Gwalior Fort

Gwalior Fort (Hindi: ग्वालियर क़िला Gwalior Qila) in Gwalior, in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, stands on an isolated rock, overlooking the Gwalior town, and contains a number of historic buildings. It is one of the biggest forts in India and a postage stamp has been issued by the Indian Postal Service to commemorate the importance of this fort. From historical records, it is established that it was built in the 8th century. The fortress and the city have been integral to the history of the kingdoms of North India. It is said that the Mughal Emperor Babur (1483–1531) described it as, "The pearl in the necklace of the forts of Hind". The fort, also given the epithet "Gibraltar of India', provides a panoramic view of the old Gwalior town, which is to its east.

The fort’s history relates to two parts namely, the main fort and the Gurjari Mahal and the Man Mandir palace. The first part was built during the early Tomar rule, while the second part, the Gurjari Mahal (now a Museum) and the palace, was constructed by Raja Man Singh Tomar in the 15th century for his favourite queen, Mrignayani.

Gwalior Fort also occupies a unique place in the human civilization as the place which has the first recorded use of zero ever. Also referred as 'Shunya' in sanskrit, this site is of mathematical interest because of what is written on a tablet recording the establishment of a small 9th century Hindu temple on the eastern side of the plateau. By accident, it records the oldest "0" in India for which one can assign a definite date.


The word 'Gwalior' affixed to the fort is derived from the name of a saint called Galava. It is said that the saint cured Suraj Sen, the king of Gwalior, of leprosy. The cure was provided in the form of water taken from the Suraj Kund or the Sun Tank located in the fort.


The hill fort, conical in shape, is built on a solitary hillock surrounded by other comparable hills in the south east, the south and the south west, which, when seen from a distance of 1–4 miles (1.6–6.4 km), presents the shape of an amphitheatre. A small river, non-perennial in nature, called the Subarnarekha flows close to the palace. The rock formations in the fort hill and in the Gwalior hill ranges consist of ocherous sandstone, overlain by basalt. The rock formations of hill fort though a horizontally placed strata, forms almost a perpendicular precipice. The fort hill (342 feet (104 m) at the highest point) has a length of about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) and an average width of about 300 yards (270 m).

Early History

History of the fort is indelibly linked to the former kingdom of Gwalior, ruled by several Rajput kings. The earliest dating of the fort is quoted to a publication of the Government of India on Gwalior, which traces it to an inscription of 525 AD in a Sun temple, which is said to have been built by the Hun (Huna) emperor Mihirakula (Sveta Huna ruler in 510 AD during the reign of Huns in India).

The Chaturbhuj temple (dediciated to a four armed Hindu god, a Vishnu) temple, on the way to the fort is dated to 875 AD which has close identity with the Teli-Ka-Mandir, which is also dated to the 8th century.

Kacchawa Pal Dynasty

Historical research has dated construction of the fort to 727 AD (legend puts it as 275 AD) by a local chieftain of the area named Surya Sena Kacchawa, who was a local ruler of a village called Sihonia some 12 miles from the mountain where the fort stands today. On an hunting expedition the Kacchawa Thakur Surajsen met a hermit called Sage Gwalip (also called 'Galava' in some accounts) who gave him water and told him of a cure for his diseases from the water of a reservoir nearby which is called Surajkund now.

From Suraj Pal the founder of the dynasty to Budha Pal the last on the above list there had been eighty four 84 kings who reigned during a period of nine hundred and eighty nine (989) years under the patronymic of Pal, a solid proof of the long continued peace enjoyed by India under her indigenous sovereigns. The son of Budha Pal rejoiced in the name of Tej Karan and the time had now arrived for the prophecy of the Saint Gwalpa, who had said that lineage of Suraj Pal would continue as long they used the patronym 'PAL'.

Ran Mul the Chief of Ambere (Jeypore) had a daughter who in course of time was united in wedlock to Tej Karan of Gwalior who soon became much attached to a wife that brought with her very costly dowry in the shape of horses elephants and other valuable property. Being of a very pre-possessing appearance he was offered while still a guest in the house of his father in law succession to the sovereignty of Ambere on condition of his consenting to make that capital his home as the reigning sovereign of that place had no male issue of the body to succeed him in the event of his demise. The ambitious and calculating Tej Karan at once closed with the offer the State of Gwalior at that time being less in extent and value than the renowned kingdom of Ambere During his absence from Gwalior the affairs of the latter principality were managed by one Ram Deva Prahar who after two years of successful administration formally applied to be recognized as the de facto ruler of the State The application was granted and the authority to rule and reign was thus duly transferred from the dynasty of Pal to the family of Pratihars.

Pratihar Rulers at Gwalior

The following is list of Pratihar rulers at Gwalior:

Muslim Conquest

In 1023 AD Mahmud of Ghazni attacked to capture the fort but was repulsed. In 1196 AD, after a long siege, Qutubuddin Aibak. the first Sultan of India took over the fort but he lost it in 1211 AD. It was reconquered in 1231 AD by Sultan Iltumish, the slave dynasty ruler of Delhi. When Timurlane invaded Delhi and created anarchy in the region, Narasingh Rao, a Hindu chieftain captured the fort. The fort eventually went Sikander Khan who continued for some time.

Tomar Rulers

There were two Rajput brothers of the Tanwar clan of Rajputs named Parmal Deva(Veer Singh)and Adhar Deva from the village of Esamamola situated in the Perganna of Dandrolee. One night while it was pitch dark and the rain falling in torrents the Sultan happened to be standing at a balcony whence he beheld two soldiers standing on duty whilst the rest of their comrades were fast asleep. Both of them advanced towards the Emperor who on learning that they belonged to the detachment under the command of Sikandar Khan was much pleased with their conduct as evinced by their devotion to their duty. He permitted them to make any request which would be at once granted. They related their story which purported to be that they had always been true to their salt but were unable to serve the State diligently so long as their children were wandering in the jungle for want of a decent home. They concluded their recital in the true Rajput fashion with a request that Gwalior might be given to them as a place of residence for their families.

The Sultan commanded them to be present at the Durbar the next day when their petition would be granted without any further solicitation on their part. The sturdy Rajputs well acquainted with the ways of Oriental Courts represented the difficulties they were sure to encounter in attempting to have access to the Sultan in a formal Durbar. The Emperor however assured them of his good will towards them and when at the appointed hour the two brothers stood at a respectful distance from the Audience Hall the Sultan proving as good as his word summoned them both to his presence and gave them Gwalior as an Inam (Reward). They brought the mandate of the sovereign to the Syads - hereditary charge of the Fortress but these pious gentlemen did not consider it worth their while to pay much attention to the firman that would have deprived them of their hereditary possession.

The two Rajputs however continued their attendance on the Syads very submissively and at last hit on a stratagem to achieve the desired end as they had already ingratiated themselves by their submissive conduct into the favour of the Syads, the latter were asked to a dinner party to be given in their honour at a village named Raneepura whither the unsuspecting descendants of the grandsons of the Arabian Prophet repaired with their whole families. The food mixed with intoxicating drugs was served in the true Oriental style and the guests after partaking heartily of the meal that was to be their last on earth retired to rest in the tents placed at their disposal by their hosts when at a given signal a band of Rajputs who were concealed in a secluded place rushed in with swords in their hands and the poor sleeping innocents were murdered in cold blood for disobeying the mandate of their rightful sovereign.

Medieval History of Fort

It was only in 1519 that Ibrahim Lodi of the Lodi Dynasty won control of the fort. Subsequent to his death, Mughal emperor Babar manipulated the situation and took control of the fort. But with his son Humayun's defeat at the hands of Sher Shah Suri, the fort came under the reign of the Suri dynasty.

After Sher Shah Suri's death in 1540, his son Islam Shah shifted his capital from Delhi to Gwalior as it was considered safe from the frequent attacks from west. In the year 1553, when Islam Shah died his incumbent Adil Shah Suri appointed the Hindu warrior Hemu also known as Hem Chandra Vikramaditya as the Prime Minister-cum-Chief of Army of his kingdom. Adil Shah himself moved to Chunar as it was considered still safer. Hemu mounted several attacks from this fort to quell the rebellion in various parts of North India against the weak Adil Shah regime. The fort remained very active during 1553-56 as Hemu had fought and won 22 battles continuously, without losing any from this fort. After defeating Akbar's forces at Agra and Delhi in 1556, Hemu established 'Hindu Raj' as a 'Vikramaditya' king, in North India and had his 'Rajyabhishake' or coronation at Purana Quila in Delhi as 'Samrat Hem Chandra Vikramaditya on 7th Oct. 1556. The capital was shifted from Gwalior to Delhi once again and was operational from Purana Quila.

Then Akbar captured the fort and made it a special prison for important prisoners. In this prison fort in the Mughal Dynasty period, there was a saga of several unfortunate royal prisoners who were put to death; notably among them were: Akbar confining his first cousin Kamran here and subsequently putting him to death; Aurangzeb imprisoning his brother Murad and later killing him; similarly Aurangzeb had his brother Dara Shikoh's sons, Suleman and Sepher Sheko, executed here.

Following the decline of Mughal Empire, the fort was usurped by Gohad dynasty by a Jat Rana (King)). Thereafter, the fort's control underwent a series of changes. In 1736, Maharaja Bhim Singh Rana, the Jat king won over Malwa and the Gwalior fort by defeating the Marathas and held the fort from 1740 to 1756. In 1779, it was won by the Sinde who stationed a garrison here. But it was usurped by the East India Company. But in August 1780, the control went to Chhatar Singh, the Rana of Gohud who defeated the Marathas. In 1784, Mahadji Sinde ( Commander of Maratha Empire) once again recovered the fort. There were frequent changes in the control of the fort between the Sindes and the British between 1808 and 1844. However, in January 1844, after the battle of Maharajpur, the fort finally came under the control of the Sindes, more as protectorate of the British government.

History during War of Independence (1857)

But the most significant event in Indian history that occurred at Gwalior fort was the sacrifice of Rani Lakshmibai, the Rani of Jhansi. She has been hailed as one of the leading figures of the Indian Rebellion of 1857, and as a symbol of resistance to British rule in India. She is a legendary figure, regarded as India's "Joan of Arc". She fought many battles but two battles are most noteworthy. The first battle against the British was at Jhansi in April 1858 (Lakshmi Bhai was defeated) and she escaped to form a rebel group. The other more famous battle was fought at Gwalior fort against the Sinde's (feudatory of the British), which initially she and her confederates (Rani Jhansi( Widow of commander of Maratha Empire), the Peshwas and the Nawab of Banda) won on 1 June 1858 and Nana Saheb was installed as the Peshwa-Prime Minister of Maratha empire. But Sinde fled to Agra. However, the British continued to relentlessly attack the Gwalior fort. In the battle that ensued on 16 and 17 June 1858, Lakshmi Bai led the troops of Jhansi and the Gwalior (left over forces) to defend the mountain passage to the fort and the city of Gwalior. In the cavalry charge made by the British, she was killed.


The fort and its premises are well maintained and have many historic monuments, Hindu and Jain temples (of 11 shrines, seven are Hindu temples) and palaces, out of which the famous are the Man Mandir palace, the Gujari Mahal (now an Archeological Museum), the Jahangir Mahal, the Karan Palace and the Shahjahan Mahal.,

The fort, which has a striking appearance, has been built on the long, narrow, precipitous hill called Gopachal. The fort spreads over an area of 3 square kilometres (1.2 sq mi). The fort, 35 feet (11 m) in height, is built over massive sandstone rocks. The fort wall is built all along the edge of the hill, though of uniform height, presents an irregular appearance due to the topogarphy of the land over which it has been built. It has two main access gates - one from the North East and the other on the South West. The fort rampart is laid all along the periphery of the hill connected by six towers or bastions. It is approached through the north east through a lengthy access ramp. The main entrance or gate to the fort, called the Hathi Pul (means "elephant gate" as elephants could pass through this gate), is accessed after passing through six other gates. Apart from the Hathi Pul gate to the Palace, there is another large ornate gate, inferred as the Badalgarh Gate. The Man Mandir palace or the citadel is located at the northeast end of the fort. Its construction is dated to the 15th century but refurbished in 1648. The fort precincts also have many monuments such as palaces, temples and water tanks. The water tanks or reservoirs created in the precincts of the fort could provide water supply to a 15,000 strong garrison, which was the estimated requirement of manpower to secure the fort. On the approach from the southern side, intricately carved rock cut temples of 21 Jain thirthankaras are seen set deep into the steep rock faces. One such statue of 40 feet (12 m) height, identified as that of Parswanath, the 23rd Jain thrithankara (or saint), escaped demolition ordered by Babar since he lost control of the fort.

Man Mandir The Man Mandir is a remarkable Hindu palace built by Man Singh Tomar inside the fort. The palace dominates the east flank of the fort with its impressive façade. Circular towers with domed pavilions are provided at intervals along the fort wall which acts as curtain wall. It is called a 'painted palace' or 'Chit Mandir' since the walls of the southern facade are covered at four levels. The painted effect is provided by the styled tiles in turquoise, green and yellow, which have been laid in "friezes of geometric patterns of geese and crocodiles with entwined tails". The parapet wall of the fort depicts elephants, peacocks and trees. Two inner courts inside the palace are enclosed by a series of apartments all around, which have perforated screens or jalis. The inner courts have an ornately carved facade. They are decorated with carved brackets in the form of lotus petals, friezes on the walls of colourful tiles and with projecting upper balconies. The southern façade, however, depicts figures of elephants, tigers and ducks. Another unique feature of the palace is the Baradari (the celebrated chamber) which is 15 m square in plan and is supported by 12 column with a stone roof and is said to be one of the exquisite palace-halls in the world.

The prison dungeon is also located below this palace where many royal prisoners of the Mughal dynasty were incarcerated and killed.

The palace grounds have witnessed atrocities committed by Mughal emperors. Aurangzeb, initially, imprisoned his brother Murad at this fort and later killed him on the reasons of treason. Fort's name is also tagged to the sati (voluntary burning to death of women of the harem at a funeral pyre) at the 'Jauhar Kund Palace' where sati was performed by the women folk of the royal family when the king of Gwalior was defeated in the year 1232 AD.

The Hathi Pol Gate (or Hathiya Paur) is the main gate in the fort leading to the Man Mandir palace built by Man Singh. It is the last gate at the end of a series of seven gates. It is named after a life-sized statue of an elephant (hathi) that once adorned the entrance to the gate. The gate built in stone on the south-east corner of the palace has cylindrical towers. The towers are crowned with cupola domes. Carved parapets link the domes.

Gujari Mahal cum museum

Gujari Mahal, a palace that was built by Raja Man Singh for love of his wife Mrignayani, a Gujar princess, because she demanded a separate palace for herself with regular water supply through an aqueduct structure built from a nearby river source called the Rai River. This mahal is well maintained now as it has been converted into an archeological museum. The rare artifacts on display at the museum are the Hindu and Jain sculptures dated to 1st century BC and 2nd century BC, miniature statue of Salabhanjika (shown only by special permission), Terracotta articles and replicas of frescoes seen inBagh Caves.

The Teli-ka-Mandir, or “Oilman’s Temple” or ‘Oil Pressers temple” is inferred to have been built in the 8th century, but 11th century has also been mentioned. Based on the sculptures and ornamentation in the two temples, Louis Fredric, an archeologist,has inferred that the two are eight century shrines. It is considered the oldest monument in the fort, which presents a unique blend of various Indian architectural styles (fusion of south Indian and North Indian styles) and is called a Brahmanical sanctuary. Basically, it has an unusual configuration: shrine-like in that it has a sanctuary only; no pillared pavilions or mandapa; and a Buddhist barrel-vaulted roof on top of a Hindu mandir. Buddhist architectural influence has been identified on the basis of Chitya type of hall and elegant torana decorations at the entrance gate. It was refurbished in 1881-83 with garden sculpture. In plan, it is a rectangular structure. It has a tower built in masonry, in nagari architectural style with a barrel vaulted roof, 25 metres (82 ft) in height. In the past, the niches in the outer walls had sculptures installed in them but now have horse shoe arch or gavakshas (ventilator openings) with arched motifs, in north Indian architectural style. The gavaksha design, has been compared to trefoil, a honey comb design with a series of receding pointed arches within an arch that allows a "play of light and shadow". The entrance door has a torana or archway with exquisitely sculpted images of river goddesses, romantic couples, foliation decoration and a Garuda. Diamond and lotus designs are seen on the horizontal band at the top of the arch, which is deciphered as an influence from Buddhist period. It was originally dedicated to Vishnu, but later converted to the worship of Siva. The details of the doorway design has been vividly described by an archeologist as:

The highest monument in the fort is that of the Garuda, dedicated to the Pratihara Vishnu. This structure considered a fusion of Muslim and Indian architecture is seen close to the Teli-ka-Mandir (see picture). >>This is not the Teli ka makdir, But it was the temple of loard shive. The wersiper use to install a Bell Called in Hindi Taali.on full filing the desire. Which again Taali was converted to word as Teli ka mander. Due to ignoramnce of the local people.

In the 10th century, with the control of the Gurjara-Pratihara dynasty of Gwalior declining, a regional dynasty called the Kachchhapaghatas started wielding power. During their rule they built several monuments, which included two temples known by the name the 'Sas-Bahu temple' (meaning: “mother-in-law and daughter-in-law”); one small and one large (both are seen but in ruins, but the smaller one is more elegant and better preserved) located adjacent to each other. These temples were initially dedicated to Vishnu. An inscription on the larger of the two temples records its building date to 1093 AD. A unique architectural feature of these pyramidal shaped temples built in red sandstone is that they have been raised several stories high solely with the help of beams and pillars, and with no arches having been used for the purpose. The main temple looks dauntingly sturdy. The stylistic smaller Sas-bahu temple is a replica of the larger temple.

Other monuments

There are several other monuments built inside the fort area. These are: the Chhatri of Maharajas Bhim Singh and Bhimtal; the Scindia School (initially an exclusive school for sons of Indian princes and nobles), a renowned institution founded by the late Maratha Maharaja Madho Rao Scindia of Gwalior in 1897; the Gurudwara Data Bandi constrcuted in memory of the sixth Sikh Guru Har Gobind.


While the fort is just 2 miles (3.2 km) from the Gwalior city, the city itself is very well connected to other parts of Madhya Pradesh and India by rail, road and air transport services. The Agra-Mumbai National highway (NH3) passes through Gwalior. The city is connected to Jhansi by the National Highway NH75, towards the south of the city. In the North, the city is connected to the holy city of Mathura via the National Highway NH 3. It is 321 kilometres (199 mi) from Delhi and 121 kilometres (75 mi) from Agra.

Gwalior is, perhaps, one of the few places where both narrow gauge and broad gauge railway lines are still operational. Thus, the city is well connected by train services to all parts of the country including 4 metros. There are direct trains to Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata (Howrah), Chennai, Trivandrum, Indore, Ahmedabad, Pune, Jammu, Lucknow, Bhopal, Jaipur, Udaipur and other major towns. Gwalior is the main station serving most of the important and long distance trains.

Gwalior airport provides airline services to Delhi, Indore and Bhopal. Delhi to Jabalpur line also stops at Gwalior airport.

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