India is one of the greatest players in history. All human pasts are still alive in this piece of land. A five thousand year epic continues till today. It’s people, cities, cultures, heritage, and traditions have now juxtaposed with the modern internet era and resulted in a conundrum and yet it remains refreshingly unique. From the vast and diverse landscape of India, I chose to write about Gwalior, a historic city in Madhya Pradesh – the heart of incredible India. During my month-long trip to Madhya Pradesh, I was intrigued to discover not only its world-famous forest but also the charm of Gwalior, India – the home to world’s second oldest zero!
Reaching Gwalior by train
Like any major city in India, Gwalior can be reached by air, rail and by road. I traveled to Gwalior from Kolkata, West Bengal on a train. I took a train from Kharagpur railway station which has the world’s third longest railway platform to reach Gwalior. If you want me to paint a picture of the train journey in India through words then it won’t be a dreamy and romantic ride like a steam train ride but something that will gift you a memorable and cherishable experience. There will be delays sometime, there will be dirt here and there, you will meet people from diverse cultures, often it will become a bit chaotic and yet surprisingly everything will run as it should.
Delay and dirt are the realities of the most rewarding travel.Paul Theroux
You will leave the train after reaching your destination but the people, the journey, the chaos, and the experience will never leave your memories; they have never left mine!
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My train reached Gwalior railway station in central India around 12 noon. When I bid farewell to “Gungun” – a little girl who became my friend in the short span of 36 hours of train journey, my heart ached. I knew, perhaps, I would never meet her again. Life is a platform where attachment and detachment happen continuously. Moving on with the story…. . Then got an autorickshaw and started for the hotel. After checking in, I treated myself with a sumptuous lunch (Oh India, how I miss the variety of food that you have). Although I was tired and my body wanted to take some rest, my mind didn’t listen. My hotel helped me book a car for a few hours. The person who drove me that afternoon eventually took me to Sanchi, Orcha, Bandhavgarh, Dhuadhar falls ….I mean almost the whole Madhya Pradesh. Back to the story…. . The first place where my cab driver took me was Jaivilas Palace. After that, I asked him to take me to Gwalior fort. It was almost closing time but I made it. I got hold of a guide and learned so many interesting things that evening. The fort whispered in my ears the tales of the bygone era. While I am now writing a blog post on one of those places, I thought of sharing a glimpse of that evening. . Now when I am looking back to this pic of mine in front of one of the grandest fortresses in India, which has existed at least since the 10th century, I realized that the strength of my country lies in the co-existence of old and new and amidst chaos and peace. . #travelrealizations
Places to visit in Gwalior
Steeped in history and heritage, Gwalior has innumerable places to visit. The best way to explore the city is by renting a car. Here I present a list of places to visit in Gwalior. I have included some offbeat places too. If you are looking for must-see places and also some offbeat places then this list is for you.Steeped in history and heritage, Gwalior has innumerable places to visit. #Travel #Wanderlust #India Click To Tweet
When I visited the Gwalior Fort and glided my fingers on its walls, I felt I touched a long gone era which is still alive inside the fort. The fort has existed at least since the 10th century, and the inscriptions and monuments found within the fort campus indicate that it may have existed as early as the beginning of the 6th century. The fort has been controlled by a number of different rulers in its history. Inside the fort, there are major monuments, palaces, and a museum; each of them has a story that gives a hint of the bygone era.
Gwalior Fort – Home to world’s second oldest zero
Another very important and significant part of history tucked in the Chaturbhuj temple in the fort is a plaque that dates from the Indian year equivalent to 875/876AD. The inscription contains two instances of the symbol zero and is the second oldest record of “zero“ in the world
Jai Vilas Palace in Gwalior
I absolutely enjoyed visiting Jai Vilas Palace, also known as Scindia Palace and the museum.
While seeing the beautiful sculptures, chariots, musical instruments and furnished halls to name a few, I was imbued with royal feelings but then I was quick to realize that I never wanted to be a queen of a palace but hearts. If you are reading my post then I already made a place in your heart and that’s more precious than any palace.
The Durbar Hall, inside the palace, is beautifully designed with the world’s heaviest chandeliers, intricate gold furnishings, and a large plush carpet. The carpet laid out on this Durbar Hall is one of the biggest carpets in Asia.
Tomb of Mohammad Ghaus in Gwalior
I visited the Mausoleum which is about a kilometer away from Gwalior Fort, in an early October morning. When I stepped inside the Mausoleum, the first thing which I noticed even before looking at the beautiful greenery and architecture were the people around. I saw both Hindus and Muslims sharing early morning smiles, conversation, and prayers. The very scene made me proud. After all, India is all about unity in diversity.
The tomb of Muhammad Ghaus who was a 16th-century Sufi saint and had an influence on Tansen, the famous Indian classical music maestro, is the main structure in the garden complex and is surrounded by graves and smaller pavilion tombs, including that of Tansen.
The large central dome of the saint’s tomb tops the actual enclosed and walled large single room that houses the tom. The surrounding structure is more like a verandah with jaalis (perforated stone screens), which gives the structure a larger “enclosed” appearance than it actually has.
Tansen’s Tomb in Gwalior
According to the version from Hindu legends, Swami Haridas was the major influence on Tansen and according to Muslim legends, Muhammad Ghaus influenced Tansen. Whatever the truth, the musical maestro Mia Tansen and one among the nine gems in emperor Akbar’s court, had a profound effect on Indian classical music.
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Being a traveler means a life long study of history, culture, religion, and politics. I believe these are the essential forces that make a society unique. These forces often comingle and get influenced by other countries and cultures to create something new. Today let me share a story of one such creator and a musical maestro in India – Mia Tansen, who was born at a time when a number of Persian and Central Asian motifs were fusing with Indian classical music. . According to legend, Mia Tansen was capable of bringing down the rains with Raga Megh Malhar (an Indian classical tune) and lighting lamps with the legendary raga Deepak. Today I spent my evening while listening to Raga Malhar and writing. . When I visited Gwalior in India, I went to Mia Tansen’s Tomb to pay my homage. Those who want to listen to Raga Megh Malhar, follow my stories! . A melodious adieu to my readers today! . #TravelRealizations #ChirasreeinIndia #incredibleindia
Sarod Ghar in Gwalior
My visit to Gwalior would have remained incomplete had I not visited Sarod Ghar which is also the residence of Amjad Ali Khan and is owned by the Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan Memorial Trust. Being an Indian classical dancer myself, I loved the deeper perspective and insight into the North Indian Classical Music that this museum presents.
For those who want to hear and get mesmerized by Indian Classical Music, listen to this concert on youtube hosted by the United Nations.
Gurdwara Data Bandi Chhor Sahib in Gwalior
When I reached Gurdwara Data Bandi Chhor Sahib, it was late evening and was very cold. I removed my shoes and went inside. Any religious place irrespective of its religion casts a spell on my mind through silence and peace. This place which is a pilgrimage site for Sikhs in India was no exception.
Gurdwara Data Bandi Chhor Sahib is associated with the imprisonment of Guru Har Gobind Sahib in Gwalior Fort and his celebrated release in which he managed to win the freedom of 52 Rajas (Kings) who had long suffered imprisonment in the Fort. The word “Bandi” means “imprisoned”, “Chhor” means “release”.
Rani Laxmi Bai Memorial in Gwalior
Rani Laxmi Bai who is also famous by the name Jhansi ki Rani was a brave queen who fought against the British in India. She was one of the leading figures of the Indian Rebellion of 1857 and became a symbol of resistance to the British Raj for Indian nationalists and the Indian independence movement.
We Indians love Jhansi ki Rani and she will remain in our heart forever as a brave and bold freedom fighter. I visited the Rani Laxmi Bai Memorial or Rani Laxmi Bai Samadhi and recommend this place to include in your Gwalior itinerary.
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It is hard to grasp the diversity of culture, history, tradition and politics in India but that doesn’t deter me from trying to understand this old civilization. My trip to Gwalior gave me a better perspective on Indian history and its classical music. I wholeheartedly recommend visiting Gwalior. If you can plan this trip around the last week of december then you can witness the incredible Tansen Samaroh. Artist and music lovers from all over the world gather here in this music festival.