I have been a forever fan of period movies and standing in front of the Gwalior Fort, I am already in awe. In awe of the gigantic gates, the stone walls, the blue embellishments and the art that has stood on its walls since centuries. The fort, which looks straight out of a period movie set consists of endless walk ways with history in every nook and corner. This is the story of a fort which is known as the “Gibraltar of the East” and a city whose story is inextricably linked to it.
With the fort having been under the rule of different kings over the centuries, there are layers of history to peel away as you take your first steps within. One of the first things you notice as soon as you enter through the Haathi Pul (Elephant Bridge) are the Jain Thirthankara Idols, massive pieces of sculpture, some even as high as 58 feet chiselled into the walls of the fort. As none of them have been damaged over the years the intricate detailing done on stone makes you wonder about the quality of craftsmanship many centuries ago.
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Having been under their rule for the majority of its existence, the domination of Hindu architecture is quite evident all over the fort- the Saas Bahu Temple and the Teli Ka Mandir being prime examples. The former, which earlier used to be known as the Sahastrabadu is a limestone construction that makes for quite a bit of North meets South architecture. The same also stands true for the latter.
One of the things that that has me hooked to Gwalior is its different expressions throughout the day. The iconic Man Singh Palace, which is part of many photographs that have come to represent the true essence of Gwalior, was built by another Hindu king, Man Singh Tomar. While the exteriors have been done with yellow and blue tiles on bronze walls that still exist to this day and sparkles quietly as the sun rises on the horizon, the interiors are even grander with mosaics that have different geometrical patterns along with cornices and lattice screens.
No trip to the city of Gwalior can be complete without a taste of the local food and the shopping. The Sarafa Bazar for Chanderi Sarees and the Patankar Market for intricate hand crafted jewellery is something that we truly recommend. Exploring the markets is a treat for all senses with different colours, sounds, smells and tastes around every corner. Just like architecture, even the food of Gwalior has been influenced by its rulers. Although Poha is one of the staples here, you will find a decent dose of Vada Paos and Dabelis which draw inspiration from the Maratha kingdom while the decadent Qorma at the evergreen Kwality restaurant is a throwback to the Mughals.
After experiencing all the hustle of the city, it is time to experience the soothing calm of the Deobagh, also known as the “Lungs of the city”. An erstwhile summer palace of the Jadhavs, the fort is drastically different from the rest of the city. With more than three thousand trees planted around, the smells and sounds here are quite soothing. After watching the sunset, you can catch yourself a royal meal at the dining room at Neemrana before heading off to the Gwalior Fort to catch its beauty on a full moon’s night as it casts many shadows over the ramparts.
The city of Gwalior is like a walk through the pages of history yet filled with some scrumptious food and shopping along the way.
The author’s opinions are his own and do not reflect those of Lonely Planet.