Gwalior Fort ( Gwalior Qila) is a hill fort in Gwalior. The fort has existed at least since the 10th century, and the inscriptions and monuments found within what is now the fort campus indicate that it may have existed as early as the beginning of the 6th century. The fort has been controlled by a number of different rulers in its history.
The present-day fort consists of a defensive structure and two main palaces, Gujari Mahal and Man Mandir, built by Man Singh Tomar (reigned 1486-1516 CE). The Gujari Mahal palace was built for Queen Mrignayani. It is now an archaeological museum. The second oldest record of “zero” in the world was found in a small temple, which is located on the way to the top. The inscription is around 1500 years old.
The exact period of Gwalior Fort’s construction is not certain. According to a local legend, the fort was built by a local king named Suraj Sen in 3 CE. He was cured of leprosy, when a sage named Gwalipa offered him the water from a sacred pond, which now lies within the fort. The grateful king constructed a fort, and named it after the sage. The sage bestowed the title Pal (“protector”) upon the king, and told him that the fort would remain in his family’s possession, as long as they bear this title. 83 descendants of Suraj Sen Pal controlled the fort, but the 84th, named Tej Karan, lost it.
The inscriptions and monuments found within what is now the fort campus indicate that it may have existed as early as the beginning of the 6th century. A Gwalior inscription describes a sun temple built during the reign of the Huna emperor Mihirakula in 6th century. The Teli ka Mandir, now located within the fort, was built by the Gurjara-Pratiharas in the 9th century.
The fort definitely existed by the 10th century, when it is first mentioned in the historical records. The Kachchhapaghatas controlled the fort at this time, most probably as feudatories of the Chandelas. From 11th century onwards, the Muslim dynasties attacked the fort several times. In 1022 CE, Mahmud of Ghazni besieged the fort for four days. According to Tabaqat-i-Akbari, he lifted the siege in return for a tribute of 35 elephants. The Ghurid general Qutb al-Din Aibak, who later became a ruler of the Delhi Sultanate, captured the fort in 1196 after a long siege. The Delhi Sultanate lost the fort for a short period before it was recaptured by Iltumish in 1232 CE.
In 1398, the fort came under the control of the Tomars. The most distinguished of the Tomar rulers was Maan Singh, who commissioned several monuments within the fort. The Delhi Sultan Sikander Lodi tried to capture the fort in 1505 but was unsuccessful. Another attack, by his son Ibrahim Lodi in 1516, resulted in Maan Singh’s death. The Tomars ultimately surrendered the fort to the Delhi Sultanate after a year-long siege.
Within a decade, the Mughal emperor Babur captured the fort from the Delhi Sultanate. The Mughals lost the fort to Sher Shah Suri in 1542. Afterwards, the fort was used by Hemu, the Hindu general and, later, the Hindu ruler of Delhi, as his base for his many campaigns, but Babur’s grandson Akbar recaptured it in 1558. Akbar made the fort a prison for political prisoners. For example, Abul-Kasim, son of Kamran and Akbar’s first cousin was held and executed at the fort. Aurangzeb’s brother, Murad and nephews Suleman and Sepher Shikoh were also executed at the fort. The killings took place in the Man Mandir palace.
After the death of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, the Rana chieftains of Gohad held the Gwalior Fort. The Maratha general Mahadaji Shinde (Scindia) captured the fort from the Gohad Rana Chhatar Singh, but soon lost it to the British East India Company. On August 3, 1780, a Company force under Captains Popham and Bruce captured the fort in a nighttime raid, scaling the walls with 12 grenadiers and 30 sepoys. Both sides suffered fewer than 20 wounded total. In 1780, the British governor Warren Hastings restored the fort to the Ranas of Gohad. The Marathas recaptured the fort four years later, and this time the British did not intervene because the Ranas of Gohad had become hostile to them. Daulat Rao Sindhia lost the fort to the British during the Second Anglo-Maratha War.
There were frequent changes in the control of the fort between the Scindias and the British between 1808 and 1844. In January 1844, after the battle of Maharajpur, the fort was occupied by the Gwalior State of the Maratha Scindia family, as protectorate of the British government. During the 1857 uprising, around 6500 sepoys stationed at Gwalior rebelled against the Company rule, although the Company’s vassal ruler Jayaji Scindia remained loyal to the British. The British took control of the fort in June 1858. They rewarded Jayaji with some territory but retained control of the Gwalior Fort. By 1886, the British were in complete control of India, and the fort no longer had any strategic importance to them. Therefore, they handed over the fort to the Scindia family. The Scindias continued to rule Gwalior until the independence of India in 1947, and built several monuments including the Jai Vilas Mahal.
Monuments to visit at Gwalior Fort
Urvahi ( Urwai ) : Jain statues carved out of rock in the Gwalior Fort near the Urwai Gate. The entire area of Gwalior fort is divided into five groups namely Urwai, North West, North East, South West and the South East areas. In the Urvahi area 24 idols of Tirthankar in the padmasana posture, 40 in the kayotsarga posture and around 840 idols carved on the walls and pillars are present. The largest idol is a 58 feet 4 inches high idol of Adinatha outside the Urwai gate and a 35 feet high idol of Suparshvanatha in the Padmasana in Paththar-ki bavadi (stone tank) area.
Close to the Teli ka Mandir temple is the Garuda monument, dedicated to Vishnu, is the highest in the fort. It has a mixture of Muslim and Indian architecture. The word Teli comes from the Hindu word Taali a bell used in worship.
The Karan mahal is another significant monument at Gwalior Fort. The Karn mahal was built by the second king of the Tomar dynasty, Kirti Singh. He was also known as Karn Singh, hence the name of the palace.
The Vikram mahal (also known as the Vikram mandir, as it once hosted a temple of Shiva) was built by Vikramaditya Singh, the elder son of Maharaja Mansingh. He was a devotee of shiva. The temple was destroyed during Mughal period but now has been re-established in the front open space of the Vikram mahal.
There are several other monuments built inside the fort area. These include the Scindia School (an exclusive school for the sons of Indian princes and nobles) that was founded by Madho Rao Scindia in 1897.
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