Gwalior-A regal Stay in a heritage hotel DeoBagh

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Gwalior is a historic city that many emperors have significantly ruled, as it occupies a strategic location in the Gird region of India. Kachchhapaghatas ruled Gwalior in the 10th century and Tomars in the 13th century. Later passed on to the Mughal Empire, then to the Maratha in 1754, followed by the Scindia in the 18th century. And, here, I feel our country to be a unique creature with one foot in past & one firmly in the future. Gwalior, owing to its deep history, allured me to explore it. Hence I planned a trip to Gwalior, which marked my 2022 travel diaries.

Gwalior-A regal Stay in a heritage hotel DeoBagh

I checked my official leave calendar & the weather decided 26th January as my travel date. Since I love heritage hotels, I booked the Deo, Bagh a Neemrana Hotel. It’s the 17th century, which was earlier known as Char Bagh. In the late 1600 AD, an important Mughal general camped in this “Char Bagh” with a stunning ‘Baradari’ in the centre, which shielded the women in its underground chamber on hot summer days, giving a natural air-conditioned environment through air ducts. 

Later the Jadhav family took possession of this natural water catchment area and used this ‘Bagheecha’ as a summer house. I was too excited about my stay as this garden complex houses the most exquisite cenotaphs, family temples, and a ‘Hathi khana’ that housed their famously handsome elephants and stables. It is even said that important Gwalior State meetings, primarily when the brave Rani of Jhansi fought from the fort rampart close by, were held here during their time. That’s phenomenal!

Gwalior-A regal Stay in a heritage hotel DeoBagh
Overview of Deo Bagh

I was all set for my winter trip; my driver arrived on time. The drive was 6hrs 30min, approx 330km from Gurgaon, so we started early, around 5.30 am. I was elated to see the mist as the houses on the other side of the road looked hazy, and the cars had their yellowish fog light blinking. It created an eerie atmosphere. Seeing anything twenty feet away was challenging as the entire place was covered with a superb fog screen. The morning started with a particularly colourful hue; the air was cool and pleasant. I lowered my car window, watching and admiring the incredible beauty of nature when my mother scolded me to close the window as I might catch a cold. But I was delighted to look through the glass, pressing my nose on it.

Misty Morning

Meanwhile, my mom narrated a story about how Gwalior was founded. As per legend, it was founded in 8AD by Suraj Sen. He was a local chieftain who was cured of leprosy by a holy saint called Gwalior. He healed him with a drink. Subsequently, Suraj Sen set up a town and fort named them after the holy saint Gwalipa, which later changed to Gwalior. However, the earlier historical record found at Gwalior is the Gwalior inscription of the Alcon Hun ruler Mihirakula. It states that Mihirakula’s father, Toramana (493-515), ruler of the earth, was of great merit, renowned by the name of the glorious Tôramâna. Because his heroism was predominantly characterised by truthfulness. Hence the world was governed by justice and his Mihirakula as “the lord of the earth” in 520 AD. Since then, Gwalior has existed. Pretty interesting!

Gwalior Station exterior view

The rising sun cast a roseate hue across the morning sky as we drove past the deserted highway. And the golden fingers of sunlight lit up the scene. The sun poured through my window, and I heard the melodic birdsong’s dawn chorus. I decided upon a tea break. By the time we reached Gwalior, the dappled sun had shone through the trees, and the roads glistened in the heat of the midday sun.

Gwalior-A regal Stay in a heritage hotel DeoBagh
View of the city from the fort

We were greeted warmly by the Deo Bagh staff and served honey ginger tea. I had booked the Hiroji Ratna room; it was spacious, facing the Nau Bagh. However, all rooms have been named after the historical connections of the Jadhav family of Gwalior. I checked in, freshened up & ordered lunch. Meanwhile, I sat on the swing, soaking in the sun in the garden, watching the peacock play. 

Peacock Dance at the garden

After a sumptuous lunch, my mom and I decided to take a walk around the property. Hence, we asked the manager about the Deo Bagh owner, who confirmed that it belonged to the Jadhav family, one of the “big 5” Sardar families of the erstwhile Gwalior State. These five families had honours and privileges unrivalled among the other smaller Jagirdars and Rajput rajas of the former kingdom. 

Overview of the rooms

The Jadhav family’s main seat of power was in their jagirs of Aaron and Myana in the Guna district of Madhya Pradesh. With vast properties spread in Gwalior and M.P., Rajasthan, Benaras and Pune. Along with the other 4 Jagirdars, they supported the Shindes’ carving out a state under Mahadji Shinde, who moved his capital from Ujjain to Gwalior—leaving powerful Jagirdars to hold sway. At the same time, he consolidated his territory up North. 

We walked up to the entrance, where I saw the Hathi Khana and stables near the guard room. The family owned some fine elephants in line with their status of “Gashiya Toda Sardars”. Further, we walked past the Orchards and fields; one staff confirmed that the entire village of Bahodapur on the outskirts of Gwalior belonged to the Jadhav family. Organic farming is done on a small scale.     

Orchards in DeoBagh

Walking past the ornamented garden, we reached the Char Bagh, a Persian-style garden layout. A quadrilateral garden is divided into four smaller parts by walkways or flowing water. “Char” means four, and “Bagh” means green. Mughals were known to introduce this style in India. 

Gwalior-A regal Stay in a heritage hotel DeoBagh
Way to Char Bagh

The Baradari is centrally located in this Char Bagh, which has the essential water feature as part of the layout. The structure dates to the Mughal period. The pool surrounding it works as a natural cooler for the rooms underneath it. There are air ducts that help in circulation and ventilation. The structure also has a terrace.

Gwalior-A regal Stay in a heritage hotel DeoBagh

Just opposite Baradari is Jai Vihar, the family’s current home. It was renovated into a modern house in 1954: the adjoining buildings house storerooms and staff quarters. During Sardar Deorao Krishnarao’s time, some dacoits laid down their arms at this residence on the front lawn. As a private sit-out, Lady Jadhav developed the backyard, a keen gardener with a herbaceous border on both sides. 

Jai Vihar’s upper section

The Family Temples are further ahead of several varieties of trees, shrubs, and creepersThe construction dates are unknown, but the Jadhav family has been worshipping here for five generations. The temple on the left is a Shiv Mandir, and the one on the right is a Hanuman Mandir. 

Gwalior-A regal Stay in a heritage hotel DeoBagh
Family temple of Jhadavs

The latter was modified to hold the family deities when shifted from Laxmi Vilas Rajwada. The temple is known to be very powerful; robbers have died every time after the temples have been looted. Nishan room houses the family’s flagstaff, which led their armies into battle.

Gwalior-A regal Stay in a heritage hotel DeoBagh
Shiva Temple

As we walked further ahead in the backyard, we saw the Cenotaph. One Chhatri of Sardar Deorao Bhausaheb Jadhav, constructed around 1856, is one of the finest in Gwalior. The intricate artistry at every turn. Another Chhatri of Sardar Krishnarao Deorao Jadhav is smaller than the first and was built in 1907. Though smaller in size, however, it has pleasing proportions. 

Gwalior-A regal Stay in a heritage hotel DeoBagh

After taking a complete tour of the area, we reached Deo Vilas, the zenana area(women) constructed in the 1800s. During the first war of independence, Sardar Krishnarao Jadhav, President of the state council, held the Gwalior state meetings. In 1954 it housed a community school. It was in a derelict state for two decades until its owner restored it and converted the portion into a hotel.  

Gwalior-A regal Stay in a heritage hotel DeoBagh

It was tea by the time I reached my room. Sitting on the porch, I sipped my tea, looking at Deo Bagh, born with the beauty and treasures of history. It holds two 17th-18th century Maratha temples, two splendid cenotaphs, one pavilion with 36 arched gateways, and unique heritage hotels in Gwalior! 

Evening Tea

Later we booked a tour guide named Pawan, recommended by the hotel manager, for local excursions and sightseeing in and around Gwalior. Hence had an early dinner & went to bed, as a long day was waiting ahead. 

How to Reach

By Air: 

The nearest airport is Gwalior, approximately 10 km away from the city. At the airport, hire taxis to reach the city.

By Rail:

The Gwalior is a well-connected railway station with all the major cities in India. You need to hire private cabs or take a shared taxi from the station to reach the city.

By Road:

Gwalior is well-connected via road with Delhi, Agra, Mathura, Jaipur & other closeby cities of Madhya Pradesh. Buses, private cabs, and shared taxis ply to Gwalior from these places. You can also book a private cab or a shared taxi. One can drive to Gwalior too.


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