Mar 11, 2013

Cities- Gwalior, The tourist capital of Madhya Pradesh


Gwalior Fort Man Mandir Palace
Man Mandir Palace

Gwalior city was built and named after a Hindu Saint Gwalipa who cured the Rajput chief Suraj Sen of leprosy. From Shivapuri I took a bus to Gwalior (118KM) and the journey was very peaceful than I had expected. I got off at the bus stand and took a room in Tansen Residency run by MP Tourism. Only two things I knew about Gwalior were- the love story of Raja Man Singh Tomar and his wife Mrignayanee, and the Chaturbhuj Temple where the oldest known use of shunya (a zero) in India.

Gwalior Fort Jain Temples
Jain Temples
I took an auto to go to the fort and just like any auto/taxi driver that guy cheated me by taking a longer route to the Urvashi Gate of the fort. The fort has two entrances- Urvashi and Gwalior gates. Gwalior gate has a short but steeper ascent by foot. To Urvashi gate one has to walk very long way up or take private vehicle. The auto driver left me at the bottom of the hill. And I walked ... but, it was good for me! I could see the rock-cut  Jain temples on the slopes of the hill- Gopachal Parvat which I wouldn't have if I had taken the private taxi or the Gwalior Gate. Well, it was a good exercise also though I was not looking for it :) The fort encloses several temples, palaces and numerous water tanks. It seems Gwalior was one of the invincible fortresses of Central India! It has a long history of ups and downs. Ruled by many rulers from Kachchwaha pal Rajputs, Pratiharas, Tomars, Mughals, Marathas, British and then Scindias.

Man Mandir Palace constructed by Raja Man Singh in 15th century is the star attraction inside the fort. It is two storey high and has three underground floors. These underground floors were used by eight queens of the king. The upper two floors are beautifully decorated with floral motifs with lots of air and light. I went down two floors and I had a eery feeling, kind of negative energy. Didn't quite feel like queens used it at all. It seems all eight queens of Raja Man Singh didn't like Mrignayanee- the ninth wife, sharing the palace with them because she was not a Rajput royal blood. So, Man Singh constructed another palace separately for her near the base of the hill, called Gurjari Mahal, which is a museum now.

Gwalior Fort Sas bahu temple teli ka mandir

The lower two floors are actually dark circular cells with heavy pillars and have very little incoming light. I felt the dull walls of these scary cells were eager to tell some gruesome stories. During the mughal rule, unfortunately, the beautiful palace became a prison for royal prisoners, later they were executed here. Few popular and documented incidents are ... Akbar imprisoned his cousin and then killed him, Aurangzeb imprisoned his own brother and then murdered him. Aurangzeb also executed his nephews here. And so this cell is termed as Phansi Ghar. The lowermost floor has a small pond called Kesar Kund where the royal women bathed it seems. When the King was defeated the queens got this pond drained and converted it into a pyre for the royal women to commit jauhar.

Gwalior Fort Sun temple
Birla Sun Temple
Though Man Mandir palace is the star, there are many other structures in the fort premises. Many other palaces and mahals. Unfortunately they are not maintained or restored like the Man Mandir. There are three temples which are well preserved and magnificent! Teli ka mandir is a 9th century temple which magnificently stands more than 100ft high. Dedicated to Lord Vishnu, it is built both in dravidian and indo-aryan styles with very generously sculpted exterior. Saas-Bahu temple is actually the Sahasrabahu temple, Lord Vishnu with thousand hands, was built by King Mahipal for his wife. But, his daughter-in-law worshipped Lord Shiva and so she had another temple dedicated to Lord Shiva near the former one. So, Sahasrabahu temple was mispronounced later as Saas-bahu (mother-in-law and daughter-in-law) temples. These 11th century twin temples are profusely ornate with intricately carved sculptures. On the way to Saas-bahu temples there is Surya Kund, the lake where Raja Suraj Sen's leprosy was cured.  Chaturbhuj Temple is a monolithic rock-cut small shrine which is on the way to Gwalior Gate. This site of mathematical interest almost goes unnoticed.

Gwalior Jhansi Rani memorial
Rani Lakshmibai Memorial
There is another gruesome Jauhar Kund where the royal women committed mass-suicide by burning themselves to death when the king was defeated by Iltumash to escape the dishonor by enemies. There is an ASI museum in the fort premises which is worth a visit. It has an entry fee of Rs 5.

Surya Mandir in Gwalior is a 20th century temple, popular pilgrim and tourist place. It is not any ancient temple and was built in 1988 by Birlas. Built of red sandstone and white marble interiors this sun temple was insprired by the popular Sun Temple in Konark, Orissa. It has beautifully carved walls. Placed amidst of well landscaped garden the temple is popular for its ambience too.

Who doesn't know the great warrior queen of Jhansi Rani Lakshmibai? Popularly known as Jhansi Ki Rani, the most beautiful and brave woman who fought the first war of Independence. The queen died in Gwalior after she escaped from the battlefield and jumped off a cliff. The monument is in Phool Baug area and is a horse borne sculpture of the queen with sword raised. Moulded in bronze the statue is errected on the cremation spot of the valiant queen.

Gwalior Jai Vilas Museum

Jai Vilas Palace museum is one of the popular tourist destinations in Gwalior. Located in the heart of Gwalior city the Jai Vilas Mahal is still the residential quarters of royal family. Built in italian style the palace looks grand. The museum houses the rooms of Scindia rulers and family. The durbar hall has chandeliers weighing two tons!! Well, one can have glimpses of exorbitant items used by the rulers. 

Gwalior Tansen memorial
While walking down from the fort through the market of Tansen Nagar area I looked for the Tomb of Ghaus Mohammad which is a beautiful mughal style structure with a huge dome and the walls are ornate with very intricate jali (lattice) work. It seems Ghaus Mohammad was a prince from Afghanistan who became a sufi saint. This tomb has become a pilgrim place. The complex has many other tombs. My search in that complex was for the tomb of music legend and a jewel of mughal court- Miyan Tansen. He was a historical musician, a gifted vocalist and a proponent of Dhrupad style singing. Akbar honored him with the title- Miyan meaning learned man. Well, I found it and it is a very simple tomb in a very peaceful place. Every December Tansen Music Festival is organized at his tomb.

It was too much of history ... still there were many other interesting places like Sarod Ghar museum, Municipality museum but, I had to skip all of that because of MP bandh. I had to stay inside. I had to cancel my excursion to Padavali and Bateshwar, very disappointing. I somehow could manage a trip to Chambal National Sanctuary before I headed back home. 
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Related articles-
More articles on Madhya Pradesh
Backpacking India series

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32 comments:

  1. Each time I read your posts on Madhya Pradesh, am tempted to visit the state. Am sure I would head there soon. Excellent post as usual.

    www.rajniranjandas.blogspot.in

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    1. Glad that my journey inspires people! Thanks Niranjan, you have been too kind :)

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  2. A superb, fascinating post and marvelous photos for the day, Kusum!! Such a fascinating, interesting world you have! Thanks for sharing with us! I hope you have a wonderful week! Enjoy!

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    1. Thank you Sylvia. You have a great week ahead.

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  3. Beautiful temples and a great post. Thanks for sharing the info. What a great tour and visit! Wishing you a happy week!

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  4. What adventure. Thank you for this journey very much. Please have a good Tuesday.

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  5. such a beautiful palace. the attention to detail is amazingly beautiful.

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    1. Yes, the medieval architecture in India was superb! Thank you!

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  6. The exteriors of Man Mandir Palace is exquisite and grand! I also liked those huge chandeliers! What a king-size life, literally!

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    1. King-size life ha ha! Yep, things were grand!

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  7. What an incredible palace with an amazing history.

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  8. Wow! Such beautiful monuments in Gwalior! Great captures. I hope to see in real some day.

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    1. Thanks Indrani. I wish your wish comes true.

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  9. Thats a great looking building! Other people from work keep getting sent to India - but I miss out! Boo!

    Had a look at a couple of other posts - did you know that "typewriter" is an example of the longest word you can write only using the top row of the keys on a typewriter!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

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    1. Thanks Stewart. You must visit India the first chance you get!

      And that little info on Typewriter is amazing! I didn't know that!

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  10. Another great tour!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

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  11. Nice post & beautiful pics. The image of Man Mandir Palace is spectacular & brilliant.

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    1. Thank you Mr Ramakrishnan! Yeah, Man Mandir Palace is beautiful piece of architecture!

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  12. Incredibly beautiful Palace. Such intricate detail work; it amazes me.

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    1. Definitely it amazes huh? Lovely piece of architecture!

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  13. Great info with beautiful photo...

    Thanks

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  14. Really, Gwalior is a great heritage city in Madhya Pradesh.
    Thanks for sharing a important information about Gwalior Tourism.

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