Gwalior, the ancient capital city has been a cradle of great dynasties and a living heritage of heroism. Its antiquity dates back to the 8th century, when Suraj Sen, a chieftain, founded the city and named it after Gwalipa, a legendary saint who cured him of a deadly disease. Gwalior, the city of palaces, temples, and monuments witnessed the rule of great Rajput clans like Pratiharas Kacchwahas and Tomars. Its tradition as a royal capital continued until the formation of independent India, with the Scindia’s having their seat here.
The Fort: This magnificent fort atop Ciopachal, a sandstone precipice 91 meters above the surrounding plain was built by Raja Mansingh Tomar. It dominates the city like a great monolith and was described as ‘the pearl amongst the fortresses of Hind’, by Mughal emperor Babur. The imposing outer walls still stand, two miles in length and 35 feet high. A steep road winds upwards to the fort, flanked by statues of the Jain Tirthankaras, carved into the rock face. The fort is dotted with various monuments which are marvels of medieval architecture. Some of them are-
- Man Mandir Palace: This most impressive building in the fort was built by Raja Man Singh between 1486 and 1517. It witnessed many battles, jauhars, and imprisonments.
- Teli-ka Mandir: The 9th-century Pratihar Vishnu temple has a peculiar plan and design. Its roof is in the Dravidian style, while the decorations inside are in Indo-Aryan style.
- Sas Bahu ka Mandir: The 9th and 11th century ‘Mother and Daughter-in-law’ pair of temples are dedicated to Lord Vishnu.
- Gujari Mahal: This elegant palace was built in the 15th century by Raja Mansingh Tomar for his Gujar’ queen, Mrignayani. Today, it houses an archaeological museum.
- Scindia School: One of the finest schools in India.
- Tansen’s Tomb: The tomb of Tansen, one of the nine gems at emperor Akbar’s court, is a fine example of early Mughal architecture and a part of Gwalior’s living cultural heritage. The annual music festival is held here on a national scale in Nov. – Dec.
- Jai Vilas Palace: The palace designed on the plan of an Italian palazzo is a fine blend of the Italian, the Tuscan, and the Corinthian styles.
- Jai Vilas Museum: It offers an unparalleled glimpse into the rich culture and lifestyle of princely India. Some of the rich treasures exhibited here are Some Napoleon’s golden table (one of the three in the world); a carpet showing Rana Pratap on horseback; a silver mini train with cut-glass wagons, which served guests as it chugged around on miniature rails on the table; a glass cradle from Italy used for baby Krishna on Janamashtami festival; silver dinner sets and swords of Aurangzeb and Shah Jahan.
Memorials: Gwalior is also dotted with memorials of the earliest freedom fighters like Tantya Tope, Rani Laxmi Bai of Jhansi and several Scindia princes.
Kala Vithika and Municipal Museum: Kala Vithika houses a treasure of arts, while the natural history section of Municipal museum is worth visiting.
Sun Temple: The newly constructed temple near the Residency at Morar is built on the lines of the famous Sun Temple at Konark in Orissa.
Orchha (124 kms.)
The medieval town was founded Rudra Pratap along the Betwa river. It retains the rich legacy of Bundela rulers, who built fine palaces and temples during the 16th 17th centuries. The magnificent fort complex is dotted with spectacular palaces and temples. The important ones are Jehangir Mahal, Raj Mahal, Rai Praveen Mahal, Ram Raja Temple, Chaturbhuj Temple, Laxminarayan Temple, etc. These are adorned with beautiful murals of the Bundela School. The nearest railhead is at Jhansi(19 kms.).
Shivpuri (112 kms.)
Shivpuri. the summer capital of the Scindia rulers of Gwalior is set amidst thickly wooded hills. which were once inhabited by tigers and elephants. The magnificent palaces, hunting lodges and cenotaphs reflects the grandeur of the bygone era.