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The Elephanta Caves

The Elephanta Caves , located on Elephanta Island, or Gharapuri, about 11 Km off the coast of the Gateway of India, Mumbai, are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A visit to these caves, excavated probably in the 6 th century CE, is awe-inspiring, and also thought-provoking. Over the years, I have visited the caves a number of times, and also attended a number of talks by experts in the fields of art, history and archaeology on the caves. Together, they help me understand these caves, their art, and the people they were created for, just a little bit better. Every new visit, every new talk, every new article I read about the caves, fleshes out the image of what the island and the caves would have been like, at their peak. I last wrote about the caves on this blog, in 2011, almost exactly 11 years ago. Since then, my understanding of the caves has, I would like to think, marginally improved. Hence this attempt to write a new and updated post, trying to bring to life, the caves of Elephan

Gwalior Part 3 : The Other Monuments of Gwalior Fort

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.

Karn Mahal
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! 

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  1. wow...beautiful place...lovely capturing

  2. What a fascinating place, and so much to see and explore! I think the British building looks like a stable. :)

    Looking forward to your post about the temples. Thanks!

    1. That's an interesting oservation, Natalie.. and now that I look again, it does look like a stable. however, it was originally used as an armament depot, and also as a barracks for the soldiers....

  3. I have heard a lot of interesting facts about the Gwaliorfrom My Dad and there is an addition with this Post : Amazing Structures and Architecture !! That Baoli looks Splendid in terms of the Pillars and the Circular Structure : havent seen like this before. Loved the Post.

    1. Thank you Pooja! And this isnt all... there are things I missed out too, due to lack of time, and lack of information as well... the baoli was a surprising find though. one i hadnt expected to see!

  4. Yes forgot to mention that British Structure resembles our Bombay Asiatic Library :)

    1. Thats because its built in the Greco-Roman style, Pooja, so typical of colonial architecture.

  5. I appreciate this kind of detailed work and write up, good collective information.
    Keep up you good work #Anuradha


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