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Pritha Manchanda Apr 04 2014

Which are the famous things to see and do in Gwalior?

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Ibn Batuta, the 14th-century Arab traveller, described Gwalior as a “fine town of white hewn stone”, which no longer applies. What you see today is a modern city with some traces of its glorious past. There are a world of famous things to see and do in Gwalior which are worth exploring. Here is a whirlwind tour which you would love to take:

The Gwalior Fort:

Everything about the menacing Gwalior Fort, with its jagged-toothed battlements and sky-kissing towers, is larger than life. Rising sharply, 300 ft above the ground, it looks, as one historian put it, like “a long twisted finger, black and sinister”. There were three main entrances to the fort, of which the east and the west entrances are now accessible. The eastern entrance is guarded by the Urwahi Gate, and the western by six gates, built in different periods by different kings, all situated on the 2,500-foot-long ramp leading to the fort. Check out the Kabutar Khana dedicated to Sage Gwalipa at the Ganesh Gate.

Of the many Hindu dynasties that ruled Gwalior, the Kachhwahas and Tomars contributed most to its culture and architecture, whereas early Mohammedans, and later the Mughals, used the fort as a state prison.

Address: Gwalior Fort, Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh
Entry: Free (entry to Man Mandir is INR 5 & Cameras INR 50 & Videos INR 100)
Timings: 8:00 am to 6:00 pm

Photo of Gwalior Fort (by Abhishek727)

Inside the Fort

Among the most impressive structures inside the fort is the Man Singh Palace. Man Singh’s rule from 1486 to 1517 marks a period of cultural and political eminence for the state. It is during this period that the Gwalior Gharana was born and Gwaliori jhilmil, the delicate stone-lattice workmanship, perfected. Inside is a dancing hall surrounded by a balcony and a courtyard — besides many side-rooms and staircases leading to underground passages — which were originally used as royal quarters and later as dungeons for prisoners. The southern façade is more diverse in ornamentation and one can see glazed inlay work of marching ducks, crocodiles holding lotus stalks, and parrots and tigers lighting up in myriad colours. Behind Man Mandir lies the Vikram Palace (1515), named after Man Singh’s son Vikramaditya. The fort also includes two temples, the Saas-Bahu complex and the Teli ka Mandir.

Besides the above two palaces, there are five other palaces, three of which were built by Hindu rulers and two by the Mughals. Of the latter, the Jahangir Palace is interesting for it has the tank where Rajput queens committed jauhar following the invasion of the fort in 1232. Of the remaining Hindu palaces, Gujari Mahal, built by Raja Man Singh for his Gujjar love Mrignayani, is now a state archaeological museum. It houses an interesting collection of decorative pillars, besides the priceless 9th-century sculpture of Shalbhanjika imprisoned in a glass case.

The Saas-Bahu temples follow the 10th-century CE North Indian temple convention and are dedicated to Vishnu and Shiva. The Teli ka Mandir (8- 9th centuries CE) is an amazing 80-foot hotchpotch structure with a massive shikhar (spire), which is Dravidian in its style.

Address: Gwalior Fort, Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh
Sound & Light Show timings: Hindi: 6:30 pm, English: 7:30 pm
Ticket Fee: INR 50

Photo of Sas Bahu Temple, Gwalior (by Dayal, Deen)

In the City

Of the Muslim edifices, the Mausoleum of Sheikh Muhammad Ghaus, built during Akbar’s rule, is the most spectacular. Built on a square plan, with hexagonal towers and flanked on four sides with delicate stone lattices, it appears to float on air despite its large size. The Grave of Tansen, a rectangular platform with a pillared gallery, stands nearby. The famous tamarind tree that is said to have sweetened his voice has long since died, but in its place grows a younger tree that is regularly plucked by eager visitors wishing to repeat the miracle. Of the other Muslim edifices, the Jama Masjid next to the Gujari Mahal is worth seeing for its serene simplicity.

Address: Tansen Nagar, Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh

Photo of Tomb of Tansen (by Kumar shakti)

Scindia Legacy

The Scindia architectural aesthetic is restricted to higgledy-piggledy 19th century additions such as the Jai Vilas Palace built on an Italian palazzo plan, the Jiyaji Rao Chhatri that imitates a cathedral, and the Phoolbagh (laid out in 1922), affecting religious synthesis. Jai Vilas was built at a cost of Rs 19 lakh during the reign of Jiyaji Rao, the man who proved his loyalty to the British by riding out against the 1857 rebels. Incidentally, his treasurer Amarchand Banthia supported the mutineers, for which he was hanged. The palace (designed by Sir Michael Filose) is three storeys high and is decorated with Tuscan, Italianate and Corinthian columns. It also houses a museum displaying — among other paraphernalia — the much talked-about silver dining train used to ferry champagne bottles around the table.

Address: Jayandra Gang, Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh
Entry fee: Indians INR 30, Foreigners INR 200 Timings 10 am-5 pm on all days except Wednesdays

Photo of Jai Vilas Palace (by Mohitkjain123)

The Musical Heritage

The Gwalior School of Music, one of the famous attractions of town, was started under the patronage of Raja Man Singh. The impact of the gharana can be assessed from the fact that, out of 36 great musicians named in the Ain-i-Akbari, 16 (including Tansen) hailed from here. Today, the tradition is honoured by the statesponsored musical festival, which is held annually during the Urs of Tansen (end- November). The town is also home to a museum of musical instruments, Sarod Ghar, set up on the initiative of Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, whose father Ustad Hafis Ali hailed from Gwalior.

Address: Gwalior School of Music, Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh
Museum timings: 10:00 am to 1:00 pm, Mondays closed

As for the food, there is no such thing as local cuisine here, however there are some nice places to eat in town where you can find good Indian cuisine. So, pack your bags and start upon an exciting journey to explore the famous things to see and do in Gwalior! And if you want some more of palaces and temples, don't miss out checking some interesting tours in Orchha for an interesting dose of history and mythology.

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