History of Gwalior Fort, India

Gwalior Fort

Gwalior Fort or Gwalior Kila  is situated at a hill, therefore it is a hill fort in Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh. The inscriptions on the fort say that it might be existed from the 6th century and has been ruled by different rulers at different spans of time. It has two main palaces, Gujari Mahal and Maan Mandir by Man Singh Tomar from the Tomar dynasty. It has a very rich history and it’s a must-visit fort in North India.

Brief History of Gwalior Fort

The exact period of the Gwalior Fort constructions is unknown. According to the old records, the Gwalior Fort is also known as Badalgarh Fort which was built by King Sakarwar Rajput. There is a story behind its construction. According to the locals of the Gwalior, the king was suffering from leprosy. A sage named Gwalipa cured him with help of some sacred water from a pond that lies within the fort. In gratitude and show respect, the king made the fort in the name of the sage. The sage gave him another blessing by providing him a title “Pal” meaning “The Protector” and said the fort will be in his family’s hand as long as they bear that title. The 83rd descendants of Suraj Pal Singh had possession of the fort but the 84th lost it. His name was Tej Karan.

As per the inscriptions inside the Gwalior Fort, there is a description of a sun temple built during the period of Huna emperor Mihirakula in the 6th century. There is a mandir or temple called Teli Ka Mandir built within the fort by Gurjara Pratiharas in the 9th century.

There were a number of attacks by Muslim rulers. Once Mahmud of Ghazni encircled the fort for four days and he left the fort after the king gave him 35 elephants. Qutb al-Din Aibak, the Ghurid general, who later become emperor of Delhi sultanate where Qutub Minar is situated currently, captured the fort which was later lost and again recaptured by King Iltutmish in 1200 CE.

Later on, the fort was under the control of Tomars. The most prominent ruler was Maan Singh who built a number of monuments within the fort. Maan Singh was killed by Sikander Lodi’s son Ibrahim Lodi and it came under the Delhi sultanate. The fort was under the control of a number of Hindu and Muslim kings like Maharaja Kamdev Singh, Mughal Emperor Babur, Sher Shah Suri, the Hindu general Hemu and Akbar. Akbar changed the fort into a prison for political prisoners.

The sixth Sikh Guru, Guru Hargobind was prisoned in the Gwalior Fort by Jahangir for his conspiracy to take revenge from Jahangir as he executed Guru Arjan. Guru Hargobind was only 14 years old at the time of jail. Later on, he was released from prison on the Hindu festival Diwali. Now it is celebrated as Bandi Chhor Divas by the Sikh community.

Canon inside Gwalior Fort
Canon inside Gwalior Fort

During the period of Rani Lakshmibai- the Queen of Jhansi took shelter in the Gwalior fort during her rebellion of 1857. She sacrificed herself by jumping off the fort with her horse while fighting with Britishers.

After the death of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, the Marathas captured the fort. The Maratha general Mahadaji Shinde captured the fort but soon lost it to the British East India Company. After the complete control of India under British rule by 1886, due to non-strategic importance, the Britishers handed over the fort to the Scindia family until the independence of India in 1947 and constructed a number of monuments by Scindia family.

Gwalior Fort History Timeline

Gwalior Fort History Timeline

Structure of Gwalior Fort

The fort and its establishments are well maintained with many historic monuments including temples, palaces, and water tanks. Palaces like Man Mandir, the Jahangir, the Gujari, the Karan, and the Shah Jahan. The strong walls of the fort are built around the edge of the hill connected by six towers.

The Gwalior Fort has two gates. One at the northeast and the other at southwest. Hathi Darwaza or the Elephant Gate is the main entrance and the other gate is the Badalgarh gate. To the northeast, the Man Mandir Palace is present which was built in the 15th century. Water reservoirs with a capacity to feed the thrust of approx. 15000 soldiers of the fort, which were required to protect the fort.

Major Monuments of Gwalior Fort

1. Jain temples and Idol Carvings

There are eleven Jain temples inside the fort and 21 temples on the southern side of the fort. This section comes under Urvahi, one of the five areas of the Gwalior fort. The idols are in different postures. There were thousands of idols on the Bhagwan Adinatha carved on the hills which were ordered to destroy by Mughal emperor Babar. But still, these Jaina sculptures have survived in fairly good condition.

Jain Idols near Gwalior Fort

2. Telika Temple

The word Teli comes from a Hindi word which means oil. It is a Hindu temple that was built by Mihira Bhoja- the Pratihara emperor. The temple is also known as Teli Ka Mandir. This temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, Vishnu, and Matrikas. With a mix of South and North Indian architectural design, it is the oldest part of the fort. There are sculpted images of romantic couples, river goddesses, floral decorations at the entrance door with some damaged figures.

3. Sas-Bahu Temple

The Sahastrabahu temple or mother-in-law, bride temple was built in the 11th century and is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. The temple was built by King Mahipala of the Kachhapaghata dynasty. It was ruined and damaged by invasions and Hindu-Muslim wars. The temple is a three-story twin temple. It has three entrances from different directions. There are carvings of lord Brahma, Vishnu, and goddess Saraswati above the entrance. The Sas temple is larger in size in comparison to the bahu temple. There are carvings of Krishna Leela and Lord Shiva as well.

Saas Bahu Mandir Gwalior Fort
Saas Bahu Mandir Gwalior Fort |© Vishalkhopkar/Wikimedia Commons

4. Garuda Monument

Garuda is the vehicle of Lord Vishnu. It is close to the Teli ka Mandir and it is a temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu, which is the highest in the fort. This monument has a mixture of Muslim and Indian architecture.

5. Gurdwara Data Bandi Chhor

The word “Bandi” means “imprisoned” and “Chhor” means “release”. The 6th Sikh Guru Hargobind Sahib was arrested and held captive by Mughal Emperor Jahangir. There were 52 Hindu kings present in the fort as prisoners for opposing the Mughal empire. On the day of release Guru Hargobind Sahib requested to release all 52 Hindu Kings. Jahangir allowed him to take as many kings as he wants and as long as they hold to him while leaving. Guru Hargobind Sahib arranged a special gown stitched which had 52 hems. When he was leaving the prison, all 52 kings caught the hems and came out along with him. Later in his memory, a Gurudwara was made near the fort. During October/November, the worldwide Sikh community celebrates the safe return of guruji.       

Palaces in Gwalior Fort

1. Karn Mahal

Built by second Tomar Dynasty king Kirti Singh is another appreciable monument in Gwalior Fort.

2. Man Mandir Palace

The palace is also known as Painted Palace due to the use of colored tiles of yellow, green, and turquoise. The palace is located North East of the fort and was built by Tomar Dynasty ruler Man Singh Tomar between 1486 and 1516. It has two open courts. It consists of underground prison cells made by Mughals.

Kund/Water Tank inside the Gwalior Fort
Kund/Water Tank inside the Gwalior Fort

There is a pool or kund to supply water to nearby palaces including Karn Mahal. Rajput women committed mass suicide when Muslim invaders attacked Gwalior fort in the period of Iltutmish. After this incident, the kund was called Jauhar Kund.

Man Singh Palace- Gwalior Fort
Man Singh Palace- Gwalior Fort | © Vijayindiatours/Wikimedia Commons

3. Vikram Mandir

Vikram Mandir is also called Vikram Mahal as it was once hosted a temple of Lord Shiva. It was built by Vikramaditya Singh, elder son of Maharaja Man Singh. The temple was ruined by the Mughal period but later re-built.

4. Gujari Mahal

It was a palace built by Raja Man Singh Tomar for his wife Mrignayani, a Gujar princess. Later on it was converted into an archaeological museum.

How to Reach Gwalior?

Anybody can reach Gwalior. As it is near to Agra and other important places, Gwalior is easily accessible. It has an airport and railway station within the city limits. It can be reached by air, rail, and road.

By Air

Gwalior has an airport which is approx 8Kms from the main city. It is connected to the main cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Indore, and Bhopal.

By Rail

The railway station is located in the city. It lies on the Delhi-Chennai, Delhi Mumbai rail link. Taj and Shatabdi Express connect Delhi and Agra with Gwalior. There are around 68 trains from Delhi to Gwalior and around 10 trains from Mumbai.

By Road

Gwalior is connected with good quality of roads. It lies on highway number 46. It is 364Kms away from Delhi via Mumbai-Agra National Highway and the Taj Express Highway. Around 6 and half hour journey

S.NoFromToDistance (Km)ViaDuration
1AgraGwalior120Mumbai-Agra National Highway2Hr 30 min
2JaipurGwalior332.6NH 216hr 5 min
3New DelhiGwalior343.1Mumbai-Agra National Highway and Taj Express Highway6 Hr
4BhopalGwalior433NH467hr 24min
5IndoreGwalior509.6NH52 and NH468hr 47min
6MumbaiGwalior1092.3NH52 and NH 4619 hr 35 min
Distance and Duration between Major Cities and Gwalior

How to Reach Gwalior Fort?

It is 1 km away from the city center and 3.3 km from the railway station.  You can be reached by local or private vehicles. If you hire Ola from Gwalior Railway station, it will cost less than 100 Rs.  

Timings and Fare

Entry Fee

  • 75 per person for adult
  • 40 per children
  • 250 for Foreign Tourists

Timings

All days of the week

9:00 AM-5:00PM

Gwalior Fort, Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh 474001, India

Conclusion

Gwalior Fort is a must-visit Fort in North India as it has an immense history. The entire Gwalior city can be seen from the top and one can visit the fort in just 2 hours.

Gwalior City View From the Top of the Gwalior Fort
Gwalior City View From the Top of the Gwalior Fort

Loved Reading! You will also like Qutub Minar.

Featured Image Credit| © Shaweez/Wikimedia Commons

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