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Shivpuri

travel Updated: Jan 20, 2010 13:13 IST
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Shivpuri is steeped in the royal legacy of its past, when it was the summer capital of the Scindia rulers of Gwalior. And earlier, its dense forests were the hunting grounds of the Mughal emperors when great herds of elephants were captured by emperor Akbar.

Much later, it was the Tiger that roamed the wooded hills and many a magnificent beast was 'bagged' by royal Shikaris. Today Shivpuri is a sanctuary for rare wildlife and avifauna. Its royal past has thus been transformed into a vibrant, hopeful present.

Facts
With its luxuriant forests and undulating hills, Shivpuri was a natural choice as the summer resort capital of the Scindias. Shivpuri's royal ambience lives on in the exquisite palaces and hunting lodges and graceful, intricately embellished marble Chhatris (cenotaphs) erected by the Scindia rulers.

The glittering white marble surface of Madho Rao Scindia's cenotaph is inlaid in the pietra dura style, with lapis lazuli and onyx to create a spectacularly rich effect heightened by the delicacy of the trellis, work on the sides. The dowager queen's cenotaph has a noble dignity of line and superb structural harmony. Both memorials contain life-size images of the Scindias and these are tended to with extreme devotion by ceremonially dressed retainers who perform the rituals of placing flowers and incense before the statues each day. In the evening the hush is broken by the sound of music as artistes of the Gwalior gharana render classical ragas before the statues.

Must see

Madhav National Park
156 sq km in area, the park is open throughout the year. With a varied terrain of wooded hills, the forest being dry, mixed and deciduous with flat grasslands around the lake, it offers abundant opportunities of sighting a variety of wildlife. The predominant species that inhabits the park is the deer, of which the most easily sighted are the graceful little Chinkara, the Indian gazelle, and the Chital. Other species that have their habitat in the park are Nilgai, Sambar, Chausingha or four-horned Antelope, Blackbuck, Sloth Bear, Leopard and the ubiquitous common Langur.

The National Park is equally rich in avifauna. The artificial lake, Chandpata, is the winter home of migratory Geese, Pochard, Pintail, Teal, Mallard Gadwall, Red Wattled Lapwing, Large Pied Wagtail, Pond Heron, White - Breasted Kingfisher, Cormorant, Painted Stork, White Ibis, Laggar Falcon, Purple Sunbird, Paradise Flycatcher and Golden Oriole.

Chhatris
Set in a formal Mughal garden, with quiet nooks under flowering trees, intersected by pathways with ornamental balustrades and illuminated by Victorian lamps, is the complex in which the cenotaphs of the Scindias are set. Facing each other across a water tank are the Chhatris of Madho Rao Scindia and the dowager queen Maharani Sakhya Raje Scindia, synthesising the architectural idioms of Hindu and Islamic styles with their shikhara-type spires and Rajput and Mughal pavilions.

Madhav Vilas Palace
Standing upon a natural eminence, the elongated rose-pink summer palace of the Scindias is a fine example of colonial architecture. The 'Mahal' as it is called, is remarkable for its marble floors, iron columns, graceful terraces and the Ganpati mandap.

Sakhya Sagar Boat Club
Edging the forests of the Madhav National Park is the Sakhya Sagar Lake, habitat of a variety of reptiles. Seen here are the Marsh Crocodile or Mugger, Indian Python and the Monitor Lizard. On the shores of the lake and connected to it by a broad pier is a Boat Club, an airy, delicate structure with glass panels.

George Castle
Deep within the forests of the park, on its highest point, is the turreted George Castle built by Jiyaji Rao Scindia. From here the view of the lake is unparalleled and the best time to visit the castle is at sunset when the lakes below mirror the changing hues of the evening sky.

Bhadaiya Kund
A scenic spot by a natural spring. The water here is rich in minerals, supposedly of a curative nature.

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