Gwalior Fort: All You Wanted To Know


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About Gwalior Fort

This is the most comprehensive travel guide to the Gwalior Fort ever. Show me a bigger travel blog on Gwalior Fort and I shall show you a live dinosaur! I have mentioned in detail about each place you can see in the premises of the Gwalior Fort in this exhaustive travelogue.

Such rare information is not available in the old school newspapers, travel magazines and travel guide books. Do share this blog with your friend and family so that more and more people learn about the things to do in Gwalior Fort. I am sharing many trivia and fun facts about the Gwalior Fort in this exhaustive blog. Here is all you wanted to know about the Gwalior Fort.

Gwalior Fort
Gwalior Fort. Notice the patterns and blue tiles.

My Experience of visiting Gwalior Fort

I was transported back in time as I uncovered Gwalior Fort one layer at a time.For a history buff like me,a visit to the Gwalior fort was like moving into a time warp. As I enter the time warp which Gwalior Fort is, every stone of its walls spoke volumes about the endless series of dynasties which won and lost this ancient bastion. It is not every day that I see such huge fort premises.

I was invited by the Time Passion Trails in association with Madhya Pradesh Tourism for a weeklong trip across Gwalior and nearby attractions. As much as I learnt about unheard of places, many of which were off the touristy trail, I also had an amazing time bonding with friends who were also on this trip. Good company, exciting destinations and amazing chemistry between all the participants made this trip memorable.

Why is Gwalior Fort famous?

Thanks to its unique history and the stunning architecture of palaces and medieval temples, Gwalior Fort is famous across the world. I was also treated with unforgettable views of the Gwalior city from this sprawling fort.

Gwalior Fort is known for its strategic location, scale, rich history and grand architecture. What also makes the Gwalior fort so famous is the fact that it is one of the largest forts of India. The fame of the Gwalior Fort continued for centuries as it exchanged hands from one dynasty to another. Gwalior was one of the most important political bastions of the bygone era. This is why Gwalior fort always stayed important and relevant throughout the centuries. No prizes for guessing, the Gwalior fort is still one of the most famous forts of India.

Who is the main deity of Gwalior Fort

Shiva Bhagwan and Vishnu Bhagwan

are the main deities whose temples are built across the Gwalior Fort. I visited many Hindu temples as I hopped from one tourist attraction to another while visiting the Gwalior Fort.

Nomenclature/Etymology of Gwalior Fort

Gwalior Fort is also known as the Gwalior Kila or Gwalior Qila. Did you know that the word Gwalior is a derivation of the word Gwalipa. As per the local folklore, the local chieftain Suraj Sen founded the city of Gwalior in the name of Gwalipa because he cured him of leprosy.

Where is Gwalior Fort located?

Gwalior Fort is located in the heart of the Gwalior City in Madhya Pradesh in Central India. Gwalior Fort is perched atop a sandstone hill because it provides a natural defence advantage to the fort. Its strategic location reminded me of the colossal Mehrangarh fort of Jodhpur in Rajasthan.

Who built Gwalior Fort?

Gwalior Fort was built and renovated by many dynasties over several centuries.

Who ruled Gwalior Fort?

Not many people know that this hill fort was ruled by various dynasties of different kingdoms over several centuries. Below are some of the main rulers of Gwalior Fort:

History of Gwalior Fort

As we have seen above, Gwalior Fort has had a very rich history which spanned centuries. From Kachchhapaghata rulers to brave Tomar Rajputs; from Mughals to the Scindias and British, everyone finds a mention in the annals of history here. Keep reading, as I share some of the most fascinating facts about the Gwalior Fort of Madhya Pradesh in Central India.

Mughal Invasion: Who attacked Gwalior Fort?

Gwalior Fort is known to be one of the most impenetrable forts of India. However, in the year 1527 C.E., the army of Mughal ruler Babur attacked the Gwalior fort. Known to be iconoclasts, the army destroyed the faces of deities, whether Hindu Gods and Goddesses or Jain Tirthankaras.

The signs of defacing the idols can still be seen today. I also noticed that the army of Babur had also destroyed the genitals of the idols of the naked Digambara Jain Tirthankaras. But the good news is that except for the faces and genitals of few statues, much of the Rock cut images of the Tirthankaras are still intact and in good shape.

When was Gwalior Fort constructed?

How old is the Gwalior Fort? Did you know that the Gwalior Fortis one of the oldest forts in Madhya Pradesh as well as in India? After a deep study, the archaeologists, scholars and historians have concluded that Gwalior Fort is at least more than a thousand years old, maybe more! The origins of Gwalior Fort can be traced back to the Tomar dynasty. However, historical records which date back to 3rd and 4th century have also been observed in Gwalior Fort.

What is Gwalior Fort made up of?

Gwalior Fort is built with Vindhyan sandstone, lime and mortar. It was easy to see why Gwalior Fort is so robust and impenetrable. The fort walls here are one of the tallest I have seen yet (and I have seen a lot!). No wonder, the strong medieval structures here still stad strong even after so many centuries.

What are the main entrances of Gwalior Fort?

What is the name of the gate in Gwalior Fort? Hathi Pole and Urvai Gate are the main entrances of the Gwalior Fort.

Which gate is best for Gwalior Fort? I entered from the Urvai Gate because it is walking distance from the Siddhanchal rock cut Jain temples, Man Singh palace, Johar sthal, Chaturbhuj Temple etc.

The lesser-known Dhondapur Gate and Ladhedi gate are also other entrances to Gwalior Fort. These are some of the best kept secrets of the Gwalior Fort.

How many gates are there in Gwalior Fort?Overall, there are 6 gates inside the Gwalior fort.

Area of Gwalior Fort

The sprawling Gwalior Fort is spread across an area of a whooping 3 square kilometres. This makes it one of the largest forts in India and Asia.

Architecture of Gwalior Fort

What is the architectural style of Gwalior Fort? The architecture of Gwalior Fort is spellbinding, to say the least. Fortified by solid sandstone walls, the Gwalior Fort is home to three temples, many water tanks and as many as six palaces. This architectural marvel is to be seen to be believed. Though it is not rare to find such grand ruins in India, I was still spell bound by the sheer scale and architectural brilliance of the monuments within the walled premises of the massive Gwalior Fort.

What are the architectural features of Gwalior Fort? While studying the minute details of various monuments of the Gwalior Fort, what I found most interesting is amalgamation of several architectural styles. Rajput, Mughal and Hindu architectural styles could still be easily seen on the walls of Raja Man Singh Palace etc. This blend of architectural styles speaks volumes about various dynasties who ruled Gwalior and the surrounding region over several centuries.

Light and Sound Show at the Gwalior Fort

During my lonely post prandial walk on the roof top terrace of the luxurious Taj Usha Kiran Palace, I was swept off my feet when my eyes rested on the beautifully lit Gwalior Fort. It looked ethereal and reminded me of the forts of Rajasthan which are also lit beautifully in the night! Did you know that it is possible to visit the Gwalior fort even during the night? How cool is that! Much like how I visited Petra in night during my weeklong trip in Jordan in Middle East!

The 45 minutes long Light and Sound Show at the Gwalior Fort is not to be missed.

The timings of Light and Sound Show at the Gwalior Fort are

March to October:

Hindi: 7:30 p.m. and

English: 8:30 p.m.

November to February:

Hindi: 6:30 p.m. and

English: 7:30 p.m.

Top places to see in Gwalior Fort

Till I visited, I had no idea that there are so many exciting places to visit in the Gwalior Fort Complex. This fort is so huge that even a day is not enough to explore all its corners in depth. Till I visited, I had no idea that the famous Raja Man Singh Palace, Chaturbhuj palace, Jahangir Mahal, Shahjahan Mahal are also located within the premises of the Gwalior Fort. Below are some of the best places to see in the Gwalior Fort premises.

Raja Man Singh Palace: Top Place to see in Gwalior Fort

As soon as I arrived at the Gwalior Fort, few local kids asked me to pay them a fortune in promise of a magic show! But the real magic was unfolding right before my eyes! The blue glazed tiles, figures of ducks, elephants etc on the fort walls and blend of Hindu and Islamic architecture made it one of the most unusual forts I have ever seen.

Leading India archaeologist of ASI, K.K. Muhammed sir told us stories behind the small details on the walls of the temple, "You see this, that's a Hindu element! That part is Islamic architecture!" I listened to K.K. Muhammed sir, agape mouthed as he made us see the what our untrained yes failed to.

As per the ASI signboard,

Raja Man Singh Palace is one of the finest examples of Hindu architecture. It was built by Tomar King Man Singh Tomar in the year 1508 C.E. Overall, Raja Man Singh palace has 4 storey, 2 of which are underground. The plan of the third storey consists of 2 open courtyards and various rooms supported by different decorated pillars and brackets. There are jhulaghar, kesar kund and phansighar below this storey.

The palace is decorated with beautiful paintings, glazed tiled of different colours, various figures such as plantain trees, ducks, peacocks, elephants, human beings, lions and attractive pillared domes.

The palace is constructed on the outer wall of the Gwalior fort, raised over the cliff at about 300 feet from the ground level. Unfortunately, in the 16th century C.E. when the fort was attacked and captured by the Mughal army, Raja Man Singh palace was used as a state prison.

I visited all the parts of the Raja Man Singh Mahal, including the basement which was used as a spot for performing Jauhar by the queen. The interiors of the Raja Man Singh palace are even more stunning. The glazed blue tiles make an appearance again. Large courtyards, several rooms, narrow stairs, secret passages are some of the highlights of this grand palace. K.K. Muhammed sir took us to the ladies' quarters, where they would see the proceedings from the privacy of the room.

He added, "Khus curtains which are made with vetiver grassroots work as a natural coolant. This part was covered with khas ki tattiyan or Khus curtains during summer to keep the temperatures low." Some natural air cooling this! The bygone era was indeed a carbon-negative world!

Siddhanchal rock cut Jain statues

My jaws dropped as I came across the imposing fort walls of Raja Man Singh Palace from the Urwai gate of Gwalior Fort. The Siddhanchal rock cut Jain idols fell on my right as well as my left as I approached the Raja Man Singh Palace.

These colossal idols were chiselled between 7th century C.E. to 15th century C.E. Sadly, Babur from the Mughal dynasty ordered destruction of these beautiful idols in the 16th century. Later some of these were restored. However, I was heartbroken to see some of these idols without a face. The idols here depict all the 24 Jain Tirthankaras. Siddhanchal rock cut Jain idols are not to be confused withsimilar idols at Gopachal Parvat which is located outside the Gwalior Fort.

The 58.4 feet or 17.8 metres tall idol of Lord Rishabhanatha is a must-see here. He is also associated with Kailash Parbat which is now located in Tibet. Do read my blogs on the epic Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, a spiritual journey which changed my life!

There are several caves, small reliefs on the walls and 22 colossi here. You can also take the stiars to go down and have a closer look. Do not miss visiting the Siddhachal Jain collosi cave temples.

Chaturbhuj Temple- The Zero temple no one told you about!

Did you know you can see the earliest known written documentation of Zero in the world in the Chaturbhuj Mandir? This is one of the lesser-known fun fact about Gwalior Fort.

Located within the premises of the huge Gwalior Fort, the Chaturbhuj temple is a must-visit tourist attraction.

Soul Window Thoughts

It is a well-known fact that Aryabhatta (476-550 CE), a mathematician-astronomer from ancient India has given 0 to the world. You may not have noticed, but it is the zero which is running the world today. Be it computers, mobiles, economics or geo politics, you can't move an inch without the inevitable zero.  Thanks to its importance, many international tourists also ensure they visit the Chaturbhuj Temple.

It is easy to miss the Chaturbhuj Temple because it takes a bit of an effort to reach here. The sloping road (yes, this fort has tar roads, eh!) at the intersection of the Raja Man Singh Palace and Gwalior ASI Museum leads to the Chaturbhuj Mandir. I didn't need to ask for directions as the signboards clearly mention it. You must visit the place with a local guide who can not only help you spot the zero but also explain the history of the place.

Teli Ka Mandir: Best Place to visit in Gwalior Fort

Devoted to Vishnu Bhagwan, the preserver and protector of the Universe, Teli Ka Mandir is located within the premises of the sprawling Gwalior fort. Apart from the odd name, the first thing I notice as I enter the main gate was that how tall this temple is. The modern patchwork on the upper part of the temple also caught my attention. India's celebrity archaeologist K.K. Muhammed sir told me that it was the restored part of the temple. He further added that the Archaeological Survey of India or ASI takes care of the maintenance and upkeep of Teli Ka temple.

What also intrigued me was the huge size of the garbhagriha or sanctum sanctorum, accessed by a short flight of stairs. It is not very often that I see garbhagriha as big as this. But the spartan garbhagriha was empty. Neither was there any idol nor any adornment. It is lost to time. How did we then figure out that this temple is devoted to Vishnu ji. K.K. Muhammed sir taught me how to identify a Vishnu temple, only after chanting a few mantras with the same ease and sincerity of a child reciting poems. He pointed out to the beautiful Garuda figure on the main doorway. Where there is Nandi, there is a Shivalinga and where there is a Garuda, there is Vishnu ji.  

As is common in temples of this region, the images of holy rivers Maa Ganga and Maa Yamuna flank either side of the temple doors. This 100 feet tall ancient Hindu shrine located in the Northern Indian state of Madhya Pradesh is also the oldest and tallest structure found within the Gwalior Fort complex.

Why is it known as Teli Ka Mandir or Telika Temple? Well, the Teli community or the oil merchants from that era are credited as the builder of this temple, which is why it is also known as the Oilman's temple. Constructed in 8th or 9th century C.E., the unusually named Teli Ka Mandir is one of the top places to see in Gwalior Fort.

A unique blend of the North Indian Nagara and South Indian Dravidian style of architecture, I was awestruck with the sheer grandeur of the temple. I circumambulated around the temple, admiring the beauty of each of its carvings, most of which depicted sculptures of various Hindu deities. The more I see, the more I discover.

The oblong vaulted roof constructed in the Buddhist style adds to the uniqueness to this unusual temple. The The rectangular design of Telika Mandir is unusual as well. Shaiva and Shakta Dwarpalas in the inner and outer doorways corresponds to the worship of Goddess Shakti. Unlike many nearby temples, there is no mandap here.

Saas Bahu Mandir: Must-see place in Gwalior Fort

These 11th century twin temples of Gwalior Fort are a must-visit. Devoted to Vishnu Bhagwan in his Padmanabha form, I was crestfallen to see that the tower of the temple has fallen off. Constructed in the North Indian Bhumija style architecture, these temples look magnificent even if partially ruined. Luckily the entrance porch, rich carvings and the mandapa have survived the test of time.

The stone inscription found on the portico of the bigger Saas mandir mentions the details about its construction along-with funds allotted for the temple and mention of religious congregation, folk rituals etc.

The carvings of Brahma, Vishnu and Saraswati above its entrance door are awe-inspiring. I walk around the temple premises, admiring the ceiling and pillars which depict the carvings on Shaktism, Vaishnavism and Shaivism.

I noticed the Krishna-leela scenes and image of garuda on the walls of the bigger Saas temple. The external walls of the saas temple beautifully carved with geometric designs, musicians, dancers, floral patterns, elephant figures etc. The architectural grandeur of the saas-bahu temples is a perfect representative of the temple building tradition of the Kachchhapaghata rulers.

The smaller bahu temple, offers breathtaking bird's eye view of the Gwalior City. Much like the bigger Saas temple, the Bahu temple is also embellished with beautiful designs and patterns. It comprises of a vestibule and a small central hall.

Sasbahu Temple which is also known as the Sahasrabahu Temple, Sahastrabahu Temple, Sas-Bahu Mandir, Harisadanam temple or Sas-Bahu Temples is one of the best places to see in Gwalior Fort. Located on the eastern corner of the Gwalior Fort, the construction of this temple was started by started by King Ratanapala. The temple was however completed later during the rule of King Mahipala in the year 1093 C.E.

Why is Saas Bahu temple called so? The literal translation of Saas-Bahu is mother-in-law and daughter-in-law respectively. The Saas temple corresponds to the bigger temple while the bahu temple corresponds to the smaller temple. The original name of the Saas-Bahu temple was however, Sahastrabahu temple. Sahastrabahu means: thousand arms. Gradually, the locals started calling it as Saas-Bahu mandir.

As per the signboard,

"The fully developed temple plan is aligned in North-South direction having garbhagriha, antarala mahamandapa and ardhamanapa from South to North. The exuberantly carved pillars and ceilings of the central hall are flanked by porches on the 3 sides."

Gwalior Fort Museum or ASI Archaeological Museum

Gwalior Fort Museum is located at walking distance from the Raja Man Singh Palace. Established as recently as the year 1993, the ASI Archaeological Museum, this unique museum is a former jail which was subsequently used as a hospital in the colonial era. This museum is not to be confused with the state run museum situated in the premises of the sprawling Gujari Mahal at the foot of the hill. Gwalior Fort Museum, though smaller than the Gujari Mahal Archeological Museum, is still a treasure trove of various idols and artefacts from the bygone era. The signboards in Hindi and English add context to the displays. The ASI Museum of Gwalior provides an excellent opportunity to appreciate the traditions and styles of art, from nearby important historical destinations like Padhawali, Bateshwar, Sihonia, Pawaya, Surwaya, Amrol, Terahi, Kherat, Naresar and Ater.

Some of the notable exhibits here include:

It takes around 30 minutes to 1 hour to see all the displays at the Gwalior Fort Museum or ASI Archaeological Museum. I would suggest that you club a visit to the museum alongside the Raja Man Singh Palace.

Dhondapur Gate

Dhondapur Gateis one of the less talked about places to see in the Gwalior Fort. As opposed to the popular Urwai gate, the Dhondapur Gate is a hidden gate of Gwalior Fort. As per the signboard, the Dhondapur Gate of Gwalior Fort is located in the same direction as the area which houses Karan Mahal, Jehangir Mahal etc. You can visit it right after visiting the Raja Man Singh Palace.

Karan Palace

Also known as the Karn Mahal, it is one of the best state protected monuments inside the Gwalior Fort. Offering grand views of the city below, the Karan Mahal is one of the top sightseeing places in the Gwalior Fort. Karan Palace is located right opposite the Vikram Mahal. Constructed by Kirti Singh, who happened to be the 2nd king of the powerful Tomar dynasty, the grand Karan Mahal is a sight to behold. It is a delight that much of its structure still stands tall.

Despite the simple structure of the Karan Palace, this medieval edifice stands out with its sheer size. The lattice-screens and sculptures are cherry on the cake. Very well restored, Karan Palace is older than Man Mandir.

Jauhar Kund of Gwalior Fort: The Biggest ever?

"I refuse to believe that the Jauhar Kund of Chittorgarh is the biggest. I am certain that the Jauhar Kund of the Gwalior Fort is the biggest ever. It is just that no one talks about it!", my local tour guide announced with the same conviction and a tone of finality, with which he said later that "It was in Madhya Pradesh and not Maharashtra that Ganesh Chaturthi processions started."

He may be right. History often gets lost in translation and protocols and the same narrative runs for centuries without any one daring to question the accepted. Did you know these interesting fact about Gwalior Fort?

The huge Jauhar Kund is where the Rajaput Queens and their maids self-immolated themselves to save themselves from the barbaric attack of the invader. This huge water tank was originally constructed in order to provide water all around the fort. Unfortunately, it ended up becoming the venue of Jauhar for large number of women during Islamic attacks. This event took place when the ruler of Gwalior was attacked by the invading army. It was one of the worse ever Islamic attacks on the Gwalior fort.

As per the noted historian Mata Prasad Shukla, Khadag Rai, the writer in the court of Akbar had written a book known as Gopachal Akhyan in which he mentioned that in the year 1232 C.E. that Shamsuddin Iltutmish had attacked the Gwalior Fort from all the corners despite the structure build atop a slopy hill. The battle continued for a long time. Even though Iltutmish and his army had a disadvantage because the fort was perched atop an elevation, they didn't give up on the attack.

Eventually, due to the depleting resources and logistics inside the fort, the battle had to be moved to open field. This was the undoing for the King and the inhabitants of the Gwalior Fort. Their army was lesser in numbers than that of Iltutmish. No prizes for guessing it was a one-sided war.

Sensing defeat and sexual slavery by the winning army, the queen and her maids self-immolated themselves in this huge water tank, saving not just their bodied but also their honour and self-respect! A similar goose-bumpy scene also can be seen in the Bollywood movie Padmavat. This scene is also available on Youtube. After this unfortunate event, this water reservoir came to be known as Jauhar Kund or Jauhar Sthal.

Soul Window Ruminations!

I stood there, in silence, numb with all the horrors of the atrocities committed in the past! The melancholy of the place was growing on me, even as the tourists scattered around the fort chirped around, oblivious to the pains the Indians of the bygone era went through. I have nothing but respect for these valiant women, who offered themselves to agni (fire) than to the barbaric invading army!

These practises were very common in medieval India, especially in the North. These brave women would rather self-immolate themselves, than be sexually misused in the harems of the winning army! There is indeed a lot we can learn from the history! But then history often repeats itself.

The Jauhar Kund or Jauhar Sthal is located near the Cenotaph of Bhim Singh Rana and towards the west of the Jehangir Mahal.

Cenotaph of Bhim Singh Rana

This 3-storeyed cenotaph, flanked by a dome is not to be missed. Located near the Jauhar Kund, you can easily visit this place while exploring the Gwalior Qila.

Cenotaph of Bhim Singh Rana or the Chhatri of Bhim Singh Rana is one of the lesser-known places to see in the Gwalior Fort. Also known as Bheem Singh Rana Ki Chhatri, it was built in the memory of Bheem Singh Rana, the King of Gohad, Bhind (in Madhya Pradesh) who ruled between 1717 and 1756 C.E.

He took over the fort when the Mughal Empire was on the decline. However, later Bhim Singh Rana succumbed to his injuries in the year 1756 during the battle with Marathas which was led by the Shindes. For those who don't know Shindes are now Scindia. Later, Rana Chhatar Singh constructed the Cenotaph of Bhim Singh Rana in the memory of the latter. Bhim Singh Rana was the descendant of Rana Jai Singh Bamrolia.

The throne of Gohad is known as the Gaddi of Lord Narasimha. Lord Narasimha is the deity of Bamrolia Jats and Gohad Kingdom.

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