Gwalior Fort- A journey into history of an epitome of gandeur

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Gwalior fort is known as ‘The pearl of fortresses in India’. The Mughal Emperor Babur gave this name as the fortress is impenetrable. The fort stands on a vast rocky hill named Gopachal, with built-in sandstone and lime mortar. The fortress’s history is extensive, as been sieged and captured by many rulers.

Gwalior Fort- A journey into history of an epitome of gandeur
Rear View of the fort

On the second day in Gwalior, the sunlight is oddly bright, the stream’s golden rays sneaking through the window announcing the risen sun. It was 8 am as I checked my clock, and sunlight shows a picture-perfect day awaiting through the window frame. I left my bed, grabbed a cup of coffee & walked to the verandah to soak in the morning winter sun rays. Later had a hot shower & a hearty breakfast. Our tour guide Pawan was on time, & we left for our first destination- Gwalior fort. 

Warm Sunrays

We sat on the fort’s rampart that overlooked Gwalior city upon reaching the fort. And our tour guide stood in front of us, taking us through the page-by-page history of Gwalior fort. He said that Gwalior fort was north and central India’s most invincible fortress at one point in time. The fort houses two palaces, ‘Gujari Mahal’ and ‘Man Mandir’, built in the 15th Century by Raja Man Singh Tomar. Various kings built numerous temples at different points in time.

Detailed Carvings

Pawan further explained that no historical records or evidence prove the Gwalior fort’s age. However, the inscription within the citadel indicates that it has been here since the 6th Century. However, few pieces of evidence suggest the existence of the fortress from the late 9th Century. Like the ‘Teli ka Mandir’, a Hindu temple said to be built by the Gurjara-Pratiharas. From the 10th Century onwards, the fort was ruled over by the kings of the Kachchhapaghata dynasty. 

Gwalior Fort- A journey into history of an epitome of gandeur
The internal part of forts

Gwalior fort has the second oldest reference to the number zero’. It can be seen as a carving on the top of the defence inside a temple. However, the fort’s construction is associated with a legend; therefore, the exact date of its construction is unknown. I was amazed listening to our rich history. 

Gwalior City

He even narrated the legend that in 3 CE local king named Suraj Sen ruled this region. The King developed leprosy, an incurable disease. When a sage named Gwalipa came to the King’s rescue, the King had lost all hope. And he miraculously cured the disease. He asked the King to drink water from a sacred pond. The pond is still inside the fort, on which the King built a tank- Suraj Kund, as Suraj Sen was cured of drinking the dangerous water. 

Gwalior Fort- A journey into history of an epitome of gandeur
Suraj Kund

He even named the region Gwalipa to honour the sage name and act of kindness. Then, the sage gave the King the title ‘Pal,’ meaning protector. And blessed him that his descendants would rule over the fort as long as they bore the title ‘Pal’. Multiple descendants of Suraj Sen Pal ruled over the Gwalior fort, but his 84th successor, Tej Karan, lost possession of the Gwalior fort.

The carving in the shiva temple

Our tour guide explained that the Gwalior fort had a self-justifying structure as we walked in. It is spread over 3 square km and surrounded by concrete sandstone walls. However, the fortress is divided into five parts, each named after the direction in which it lies. It has a two-main gates; one is the Hathi gate or pole. It lies in the southeast and leads to the Man Mandir Palace.

Hathi Gate

While the other is Badalgarh Gate, where the vehicles can enter the Gwalior fort. I noticed an impressive set of Siddhachal Jain Temple Caves dedicated to the Jain Tirthankaras. These carving are from the period of the 7th to 15th Centuries. We drove past the tallest among these idols: the Rishabhanatha or Adinatha, which stands at 58 feet 4 inches. And another model, 35 feet in height, belongs to Suparshvanatha.  

Gwalior Fort- A journey into history of an epitome of gandeur
Siddhanchal Jain temple

Man Mandir:

We walked towards Man Mandir Palace, beautifully painted with minakari work in blue, yellow & green. Raja Man Singh Tomar was built in the 15th Century. This palace served as the principal residence of the rulers of the Tomar dynasty for an extended period. It has many courtyards, large verandas and brilliant artwork on the walls.

Gwalior Fort- A journey into history of an epitome of gandeur
Minakari worked on the walls of the fort.

The most attractive part of this structure is the underground water tanks. It had a swimming pool with multiple ducts for ventilation & light. Above the swimming pool was the Jhoola Ghar(swing room), where Ranis came for swing in summer. Both these rooms had a telephone, not in literal terms, a hollow passage connected with strings for the queen & King to communicate. However, this palace was converted into a prison during Mughal rule. That isn’t warm-hearted!

Pawan, our tour guide, narrated that close to the 10th Century, many Muslim rulers tried their best to capture the fort. And Mahmud of Ghazni besieged the fort in 1022 CE; however, he lifted the siege when presented with 35 elephants. Later in 1196, the first Sultan of the Delhi Sultanate, Qutb al-Din Aibak, captured the fort. But lost it a few years later. Finally, Iltumish, the third ruler of the Delhi Sultanate, recaptured the fort in 1232 CE before losing it to Tomars around 1398. And Raja Maan Singh Tomar constructed several structures within the fortress.

Carving on Sandstone

Meantime, the Delhi Sultanate made a constant trail to recapture the fort. And One Sikander, Lodi, made a failed attempt in 1505. However, his son Ibrahim Lodi managed to capture the fort in 1516, which resulted in the death of Raja Maan Singh Tomar. However, soon taken by Babur but lost to the Sur ruler Sher Shah Suri in 1542. But Mughal Emperor Akbar recaptured the fort in 1558 and turned it into a prison, where he executed his prisoners and rivals. That was a lot of history to process in one go.

Gwalior Fort- A journey into history of an epitome of gandeur
Inner area of Man Mandir

Vikram Mahal:

We proceeded towards Vikaram Mahal, built by Vikramaditya Singh of the Tomar dynasty, as a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. It was restored after the Mughal emperors destroyed it during their reign.

Gwalior Fort- A journey into history of an epitome of gandeur
Vikram Mahal

Karn Mahal

Our next Palace was Karan mahal, the private residence of Kirti Singh, also known as Karn Singh, the second king of the Tomar dynasty. A two-storeyed sandstone building with a vast courtyard, long verandas and terraces. We climbed the patio, and I could see one of the entrance gates, which is historically famous. Pawan confirmed Rani of Jhansi Lakshmi Bai waited for two days for Scindias to let her army in through the entrance. And provide a cover so that they could prepare for a fight against the British Army. After no response from the Scindias and seeing the British army at a very short distance, she instructed the platoon to attack. The British defeated the Jhansi Army, and Rani Lakshmi bai chose to stab herself rather than get captured by the British. That’s a tragic story where Scindhia backstabbed Rani.

Karn Mahal

Jahangir and Shah Jahan Mahal

All I saw around there were numerous Palace nesting elegantly inside the fort. The Jahangir & Shah Jahan Mahal were among them, with perfect Mughal architecture. The palace has a Baori for water harvesting, long courtyards with doms & arches and a beautiful Baradari.

Jahangir Mahal

Chhatri of Bhim Singh Rana 

As we walked out of Jahangir Mahal, an impressive dome-shaped pavilion at the end of the Chhatri of Bhim Singh Rana. Chhatra Singh built it as a memorial to his father.

Chhatri of Bhim Singh

Jauhar Kund

Jauhar Kund is in front of the Chhatri, where all his queens jumped and burnt themselves to ashes. The kind is currently filled with water. Later, King Chhatra Singh took over the fort defeating the Mughal Satrap Ali Khan.

Jauhar Kund

British gunpowder factory

Further ahead of the Jauhar Kund is the gun factory, which is no more operational. And the machinery is shifted to the museum.

Gun Powder factory

Assi Khamba ki Baori

We returned to the main fort complex to visit Assi Khamba ki Baori. Baori means well, and 80 giant pillars surround this one. And painted with bright colours and looks just exquisite! 

Assi Khambha ki Baori

Sas-Bahu Temple 

Post all Mahal & Baori, we reached the southwestern gate, stooped for a tea break & bought a few Khesh products like bedsheets from a tourism shop. Then we drove towards the Saas-Bahu temple, a great architectural marvel, which is better to be called Sahastra Bahu temple. Similar temple I saw in Udaipur.

Gwalior Fort- A journey into history of an epitome of gandeur
Vishnu Temple

Built by king Mahipala in 1902, two pillared temples stand next to each other, more prominent than the other. Initially, only one temple, Sahastra, depicted Lord Vishnu with a thousand hands.

Gwalior Fort- A journey into history of an epitome of gandeur
Shiva Temple

Since the queens of the Kachchhapaghatas frequently visited the temple.


Later a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva was built next to Sahastra. As the daughter-in-law of the King, who was an ardent Shiva devotee, he could worship her favourite deity. The queen and her daughter-in-law visited the temples frequently, collectively known as the Sas-Bahu Temple.

Gwalior Fort- A journey into history of an epitome of gandeur
Rear View of Vishnu temple

Gujari Mahal

We took a detour towards Gujari Mahal, currently the archaeological museum. Raja Man Singh Tomar built it for his beautiful wife, Mrignayani, a Gujar princess. It was constructed as the queen demanded a private palace for herself. However, it houses rare artefacts and sculptures of first and second centuries BC Hindu and Jain deities. My mom took some time exploring the museum before heading to our next spot.

Gujri Mahal

Chaturbhuj Temple

Before heading to Teli ka Mandir, we stopped at the 9th-century ancient temple carved out of a single rock. It is dedicated to Lord Vishnu, shown in four-arm hence Chaturbhuj temple.

Gwalior Fort- A journey into history of an epitome of gandeur
Chaturbhuj Mandir

This temple has the inscription of Zero, discovered by Aryabhatt. It should be a must-visit.

Zero discovered by Aryabhatta


Finally, we drove towards Teli Ka Mandir, built in the Dravidian architectural style and notable for its generously sculpted exterior. The oldest part of the fort was initially dedicated to Lord Vishnu but was later restored as a Shiva temple. It houses Buddhist architectural elements as well.

Gwalior Fort- A journey into history of an epitome of gandeur
Teli Ka Mandir

Garuda Monument

Next to the Teli ka Mandir stand the Garuda monument. It was built to honour Lord Vishnu. What amused me was the Indo-Islamic architectural style. It’s a beauty to behold.

Gwalior Fort- A journey into history of an epitome of gandeur
Garuda Monument


We drove past the Scindia school built by Madho Rao Scindia in 1897. And reached the Gurdwara, there was a wedding going on. It was built as a memorial to Guru Hargobind, the sixth Sikh Guru. However, no significant shreds of evidence to prove when and by whom it was constructed.

Gwalior Fort- A journey into history of an epitome of gandeur

That was a fascinating & enthralling tour of the Gwalior Fort. However, I was sad, as the light & sound show was not operational. Nevertheless, the experience was wholesome! But after some long walks, the hunger pangs hit my stomach folds. Keeping the rest tour on hold, we took a lunch break at Landmark restaurant. Wow, such a relief! The food was lips-smacking, and I over ate.

Landmark Restaurant

Our next place was Jai Vilas Palace; I skipped it as it was too overrated. I was in no mood to see silver crockery, chandeliers or silk clothes & paintings of Scindias. Hence I asked Pawan for an alternative & he suggested Moti Mahal; tourists do not frequent that. Therefore he called upon someone to seek permission for a visit. Our car drove through Baijatal Lake, beautifully ornamented with Rajut architecture. 

Gwalior Fort- A journey into history of an epitome of gandeur
Jai vilas Palace

Moti Mahal

Pawan explained that Moti Mahal currently includes the Department of Land Affairs commissioner and the Bandobast of Madhya Pradesh, Revenue Division, Commissioner Excise, Commissioner of Transportation, MP and Regional Examinations Commissioner and Commissioner Gwalior. Therefore only a few rooms are allowed to visit that too. 

Gwalior Fort- A journey into history of an epitome of gandeur
Baikal Lake

He further narrated Moti Mahal has been a power centre in central India for more than 130 years. Built by the Scindhia rulers in 1825, it holds more than 300 rooms in a Maratha architectural style. I stood at the verandah overlooking the Baijatal Lake, built as an Amphitheater in the water. It adds aa a wireless pearl. And the garden has a vast network of Stone Sources. I was awestruck by the beauty it holds.

Gwalior Fort- A journey into history of an epitome of gandeur
Moti Mahal

I entered one of the Durbar Hall rooms, where the Madhya Bharat Assembly Legislature was until 1958. Durbar Mahal is a magnificent hall featuring decorated walls and ceilings embellished with 570kg of gold paint and gilt decor. The luxurious carpet adorning this hall is considered one of the largest in the world.

And beautiful two identical crystal chandeliers hung on the ceiling imported from Vienna. Pawan confirmed it to be the largest globally & elephants turned the chandelier ceiling to test that it could support their weight. The golden glow across the room was outstanding.

Gwalior Fort- A journey into history of an epitome of gandeur
Identical Crystal Chandelier

We further checked two more rooms adorned with a rich collection of wall paintings and Murals. Some prominent pictures include the mosaic work of coloured glasses and murals depicting Raag Raagini. 

Gwalior Fort- A journey into history of an epitome of gandeur
Morals on walls

It’s disheartening to see the glory of Moti Mahal fading. Historically the fame preceded till 1947 or until November 1956. And this historic building should be preserved; the artwork, heritage & architecture is boundless.

Tomb Of Tansen 

We finally drove to our last destination, The tomb of Tansen. It was almost dusk when I heard a Sufi singing qawwali. The sound came from the tomb of Tansen, and a simple sandstone was raised.

I could see the cluster of pigeons fluttering by more on a platform. A devoted vocalist praises God’s mercy with no music, just his melodious voice. I was drawn to the agent and stood in front of Muhammad Ghaus’s tomb, sacred clothes like any mausoleum. I sat at the entrance, listening to the Sufi. How pious he is, my mind said.  

Gwalior Fort- A journey into history of an epitome of gandeur
Mohammad Ghau’s tomb

Pawan shook me from trance & said the power of music is immense. And we walked ahead, post-paying my homage. There were multiple graves around the tomb of many disciples & teachers. Just like Muhammad Ghaus & Tansen. I could see the cluster of pigs; then aeons fluttered by more, and the incense from the tomb stuffed by. 

Gwalior Fort- A journey into history of an epitome of gandeur
Entrance to Mohammad Ghau’s tom

Pawan spoke while we walked towards the tomb of Tansen. Muhammad Ghaus was the prince of Afghan, but he later coSufi Saintmself into a Sufi Saint due to his interest in music. And Tansen was his disciple who was born with a speech impairment. He pointed to a tamarind tree behind me as old as this tomb and said musicians with faith eat these leaves to cure speech disorders and sing as well as Guru or disciple.

Gwalior Fort- A journey into history of an epitome of gandeur
Tansen’s tomb

Initially, Tansen was Rewa king’s part mesmerised. Akbar was fascinated that he requested Tansen to be sent to Akbar’s court. Tansen was sent to his court, unable to deny the request or instead for fear of Akbar. Nevertheless, he lived through his remarkable compositions to a broader audience. Then he was bestowed with the title “Miyan” by Akbar.

Gwalior Fort- A journey into history of an epitome of gandeur
Jali work

Akbar constructed the tomb among a lush Mughal garden in memory of his Navratan. Alas, I was body-cared; the lawn was filled with people taking naps, having lunch, having romantic encounters, playing ludo, and some to cool off in the shade. Once a year, a music festival is held here to pay homage to Tansen. However, his contribution to the world is enormous. He was not just Navratan of Akbar’s court but India. I wish the tomb is treated more than a leisure park.

Gwalior Fort- A journey into history of an epitome of gandeur
Tomb of Tansen

Finally, our day ended; though I wanted to visit the Tehri dam to watch the sunset, time did not allow it. Hence we went to see a ruined Jal Mahal, relieved, restored & relived. History is found in the nook & corner of Gwalior city; it only needs care & preservation.

Gwalior Fort- A journey into history of an epitome of gandeur
Ruins of a Jal MahalI

I was damn exhausted; I had a hot water bath, ate an early dinner, & went straight to bed as another exciting day awaited me.

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 nearby cities of Madhya Pradesh. Buses, private cabs, and shared taxis ply to Gwalior from these places. Either you can also book a private cab or a shared taxi. One can drive to Gwalior too.


One thought on “Gwalior Fort- A journey into history of an epitome of gandeur

  1. I’m extremely impressed with your writing skills as well as with the layout on your blog. Is this a paid theme or did you customize it yourself? Either way keep up the nice quality writing, it is rare to see a nice blog like this one nowadays.

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