If there is one thing you can’t escape in Gwalior, it’s the fort. Perched high on a rocky massif, the imposing fort with its blue tiled palace is visible from each and every corner of the city of Gwalior.
Regarded as North and Central India’s most impregnable fortress, the Gwalior Fort was built by Raja Man Singh Tomar in the 15th century. In the five hundred years since then, the Gwalior Fort has changed hands many times- it has been held by the Tomars, Mughals, Marathas and British, who finally handed it over to the Scindias. With a turbulent and pretty eventful past, the Gwalior Fort spreads out over an area of 3 square km and is built at a vantage height of 100 m above the city. The fort is bounded by solid walls of sandstone, which encloses three temples, six palaces and a number of water tanks.
The southern path of the fort is bounded by rock faces with intricate carvings of the Jain tirthankars. As you enter the fort, you’ll see lots more to impress and interest you.
Among the Gwalior Fort’s most prominent palaces is the amazingly ornate Man Singh Palace, built by Man Singh towards the end of the 15th century. This is an impressive structure that clings to the very edge of the fort, its façade embellished with blue ceramic tiles. The palace of Raja Man Singh forms the backdrop for an excellent ‘son-et-lumiere’ (sound and light) show held here every evening. It is amongst the best in the country and vividly recreates an era and brings to life the history of the Fort and the love story of Raja Man Singh and his Queen Mrignayani.
Within the fort also lies the Scindia School, a famous residential school for boys established by the erstwhile Maharaja of Gwalior over one hundred years ago.
The Gujari Mahal is a 15th century palace built by Raja Man Singh for his beloved Gujar (tribal) Queen, Mrignayani. It is now an archaeological museum with an impressive collection of exhibits some dating back to the 1st century AD.
Of the temples in the Gwalior Fort, the most famous are the Teli-ka-Mandir- a 9th century shrine towering to a height of over 100 ft. It is built in a unique blend of South Indian architecture with North Indian decorative motifs and is notable for its profusely sculpted exterior.
On the eastern side of the fort are the twin Saas-Bahu Temples, commonly believed to be dedicated to mother-in-law and daughter-in-law but, in fact, dedicated to ‘Sahasrabahu’, ‘the thousand-armed’ Lord Vishnu. Both these temples made for a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law are richly embellished examples of 11th century temple architecture. The Chaturbhuj Mandir, a Vaishnavite shrine dating back to the 9th century also lies in the fort.
Other palaces within the Gwalior Fort which are worth seeing include the Karan Palace, the Jahangir Mahal, and the Shahjahan Mahal.
The Mughal emperor Babar referred to the Gwalior Fort as 'the pearl amongst fortresses in India' and although you may beg to differ, you will probably agree that this, the dominating feature of Gwalior’s skyline, is definitely a citadel worth seeing.
The Man Singh Palace, despite its picture-pretty appearance, has a somewhat gory history. It is believed that Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb imprisoned and later murdered his brother Murad here.
Equally grisly is the Jauhar Kund here, which marks the spot where the women of the harem burnt themselves to death after the defeat of the king of Gwalior in 1232.