Gwalior: A City Of Fascinating Tales

by Tania Tarafdar
Gwalior: A City Of Fascinating Tales

Gwalior, a heritage city, is named after the sage Gwalipa. It is a city that is deeply rooted in music and history. The rich legacy of the city is depicted in its marvelous, gigantic, and magnificent monuments. The city has a strong connection to the historical chapters of India as well as the freedom movement of India. From the legendary tale of Raja Mansingh and his favourite Gujjar queen, “Mrignayani,” to Miyan Tansen, the city has many fascinating and legendary tales to tell. The famous and imperious Gwalior fort, perched on the hilltop overlooking the city, is said to be the only fort in India that is adorned with coloured glazed tiles and hence was termed as “The pearl in the necklace of the forts of Hind” by Mughal Emperor Babur, who was clearly mesmerized by the beauty of this fortress.

There are a lot of fascinating historical tales that can be told about Gwalior.Starting with the acclaimed musical master Miyan Tansen, known for singing ragas like “Rag MeghMalhar,” the divine raga that is believed to have the ability to bring rain, and “Raag Deepak,” the raga that can ignite lamps. As Ramtanu Pandey, Tansen was born in the small town of “Behat” near Gwalior. He lived most of his adult life in the court of Raja Ramchandra Singh, the king of Rewa (a princely state), where his musical prowess and academic pursuits brought him widespread acclaim. Owing to Tansen’s reputation, the Mughal Emperor Akbar dispatched messages to Raja Ramchandra Singh asking Tansen to join the court of musicians. Tansen originally hesitated but Raja Ramchandra Singh persuaded him to go and sent him to Akbar along with many gifts. Tansen, a renowned singer who had made a substantial contribution to Hindustani Classical Music, made his first appearance at Akbar’s court in 1562 when he was sixty years old and still a Vaishnava musician.Tomb of Tansen and his mentor “Ustad” Mohammad Ghaus can be seen alongside in Gwalior and is around 3 km from Gwalior Junction. Both the tombs are exemplary examples of architecture with intricate latticework and are a must on the bucket list of tourists.

“Mrignayani,” the ninth Gujjar queen of Raja Man Singh Tomar, is connected to the another intriguing Gwalior story. Mrignayani and Raja Man Singh had a special connection. He was not only captivated with her beauty, but also shared her musical interests. According to legend, Raja Man Singh met Ninni, a stunning Gujjar girl, while on a hunting excursion. Some claim she was hunting a buffalo, while others believe that she was untangling the horns of two buffaloes in an attempt to save them.The king was so deeply moved by her combination of strength, beauty, and bravery that he immediately proposed to her and requested her to be his queen. The gorgeous, independent Gujar girl consented on her own terms. She proposed three demands: equal status (no pardah), authorization to accompany Raja even during combat, and a separate palace with unrestricted access to water from her village’s river, the Rai. She was convinced that the water from that river had given her strength and beauty. In agreement, the king marriedNinni.He named her Mrignayani—the doe-eyed one. An aqueduct was constructed by the ruler Raja Man Singh to transport water from the river to Gwalior. It was difficult to get water to travel uphill. As a result, he constructed the Gujari Mahal, a separate palace, at the base of Fort Hillock for her loving queen. “Gujari Mahal,” is situated at the grounds of the Gwalior Fort, and is a little distant from the main palace, is now a museum.Raja Man Singh and his queen Mrignayani were accomplished musicologists as well. Raja Man Singh is called the father of dhrupad style, while his beloved queen is credited with elevating thumri to new heights.Thumri is a North Indian vocal form and that is based on the romantic-devotional literature inspired by the bhakti movement. The content used in thumri is usually is based on the Radha-Krishna theme.The presence of these accomplished musicians in Gwalior, combined with their strong musical lineage, laid the foundation for the famous “Gwalior Gharana” of music.

Gwalior has a strong connection with the first freedom struggle of India as the biggest sacrifice of the 1857 war of independence took place in Gwalior. The leaders of the resistance, Lakshmibai, Tatya Tope, Rao Sahib, and the Nawab of Banda, fled to Gwalior during the fighting, where they allied with the Indian army. Lakshmibai attempted to take control of the Gwalior Fort because of its strategic location, but she was unsuccessful. On June 17 of that year, British troops led by Captain Heneage battled Indian forces under the command of Lakshmibai as they attempted to flee the region around Phool Bagh in Gwalior. Lakshmibai attacked the British soldiers while riding a horse, fully equipped as a man in a Sowar’s outfit, and carrying her young son strapped to her back. Lakshmibai sustained severe wounds as a result of the British counterattack.She instructed a hermit to cremate her because she did not want the British to find her body. She passed away on June 18th, 1858, and requested that her corpse be cremated. Her tomb is still accessible in Gwalior’s neighbourhood of “Phoolbagh”.

The city’s most iconic structure, “Maharaj Bada,” is also known as Gwalior’s heart. The seven different architectural styles of the buildings present in the area tell a tale of history. These structures were built in the British, Roman, French, Italian, Saudi Arabian, Persian, and other architectural styles. Smart City Gwalior is currently aiming to improve their allure through facade illumination, cleaning of the nearby vicinity, etc. that will enhance their allure.Gwalior has many more interesting stories to share, be it Gurudwara Data BandiChor, the Sikh temple situated at Gwalior Fort or the oldest known and documented carved “Zero” Chaturbhuj temple at Gwalior. It would be unfair to share all these amazing stories here, as the city rightly deserves to be visited to experience and feel its glorious past.

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