Gwalior – Reminiscence of a Metropolis

Previous Part

Gwalior Fort – Palaces

Gujari Mahal


Gujari Mahal – This palace is located on the right after crossing the Hindola gate on the eastern entrance. This handsome old palace was built by Man Singh about the end of 5th century CE for his favorite queen, popularly known as Mriganayini. She was a Gujar by caste hence the name of the palace, Gujari Mahal. This palace is built in two storeys measuring 232 feet by 196 feet. This building is now housing the Archaeological Museum where many rare artifacts are on display including the famous Lady of Gyaraspur.

The interior of the palace has a huge open courtyard in middle with small rooms surrounding the courtyard. In the middle of the courtyard, there is a two storeyed underground apartment. It is in one of  these apartments where the Lady of Gyaraspur is exhibited.

Man Mandir


Man Mandir – As per Cunningham, it is one of the finest Hindu architecture specimen. James Fergusson describes it as the most remarkable and interesting example of a Hindu palace of an early age in India. Its position on the eastern edge puts it in a commanding position as it can be seen from any part of the city at the foothill. This palace was constructed by Raja Man Singh (1486-1516 CE) who was a great patron of architecture and the founder of the Gwalior School of Music. Its eastern façade is one of most photographed structure of the fort. This façade is 300 feet in length and 80 feet in height, relieved by six round towers placed at regular intervals. These towers are crowned with domed cupolas and its walls are inlaid with blue, green and yellow enameled tiles.

Interior of Man Mandir


The interior of the palace has two distinct blocks, one was used by the king for his residence, the other one on the outer side was for the accommodation of the attendants. The exterior measurements of this palace are 300 feet by 160 feet. The royal apartment acquires only one-third of total measurement, 160 feet by 100 feet. Under the courtyards are two underground storeys which were used to keep state prisoners during the Mughal rule.

Peacock Bracket


Babur visited this palace in 1527 CE and left his account in his memoirs. He was ill at that time however his enthusiasm was so strong that he visited all the palaces of this fort. He mentions that the domes of this palace were gilded in copper and the whole front of the palace was covered in white stucco, both these features are missing at present. He mentions that the rooms below ground level were very dark that he had to carry a light with him. In his words, ‘though they have had all the ingenuity of Hindustan bestowed upon them, yet they are but uncomfortable places’.

Pillars of Man Mandir


Rooms are arranged around the two open courtyards, one 34 feet square and another 39 feet square. Though the courtyards are small however both are rich and beautiful in their decoration. They both have bold roofing and all around the walls are inlaid with tiles. Screened galleries and animal shaped brackets enhance the beauty of these courtyards. For this tile decoration the palace is also known as Sheesh Mahal or mirror palace.

Courtyard inside Man Mandir


The description of the Gwalior Fort would be incomplete without the mention of Mriganayani and it would be unjust on my part as well if I leave this beautiful love story unattended. As per a legend, Man Singh once came across Mriganayani on his hunting expedition near village Rai. He was bewildered with her beauty and fell for her at the first sight. On inquiry, he came to know that she is known for her strength and beauty. She vanquished a wild buffalo single handed in a combat. Another account states that the King Man Singh was attacked by a wild buffalo and Mriganayini saved his life by turning the large horns of the buffalo by her arms.

Underground Chamber


The enamored king offered to make her his wife, which Mriganayani accepted on a condition. Her condition was that the waters of the Sank river, which flows near her village, were to be made flow by her palace. The king accepted the condition and built a palace for her where an aqueduct was constructed to bring water from Sank. The village Rai is no more in existence, it was drawn after the construction of Tigra dam. However, the remains of this aqueduct are still to be seen. A 20th century CE Hindi writer, Dr Vrindavan Lal Verma, immortalized this legend in his famous novel, Mriganayini.

Karn Mandir


Karn Mahal/Mandir – This palace is attributed to king Kirti Singh who is also known as Karn Singh among the Muslim historians of that age. He was the second king of the Tomar dynasty of Gwalior and ruled from 1480 to 1486 CE. This palace is constructed in indigenous Hindu style. It is a two storey building containing only one large room measuring 43 feet by 28 feet. The roof of this room or hall is supported on two rows of pillars. This hall was probably used as the darbar (court) of the king. There are two small rooms on either side of this hall, one measuring 28 feet by 15 feet and another 28 feet by 12 feet.

The northern end of the palace has many bathrooms, both for hot and cold water. Cunningham mentions that these have long been disused and now out of repair. There are traces of paintings in some of these bathrooms. No ornamentation was found in the large hall, however the walls have many layers of white-wash coat which would have concealed paintings, if there was any. The building does not have any interesting feature otherwise.

Vikrama Mandir


Vikrama Mandir – This palace was constructed by king Vikramaditya (1516-1523 CE), the son of Raja Man Singh. Babur mentions that this palace was connected with Man Mandir and Karn Mandir via secret passages in which he himself had trodden. He was surprised enough to see such a complex and intricate interconnecting underground galleries.

In the middle of this palace is a baradari (open hall), 36 feet square, with twelve doorways. Over the roof is a Hindu style dome supported on eight curved ribs. There are five chataris, the top one was built by a governor of Babur as his pleasure room to catch cool breeze.

Jahangir Mahal


Jahangir Mahal – It’s an oblong quadrangle building measuring 290 feet by 180 feet. Rooms, much small in dimensions, are placed on its three sides. Cunningham mentions that the original name of this building might be Sher Mandir as Hiraman Munshi writes that Sher Shah took up his residence for some time in Gwalior and also built Sher Mandir and a tank. There is a tank in front of Jahangir Mahal which made Cunningham to suggest this hypothesis. However it seems true as Hiraman also narrates that Jahangir was advised to destroy this palace and built his own palace here however that was never realized but he probably did some restorations and changed the name to Jahangir Mahal.

Shah Jahan Mahal


Shah Jahan Mahal – This palace was built by Shah Jahan however Cunningham points to a reference from Hiraman Munshi about a palace built by Humayun inside this fort. It may be that Humayun’s palace was standing at this place however by the time of Shah Jahan it was in ruins. Shah Jahan cleared the site and built his palace probably. It is a oblong quadrangle building measuring 320 feet by 170 feet.

Next Part