The sweet morning breeze was filling the room, the red rays of the sun were pushing themselves inside the window and I was still absorbed in dreams. Suddenly someone yelled.. “Subah ho gayi Maamu!!” And guess what it was my mobile alarm. While I was trying to hit the snooze option, My heart was convincing me to sleep, but suddenly my mind shouted, “Good Morning Gwalior”…it was like Vidya Balan yelling from the lemon house!!!
Last night I was jotting down some facts about Gwalior that has always filled every tourist with delight and ecstasy. I hope it will extend your dimensions of knowledge and love for the city too.
Gwalior, where a empire rose and fell before the dawn of history; where citadels of emperors are still in existence; a city of mysterious eternity whose old ruins proclaim a majestic and imperial past and whose present pulsates vibrantly with the ever flowing life of India. From legendry history which begins from 6th century when adorable Gwalior fort founded its roots and transformation of this barren land of Gopadri to Gwalior, the city became the cradle of great dynasties, and with each it gained a new dimension from the warrior kings, poets, musicians, and saints who contributed to make it renowned throughout the country.
Though the pace of development is exactly the same as the speed of train which runs on the world’s largest narrow gauge from Gwalior to Shyopurkala. But one can proudly say that “slow and steady wins the race”, after having a full panoramic view of the historical city. The old 'Havelis' and edifices from the past are still standing silently on the land of Rishi Galav, but their silence also speaks about their owners and people who lived here centuries back.
Historically and architecturally, Gwalior is simply impeccable; first as a very ancient seat of Jain worship; second for its example of palace architecture of the best Hindu period (1486–1516); and third as an historic fortress. The massive Gwalior Fort, popularly called "the Gibraltar of India", overlooks the city. This fort's architecture is uniquely a Chinese influence on Indian architecture. “The pearl in the necklace of the forts of Hind”, described by Babur. Standing on a steep mass of sandstone, Gwalior Fort dominates the city and is its most significant monument .The magnificent outer walls of the fort still stand, two miles in length and 35 feet high, bearing witness to its reputation for being one of the most invincible forts of India.
There's alluring story about how the fort of Gwalior came about. There was a king named Surajsen who suffered from leprosy. He did worship of the sun to get healed from his sickness and he did. After that, he built the fort of Gwalior. There's a kund (reservoir) named after him in the fort, called Suraj kund. In fact, there's plenty of water at the top of the fort. There are many water tanks which never dry-up and they are always filled with water even though there's no apparent source of water to them.
Gwalior Fort also occupies a unique place in the human civilization as the place which has the first ever recorded use of zero. Also referred as 'Shunya' in sanskrit, this site is of mathematical interest because of what is written on a tablet recording the establishment of a small 9th century Hindu temple on the eastern side of the plateau. By accident, it records the oldest "0" in India for which a definite date can be assigned.
The name of the fort is also linked to the practice of Sati at the 'Jauhar Kund Palace'. Sati was performed by the womenfolk of the royal family when the king of Gwalior was defeated in the year 1232 AD.
Situated on the Mountain Area at slopes of Gwalior Fort are the unique statues of Jain Tirthankars and Gopachal Parvat. The largest Idol of Lord Parshwanath on Lotus is the largest statue (in single stone piece) in the world, being 47 feet high and 30 feet in width. Gurudwa “Data Bandi Chor” ( God, please free the prisoners.) is also built here in the memory of Guru Hargobind Saheb , the 6th Sikh Guru who was imprisoned here by Emperor Jehangir for over two years. The charm of the fortress can be compared to the beauty of the Mrignayanee, famous Gujjar princess. Gujari Mahal present at the second entrance of the fort was constructed on her demand by Emperor Maan Singh Tomar, whose palace itself has a tantalizing architecture.
Gwalior is historical city, where each ancient building has an interesting and intriguing story behind it. Like the one behind logo of Scindhias. The Mughal Emperor Akbar is also known to have organized hunting parties near Gwalior. They used start their journey from the fort itself and collect at a place, now a days known as “Phool Bagh”. Phool Bagh is also famous for having a temple, mosque, church and a Gurudwara, in a very close area. Here king and his soldiers used to hire the horses and usually ride them to the next destination, “Padav”. Padav is basically a Hindi word given to last stoppage of the journey!! Than again the king with his soldiers used to race along the way, the road is now named “Race Course Road” and after praying at a temple, now a days famous as “Gola ka Mandir”; they finally rided the horses to their destination that is the outer periphery of Gwalior which was once a big jungle namely “Maharajpura”, the place where Maharaja [king] visited often!!
Credited as ‘The land of music’, where once lived Mian Tansen, one of the ‘nine jewels’ of Akbar’s court, Gwalior is not only historically and architecturally developed. But the India’s largest trade fair commonly known as “Gwalior Vyapar Mela” is organized every year during winters. Not only this, every year a national level music festival is organized in November/December near the Tansen’s tomb .Musicians and singers from all over India come here to perform in the Music Fest which is telecasted live on Doordarshan.
Apart from the fabulous fort, there’s a splendor of a different kind existing in the Jai Vilas Palace, current residence of the Scindia family. Jai Vilas is an Italianate structure which combines the Tuscan and Corinthian architectural modes. The imposing Durbar Hall has two central chandeliers weighing a couple of tonnes, and was hung only after ten elephants had tested the strength of the roof. Ceilings picked out in gilt, heavy draperies and tapestries, fine Persian carpets and antique furniture from France and Italy are the features of its spacious rooms. Eye catching treasures include: a silver train with cut glass wagons which served guests as it chugged around the table on miniature rails; a glass cradle from Italy used for the baby Krishna each Janmashtami, silver dinner services and swords that were once worn by Aurangzeb and Shah Jahan. These are, besides, personal mementoes of past members of the Scindia family: the jeweled slippers that belonged to Chinkoo Rani, four-poster beds, gifts from practically every country in the world, hunting trophies and portraits. The Scindia Museum offers an unparallel glimpse into the rich culture and lifestyle of princely India.
Jayaji Chowk is the central focus of Lashkar, with a large square, a former opera house, banks, tea, coffee and juice stands and a municipal market building. Thriving bazaars surround the chowk. Many jeweler shops are situated near Jayaji Chowk aka Maharaj bada. 7 different ancient structures of diverse styles such as Chinese, Italian, Mughal, Russian, Rajputi, makes the spot different from other markets.
The ultimate transport service of this ancient city is ‘Tempo’. Yes, that old 3 wheeler rickshaws which were once used by kings when the used to go for family visits.You can hire one such vehicle to visit each attraction of the city including the Bahadura sweets. It is a shop famous for its especially delicious ‘Boondhi Laddoo’.Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, former prime minister of India and son of the city ,once described these ladoos as,” One boondhi ladoo a day, keeps my doctor away!!“
Modern Gwalior has a charming mix of old and new world. On one side you can see Old architectural sites, buzzing streets and exotic markets, and on the other side Gwalior has magnificent Mall, educational universities, modern opulent high rise buildings and lots of greenery. Keeping alive the culture and customs of the ancient city. The “Gwalior Gharana” is one side refreshing the spirit of music, and on the other side the youth is busy converting the city to “Education Empire” of Madhya Pradesh. One can describe modern Gwalior by these few lines:
you dislike its crippled ability.
But when you spend some time around
It grows on you and love is found.”
Editor-in-Chief, Aalekh - Life in Pages !!