Glorious Gems of MP - The Gwalior Fort and Man Singh Palace
Most of what I remembered about the great city of Gwalior came from my 5th or 6th grade history textbook. And my memories were as foggy as the evening of the day I landed in MP.
Excited to be in Gwalior for the first time, I was just in time to catch the Light and Sound show at the Man Singh Palace also known as the Man Mandir Palace. And what a majestic show it was - under the open sky, the palace lit up in wonderful colours, the history of the city rendered in the baritone of Amitabh Bachchan! It was nothing less than a grand theatre!
Built in 8th century, the fort stands tall upon the Gopachal hill. The exact period of the fort’s construction is not clear, but historians say that it started in the 8th Century. According to the folklore, one day Suraj Sen who suffered from leprosy, found himself very thirsty atop the hill. Sant Gwalipa offered him sacred water from a pond, which cured him of the disease. Out of gratitude, Suraj Sen fortified the hilltop and named the citadel Gwalior to honour the saint.
Around the 15th century, the fort came under Man Singh Tomar, a king who was known as one of the greatest connoisseur of art and music. He transformed the fort into a grand architectural marvel that even Babur referred it as the “pearl amongst the fortresses of India”. After being captured by the Mughals, the fort was used as a jail. By the end of their reign, they had destroyed almost everything precious. Finally, in 18th Century, it flourished again in the hands of Maharaja Scindia.
Today, the monument is a huge fortress sprawling across an area of 3 square km surrounded by a concrete wall of sandstone. It comprises of six palaces, three temples, and several water tanks. One of its most famous temples is Teli-ka-Mandir built in the Dravidian style with an exquisite sculpted exterior. Another fascinating temple is the Saas-Bahu Temple, with two asymmetrical pillars. The other palaces are Jahangir Mahal, the Karan Palace, the Shah Jahan Mahal and the Gurjari Mahal, built by Man Singh for Mrignayani, his favourite wife. Gurjari Mahal currently is an archeological museum with an impressive collection, some of which dates back to 1st century AD.
Totally engrossed in the stories, I had walked down the lanes of history. I looked around to see the most beautiful view - a modern cityscape of Gwalior. The city was lit up!
Early next morning, I returned to witness the monument and relive all the stories I had heard the night before. We started off our visit with the Man Mandir palace or the Chit Mandir for the rich ceramic mosaics encrusting its facade. It was absolutely breathtaking made out of sandstone with stunning motifs on coloured tiles- everything speaking volumes about craftsmanship beyond time. My guide Puneet ji narrated many more wonderful tales that described the symbolism of the motifs as well as showed me the secret little telephonic tunnel the king used to converse with his queens.
The Diwan-e-aam and Diwan-e-khas music halls made for the queens to see performances while honouring the purdah system, have some exquisite grillwork. Lotus, which signifies Lord Brahma is a motif that keeps re-appearing across numerous places.
The royal seal can also be seen in the main hall.
Raja Man Singh’s bedroom has beautiful brackets which once held stunning mirror work like a Sheesh Mahal. Taking cue from this, I began reimagining the grandeur of the place.
I could also see the Gurjari Mahal situated below the palace, which was built as one of the conditions set by Mrignayani to marry Raja Man Singh. The other two conditions were that she should get water from her village river (which was the secret of her strength and beauty) at the new palace, and that she would fight each war alongside the King.
A leap into history, the Man Singh Palace has left me inspired in many many ways.
About the artist
Neethi Goldhawk is an independent illustrator and textile print designer who loves drawing all things dreamy, inspired by nature and life. She has illustrated for platforms like Redbull Amaphiko and Launchora. Her pen name (Goldhawk) was concocted in the crowded space of her mind full of absurd characters, who are but little children at heart. She is an avid Tumblr blogger and can be found hereBy Neethi Goldhawk