Gwalior – Gibraltar of India!

Gwalior was always in my bucket list. Only deterrent was the distance, it takes to travel from Mumbai. Hence, decided to club it with nearby areas and draft a 3-4 days plan. While looking out for nearby areas, I came across Bateshwar, Mitaoli& Naresar. These three seemed unexplored with little text to rely on.

Still, after reading a lot about Bateshwar, plan was drafted. Gwalior – Bateshwar GroupGarhi Padhavali MitaoliKakanmath(Optional) – Naresar – Delhi

I was waiting for a long weekend, Holi gave that perfect opportunity, also, my Friend’s wedding added the extra spice to the mix. This was the first time, where everyone was joining from different places. Shalmali & Mihir (Sis-Bro duo) joined us from Lucknow, Kirti & Payal (Sisters) joined from Delhi, while I was supposed to join with my Friend, but she missed her train. It turned out to be a solo travel for me.

I boarded the Punjab Mail, which left Dadar at 07:40 PM, reaching Gwalior at 03:30 PM. I had pre-booked the Hotel through OYO for Hotel Saya (considering its proximity to station). As soon as I got into auto (Rs.50), I realized that the booking had gone to another Hotel Saya Inn, which was on another side of the town.

I requested, if it was possible to change to Hotel Saya, well, it was declined. Decided to stay put in that Hotel, and asked my friends to come to same. The travelling distance to Fort and other places was additional burden, which the local auto drivers like to cash on, if not vigilant.

Because of Holi, there was not a soul on the Road, I decided against, to go around. Also, the Restaurants were all closed, somehow got one restaurant to deliver food to the Room. Next day Morning, Shalmali & Mihir arrived, they had booked the room, but early check-in was chargeable, hence, dropped the bags in my room and then we left to tour the Gwalior Fort.

We three, reached the Alamgiri Paur (Gate) after tasting some sweets and local breakfast of Poha with sev sprinkled on top. Further to this is the Hindola Paur, there is a zig zag ascent to the top of the Fort from here.

Alamgiri Gate was named after reigning Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb Alamgir, while Hindola Gate or Badal Mahal was named after Badal Singh, the brother of the Tomar king, Kalyan Mal.

Gurjari Mahal was built by King Man Singh Tomar for his Queen Mrignayani. This Mahal now houses an archeological Museum. Unfortunately it was closed because of Holi (Holi is a 5 day festival in Gwalior). A guy approached us to take to Uravi Gate, through which the Vehicles can take you up directly to the top, incase you want to avoid the steep ascent through Alamgiri Gate. Autos leave you at Alamgiri Gate only, and four wheelers are allowed to go up till the Man Singh Palace. We assumed the palaces to the apart from each other over the vast area, hence agreed for Rs. 600/-.

Stairs to the Underground Cell

We boarded the Omni Van, crossing the Uravi Gate on the other side of the Village, while ascending, we saw many Jain Statues on the sides of the Road. We reached at the entrance of the Man Singh Palace Gate.

Bought the entrance ticket, which is applicable for Teli Ka Mandir too.

Man Singh Palace was built by King Man Singh Tomar in the 15th Century. It is a four – storied building with two floors built underground and is circular in Shape. This Palace has seen many stories of struggle to capture the Power. War waged and won and defeated, passing through different dynasties like Rajputs, Delhi Sultanate, Mughals, Marathas and Scindias.

It has many colorful tiles on the outer façade with murals of Ducks, Elephants, Flowers etc. hence also called as Chit Mahal or Painted Palace. Since, it is built on the top of the hill, it has a beautiful view of the city from all sides. The towers have a domed cupolas and its walls are inlaid with blue, green and yellow enameled tiles. Since, the time it was built over the years, the usage kept changing, from art and music to wailings of the imprisoned kings.

(As per some texts: Babur visited this palace in 1527 CE and left his account in his memoirs. He was ill at that time however his enthusiasm was so strong that he visited all the palaces of this fort. He mentions that the domes of this palace were gilded in copper and the whole front of the palace was covered in white stucco, both these features are missing at present. He mentions that the rooms below ground level were very dark that he had to carry a light with him. In his words, ‘though they have had all the ingenuity of Hindustan bestowed upon them, yet they are but uncomfortable places’.)

There is a circular prison at the base in the underground floor, which is connected through stairs from various sides. This place had witnessed the murder of Murad, by his own brother, The Mughal Emperor Aurangazeb. It was also used to keep state prisoners.

Further to Man Singh Palace, in the same Complex were other Mahals. The whole area can take around 2-3 hours to roam.

Here another set of tickets are to be bought. We started with Karan Palace which was first on the left side.  Karan Mahal is a two storey, very simple building.

There was also an ordinance depot, used by British to store the weapons. Next to that was a large pond called as Jauhar Pond, where Rajput wives performed Sati.

On the right side of Jauhar Kund, there is a Jehangir Mahal. There is a tank in front.

Next to Jehangir was Vikram Mahal, built by Vikramaditya Singh, elder brother of Man Singh. There is a Shiva temple in front of it.

(Babur mentions that this palace was connected with Man Mandir and Karn Mandir via secret passages in which he himself had trodden. He was surprised enough to see such a complex and intricate interconnecting underground galleries.)

Because of extreme heat, we exhausted our water supplies and there is lack of drinking water sources and poor sanitation facilities in the Fort, we were completely drained and preferred to exit the place ASAP. We skipped Assi Khamba ki Baori. Another car came to pick up and dropped us at Teli Ka Mandir.

Teli ka Mandir, a 11th Century temple was later renovated in the 19th Century. It is said to be a mix of North & South Indian Architectures. The word Teli comes from the Hindu word Taali a bell used in worship.

The door has a Torana or Archway with sculptures of many god & goddesses. As per the information, the temple was originally dedicated to Vishnu, which was destroyed during a Muslim invasion and further renovated to a Shiva temple by installing a Linga, while keeping the Vaishnava motifs such as the Garuda. It was refurbished between 1881 and 1883.

[The temple is entered through a huge gateway which leads into antarala. River goddesses are carved at the bottom of the door jambs. An interesting feature is the carving of a band just above these river goddesses. Above Yamuna is shown Lakulisa holding a danda (rod) and seated with a yoga-patta bound to his feet. Two sages are shown on his left, each one holding a bag on a rod over their shoulders.

Above Ganga is shown king Bhagiratha standing on one leg in penance to bring Ganga to earth from heaven. There is a inscriptions on the southern niche – Temples of the Pratihara Period in Central India – written in Sanskrit, in north Indian characters of eight century CE – undated, dated to middle to eighth century CE based upon paleographic studies – ‘Namah: Vanagrasakta-nettra valita-dridha-bhuja chakra-sulasi’ – the inscription is a salutation to a multi-armed goddess (probably Durga) who is holding a chakra, shula and asi (sword).]

Garuda monument is mixture of Mughal & Indian Architecture, is close to Teli ka Mandir and is dedicated to Vishnu, considered to be highest in the Fort.

After spending 30 minutes here, we went further to Sahastrabahu (Thousand Arms) also called as Saas Bahu Temple, dedicated to Vishnu in his Padmanabha form. This was built by King Mahipal of Kachchhapaghata dynasty in the 11th Century.

There are two temples, one is small and other one big, both made of Sandstone. There are many carvings on the Temples.

The temple has, from outside to inside, an ardha-mandapa (small hall), a mandapa (hall), a maha-mandapa (big hall), an antarala (vestibule) and a garbha-griha (sanctum). It faces north, with its sanctum in south. The shikhara of the temple is ruined.

The smaller temple called as Bahu is single storey. It has a three ardha-mandapa, one mandapa, an antarala and a garbha-griha.

Next on itinerary was Gurudwara Data Bandi Chhor. The word ‘Bandi’ means ‘imprisoned’, ‘Chor’ means ‘release’. The story of this Gurudwara was explained in the Light & Sound Show in night. (Photography was not allowed here).

We had some more places planned for that day. Also, it was 2.30 PM in the afternoon, we were very hungry. Finding a good restaurant to eat was very difficult on that day because of Holi, also, you have to come to the main city side. The Omni dropped us at the Zayka Restaurant. Food was good. Entire restaurant was empty. We finished lunch by 4.00 PM.

Our first place after lunch was Tomb of Mohammad Ghaus & Tansen Complex. We took an auto (Rs. 50) In addition to these two, there are many smaller tombs in the same complex.

Mohammed Ghaus’s Tomb is the largest of all with beautiful latticework, while Tansen’s Tomb is nearby, comparatively very smaller than his Guru. Mohammed Ghaus was a Sufi Saint who assisted Babur in the conquest of Gwalior, he was also a spiritual Guru to Akbar. The tomb is a good example of Mughal architecture with a dome in the centre, hexagonal minarets at the corners and windows brimming with latticework. The patterns on each of the windows looks intricately carved and designs vary on each frames.

Musical Master Tansen lies in the smaller Tomb. There is a famous tamarind tree nearby, it is said that Tansen used to chew the leaves of this tree for the melodious voice. Offcourse, the original tree is not in place, it died due to extensive plucking of its leaves, now, its seedling is planted in its place. As I was walking around, taking the video shot, an old caretaker guided me to the tree and gave some leaves for us to chew. Well, I did not test my vocals, but it was very amusing experience. He informed us that during the month of December, there is a Tansen Musical Festival in the complex. It is said that Tansen passed away in Delhi but he was brought to Gwalior, next to his Guru as his final resting place.

The golden hue of the sun gave a very nice color to the Tomb structure.

We left for Surya Mandir as the clock was ticking fast and we had to cover Gopachal too. My friends Kirti & Payal, we supposed to join us in evening. They had already arrived at the Station. I told them to go ahead to Gopachal since it was nearer to them and the gates close by 6.00 PM. We were supposed to join them after a short trip to Birla Sun Temple, if time permits. Back to Surya Mandir, a local guided us to the share auto stand, which would have dropped us at some junction, closer to the Surya Mandir. From there, it was supposed to be 2 mins walk. Instead, the guy took us directly at the Gate of Surya Mandir.

It was built by Birla Family as an exact replica of Konark Sun temple. Built with red Sandstone in the shape of Chariot. The chariot is drawn by seven horses representing the seven days of the week and 24 wheels representing the number of fortnights in a year. The adjoining area has a beautiful garden.

We had to rush for the Gopachal, since the sun was already down, still managed to reach the gate of Gopachal. The inner gates were closed, we walked back, met the Sisters and decided to go for the Sound and Light Show at Gwalior Fort. Bro-Sis duo skipped that, after the tiring day, preferred to go back to hotel. I joined the sisters for the show. We again took an auto (Rs. 50).

This time, we reached the Alamgir Gate, we asked him to take us through the Uravi Gate, he declined saying that Autos can’t go through that gate. After a bit skirmish, we had to walk through the Alamgir Gate. I remembered suddenly, that the main reason for coming to Gwalior was the “Zero” which we certainly didn’t get to see during our day trip. After going through my papers, I realized it was in Chaturbhuj Temple. I was feeling sad for missing it out. Little did we know, that while ascending the route, after Ganesh Paur, there was the Chaturbhuj Temple. I was ectastic. With mobile light, we tried to search the “Zero”. Offcourse, every word on the inscription over the top of door seemed like a “zero” in that light. (After coming back, I came to know that the inscription tablet was inside the temple, next to Vishnu, for whom the temple is dedicated.)

This small temple is carved from a single solid rock. There is a garbhagriha and a mukha-mandapam supported on four pillars in front.

I could identify some of the sculptures in the niches, there is Varaha, Vishnu, Trivikrama, Ganesh, Parvati, Kartikeya, all engraved beautifully. There are many other incarnations of Vishnu found around the temple, these are Rama, Krishna, Balarama and Narisimha. There are images of female dancers on other niches.

(Inscription of Adivaraha – Epigraphia Indica vol I – over the front door – written in Sanskrit, in 27 lines, in – dated in year (Vikrama) 932 or 875 CE – this Vishnu temple was constructed by Alla, the son of Vaillabhatta and the grandson of Nagarabhatta, belonging to the Varjara family migrated from Anandapura in Latamandala (Vadnagar in Gujrat). Vaillabhatta was the chief of the boundaries in the service of king Ramadeva, and his son, Alla, succeeded his father in office. Alla was appointed to the guardianship of Gopadri (present Gwalior) by king Srimad-Adivaraha.

Inscription of Bhojadeva – Epigraphia Indica vol I – written in incorrect Sanskrit – dated in year (Vikrama) 933 – the inscription records four donations made to two temples by Alla, the son of Vaillabhatta and the guardian of Sri-Gopagiri (present Gwalior). The first donee is a Navadurga temple, situated beyond the Vrischikala river, which received three grants. The second donee, receiving the fourth grant, is a Vishnu temple called Vaillabhatta-swamin, which Alla has likewise caused to be built on the descent of the road of the illustrious Bhojadeva.)

Beyond Lakshman Paur (Gate), the path becomes easier to climb. There are various motifs carved on the rock face, which we couldn’t make out much due to night time. However, with the help of torch light, we could make out the various carving of Shiva with Parvati, Ganesha, Mahishasuramardini, Surya, Kartikeya, Vishnu etc.

The Light & Sound show is held in an open Arena, facing Man Singh Palace. During light and sound show, the story of Gwalior fort is shared. As per the local legend, Gwalior fort was built in 3 CE by the local king named Suraj Sen. He was suffering from Leprosy, which was cured by a wandering Saint named Gwalipa, after the Saint offered water from the sacred Kund. As a token of gesture, the king named the Fort and the town after him. The Saint then gave the king the title of ‘Pal’ (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 successors of Suraj Sen controlled the fort. But the 84th king, Tej Karan, did not bear the title and lost the fort. Also, there was story of Mrignayani, on a hunting expedition King Man Singh came across this village belle, who was fighting off a wild buffalo and it was about to attack the king, when she saves him by vanquishing the wild buffalo in single handed combat. He was attracted to her beauty and strength, offering her to be his Queen.

The Gurjari Mahal was built for her, after her request to divert the water from a river to her Palace. Thereafter, the Gurudwara story was shared. Gurudwara was built after 6th Sikh Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji. He was arrested and imprisoned by Mughal Emperor Jahangir in 1609, at the age of 14 for the fine imposed on his father 5th Sikh Guru Arjan, which was not been paid by the Sikhs and Guru Hargobind. According to Surjit Singh Gandhi, 52 Rajas who were imprisoned in the fort as hostages for “millions of money” and for opposing the Mughal Empire, they were dismayed as they were losing a spiritual mentor. On getting released Guru Hargobind requested the Rajas to be freed along with him as well. Jahangir allowed Guru Hargobind to free as many rajas he could as long as they are holding on to the guru while leaving the prison. Guru sahib got a special gown stitched which had 52 hems. As Guru Hargobind left the fort, all the captive kings caught the hems of the cloak and came out along with him.

After finishing the show, we did not have any vehicle to return, also we were very hungry. Kirti wanted to try the Chowpatty, which was famous for local varieties. We booked the Ola from Fort to Chowpatty. It turned out to be usual Mumbai’s Khau Galli. We tried some chatpata fares like Pani Puri, Sev Puris etc. Then settled for Masala Dosa and some Chinese food. Packed some for Bro-Sis duo.

Booked one more room for sisters, rested through the night. Next day, we had to start early with Bateshwar Group of Temples.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s