Steeped in the splendour of its past, the ancient capital of Gwalior has yet made a successful transition into a modern Indian city, vibrant and bustling. A multitude of reigning dynasties, of the great Rajput clans of the Pratiharas, Kacchwahas and Tomars have left indelible etchings of their rule in this city of palaces, temples and monuments. Gwalior's tradition as a royal capital continued until the formation of present day India, with the Scindias having their dynastic seat here. The magnificent mementoes of a glorious past have been preserved with care, giving Gwalior an appeal unique and timeless.
This, then, is Gwalior : where a rich cultural tradition has been interwoven into the fabric of modern life. Where a princely past lives on in great palaces and their museums. Where a multitude of images merge and mix to present to the visitor a city of enduring greatness.
Gwalior's history is traced back to a fascinating legend: in 8AD, a chieftain called Suraj Sen was stricken by a deadly disease. He was cured by a hermit saint, Gwalipa, and in gratitude, founded a city which he named after the saint who had given him the gift of a new life. The new city of Gwalior became, over the centuries, the cradle of great dynasties and with each, the city gained new dimensions from the warrior-kings, poets, musicians and saints who contributed to making it a capital renowned throughout the country.
Air : Gwalior is connected with regular flights from Delhi & Bhopal.
Rail : Gwalior is on the Central Railway's main Delhi-Mumbai and Delhi-Chennai lines. Among other major trains, the Shatabdi and the Taj Express connect Gwalior with Delhi and Agra daily.
Road : Gwalior is connected by regular bus service with Agra, Mathura, Jaipur, Delhi, Chandigarh, Lucknow, Bhopal, Chanderi, Indore, Jhansi, Khajuraho, Rewa, Jabalpur, Ujjain and Shivpuri.
The entire city is a visual and aesthetic feast, for the builders of Gwalior were great architects. Take a walk through the streets of the city and you will discover old havelis with exquisitely carved doorways and windows; at almost every street crossing you will find statues of the Scindia family. Museumes and art galleries are treasure houses and beautifully maintained palaces give the city its inimitable regal flavour. Sightseeing in Gwalior is a magical trip into the centuries gone by.
Standing on a steep mass of sandstone, Gwalior Fort dominates the city and is its most magnificent monument. It has been a scene of momentous events : imprisonments, battles and jauhars. A steep road winds upwards to the Fort, flanked by statues of Jain tirthankaras , carved into the rock face. The magnificent outer walls of the Fort still stand, two miles in length and 35 feet high, bearing witness to its reputation for being one of the most invincible forts of India. This imposing structure inspired Emperor Babar to describe it "the pearl amongst the fortresses of Hind."
Within the fort are some marvels of medieval architecture. The 15th century Gujari Mahal is a monument to the love of Raja Mansingh Tomar for his Gujar queen, Mrignayani. After he had wooed and won her, so the story goes, Mrignayani demanded that he build her a separate palace with a constant water supply from the River Rai, via an aqueduct. The outer structure of the Gujari Mahal has survived in an almost total state of preservation; the interior has been converted into an Archaeological Museum.
Also built by Raja Mansingh is the Man Mandir Palace , built between 1486 and 1517. The tiles that once adorned its exterior have not survived, but at the entrance, traces of these still remain. There is a charming frieze here of ducks paddling in turquoise waters. Within, the palace rooms stand bare, stripped of their former glory, mute testimony to the passing of the centuries. Vast chambers with fine stone screens were once the music halls, and behind these screens, the royal ladies would learn music from the great masters of the day. Below, circular dungeons once housed the state prisoners of the Mughals. The Emperor Aurangzeb had his brother, Murad, imprisoned, and later executed, here. Close by is Jauhar Pond, where in the Rajput tradition, the 'ranis' committed mass 'sati' after their consorts had been defeated in battle. Though the major portions of the Fort were built in the 15th century, references to this gigantic complex can be traced back to 425 AD. Older than the city is the Suraj Kund within the Fort walls, the original pond where Suraj Sen, or Suraj Pal as he was later known, was cured by the Saint Gwalipa.
Teli ka Mandir
The Teli ka Mandir is a 9th century edifice, towering at 100 ft high. This is a Pratihara Vishnu temple of a unique blending of architectural styles. The shape of the roof is distinctively Dravidian, while the decorative embellishments have the typically Indo-Aryan characteristics of Northern India.
Also dedicated to Vishnu is the graceful little Sas-Bahu-ka-Mandir , built in 11th century. Another landmark is the historic Gurudwara Data Bandhi Chhod built in the memory of Guru Hargobind Sahib, the 6th Sikh Guru who was imprisoned here by Jehangir for over two years. At the time of his release, he wanted 52 Hindu kings who were his fellow prisoners, released with him. Jehangir was very impressed with the Guru and agreed to his condition. And, finally, within the Fort complex, housed in the erstwhile barracks of the British soldires, is Gwalior's unique gift to modern India : Scindia School. Acknowledged as one of the finest schools in India, it is only fitting that the country's young citizens receive the best educational grounding surrounded by monuments to a past which is a constant inspiration.
Jai Vilas Palace
A splendour of a different kind exists in the Jai Vilas Palace, current residence of the Scindia family. Some 35 rooms have been made into the Scindia Museum, and in these rooms, so evocative of a regal lifestyle, the past comes alive. Jai Vilas is an Italianate structure which combines the Tuscan and Corinthian architectural modes. The imposing Darbar Hall has two central chandeliers, weighing a couple of tonnes, and hung only after ten elephants had tested the strength of the roof. Ceilings picked out in gilt, heavy draperies and tapestries, fine Persian carpets, and antique furniture from France and Italy are features of these
Eyecatching treasures include : a silver train with cut-glass wagons which served guests as it chugged around on miniature rails on the tables; a glass cradle from Italy used for the baby Krishna each Janamashtami; silver dinner services and swords that were once worn by Aurangzeb and Shah Jehan.
There are, besides, personal momentoes of the past members of the Scindia family: the jewelled slippers that belonged to Chinkoo Rani, four-poster beds, gifts from practically every country in the world, hunting trophies and portraits. The Scindia Museum offers an unparalleled glimpse into the rich culture and lifestyle of princely India. Open everyday except Monday from 10 am to 5 pm. Entry fees are Rs. 20/- for Indian and Rs. 100/- for foreign visitors.
The father of Hindustani classical music, the great Tansen, one of the 'nine Jewels' of Akbar's court, lies buried in Gwalior. The memorial to this great musician has a pristine simplicity about it, and is built in the early Mughal architectural style. More than a monument, the Tansen's Tomb is part of Gwalior's living cultural heritage; it is the venue of a music festival on a national scale held annually in November-December. Leading musicians of the country gather here to give performances during the festival.
More opulent than Tansen's Tomb, is the sandstone mausoleum of the Afghan prince, Ghous Mohammed , also designed on early Mughal lines. Particularly, exquisite are the screens which use the pierced stone technique, as delicate as lace.
The earliest freedom fighters, Tatya Tope and the indomitable Rani of Jhansi , are commemorated in memorials in Gwalior. There are cenotaphs at major public crossings, memorials to Scindia kings and queens. Throughout the city, there are these reminders of a proud past, of the great men and women of Gwalior who have their place in the nation's roll of honour.
Located near the Residency at Morar, the newly constructed Sun Temple takes its inspiration from the famous Konark Sun Temple in Orissa.
Art Galleries and Museums
The Gujari Mahal Archaeological Museum houses rare antiquities, some of them dating back to the 1st century AD. Even though many of these have been defaced by the iconoclastic Mughals, their perfection of form has survived the ravages of time. Particularly worth seeing is the statue of Shalbhanjika from Gyraspur, the tree goddess, epitome of perfection in miniature. The statue is kept in the custody of the museum's curator, and can be seen on request. The museum is open every day except Monday, from 10 am to 5 pm.
The Kala Vithika is another treasure house of the arts. It remains closed on Sunday and public holidays. The Municipal Corporation Museum , which is open all days except Mondays, has a very fine natural history section. The old ancestral house of the legendry Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan has recently been converted into 'Sarod Ghar' - Museum of Music by the Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan Memorial Trust under the patronage and guidance of his great son and sarod maestro Ustad Amzad Ali Khan. The museum has been rebuilt keeping in mind the old traditional architecture of Gwalior and houses in it ancient instruments of the great Indian Masters of yesteryears.
Gwalior Zoo , open every day from 8 am to 3 pm, has some rare species of Indian wildlife kept in natural surroundings.
69 km from Gwalior, on the Delhi-Chennai main line, Datia is a town whose antiquity can be traced back to the Mahabharata. A town of great historic significance, Datia's seven-storeyed palace built entirely of stone and brick by Raja Bir Singh Deo in 1614, is considered to be one of the finest examples of Bundela architecture in the country. Within the palace are some fine wall paintings of the Bundela school. An interesting blending of cultures can be seen in the frescoes in a temple; Datia's other attraction is its imposing Gopeshwar Temple.
Tel: (07522) 238125
This sacred Jain hill lies 3 km to the North West of Datia and is 5 km from the railway station. There are 77 Jain temples, built in rows on the hill and its slopes, and date back to the 17th century. Of these the temple dedicated to Chandranatha, the 8th of the 24 Tirthankaras, is quite a large one and the most beautiful. A large annual fair is held here in the month of Chaitra (April).
Known as Padmavati in ancient times is a fascinating complex of ruins, 68 km away, on the Gwalior-Jhansi road. Pawaya's ruins still bear testimony to the days when it was the capital of the Nag Kings, in 3 AD. Particularly noteworthy is the lifesize statue of Chaksha Manibhadra of 1 AD. The ruins of the medieval fort built by the Parmars and the nearby Dhoomeshwar Mahadeo temple are Pawaya's other attractions.
Kuno-Palpur Sanctuary, Chambal Ghariyal Sanctuary and Ghatigaon Sanctuary - more info available in Wildlife Guide section.
23 km. A pictureque setting for recreation.
An Untamed Wilderness
A wild river. Broken hills. Deep ravines. And to top it all the violent legends of man and beast. Welcome to the Chambal. A rugged, raw, untamed wilderness right in the heart of India.
Flowing through a total length of 435 kms. National Chambal Sanctuary is in three states of M.P, U.P and Rajasthan. The River Chambal is one of the country's most beautiful and least polluted river systems.
The National Chambal sanctuary was formed to protect this pristine river ecosystem, complete with its varied flora, aquatic life and avifauna. With its headquarters at Morena, M.P.
An aquatic life paradise
The Chambal River which is the mainstay for the entire wildlife of the sanctuary harbours a variety of aquatic life like the elusive Ganges River Dolphin, Crocodile (muggar), Gharial (Gavelia Gangeticus), Freshwater Turtles, River Otters and a various species of fishes. All of which can quite easily be seen by tourists within the sanctuary area, specially in the middle reaches in the downside of Rajghat Bridge on National Highway No. 3.
The Crocodile centre at Deori Moreno nearby is the only one - of - its - kind in the entire state of Madhya Pradesh and has recently been opened to the public. The centre helps breed and rehabilitate Crocodiles and Gharials in the Chambal. Thanks to which the river now boasts of a population of over 1600 Gharials and 200 Crocodiles. Active efforts are now on to protect the Ganges River Dolphins.
A Cruise for Dolphins
The rare Ganges River Dolphin (platanista Gangetica), the sole member of the cetaceans group is one of the main attraction of the sanctuary. So called the Queen of Chambal, the Dolphins inspite of being blind can be seen pursuing their playful antics in the water while coming out to breathe for air. The Chambal Sanctuary is one of their safest breeding areas. And one has to be really lucky to sight one while cruising in the Chambal. Flights of Fancy.
The surrounding environs of the river are a true bird watchers delight. During the season (November - March) one can see thousands of migratory and resident birds flock at the shores of the river. A least 150 species of birds have been identified. Species of birds in abundance are the Bar-headed Geese, Brahmini Duck, Common Tea, Pelicans, Flamingoes and Cormorants. One can have an easy sighting of the Indian Skimmer - the highest population of which in the world is found in Chambal.
Live & Let Live
Tourists to the sanctuary can enjoy its many sights by motor boats specially provided by the Forest Department of Madhya Pradesh. Complete safety within the peripheries of the sanctuary is ensured by the local authorities. And one can freely enjoy the natural wonders of the sanctuary which during the 50's & 60's was largely hidden due to the presence of dacoits.
Stringent measures to protect the fragile ecosystems of the sanctuary are followed by the authorities. The visitors are also advised not to disturb, spoil the serenity of the surrounding environs or help in poaching activities directly / indirectly.
How to get there?
The National Chambal sanctuary can be easily reached by road, rail and air.
65 kms. South of Agra,
55 kms North of Gwalior on National Highway No. 3.
270 Kms . South of Delhi.
The nearest airport is Maharajpur at Gwalior (50 kms away).
- Deori - Eco Centre, Morena.
- Gwalior - Various non-star hotels & Star Hotels.
- Agra - Various 5 star and 3 star hotels.
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