Doesn’t it paint a picture when you hear that the Heartland of India is the home to the finest pearl amongst fortresses in India? Who wouldn’t want to witness the ‘Gibraltar of India’, as glorified by the Mughal emperor Babur? Is it just me who finds it fascinating when forts are tagged along with folklores? Too many questions… So let’s bring in some context.
While there are no historical records that indicate the real age of Gwalior fort, various inscriptions within the fort complex talks about its existence in and around 6th century. The artistic history of Gwalior is especially difficult to trace because of its complex political history, in which Muslim and Rajput dynasties were in constant conflict. As per various textual sources, the fortress has never been described except as a position to be seized or as a place of imprisonment.
However, the complexity of politics aside, Gwalior was at the peak of its splendour during the reign of Raja Man Singh (1486–1516). The irrigation and water-storage system, which was already sophisticated and gave the fort its reputation of impregnability, was redesigned and improved, and more palaces were built within the complex. The Man Mandir, Raja Man Singh’s palace, is famous for its rich decorations in polychrome ceramic tiles—including friezes of people, animals, and plants—that gave it the name Chit Mandir (Painted Palace).
Once you get past the beauty of the exterior, you realise how the interior will just keep you occupied equally with twirling around in wonder, trying to capture every single moment of elaborate doorways, lattices, and archways it!
Before being integrated into the Delhi Sultanate, Gwalior was host to several Hindu and Jain sanctuaries, to which structures are still standing strong in evidence. Incidentally, the reason why Diwali is celebrated with such great pomp and gallore amongst the Sikh community, can also be found within the walls of Gwalior fort. It is said that, during October/November, the worldwide Sikh Sangat (community) celebrates the safe return of the sixth Nanak, Guru Hargobind from his detention at Gwalior Fort in October 1619, a day which coincides with the Hindu festival of Diwali. Since the day of our visit happened to coincided with Mahashivratri, it was already a crowd favorite, as well the day when the gurudwara was closed.
Even after spending a day dedicated exclusively to the “old and gold” of Gwalior, I still feel like I haven’t seen everything! Most likely I haven’t! Maybe that’s how stepping into the pages of history should feel like… untouched, unfinished, unlearn!
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