Situated in the dreary part of Madhya Pradesh, is Gwalior providing a sought after respite for the state tourism. A town famous throughout India, Gwalior is rich in the late medieval as well as modern history with some important incidents taking place here. Gwalior Fort and Jai Vilas Palace are the major attractions of Gwalior. But apart from these there are some other interesting monuments in Gwalior including the Tomb of Tansen, the great singer from the court of Akbar.
There are two ways to reach Gwalior Fort, one from the old town, which in itself is a site that shows the typical suburban life in India, and one from the newer parts of the city. If you take the way from the old city, you better walk, for you will have to gain an experience of at least two years to be able to drive here. The roads are narrow and lined with open gutters that can easily gobble up a wheel of your vehicle. Obstacles such as cattle, ignorant people, thoughtlessly parked vehicles, rubble from construction sites will be frequent. But if you walk, you will be able to notice other interesting things in this area such as a laid back life of the shopkeepers sailing sweets and grocery, one and two storied houses by the road and the simple people going about their business.
Gwalior Fort is perched atop a hill. While you reach it, you encounter some marvelous Rock Carvings on the way. These are statues of naked Jain Tirthankaras from the 15th century. Fallen victim of vandalism at the hands of Babur, these monuments were later restored. The size of the statues and the marvelous workmanship is definitely worth a look.
The drive ends as you enter the tableland at Urvai Gate of the fort. Here you park your vehicle, get tickets and pick up a guide if you wish to.
The Fort of Gwalior was built in the 8th century by the ruler of Kacchawa Pal dynasty. This long ruling dynasty enjoyed command over this fort for 84 generations. After their reign ended the fort passed through the hands of several dynasties, including Pratihar rulers, Tomars and several Muslim rulers. During the British rule it was in the command of their allies Scindias, who have it till date. Amongst the notable episodes in Indian history, one is the death of Rani Laxmibai, the queen of Jhansi, who died here a heroine fighting against the British.
The major attraction inside the fort is that of Mansingh Palace. It was built by Mansingh Tomar around the wake of 16th century. This marvelous palace, having been repainted twice in the last century, presents a grand view. Colored in patches of blue and built in sandstone, this attractive palace offers an intriguing tour from inside.
Mansingh, a man with peculiar taste in architecture, chose unusual adornments for the palace. Usage of different animals such as elephants, tigers, crocodiles, ducks and even mythological creatures as well as Chinese dragons has been made in motifs and pillars in different chambers of the palace.
There are halls and chambers for different purposes which make an interesting viewing when explained by the guide. There are dance and music chambers where veils have been carved for the queens so they can see the performers but the performers cannot see them. Then there are inner chambers for the queens made for recreational purposes such as enjoying swings, baths and resting which were later transformed by Aurangzeb for diametrically opposite uses such as prison and hanging the prisoners. Amongst these there is an interesting tube phone carved in the walls that connects two halls.
At the other end of the tableland is the Sans-Bahu Mandir, which literally translates as Mother-in-law and Daughter-in-law temple. However, the guides account that the temple of Vishnu here was originally known as the Sahastra Baahu Mandir, the temple of the god with thousand arms. The name was later shortened by the people to Saans Bahu.
Amongst some other popular sites in the fort is Teli ka Mandir, Vikram Mandir, Karan Palace and the tank named Jauhar Kund where there queens had committed Jauhar, an act of mass suicide by immolation carried out to save honor during the defeat at the hands of Iltumish.
Down in the newer parts of the town lays the grand Jai Vilas Palace, the royal home of Scindias which now has been converted into Scindia Museum. The palace displays the articles gathered by the wealthy Scindias along with rooms and personal belongings of some of the members of Scindia hierarchy. Here there are antiquities such as a table of Napolean Bonapart and the shield of Rani Laxmibai. There is a swimming pool for the ladies and several rooms displaying regal articles such as shoe racks and shoes, dining tables, meeting chambers of the politically strong Scindias where some important figures in Indian history have been hosted and the bed chambers.
There is a grand celebration hall where a pair of gigantic chandeliers, three and half tons each, can be seen. It is believed that eight elephants were suspended by the roof to taste its strength before hanging the chandeliers. In some of the other chambers there are intriguing articles such as Asia’s largest carpet made by prisoners and a silver train that runs along a massive dining table carrying cigars and other pleasantries.
Situated nearly 350 kilometers from Delhi, the road connecting these two cities is pleasurable and unlike most of the other terrible roads of MP. A highlight of Madhya Pradesh, Gwalior is a must see on the tourist map of the state.