Gwalior Fort is referred to as the pearl amongst fortresses in India by Mughal emperor Babur, the Gwalior Fort is one of the most impervious fortresses located in the whole north and south India and is a spot you unquestionably must visit. The Fort is situated on the top of a vast rocky mountain near Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh in central India, this majestic construction dominates the entire city of Gwalior. An inseparable part of the identity and architecture of the city, evidence suggests that it has been around since the 6th Century. It is the region where the second oldest reference of the digit ‘zero’ has been discovered in the form of a carving inside a temple on the top of the fort.
The formation of the Gwalior Fort took place in two sections, in two separate time duration and thus, this architectural marvel has an interesting tale attached to it. It has transferred from the hold of one dynasty to the other, many times.
The Gwalior fort is surrounded by concrete walls of sandstone, encloses three temples, six palaces, and several water tanks, and is truly an architectural marvel. The palaces here include the Man Mandir Palace, the Jahangir Mahal, the Gujari Mahal, the Karan Mahal and the Shah Jahan Mahal. The different palaces and temples are a reflection of the architectural finery and skill that existed during those times and continues to be appreciated till date. The fort extends on a range of three square kilometers and has two entry gates: the chief entrance implying the Elephant Gate, Hathi Pul on the north-east side with a long inclination and the other called the Badalgarh Gate on the south-west side.
According to archaeologists, there isn’t any solid proof to show exactly when the fort was created. However, a legend tells us that it was built in 3CE by a provincial King named Suraj Sen. A saint called Gwalipa came roaming to the fort and met the king, who was suffering from leprosy. When Gwalipa offered him some water from a sacred pond, now called Suraj Kund and located within the fort complex, he immediately became healthy again. As a thankful gesture to the saint, the king named the fort and the town after him. The saint then gave the king the title of ‘Pal’, the protector and told him that as long as he and his family continue to bear this title, the fort would remain in their possession. Following this, 83 heirs of Suraj Sen dominated the fort. Yet the 84th king, Tej Karan, did not bear the title and lost the fort.
In the 6th century, A Huna emperor called Mihirakula used to rule the fort during that time. Later in the 9th century, Gurjara-Pratiharas seized the fort, supervised, and also created the Teli Ka Mandir. After being attacked and ruled by a couple of Muslim dynasties for three centuries, the Tomars captured the fort in 1398. Maan Singh was the last and the most unique Tomar ruler, and he built numerous monuments inside the fort complex. The stunning turquoise blue-tiled Man Mandir Palace was constructed throughout his reign. He had a separate palace constructed for his wife Mrignayani, this building is called the Gujari Mahal and is presently a state archaeological museum. When Ibrahim Lodi attacked the fort in 1516, he conquered Maan Singh, who died, and the Tomars lost the fort.
The Gwalior Fort later witnessed a short period of rule by the Mughals, till the Marathas conquered it and soon lost it to the East India Company. After this, there were several repetitive transfers between the rule of the Marathas and the Britishers. Finally, in 1844, the Maratha Scindia family of Gwalior, as the British government’s protectorate, controlled the fort.
During the revolution of 1857, the fort witnessed great battle Rani Lakshmibai, the Queen of Jhansi came fighting from Jhansi to Gwalior and sought refuge inside the fort. After struggling for days with the Britishers, she dived from the fort on her horse and dedicated her life. Until India gained independence in 1947, the Scindias continued ruling the city and constructed several monuments.
The most attractive spot in the entire premises is no doubt the Man Mandir Palace, which with its amazingly complex composition, seems to hang at the side of the impressive fort. The Teli-ka-Mandir, built in the 9th-century Dravidian style, rises to a height of over 100 feet and is famous for its blend of South Indian architecture with North Indian decorative motifs, as well as an exquisitely sculpted exterior. The Saas-Bahu temples on the eastern side of the fort are also larger than life examples of the 11th-century temple architecture.
The unique Jain temples monuments inside the fort, with the Siddhachal Caves and Gopachal rock-cut Jain statues, complete with thousands of Jain Tirthankar idols were destroyed during the Mughal invasion. Gurudwara Data Bandi Chhor is another religious site established inside the fort’s complex, and it was where Sikh Guru Hargobind Sahib was held as a hostage by Mughal Emperor Jahangir. Man Mandir Palace, Gujari Mahal, Assi Khamba Ki Baoli, and Suraj Kund are other important monuments found in the complex
The Gwalior Fort is open for public every day from 6:00 AM to 5:30 PM
Indians: INR 75 per person
Foreigners: INR 250 per person
Entry for children under 15 years of age is FREE
The Gwalior Fort organizes a magnificent sound and light program every evening. This show is extremely well executed and makes you feel as if you are a part of the rich history of the fort and the love story of Raja Man Singh and his queen Mrignayani.
The show takes place in the amphitheater at the Man Mandir. The timings for the show are as follows:
Hindi Show: 7:30 PM
English Show: 8:30 PM
The best plan to arrive at the Gwalior Fort is by auto-rickshaw which can reach up to the Urvai Gate, the western gateway of the fort. There are two ways to the fort, the second one being the eastern gate does not permit any vehicle. Both the paths are steep treks after one point. Nevertheless, the charming illustration of this impressive fort from the eastern side makes the whole trip worthy. Make sure not to miss the beautiful rock sculptures on your way down from the western side.