Of music, heritage and legacy: Why you must visit Gwalior | Travel - Hindustan Times
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Of music, heritage and legacy: Why you must visit Gwalior

Hindustan Times, Delhi | ByGarima Verma
Dec 18, 2018 12:11 PM IST

The time till the 10th century seems to be obscure in the recorded history but what followed thereafter were no less than page turners. After centuries of bids from various dynasties to take control, it was only at the end of the 14th century that Gwalior saw stability and with the rule of Man Singh Tomar the golden era arrived in 1486.

Who could better understand the dichotomy of long life than these fort walls of Gwalior! They have stood there for centuries, celebrating the glories and suffering the falls. They have witnessed many a love story blossom within their wombs, reverberated with the best of music, and cried at their helplessness in the times of torment.

Add Gwalior to your list of must-visit places in India(Madhya Pradesh Tourism)
Add Gwalior to your list of must-visit places in India(Madhya Pradesh Tourism)

Legend has it that they might have come into being as early as the third century when a sage by the name of Gwalipa cured a local king of leprosy. The time till the 10th century seems to be obscure in the recorded history but what followed thereafter were no less than page turners. After centuries of bids from various dynasties to take control, it was only at the end of the 14th century that Gwalior saw stability and with the rule of Man Singh Tomar the golden era arrived in 1486.

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As you ascend on Gopachal hill nears the fort, the huge sculptures are bound to your draw attention. A long-drawn process in construction since the seventh century, most are dated to the 15th century and were later defaced and destroyed by Mughal emperor Babur who captured Gwalior from Ibrahim Lodi. The latter was the one to have spelt doom on the fort, which had cemented itself as the pioneer and patron of many arts.

The musical notes

Remember the Bharat Bhushan and Meena Kumari-starrer Baiju Bawra? Holding the distinction of being the oldest style of Indian classical music, Gwalior ‘gharana’ gave the world Baijnath Mishra, later Baiju Bawra, who could light oil lamps by singing the Deepak Raag. Man Singh’s favourite queen — Mrignayani was also his disciple. The Gurjari Palace is indeed a monument keeping that love story alive. After falling for the courageous village girl, Man Singh promised to fulfil her three wishes in order to marry her — a constant water supply from the river Rai, agreement to be allowed to fight alongside the king in all battles and shunning the customary veil.

Around the same time, another student of Swami Haridas was establishing the prowess of the gharana in the Mughal courts. Born as Ramtanu, Tansen was not only one of the famous ‘navratnas’ (nine jewels) of Akbar’s court but also an instrumentalist. Considered the most influential in north Indian classical music journey, he could not only make it rain with his singing (Malhaar Raag) but also calm down fierce animals. On one side of his tomb in the fort complex stands a tamarind tree. The tour guides never forget to mention that chewing its leaves would improve one’s voice greatly. While there might be no way to check that, but Tansen’s stature in Indian music is well confirmed every December when musicians and music lovers from around the world gather for Tansen Sangeet Samaroh at the tomb.

A study in contrast

The Jai Vilas in the heart of the city is a far cry from the structures and architecture in the Gwalior Fort complex. A 19th-century palace, it has European influence written all over it. A combination of various architectural styles, the Durbar Hall boasts of the largest pair of chandeliers in the world among many other outright opulent and awe-inspiring things. The silver train serving post-dinner indulgences is just one of them. Believed to be an attempt to replicate the palace of Versailles, France, a part of it continues to house the erstwhile royal Scindia family while the other has been turned into a museum displaying the finest of collectables, ranging from lavish to quirky to spectacular.

Not too far is Deo Bagh, which takes you back into the time once again. For, this is where some important meetings concerning the 1857 rebellion were also held. Nearby Phool Bagh is the tomb of Rani Lakshmibai where she breathed her last in 1858 fighting the British. Along with her, the other leaders like Tantia Tope, the Nawab of Banda and Rao Sahib had fled from Kalpi to Gwalior to join other Indian forces but as they failed to persuade other rebel forces in joining them to defend Gwalior, the British captured the city.

Earlier, when the Maratha army made its way to Delhi, the Jadhav clan took control of this place and made it into a summer house. While the 36-pillared pavilion is the pièce de résistance, the stunning Nau Bagh, and family temples and cenotaphs in Indo-Mughal architecture add to the sobriety of the whole setting. A part of the property being open for guests, dining inside its walls or among the historic gardens is like sharing a piece of history.

Walk down the lanes

The scrumptious affair with Gwalior then continues on its streets. Speckled with bits and pieces of history here and there, this place satiates the taste-buds of a food lover as effectively as it does to a traveller’s enthusiasm. The early morning rush at poha centres gets justified at the very first bite and it does little but only add to the hunger, resulting in savouring light and fresh dhoklas and calorie-laden kachoris. And, as you head to the other part of the town to buy bags full of famed namkeens and gajaks, a train passing through the city completes the small-town picture. The only difference being the fact that this small town has a history huge enough to compete with the big ones.

 

FACT FILE
  • Sarod Ghar is a museum of music, set up in the ancestral house of Hafiz Ali Khan, belonging to the Bangash School or gharana of sarod players. Renowned sarod player Amjad Ali Khan is the youngest of his seven children.
  • Perched on a cliff near the Gwalior Fort are the twin temples, popularly called Sas Bahu temple, they are ornately carved in sandstone. The larger one is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and the other to Lord Shiva. Though some say the name is an over-the-time mispronunciation of original Sahastrabhu temple, some say it was made by a mother-inlaw and daughter-in-law and hence the name.
  • Standing tall at about 100ft, Telika Mandir is considered to be the oldest monuments in the fort complex and beautifully blends the temple architectures of north and south.
  • The Sun temple, inspired by the original in Odisha, is a must-see. Its bright red sandstone exteriors and white marble interiors sit pretty in well-maintained gardens.
  • The second oldest, some claim it to be first, record of ‘zero’ in the world was found in the Chaturbhuj Temple of Gwalior Fort, with the inscription believed to be 1,500-years old.

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