Two Very Different Palaces in Gwalior


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Asia » India » Madhya Pradesh » Gwalior
January 2nd 2020
Published: January 2nd 2020
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Gwalior is a historic city situated in Madhya Pradesh, south of Agra. It’s a cultural, industrial, and political centre and takes its name from Gwalior Fort, the historic rock fortress that forms the centre of the city.

Gwalior is famous for this dramatic and dominant Hindu fort, which is situated atop a plateau nearly 3 km long that rises a sheer 90 metres from the plain, and is surrounded by the city on all sides. The fort has existed at least since the 10th century, and the inscriptions and monuments found within what is now the fort campus indicate that it may have existed as early as the beginning of the 6th century.

The fortress contains several tanks (reservoirs), six elaborately carved palaces, six temples, a mosque, and several other buildings. Mughal emperor Babur reputedly described it as The Pearl of Indian fortresses.

The city also houses the elaborate Jai Vilas Palace, the historic seat of the Scindia family, who have played an important role in Indian history for more than two centuries.

The uneventful drive from Agra took four hours. All the small towns we passed through enroute were dry, dusty and unappealing, people exist with so little here, their bullocks seem to be their most valuable possession. There is no infrastructure in these towns, markets set up along the road, pigs and dogs roam freely and the precious bulllocks are tied up at the front of people’s homes which open directly into the dusty street. The usual litter is everywhere and I’m no longer shocked to see a man urinate against a wall or spit a huge gob of phlegm into the street, though this it definitely a common occurrence everywhere we go. Our host in Agra told us that India’s population is increasing by 24 million people annually and I wonder how the country is going to cope in ten years time.

Our accomodation here is Clark’s Inn Suites located on the main road in the centre of Gwalior. The noise of the street disappeared once we entered the foyer, and we were soon settled in our comfortable room.

Next door is a shopping mall which we decided to visit, a first for this trip. It was a rather depressing experience, the mall was in a time warp, lost in the past and not a particularly interesting place. The security boy at
Moti MahalMoti MahalMoti Mahal

A closer look at the chandelier
the entrance to a variety store tried to cable tie Ginny’s handbag shut, their solution to shop lifting obviously. We said no thank you, and ended up entering the store by another entrance where a less zealous boy guarded the door.

Our driver Hariom was sitting outside the hotel in the car, making calls and trying to find himself a cheap bed for the next two nights, when we left. He was still there when we returned from the mall, his search unsuccessful. We checked with reception that a room was available, then returned to Hariom and told him he was welcome to stay in Clark’s Inn as our guest. He was a little shocked that we would pay for his room, at $75 a night it was outside his budget. He accepted our offer eventually, and we hope he enjoys the quiet luxury of this hotel and the dining room breakfasts he’s also entitled to.

Later in the afternooon we headed out again to visit Jai Vilas Palace. Located in the heart of the city, this Palace is one of the grandest buildings of Gwalior. It was established in 1874 by Jayajirao Scindia, the Maharaja of Gwalior.
Moti MahalMoti MahalMoti Mahal

Beautiful enclosed balconies
The palace features a beautiful blend of Tuscan, Italian and Corinthian styles of architecture.

Out of the 400 rooms of the palace, 40 rooms have been transformed into Jiwaji Rao Scindia Museum, while another wing is still the residence of the descendants of the former royal Maratha Scindia dynasty.

Hariom dropped us in the wrong place, at first. We walked towards a building which was completely locked up and definatelly not as grand as I expected. A caretaker there was very accommodating, he unlocked the door and flicked on the lights for us and we walked into the most beautifully neglected rooms we have ever seen.

The first room had a metre wide water channel, with fountain spouts, around the circumference, we entered via a short footbridge. A magnificent chandelier hung from the ceiling in the second room (Durbar Hall) the only furniture being an ugly desk underneath it.

A google search later revealed we had visited three of Moti Mahal’s 300 rooms. It was one of the principal historical buildings in Gwalior, and not open to the public. It has been the center of state power in central India for more than 130 years, and still houses some government offices. It was constructed in 1825 by Scindia rulers of Gwalior in Hindu architectural style.

Moti Mahal has a rich collection of wall paintings, one of which I photographed. It seems many of its rooms are painted with rich Hindu Art. Some of the prominent paintings includes the mosaic work of colored glasses and murals depicting Raag Raagini . The Legislative Assembly of Madhya Bharat was conducted in the court hall ( Durbar Hall ) of Madhya Pradesh till 1958.

Eventually we got to Jai Vilas Palace, and paid the most expensive entry, besides the Taj Mahal, of any place we’ve visited, at R800 ($16) plus an extra R300 ($6) for a camera. Not expensive by Australian standards, I know, but that camera charge annoys me.

We wandered through the rooms on display, skipping those that didn’t interest us and reading the information on those that did. Of particular interest was the Banquet Hall, with seating for 200 guests and a miniature railway track which ran around the centre table. A tiny silver train ran around this track, carrying after dinner brandy and cigars for the men. How very civilised!

Durbar Hall was quite magnificent. It featured ornately decorated walls and ceilings, embellished with 570kg of gold paint and gilt decor. The luxurious carpet adorning this hall is considered to be one of the largest in the world. Among the other famous embellishments are two identical crystal chandeliers imported from Vienna. Each is equipped with 250 light bulbs, weights 3.5 tonnes, is 12 metres in length and considered the largest in the world. I have read that elephants were hung the ceiling to test that it could support the weigh of them.

After leaving here we returned to our hotel and headed straight to Illusion Bar for a couple of drinks before heading up to our room. Another day done.


Additional photos below
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Jai Vilas Palace Dining RoomJai Vilas Palace Dining Room
Jai Vilas Palace Dining Room

With the silver train in the foreground and tracks running around the table
Jai Vilas Palace - Stuffed tigerJai Vilas Palace - Stuffed tiger
Jai Vilas Palace - Stuffed tiger

The marajarah liked to hunt and had five tigers on display.


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