The city of Gwalior, named after the great fort built venerating the local wise-man-saint Gwalipa, is today the capital of Gwalior district. The fort built on a plateau - the Rock of Gwalior - overlooks the city of Gwalior.
Within the fortified walls of the Gwalior fort lie magnificent palaces, ornately carved temples and enormous Jain rock-cleaved niches, doorways and statues. The city today boasts prosperous trade centers manufacturing textiles, carpets, glass, matches, rayon, cigarettes, porcelain ware, leather and plastic goods, and processed food. It is also home to several well acclaimed schools, colleges, research institutions and a zoological garden.
The city weaves together several reminders of eras past – bringing to life stories of great men and women of Gwalior – Suraj Sen the founding chieftain of Gwalior, the great Rajput clans the Kachawahas, Pariharas and Tomars, Iltumish the “slave king”, the ferocious Sikandar Lodi, the great Mughals and last but not the least the forerunners of India’s struggle for freedom from the British the brave Tantia Tope and the heroic Rani Laxmi Bai of Jhansi.
Allow yourself an experience of the city evoking the other-worldly music of Great maestros Miyan Tansen and Ustad Hafiz Ali - history is very much alive in Gwalior!
The city of Gwalior is located in the state of Madhya Pradesh in North Central India at a distance of 321km from Delhi and 121km from Agra. Gwalior shares its boundaries with the districts of Morena in the North, Shivpuri in the south, Bhind in the East and Datia in the west. Gawalior district is divided into three areas - Lashkar, Morar and Gwalior. Lashkar is the business centre of the city; Morar functions as a market farmers and villagers of the immediate region as well as the adjoining areas. Gwalior city, also known as Old Gwalior, is where all the places of tourist interest are located.
How to get there
Gwalior is well connected by road to Agra, Delhi, Bhopal 420 km away, and most other cities. Regular bus service links it to Agra, Mathura, Jaipur, Delhi,, Chandigarh, Lucknow, Bhopal, Chanderi, Indore, Jhansi, Khajuraho, Rewa, Jabalpur, Ujjain and Shivpuri.
The nearest railhead is at Gwalior on the main Delhi-Mumbai and Delhi-Chennai rail link. The trains connected to Gwalior and heading towards South India are namely the Kerala, Goa, GT, Malwa, Mahamaya and Jhelum Expresses. The Taj Express and Shatabdi Express connect Gwalior to Delhi and Agra.
The Gwalior airport is situated 9km northeast of the city centre. It is a domestic airport and offers regular flights to Bombay, Bhopal, Indore and Delhi.
At least 2000 years ago, Suraj Sen, a Rajput chieftain was said to have been cured of leprosy by the water from a hill top pool. He was advised to consume the water from this pool as a curative by Gwalipa, a hermit saint who lived in the area. In gratitude, Suraj Sen built a fort on that very hill and named it Gwalior in honour of saint Gwalipa. The earliest references to the Gwalior Fort can be traced to 425 AD. The pool was said to have been named Suraj Kund, but its curative potency seems to have disappeared over time.
The Kachawahas, Pariharas and Tomars were successive Rajput clans that ruled over Gwalior during different periods of time. Iltumish or Altamash the third and greatest Delhi sultan of the so-called Slave Dynasty overwhelmed the Pariharas in 1232. In 1398 the Tomar Rajputs once again asserted their dominion over Gwalior – and from this point in time up until the Independence of India from Britsh rule, Gwalior shaped and influenced the history of Central India. Gwalior’s most famous ruler is said to be Raja Man Singh Tomar who in 1505 powerfully endured the ferocious onslaught of Sikandar Lodi of the Delhi Sultanate. But this resistance was not to last; in 1517 the Lodis who had contained the Fort with a year-long siege overwhelmed the Tomars and invaded the Fort. The Mughals were the next to claim the Fort and in turn were overrun by their ferocious opponents the Marathas of Scindia in 1754. But still the control of the Fort changed hands very many times till early 18th century when the Scindias with the support of the British came into power in a real and lasting manner.
The First Indian War of Independence of 1857 was fought in the plains surrounding Gwalior- valorously fought by soldiers led by the brave Tantya Tope and the heroic Rani Laxmi Bai of Jhansi. The Scindias ruled Gwalior up until India attained independence- this period were golden years for Gwalior when the region progressed and prospered industrially and economically.
The Sound and Light show at the Man Mandir Palace of Gwalior Fort gives you a glimpse into its glorious past.
The story of this 'pearl' begins with the sonorous and eloquent narration by Amitabh Bachchan as Gopachal, the sutradhar (narrator).
The Gwalior Fort practically dwarfs the surrounding vistas, most of Gwalior really. The Fort is really a witness to or a symbol of Gwalior’s eventful history replete with sieges, battles and successive rules. A steep climb, a road ride, up towards the Fort brings you face to face with the doorkeepers carved into rock face- the Jain tirthankaras. The Gwalior Fort is reputed to have been one of India’s most impenetrable forts its walls 2 miles in length and 35 feet high. Though most of the Fort is said to have been built in the 15th century, references to this edifice go back to 425 AD.
Within the fort stands the 15th century Gujari Mahal built by Raja Mansingh Tomar for his beloved Gujar queen, Mrignayani. The story goes that after her wooed and claimed her as his own Mrignayani asked that he build her an exclusive palace with the privilege of constant water supply through an aqueduct from the River Rai. Gujari Mahal has stood the test of the ravages of time magnificently, preserved in totality - today the interior is an Archaeological Museum.
The Man Mandir Palace was built in the period of time spanning 1486 – 1517 by Raja Mansingh. The exterior of this monument has not been preserved as well as the Gujari Mahal though traces of what it once was are apparent for example in the frieze depicting ducks paddling in beautiful blue waters. The palace within carries an air of ruin – yet the stories of the glorious passed can be invoked through the sheer power of ambience – expansive music rooms where the queens and ladies of royalty studied music from the great Masters; the dungeons below – dark and damp - where the Mughals kept their prisoners of war. It is said that the fanatically cruel Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb imprisoned and executed his brother Murad here. Jauhar Pond situated close by is where the queens committed mass sati as a sign of devotion to their partners who died or were defeated at battle. Suraj Kund the original pond whose waters were to have been imbued with curative qualities is also situated within the walls of the Fort.
Teli ka Mandir 9th century monument, standing at a stupendous height of 100 feet is a Pratihara Vishnu temple. The architecture of the temple blends diverse styles – the roof is Dravidian while the decorative adornments are typically Indo-Aryan, characteristic of Northern Indian design metaphor. Another temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu built in the 11th century is the Sas-Bahu-ka-Mandir.
The Gurudwara Data Bandhi Chhod was built in reverence of the Sikh Guru, Guru Hargobind Sahib. It is said that the Mughal Emperor Jehangir imprisoned Guru Hargobind Sahib here for over two years. The guru insisted that 52 Hindu kings who were his prison inmates be released at the time of his release. Jehangir was impressed by his nobility and fearlessness and agreed to this demand.
Within the Fort complex in what used to be the barracks of the British soldiers is one of India’s most reputed schools Scindia School.
Jai Vilas Palace today is the residence of the Scindia family, direct decedents of the Scindia rulers. The 35 rooms within have been converted into the Scindia Museum. The architecture of Jai Vilas is characteristic of the Italian Tuscan and Corinthian architectural styles. The Darbar Hall is impressive for its two central chandeliers so heavy that it is said they were suspended from the roof only after ten elephants had tested the strength of the roof. Gilt-lined ceilings, heavy rich draperies and tapestries, lavish Persian carpets, and French and Italian antique furniture fill the large rooms of Jai Vilas Place.
The tour of the Museum at Jai Vilas Place gives the visitor an insight into the unbelievably opulent lifestyle of princely India. The treasures to look for at Jai Vilas Palace:
• A silver train adorned with cut-glass wagons that was used to serve guests as it chugged around on miniature rails on the dining tables.
• A glass cradle made in Italy that was used for the Janamashtami celebration venerating the infant Lord Krishna.
• Silver swords that belonged to Aurangzeb and Shah Jehan.
• The jeweled slippers that belonged to Chinkoo Rani.
Tansen’s Tomb simply built with early Mughal influences is not just a monument but also the venue for one of the most famous music festivals held in the months of November – December, the Tansen Music Festival. Famous Indian musicians gather together to perform at the festival. Tansen, one of the 9 jewels from the court of Akbar the Great, is hailed as the father of Hindustani classical music.
In comparison the mausoleum of Ghouse Mohammed the Afghan prince carved out of sandstone is elaborate; though also built along early Mughal architectural definitions of style- so intricate it appears to be lace. The earliest freedom fighters Tantya Tope and the indomitable Rani of Jhansi are buried in Gwalior venerated in memorials.
Located on the Residency Road at Morar is the newly constructed second temple of the sun, the Sun Temple at Morar. Built by the Aditya Birla Group the temple echoes the grandeur in physical appearance and spiritual intent of the famous Konark Sun Temple in Orissa.
Gwalior, a city moulded around its rich historical past provides the tourist with evidence and tangible symbols in its Museums and Art Galleries allowing for the evocation of the passage of time- the glorious history upon which the identity of Gwalior in the here and now can be understood. The Gujari Mahal Archaeological Museum displays rare and ancient artifacts and historical memorablia most dating back to the 1st century AD. Many of these objects were destroyed by the Mughals who were iconoclasts; yet one cannot help but be moved by their perfect form evoking an era gone for example the statue of the tree goddess Shalbhanjika from Gyraspur.
The Kala Vithika another source where the historical art and the evolving culture of the place can be viewed. The Municipal Corporation Museum has an impressive natural history section. was set up by the sarod maestro Ustad Amzad Ali Khan through the Memorial Trust set up for his grandfather Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan. It is the ancestral home belonging to Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan the legend that has been converted into 'Sarod Ghar' - Museum of Music. The museum of music has been painstakingly rebuilt keeping the integrity of the traditional architecture styles and motifs of Gwalior – on display are the ancient instruments of the great Indian Masters of eras gone past, who really set in motion the great tradition of classical music born over the successive eras of rule which witnessed political, social, religious, and artistic culmination.
Gwalior Zoo where rare species of Indian wildlife are kept in natural surroundings though archaic in a time where zoos are considered a little curious is well maintained.
Gwalior is also home to several reputed Schools, Colleges, Universities and Research Centres and a studied list of these institutions follows:
Schools, Colleges, and Universities
Maharana Pratap College of Technology
Lakshmi Bai National Institute Of Physical Education (LNIPE)
Carmel Convent School
Saint Pauls' School
Scindia Kanya Vidyalaya
Miss Hill School
Institute of Hotel Management
Institute of Technology and Management
A.M.I. Shishu Mandir
Wendy School Junior College
Kiddies Corner School
Rama Krishna Higher Secondary School
BSF School, Tekanpur
Jiwaji University, Institute of Engineering Gwalior (IEJU)
BIMR Nursing College
Cancer hospital Nursing College
Mahatma Gandhi Law College
Gwalior BEd. College
MLB Undergraduate College
KRG Girls College
Public Higher Secondary School Morar
Cancer Research Institute
Defence research Institute
Potato Research Institute
Cancer Research College Of Life Science
Where to Stay
Usha Kiran Palace
The Central Park
Hotel Regency Resort
Hotel Vivek Continental
Hotel Tansen Gwalior