When myth and history come together in an ancient inscription, it proves that this region was occupied in 525 AD by some of the rulers like the Huns, Pratihars, Kacchwahs, Ghoris, Tomars, Mughals, The East India Company and eventually the Scindia before it was absorbed into the Republic of India. Gwalior is a major city in Central India and since then it has housed successive lines of rulers that have appeared like comets, blazing briefly across the skies of our land. Gwalior is best known for its’ imposing hilltop fort, which was famously described as ‘the pearl amongst fortresses in India’. Thus, one can start their visit to Gwalior by driving up to the fort atop the rock and walking through the high points of its’ history and eventually sightsee other places as well.
1. THE GWALIOR FORT
The Gwalior Fort has been described as a hill fort which has existed at least since the 10th century and is described by the Mughal Emperor Babur as ‘ the pearl among the fortresses of Hind’. This Fort is a structure of imposing scale whose beleaguered history is etched on every surface. The Fort is built on an outcrop of Vindhyan sandstone on a solitary rocky hill called Gopachal which is long, thin and steep. Held to be the most impregnable fortress in all of Northern and Central India, its’ 10m high wall enclose some stunning examples of medieval architecture. The inscriptions and monuments found within the fort campus depicts that the fort could have been in existence as early as the 6th century. The Fort has been host to various rulers like the Huns, Pratihars, Kacchwahs, Ghoris, Tomars, Mughals, The East India Company, and during the rebellion of 1857, the fort saw the great warfare- Rani Lakshmibai (the Queen of Jhansi) came fighting from Jhansi to Gwalior & sought shelter inside the Fort.
2. JAI VILAS PALACE
The Jai Vilas Palace or Mahal is a 19th century palace in Gwalior established in 1874 by Maharajadhiraj Shrimant Jayajirao Alijah Bahadur, the Maharaja of Gwalior. This Palace was the opulent residence of the erstwhile Scindias. It was originally built to welcome the Prince of Wales, Edward VII in 1875. Designed by the famous architect Sir Michael Filose, the stunning three-storied Palace exhibits the Tuscan style of architecture in the first story, a blend of the Italian- Doric style in the second story and the Corinthian style of architecture in the third story. While a major part of the palace is currently a Museum, a part of it is still the residence of his descendants the former royal Maratha Scindia dynasty. At the same time, it houses the Jiwajirao Scindia Museum and presently consists of a vast library containing more than 7000 books belonging to various genres.
3. MAHARAJA JIWAJI RAO SCINDIA MUSEUM
The Scindia Museum also known as the Jiwaji Rao Scindia Museum is placed within the Jai Vilas Mahal. It is named after Jiwaji Rao Scindia who was a progressive ruler of the dynasty. The museum was started by a trust in 1964 to exhibit the remaining documents and holding of the successors of the Scindia dynasty. There are various exhibits in the museum like paintings, weapons, sculptures, manuscripts, Persian carpets, Malabar woodwork. Curios from China, Japan and Italy are exhibited. Two big Belgian chandeliers are the main attraction in the museum. The swords of Aurangzeb are also displayed here.
4. TELI KA MANDIR AND SAASBAHU TEMPLE
The reign of the Gurjara Pratihara King, Mihirabhoja of Kannauj, during the 8-9th century, witnessed the members of the Teli caste (Teli meaning oil merchant) constructing a 23m high Vishnu temple inside the fort, which became unique owing to its architectural hybridity. This temple was used to process oil before the Britishers occupied the Gwalior Fort.
The Saasbahu Temple was originally named as Sahastrabahu Temple, which is an 11th century temple in Gwalior. The literal meaning of ‘Saasbahu’ is mother-in-law and daughter-in-law, so this pair of temple was built by the Kachchapaghata King Mahipala in 1093, for his mother and wife in Nagara style of architecture.
5. CHHATRI OF MAHARANI LAKSHMIBAI
Maharani Lakshmibai Park is a memorial, where the Samadhi of Rani Lakshmibai is located in the Phool Bagh area of Gwalior. During the revolt of 1857, the indomitable freedom fighter, Jhansi Ki Rani fought against the British for the freedom of the princely state, Jhansi. After getting surrounded by the British Army and having no chance of survival, Maharani Lakshmibai died of her wounds at this very place where she jumped off the Gwalior Fort along with her horse on 18th June, 1858. Thus Rani Lakshmibai has been commemorated here and so the Chhatri is dedicated to her.
6. MAN SINGH PALACE
Gwalior, one of the important historical destinations in our country has many exquisite palaces, of which, Man Singh Palace or Man Mandir Palace is one to really look out for. There is also a special sound and light show organised every evening for the tourists visiting this Palace. The Man Singh Palace is housed within the Gwalior Fort. Raja Man Singh Tomar, the great connoisseur of music and art, built the four-storied Man Mandir Palace. The fort spreads out over an area of 3 kms. Initially ruled by the Tomars, it got passed to the Mughals, the Marathas, the British and lastly the Scindias. The Palaces’ invincible citadel majestically towers over the city on a sandstone hill with six colossal cylindrical towers capped with cupolas. In the heyday, the cupolas were glided with copper and gold leaves. This four storied palace has large rooms, wherein some were venues for musical concerts, and others were for the royal ladies to sit and enjoy the music. There are two underground floors with circular cells which were used as prisons. This was the prison where the Mughal emperor, Aurangzeb jailed Murad, his brother and had murdered him as well.
7. GUJARI MAHAL
Gujari Mahal is one of the most famous archaeological museums of India situated in Gwalior. This palace was built by Raja Man Singh for his Gujar queen, Mrignayni, thus the name Gujari Mahal. In the year 1922, it was converted into a museum housing rare antiquities, some dating back to the 1st century AD. These include inscriptions, stone pillars, coins and an exquisite statue of a salabhanjika or tree nymph from Gyaraspur.
8. TOMB OF TANSEN
Tansen’s Tomb is an embodiment of Gwalior’s living heritage. Tansen was one of the greatest musicians of India and an eminent vocalist in the courts of Akbar during the medieval period. A student of Mohammed Ghaus who taught him Hindustani classical music, Tansen was believed to create magic with his music. He was a proponent of Dhrupad style and he developed the Gwalior gharana style of music. He was buried near to his guru. The annual Tansen Sangeet Samaroh( Tansen Music Festival) involves musicians coming from all over which is held in November-December each year, pay homage near his tomb before beginning the festival. During this five-night festival, audiences are enthralled by performances from different classical musicians.
9. TOMB OF GHAUS MOHAMMED
The tomb of Mohammed Ghaus, a 15th century Sufi saint and teacher, is set in a garden in the old town of Hazira. He was the teacher of musician Tansen. It is believed that he was an Afghan prince who had become a Sufi saint and helped Babur in the annexation of the Gwalior Fort. The tomb of Ghaus Mohammed is the best example of medieval Mughal architecture design. His mausoleum, a specimen of delicate craftsmanship, is made up of sandstone and covered on all sides by jaali worked stone screens. Ghaus Mohammed never adorned any seat of power, but different Mughal rulers including Akbar the Great took years of effort to build such a marvellous tomb in memory of him. The tomb combines the Lodhi style of architecture with ornamentation peculiar to Gujarat. The Tansen Tomb is also placed nearby.
Surajkund (‘Lake of the Sun’) is an artificial Kund or Reservoir built in the backdrop of the Aravalli Hills. Situated inside the fort, there is a big water tank which has a history entwined with the origin on the city of Gwalior. The Surajkund was constructed in the 10th century. Legends say that the discoverer of Gwalior city, Raja Surat Sen suffered from leprosy once but when he drank the tank’s water, he was cured. So the king built a big tank on the saint’s advice to store the miracle waters of the spring and help other people. Due to this historical significance, many people worship this tank. Besides Surajkund is a Surya mandir believed to date back to the 3rd century AD.
11. GURUDWARA DATA BANDI CHOR SAHIB
The Gurudwara is situated on the hilltop in Gwalior Fort. This serene place was constructed in remembrance of the sixth Guru Hargobind Saheb Ji after the news of martyrdom of Shri Guru Arjan Dev Ji. Thus, Guru Sahib started to raise an army of Sant soldiers to fight against the cruelty. This gurudwara was built in white marble and ornamented in gold. It is believed that the Mughal emperor Jehangir imprisoned Guru Hargobind Ji at this spot for two years, and so a gurudwara was built in his memory.
12. GOPACHAL PARVAT
Gopachal Parvat is one of the most prominent landmarks in Gwalior. It is situated in the Gwalior Fort and is a great place to witness some age-old Jain iconography. It is a group of rock cut sculptures which are situated on the south side of the fort. It is a sight to behold as these carvings dates back to the 7th and the 15th centuries. These sculptures are dedicated to Jain Teerthankaras- Adinatha, Mahavir, Neminatha and Rishanabhanatha. These teerthankaras are either found meditating in seated or standing positions making Gopachal Parvat one of the many Jain findings in Gwalior.
13. KALA VITHIKA (SAROD GHAR) AND MUNICIPAL MUSEUM
The Kala Vithika is another treasure house of arts. It is a museum which preserves the musical instruments and personal belongings of many great musicians of India. It also preserves several mural art pieces. Gwalior city is the place where the Gwalior Gharana originated. Thus, the Kala Vithika portrays to the tourists the rich cultural history of the city. It remains closed on Sundays and public holidays. The Municipal Corporation Museum remains open on all days except Mondays. Kala Vithika is a must-visit for this who are interested in the history of arts and music.
14. SUN TEMPLE
The Sun Temple or Surya mandir is one of the most spectacular shrines as well as an architectural wonder that adorns the city of Gwalior. The Sun Temple is the abode of Sun God and was constructed in 1988 by the famous industrialist G.D. Birla.This new temple attracted a lot of pilgrims within a short span of time. Built on the lines of the legendary Sun temple at Konark, Orissa the Sun Temple of Gwalior is a magnificent amalgam of exquisite architecture in red sandstone and white marble. The interior of the temple is made up of marble while the exterior has carvings of Hindu Gods.
15. SARAFA BAZAAR
Last, but not the least, another place one would surely love to visit is Sarafa Bazaar which is a popular and traditional market. Sarafa Bazaar offers endless variety of Jewellery, textiles, handicrafts and handlooms. This market depicts the culture and tradition of Gwalior when one goes shopping here. The Sarafa Bazaar is one of the oldest markets as well. Besides, the variety of lip-smacking food items that you can savour here make this an ideal spot for foodies as well.
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