March 15, 2008

Gwalior Fort, the Pearl amongst Fortresses

A Fort which has tales to tell of life and death, bravery and cowardice, strife and harmony, arrogance and humility, conquests and surrender, loyalty and treachery, war and peace – that’s what I felt as soon as I set my eyes on the Man Mandir of the Gwalior Fort.



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.


29 comments:

Cuckoo said...

Beautiful shots on Gwalior Fort. One query - Was this fort initially fully covered with those eye catching tiles or was it like this only.

kimmy said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving such a nice comment. Beautiful pictures too!

Have a great weekend!

Kimmy

backpakker said...

impressive shots ...and a great post..would love to read more history on the fort

lakshmi

Raghu Ram Prasad said...

Really wonderful shots....i like the place where Jhansi lakshmi Bhai jumped from the fort...

indicaspecies said...

cuckoo:

Thank you for your comment. I'm delighted that you like these shots.

It does not seem like it was fully covered with those blue tiles, but was decorated uniformly in the earlier days. It seems now that some of the works is in a state of want of repair (or restoration). That is why it appears uneven and can look unattractive to some.

I wonder what is your viewpoint on whether repair and restoration work on historic buildings should be done or they should be left as is. :)

indicaspecies said...

Kimmy,

Your write-up was superb and deserved the Authorblog award.

Thanks for passing by here and your kind words. I'm glad you liked the pictures. :)

indicaspecies said...

backpakker:

Lakshmi, thanks a lot. I hope to write at least one more post on the Fort before I move on to the rest of Gwalior city. :)

indicaspecies said...

Raghu Ram Prasad,

As far as I am aware, Jhansi Lakshmibai's association is from the Jhansi Fort.

By the way I passed through the Jhansi Fort on my way to Orchcha and shall put up a post on it in due course.

Thank you for passing by here and please do drop in sometime. :)

Ritesh. P said...

Hey Celine, those pics are damn impressive, a great job, keep it up... :)

I loved the pics taken inside the fort which are pretty rare to get...

Keep up the good work dude, waiting to hear more from you...

indicaspecies said...

Ritesh

Welcome, and thanks for your dropping by. Thank you also for your kind comments and I'm pleased that you like these pictures.

I shall be posting more on the rest of my MP trip, and I hope you will pass by sometimes. :)

Ritesh. P said...

I will always keep visiting your page Celine. I will link your blog to mine so that it's easy to access your blog directly from mine. What say?

indicaspecies said...

My pleasure Ritesh. Go right ahead.:)

*~*Sameera*~* said...

Truly magnificent!History is always intriguing,and the best part is it has left us with such wonderful monuments.Our future generations' monuments though,would be various glass jungles ;)

Keep up the great work!

GMG said...

Lovely shots of a beautiful place. Another one to had to my list. Just wonder how will I manage to get to see all these beauties...
Thanks for your comments at Blogtrotter, where I’m back to Crete now!
Have a great week!
Gil

Shantanu said...

Great pics! One of these days, I want to start covering all the exciting (old) princely states and the forts/palaces too.

priyank said...

Our malwa has impressed a traveler ;) Cool! I loved these pictures!

Suldog said...

Wow! That is absolutely beautiful!

indicaspecies said...

Sameera,

Thank you very much. Pleased that you are enjoying this. :)

indicaspecies said...

Gil,

Thank you for the kind words.
I hope you get to make more trips to India. Don't forget to say hello to the Himalayas as well. ;)

indicaspecies said...

Shantanu,

Thank you. I hope you get a chance to explore all those places, and all the best. :)

indicaspecies said...

Priyank,

You Malwa boy, yep, I'm impressed. ;)
Shinde palace pictures will be out soon. Glad you liked these. :)

indicaspecies said...

suldog:

Thanks a lot. Delighted that you liked these. :)

Wanderer said...

You refreshed my memories of my Gwalior Trip.
http://karnail.blogspot.com/2007_02_24_archive.html

Anonymous said...

love the blue frieze tiles absolutely gorgeous on the close ups!dont know if you know cjs but my final thesis in high school was on mughal architecture so this is really fascinating!keep blogging!
love
billu

indicaspecies said...

Karnail,

Welcome. I am glad to have refreshed your memories.

Having checked your post, I agree with you to some extent on the lack of certain facilities at the Gwalior Fort. If you notice in my subsequent post, I have written about having to descend from the Fort for a bite when I was hungry. But the visit was definitely worthwhile for those awesome monuments there.

Thank you for your comments and I hope you drop in sometimes. :)

indicaspecies said...

Billu,

Hey, I did not know about your interest in Mughals and their architecture since your CSK days, and I am pleased to know about our common interest. :)

Thank you for your visit, and your kind words. *hugs* ;)

Anonymous said...

its actually interesting to go into our country's history

indicaspecies said...

To Anonymous:

You can bet on that!
I've actually started delving more into the history since I started travelling. It's truly fascinating.

Thank you for your visit here and do drop in sometiems. For next time, will appreciate if you leave behind your name and some sort of contact.:)

Anonymous said...

impressive shots..........
IT IS VERY BEAUTIFUL WE PROUD TO BE CITIZEN OF GWALIOR