Published: May 19th 2005April 29th 2005
Aren't they lovely, these ducks in single file?
This time the train ride was easy and fast, it took only about an hour. We wanted to go to a better hotel but it was full because we were in the middle of the wedding season, all the Indians marry in a period of two months, since the karma is good. So we went to a hotel on the other side of the street in a very nice building but not very well kept. Anyway, we always went back for food to the other place and ate excellent meals there. Gwalior
is yet another big, busy, noisy and crowded city, which is hardly visited by tourists. The city lies in the state of Madhya Pradesh, situated in the heart of India, remaining largely unindustrialized, which allows the still dense forests and grasslands of the east to house two of India's best national parks. Madhya Pradesh is also the only state we have seen where they use tempos (=shared auto-rickshaws). In Gwalior they looked very strange, the rear part is just a bigger rickshaw, but the front part reminded us of a vehicle from the film Mad Max. Once not only the Indians were staring at us, but also us at
Second gate when entering from the northeast with a real structural arch and flanked by two massive towers
their fascinating vehicles.
In Gwalior there is one major site to see, the Hill Fort
. The fort stands on a sandstone precipice 91m above the surrounding plain, 2.8 km long and 200-850 m wide. In places the cliff overhangs, elsewhere it has been steepened to make it unscaleable. Anyhow, the fort was taken by the British in 1858 after long and fierce fighting. We took a taxi to the northeastern entrance, where we paid the ridiculous sum of 50 paise for both of us to enter the whole complex except the palaces. From this side, the way up to the main palace buildings is on a steep rough 1-km ramp with good views. You have to pass trough several gates, the second one is a true structural arch, a quite unusual feature. The way was really steep but it was more the heat which caused Klaudia some problems, maybe she had also eaten too much the evening before. For a certain time we had restricted the number of meals to two per day, it was simply too hot to eat, and had drunk a couple of litres per day. But Klaudia managed the ascent with a lot of stops
Nice view of the fort standing on the cliffs
in the shade and when she reached the hilltop and saw the marvels of the palace, she was already cured. The outer wall of the first palace was once covered with tiles in yellow representing ducks, blue ones for decorative reasons and for outlining figures of elephants and tigers, and green ones for banana plants. Enough was left or had been restored to kindle the visitors' imagination how these beautiful tiles must have glittered in the blazing sun! We are aware of the fact that we were visiting another fort, but again it was unlike all the others.
Then we stepped into the Man Mandir Palace
from the late 15th century, the most impressive building in the fort. The 30-m high eastern retaining wall is a vast rock face on the cliff-side interrupted by large rounded bastions. The palace consists of two storeys, on which beautifully decorated little rooms are arranged around two inner courtyards. They have small entrances suggesting that they were built for the royal ladies, 8 of whom lived here. The emperor had 9 wives, but the 9th was not of a noble caste, so she had to live outside the palace and away from the
Once you get through this gate, the palace in its splendour becomes fully visible
noble ladies. Some interior elements attracted our attention, like a number of iron rings used for swings or beautiful wall hangings, or the walls studded with construction of mortar similar to a type case, where the women supposedly put their jewellery. Interestingly, in addition to the two storeys above ground there are two underground floors which provided refuge from hot weather and acted as a dungeon when required. Angled ventilation ducts allowed in fresh air (air condition is obviously not a invention of modern times) while pipes in the walls were used as "speaking tubes". We saw an octagonal bath which would have been filled with perfumed water - the water welled up through inlet holes in the floor but these are now blocked. All these fascinating details were explained to us by a local guide and two Danish girls joined us, the only tourists apart from us. After the tour and a long chat we separated from them, Stephan had a look at another palace and Klaudia had a nap on a shady bench, where for once the Indians around her remained relatively quiet in order not to disturb her.
Originally we planned to move on to our
Man Mandir Palace
We were really awe-struck, no wonder
next destination the same day, but then we saw further interesting buildings on the grounds and decided to stay another night. After the palace we visited some Hindu temples, the first ones the Sas Bahn Mandirs
. This "Mother-and-Daughter-in-law" pair of 11th century temples are dedicated to Vishnu and still preserve fine carvings in places. Further south, the Teli-ka Mandir
is to be found, the earliest temple in Gwalior from the mid-8t century. This unique 25-m high Vishnu temple is essentially a sanctuary with a garuda
(mythic eagle, Vishnu's vehicle) at the entrance. The exterior is awesome, but the interior is practically blank, maybe due to the fact that the British used the building as a soda-water factory and a coffee shop. Directly opposite this old temple, there was a modern Sikh temple out of shining white material, but this one we did not visit.
We were on our way out on the western side and close to the exit we passed sensational [Jain statues on both sides of the street. Nobody was there and we got extremely close to the huge naked statues, they even seemed superior to us than the ones in the Ellora caves. One of them
When she looked at the wonderful tiles, she immediately felt better
particularly fascinated us, not for artistic reasons, but because bees had decided to form their hive on its chin, thus creating the effect of a beard. A hilarious sight indeed.
Gwalior lies off the beaten tracks, but it would deserve many more tourists than it actually gets.
There are more photos below