The Man Mandir was a revelation, in terms of architecture, design, as well as ornamentation. No wonder it was the place everyone flocked to. But there was more to Gwalior fort, monuments built by the other rulers. They might not match the grandeur of Man Mandir, but they were reminders of others who left their imprints on the city. They were worth a glimpse, and short of time, we rushed through them.
The Karn Mahal is said to have been built by Kirti Singh Tomar (~1454), who was also called Karan Singh. This structure is older than Man Mandir, and is quite a simple structure from the outside, restored in recent times. There are a few intricate jaalis visible, and also a few sculptures, but otherwise, there isn’t much ornamentation.
|A beautiful ornamental work on Karn Mahal depicting elephants and peacocks|
The Vikram Mahal was built by Man Singh Tomar’s son, Vikramaditya. He was an ardent Shiva devotee, and established a temple to the Lord inside, and thus the palace is also called the Vikram Mandir. During Mughal rule, the idols were destroyed, but a small shrine has recently been set up just outside the palace. There is also a small mosque set up here within one of the smaller buildings of the palace.
|The spires of Vikram Mahal|
|The current temple to Shiva, outside Vikram mahal|
The Jehangir Mahal and Shahjehan Mahal, built for the two respective Mughal rulers are impressive structures, each built around a central courtyard which contains a deep water reservoir. The two palaces are connected to each other, and provide a wonderful view of the city from the uppermost levels.
|Entry to Jehangir Mahal|
|Entry to Shahjehan Mahal|
|Entry to the central section which connects the two Mahals|
|View of the city from Jehangir Mahal|
Remnants of paintings hint at a colourful past for both these palaces, which must have once been just as beautiful and impressive as the Man Mandir. However, they are in desperate need of restoration, and the water reservoirs in dire need of cleaning up.
|remnants of painting... on the entry arch of Jehangir Mahal|
The Johar Kund, with the cenotaph of Bhimsingh Rana (1701-1756) beside it provides a good view from afar, but getting closer, it is impossible to ignore the stink of the kund. The name suggests that the kund was used for Jauhar, or self-immolation by the women when their menfolk lost the battles.
|Bhimsingh Rana's cenotaph and the Johar Kund|
Our guide told us that all the tanks in the fort had once been connected to each other, for storage of water. Today, all of them stink equally, and considering the water shortage in the region (in the wake of progressively lessening rainfall), the tanks can be put to so much better use, just by cleaning and restoring the pipelines which already connect them. Interestingly, while the Man Mandir is maintained by the Central ASI, these other structures are all maintained by the State ASI. I wonder how two separate organizations can manage what is essentially one monument!
|The condition of one of the tanks|
Next to all these monuments is one which is comparatively recent – a structure built by the British, obviously inspired by Greek architecture! It stands completely out of place, unused, and left alone, by all branches of the ASI! There isn’t even a board identifying it!
|The British structure. What does it remind you of?|
The ASI museum inside the fort is also housed within one of the colonial structures, one which functioned as a jail and later a hospital! Today, it houses some of the most ancient relics and sculptures found in the region, and gives a glimpse of the rich heritage of the area in and around Gwalior, from the 1st century B.C. to the 17th century A.D. Especially interesting as well as unique, are sculptures from Pawaya, Padavali, Mitavali and Morena.
|A broken lion outside the ASI museum.|
By the time we had walked around all these monuments, I was almost ready to call it a day. Yet, we had barely seen anything in Gwalior! There was more to see just on the hill! Dragging ourselves back to the car, we paused for one final monument – the extremely impressive Assi Khambon ki baoli – well of 80 pillars, which, very interestingly, is circular in shape!!! What a surprising find it was!
|The Assi Khambon ki baoli... certainly among the most interesting things we saw at the fort!|
With that, we were done with the monuments of Gwalior Fort. What now remained were the temples, which, we had heard, were equally impressive. Wait for my next post to read about them!