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Gwalior Fort

The Gwalior fort, situated at Gopachal, almost 100m above the town of Gwalior, was built by Raja Man Singh Tomar in the 15th century. It's width is not more than 1km and the walls, encircling the fort, are solid and about 10m high. It Gwalior Fortcovers an area of 3 sq. kms and consists three temples, six palaces and a number of water tanks. It is considered as North and Central India’s most secure fort. Babur, the great Mughal emperor described the fort as, "The pearl amongst fortresses in India". The fort also has an unlimited water supply, as there are many water tanks on the plateau.

In the five hundred years since then, the fort has changed hands many times- it has been held by the Tomars, Mughals, Marathas and British, who finally handed it over to the Scindias. Today it’s a must-see sight on any Gwalior itinerary, and just the ride up to the fort gives you a taste of what’s coming: the southern path is bounded by rock faces with intricate carvings of the Jain tirthankars. As you enter the fort, you’ll see lots more to impress and interest you: palaces and temples, impressive gates and historic water tanks.

Gwalior is a legendary city, with a very interesting and colourful past, which remembers its kings, poets, singers and saints with pride, and preserves every monument of its historical and cultural heritage, with utmost care. During this period of 1000 years, many rulers, including the Tomars, Mughals, Marathas and the British, annexed Gwalior fort. In the early 19th century, the fort was passed on to the Scindias. Within the fort are some marvels of medieval architecture. The walls of the fort give way onto the steep slopes.

This fort has been a witness to many battles in the turbulent times as well as festivals in the peacetime. The rulers have imparted justice from the fort, which has seen the imprisonment of many. The ceremonies held in the fort have been spelled out grandeur but the Jauhars have screamed distress. It was here that Tatyia tope and Rani of Jhansi fought for their freedom. The structure, the placement, the architecture and every thing of the fort is unparalleled. On a clear day from the walls of the fort one can have a birds eye view of the city. In the 14th century Tomars came to power in Gwalior and made the fort their seat of administration. For the next few centuries the fort was witness to numerous conflicts with the neighbouring states.

Man Mandir - where two shows take place every evening (in Hindi and English), very convincingly brings to life the old fort, its history, anecdotes and unattached legends through the resounding voice of Amitabh Bachchan. The canopy of brightly lit stars, the chill of the night and the hauntingly captivating fort is absolutely magical. The poignant ambience of chivalry and heroism has been recreated through the superbly mounted Son-et-lumiere. Assisted by the bright lights and digital sound, the saga of heroism, valour and romance floats in air every evening.

The fort’s most eminent palaces are the amazingly ornate Man Singh Palace, built by Man Singh in the 15th century. Then there's the Jauhar Kund, which marks the spot where the women of the harem burnt themselves to death after the defeat of the king of Gwalior in 1232. Other palaces within the Gwalior Fort which are worth seeing include the Karan Palace, the Jahangir Mahal, the Shahjahan Mahal and the Gujri Mahal (the latter was built by Man Singh for his favourite queen, Mrignayani).

The best time to visit Gwalior is the winter, from the end of October to early March. The last weeks of December and early January are the coldest time of the year here, and can be a good time to visit Gwalior. Summers should be avoided, if possible, as it gets extremely hot. For those who are musically inclined, the annual Tansen Festival- a celebration of Indian classical music- is held in Gwalior every November, and is worth attending.

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