The main reason for my stopover at Gwalior was to check out the Gwalior Fort and Man Mandir Palace in particular. Approximately 110 kms away from Agra, the Fort seems to be situated right at the very edge of the steep cliff of Lashkar, at a height of 300 feet above the sprawling city below. It occupies the whole of the top surface of a rocky massif. It is 3 kms long from the North to the South, and 600 to 3,000 feet broad from east to west. There are two routes to climb this Fort. I ascended from the eastern side which I believe is called the Gwalior Gate (also known as Alamgir Darwaza). Alamgir Darwaza was constructed in 1660 by the then Governor of the Fort, Motimid Khan during the regime of Aurangzeb.
The foundations of the Fort were laid some 1000 years ago, although there are other structures and temples within its walls that are traced back to 425 AD.
One of the most attractive monuments of the Gwalior Fort is the Man Mandir Palace, named after the great Tomar King, Raja Man Singh and is supposedly built in the 15th century, between 1486 and 1517. In the five hundred years since then, the Gwalior Fort has been the scene of some of the significant events in the history of the region. The fort has changed hands many times, first held by the Tomars and subsequently by the Mughals, the Marathas and the British, who finally handed it over to the Scindias.
The Man Mandir has four levels, two of them underground. There are chambers for affairs of state as well as those for relaxation, decorated ornately with beautiful paintings, glazed tiles of varied colours, different figures of human beings, carved animals and flowers. One can see vast chambers with fine stone screens and lattice works (jaalis) which served as halls for music and dance. The walls of these halls were decorated with triangular friezes. It is believed that each time a candle was lit, those mirrors would reflect light that would give an impression of hundreds of candles burning giving a festive ambience to the place. The walls, now stripped of their former glory, are a mute testimony to the passing of the centuries.
There are Jhulagar, Kesar Kunda, and Phansi Ghar below this storey. In the dungeons below prisoners were kept. Aurangzeb had his brother Murad imprisoned here and later executed.
This imposing structure is so magnificent that it inspired the Mughal Emperor Babar to describe it as “the pearl amongst the fortresses of Hind.” I’ve used Babur’s words as the title for my post here.
I must emphasize that among the buildings within the Fort, the major attraction for me has been the Man Mandir Palace probably because I had always been fascinated about the story of Raja Man Singh and his queen, the courageous Gujari village girl, Mriganayani, whose romance with the King had been forged on her singing. More on this when I shall write on other structures of the Gwalior Fort and about Tansen in future posts.
Upon reaching there, I had one look at the beautiful palace, Man Mandir, decorated with splendid blue frieze tiles and felt transported to an era of intrigue, chivalry and valour. I found the Palace is a fine edifice of Hindu architecture with a Mughal touch to it. Seeing the fine use of colour, motif and design in it gave me an immense sense of joy. My visit to Man Mandir Palace made yet another one of my travel dreams come true.
More pictures of the Man Mandir Palace can be found here.