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An Opulent Rendezvous- Gwalior Fort

My expressions were accompanied by some uncanny sensations of the unexpected, a replica of deja vu. Reading about Gwalior, I had come to anticipate a crowded mirage, girdled by the mighty walls of some ramshackled fort, its pillars appearing now and disappearing now. It was an image drawn without much brainstorming and on a first hand impression. On seeing the fort first my inquisitiveness were tracing the bounded solid walls of sandstone, and the temples that I read of. My ensurient eyes were fetching for some thing ethereal. The walls and the forts looked organic and the domain of the fort appeared to be invincible and beyond capture. It was yet, definitely human with those mammoth stone walls built over years of toil solely to protect one set of people from another.

With each day of my stay at Gwalior, this belated apprehensions of the Fort's solidity deepened. As Bhima, the guide, went on flipping the historical book of Gwalior, the paleness of those old-words-charm was immediately replaced by the bouncy tunes of his verbose. On and off wandered my mind with his historic recitation for the fort. The outer wall that flank the fort is 35 ft high and 2 miles of eclectic coverage, enclosing a chaotic universe of the of three temples, six palaces and six water tanks. Looking down from an elevation of Gwalior's highest point it looks like -A Tale Of Two Cities, one inside the fort and another outside the Fort of Gwalior, punctuated by many other interesting spots of Gwalior. Every where you find rocks that remind you of the dareness that they exuded once is in a maintained state till date.

As iAs it performs these variations on the theme of the stone, Gwalior Fort says something similar about the city that has been a tacit viewer of history of Gwalior. The thousand year old fort stands as a witness to the Rani of Jhansi who died a valiant death within the bulwark. Touching the rampart, you get a slice of yesterday's feel of this priceless 'garission pearl of hind'.

Nor is sight the only sense called into play. The acrid odour of the l'eau de Gwalior is ubiquitous, rising from clear brown dust that runs across the city's length and breadth. The walls have these Jain Tirthankaras carved out of the rock cut faces. This is a living fort of tourist's rhetoric. Depending upon which century you would track to, there are 200- 500 centuries present in the immediate vicinity of the fort like Tomar, Mughals, Marathas and British and finally Scindias (present scion), are part of this fort, the result is an odd seamlessness between the dynasties giving an awesome architectural introduction. Gwalior is all praises for its builders. The result of simultaneity owned culture is what Gwalior Fort expresses through its reticence stares. The courtiers were all those large in numbers, someone like Bhima, who would sing the hymns of praises of the kings, poets, singers and saints with pride. The present day custodians of the state claim that the mighty walls have seen all those from tears to death to indignant prisoners of the war and sparkles of glee that have glued itself on the walls.

Even tough there are limits to how far the tourist's gaze may intrude. The girdle of the fort won't let you in cull you inside at once. The Teli Ka Mandir dates backs to the ninth century Dravidian style of architecture which is noted for an engrossing style. Wandering little further I glance d up the Saas- Bahu Ka Mandir only to find the traces of them. After trying hard I could capture none and turned towards Bhima, to get one glimpse of what I was looking for. The two pillared temple gave me another chance to understand that the original name of the temple which is ' Shahstra-Bahu', was trampled down to adjust this lolling moniker to the colloquial simplicity. The another temple in row is Chaturbhuj Mandir, a Vaishanavite shrine dating back to the 9th century again .

Man Singh's palace is the most emblematic one. This palace is a resplendent architecture paying homage to its constructor. The sculpture here retains traces of artwork through all means of display on the walls of this palace. Going through this antiquity, the images looked like it was only beginning to form, when suddenly the tranquil plane of my mind was ordered to conjure up a piece of hoary history. Man Singh bores a gloomy moment within itself - Auranzeb killed his brother Murad in the same palace.

Glee and gloom merge at Gwalior Fort. An old monarch of the city has seen almost many stages. The walls were giving me a base to many newfangled perception. The Jauhar Kund shows the place where the women in the harem burnt themselves after the defeat of the King Of Gwalior. Though every facade of the palace is adorned, the fort is also redolent with a love story alive in the Gujari Mahal, built by the king for his beloved.

I walked up to the splendor of Jai Vilas Palace, the current resident of Scindia family puts up here. A rare sight of oppulence is what I could capture. Some 35 rooms are devoted to the making of Scindia Museum here. The style is matched with the Italianate structure an with so much of perfection that my knowledge of the Italian structures were looking for a new definition. Everywhere grandeur and exuberance criss-crossed each other, in part because of the diagonal torans, Bhima interrupted himself when I got closer, pointing towards the central chandeliers, weighing a couples of tonnes, and hung only after ten elephants. Following his examples and incessant speech, my steps moved little closer to the monuments in the forts.

AmI was amazed at the variegated hues of the fort that are buried deep within the Gwalior soil. The burial place of Tansen, great father of Indian classical music. I began to walk slowly keeping my eyes fixed on the cupola that attracted me. Finding the lost names and identities in the sandstones and burials delighted me the most. Tantya Tope and Rani of Jhansi lay commemorated in the soils here. There are cenotaphs at major public crossings, memorials to Scindia kings and queens. Throughout the city seated are the figures of the proud past and of the great men and women of Gwalior who have their place in the nation's roll of honour.

Savouring Gwalior with a cool walking and talking regimes, miles skipped time so as my I attention skipped my body . We left to make our way to another monuments, the milieu was noisy. We reached to the Gujari Mahal Archaeological Museum that housed rare antiquities. Some of them that dated back to 1st century. After going through the museum like The Municipal Corporation Museum and 'Sarod Ghar' - Museum of Music the day ended with a sweet melody of a Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan music.

Later in the evening I returned to our favourite view of Gwalior from the highest point of the Fort. As dusk fell, floodlights came on in seemingly random order, throwing sharp shots of light. In no time the fort was glowing like UFO about to take off.

Writer's Account
Linda Cot
Linda, a shutterbug, has a record of clicking some 5000 odd photos, throughout her life till date. Cot is a professionally trained vacation specialist serving as a picket to destination perfect. Besides, Linda's predilection for antique and onetime monuments has ruled her interests towards exploring many historical and heritage cities in India. Go through one of her exclusive rendezvous with Gwalior Fort.
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