by the Maharaja Jiyaji Rao Scindia, it is fashioned with furniture from Versailles, Italy and France. The most iconic room of the entire palace is the Darbar Hall with two iconic chandeliers that weigh over a couple of tons. Hand painted tapestries, huge Persian carpets and a silver train that take rounds of the huge dining table serving guests with food and liquor are just a few of many other valuable treasures to be seen in the palace.
Have you ever visited Gwalior? How was your experience? What all places do you recommend?