The magnificent city of Gwalior has a diversified culture and glorious past. It is a glowing spot on the tourist map of India. Gwalior fort is one of the most prestigious forts in the history of India. The name of the city has been derived from the fort itself. Located on the hilltop, it dominates the landscape of the city. Thus the fort makes a good watchtower of the city. It has been ruled by many major powers of India whether it was Gurjara Prathara Dynasty, Sultans of Delhi, Mughals, Britishers, Marathas, Scindias, each one of them has contributed in its culture by developing monuments for time to time. It was the capital of Gwalior state ruled by the Scindia rulers for many centuries since 1730.
It became more popular due to it’s location, it is located on the main route connecting northern India with central or southern Indian both through highways and railways. It is located in the middle of Agra and Jhansi both are about 120 kms from the city. It may also be treated as an extension of the golden triangle of tourism in India or a hault on the way to Khajuraho from Delhi or Agra.
The story of the city starts way back somewhere in 8 AD. As the chronicle states the fort and city were founded by Suraj Sen, a local chieftain. He was suffering from leprosy. While travelling through the forest area he met sage Gwalipa, a holy man, On asking for water, he took Suraj Sen to a pond (nowadays known as suraj kund), he drunk the water from the pond and his leprosy was cured, in gratitude, Suraj Sen constructed a fort on the hilltop and named it ‘Gwalior’ after the name of Gwalipa, with the passage of time people started settling around it and the city came into existence.
Later the region was ruled by many rulers from time to time. In 9th century, it was ruled by Gurjara- Prathara dynasty. In 1213, it was captured by Iltutmish and remained under the control of Delhi Sultans until 1375, when Rajveer Singh was declared as ruler of the region. In the end, it was passed to Marathas (Scindias) in 1730, and since then upto independence it was ruled by them only and later merged in United India. For a brief period of time, it was captured by Britishers but was later handed back to the Scindias.
The city and the nearby area has plenty of historic monuments. The Gwalior fort, Gurudwara Data Bandi Chhod Sahib, Sas Bahu Temple, Teli ka Mandir, Man Singh Palaces, Gujari Mahal, Jhangir Mahal, Karan Mahal, Sun Temple, Jai Vilas Palace, Tomb of Tansen, Gopachal Parvat and many more provide the glimpse of glorious past of the region.
It is one of the most widely spread and invincible forts of India. It is located on the hilltop in the middle of the city. It is famous for it’s beautiful historic monuments i.e. Palaces, Gurdwara Sahib, temples, tanks and the Scindia School Campus.
The fort is spread over many kilometers and if you want to explore it in a relaxed way private vehicles are allowed inside through the Urvai gate, if you enter through the Gwalior gate or Quila gate, you have to walk towards the hilltop. The road enters through the Urvai gate, passes next to the Siddhanchal Jain temple caves.
The road leads to the main entrance of the campus, once you enter the campus the first thing that appears is assi khamba ki bawadi as the name suggests it is a ‘well supported by 80 pillars’. It has a magnificent entrance that leads to a large open hall with 80 pillars supporting the ceiling of the hall, next to the hall is well with stairs. It was constructed to facilitate the water supply to the fort.
Moving ahead the most gigantic and iconic monument of Gwalior appears, i.e. Man Singh Palace. It’s a gigantic, colourfully decorated four storey building located adjacent to the main wall of the fort it has two courtyards surrounded by rooms. It is the finest example of hindu style of architecture, built by Raja Man Singh between 1486 to 1517. It is also known as painted palace or Chit Mandir. Out of four, two storeys are underground supported by columned halls, and narrow stairs, the rooms are quite dark and mobile flashlights are required while passing through them. The ventilation for the rooms is provided through space between the walls. It was one of the most secured forts in India when Mughals captured the fort, it was used as a prison by the Mughals for their political prisoners. The next palace in the list is Karan Mahal, it is a simple two storey building located next to Jhangir Palace. It is older than Man Singh Palace. It was built by Kirti Singh also known as Karan Singh between 1480 to 1486.
Jhangir Mahal is the next stop, the Jhangir Mahal and Shajhan Mahal are located in the same campus. It was designed in the Islamic style. It is a three story building. It was built by Sher Shah and is also known as Sher Mandir, during the Mughal rule it was renovated by Jhangir. It has a huge courtyard surrounded by rooms on three sides. The rooms are small and are facilitated with large windows and balconies which provide the magnificent bird’s eye view of the city. All the rooms are interconnected.
When we move towards the south of the fort Sas Bahu Temple appears, Sas means mother-in-law and bahu means daughter-in-law. It is a twin temple constructed in 11th century (in 1093) by King Mahipala of the Kachchhapaghata dynasty dedicated to Lord Vishnu in his Padmanabha form. The temples are constructed on a raised platform, Sas temple is a three storey building whereas bahu temple is a single storey structure, inner as well as outer parts of the buildings are well decorated with geometrical designs and sculptures carved all over the building.
Moving ahead the next destination is Gurudwara Data Bandi Chhod Sahib. Back in the era when Mughals had control over the region, the 6th Sikh Guru Shri Guru Hargobind Sahib ji was imprisoned by the Mughal ruler Jahangir here in the fort with 52 Rajas. When Jhangir decided to release Guru ji, Guru ji laid a condition that all the 52 Rajas will be released with him, so in October 1619, Guru ji along with 52 rajas were released by the Mughal ruler. The Gurudwara was constructed somewhere in 1947, but prior there was a shrine taken care by Muslim priests.
The road leads you to the gate of Teli ka mandir means Oil merchant’s temple. It was designed in Pratihara- Gopagiri style and has a unique architecture, it is about 100ft high and is the highest temple of the fort. In addition to all these there is another palace located near Gwalior gate of the fort .i.e. Gujari Mahal was built by Raja Man Singh Tomar for his wife, Mrignayani, she was a Gujar princess, hence palace was named so. It is a two storey building with an open courtyard in the middle and rooms around it. The courtyard has two storey underground apartments. When you start elevating towards the fort entrance from Gujri Mahal, Chaturbhuj Temple appears it is a small temple, constructed in 875AD. It is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. It has the first inscriptions of zero. On the way, Badalgarh gate, the Ganesh gate, Lakshman gate and Hati Pol ( elephant gate) appears on the way.
In addition to this, there are some other monuments outside the fort, some of them are Jai Vilas Palace which the famous palace of Scindia family located in Gwalior is documented separately in ‘The majestic Jai Vilas Palace of Gwalior’.
Sun Temple It is the youngest in the list of monuments, it was built by famous businessman G.D.Birla in 1984. It is a huge red sandstone temple dedicated to the Sun God and is inspired by the design of the famous Sun Temple of Konark. It is designed in such a way that in the dawn the first rays of the Sun falls over the idol of Sun God. It is surrounded by gardens all around that leads to the temple. It is constructed on an elevated platform in the form of the cart with seven horses, 24 wheels 12 on both sides. The outer part of the temple is decorated with 373 statues of Gods, Goddesses and many more.
How to reach:-
By air:- Gwalior airport is the nearest one at a distance of about 10 km for the city.
By railways:- Gwalior is an important junction of the region. The track provides connectivity between Delhi and Mumbai and important stations of South India.
By road:- Gwalior is the well connected with all the major cities of the region, it is 120 km away from both Agra and Jhansi (about 2 Hrs drive). Bus service as well as taxi both are also available.
Places to visit in Gwalior:-The Gwalior Fort, Gurudwara Data Bandi Chhod Sahib, Sun Temple, Sas Bahu Temple, Teli ka Mandir, Man Singh Palaces, Gujari Mahal, Jhangir Mahal, Karan Mahal, Jai Vilas Palace, Tomb of Tansen, Gopachal Parvatand.
Palaces to visit outside or nearby:- Agra (about 120 Kms), Dattia (about 75 Kms), Orchha (about 120 Kms).
Minimum Duration of visit:- It will take about 2 days to explore and appreciate the beauty of the city so a minimum one night stay is recommended.