Gwalior Fort: Beyond the Walls: Legends and Folklore

Gwalior Fort, a majestic sandstone hill, stands as a sentinel of time, guarding the secrets and legends that have woven their way into the very fabric of its existence. The fort also commands panoramic views of the surrounding city and countryside. Beyond its imposing walls and formidable architecture, the fort houses a wealth of architectural marvels, including palaces, temples, mosques, and tombs. Gwalior Fort is a treasure trove of stories, myths, and folklore that continue to captivate visitors from around the world. Here is a detailed description of the places worth watching and a few of the most popular tales associated with the fort. Join us on a journey through the ages as we explore the enchanting legends that surround this historic marvel.

Gwalior Fort: Beyond the Walls – Legends and Folklore

The Significance of Fort Strength and the Evolution of Gwalior Giridurg

Gwalior Fort: Beyond the Walls – Legends and Folklore

In Acharya Shukra has called the fort the hand of the state. Hence, strength is naturally the most important factor in its construction. Four main types of forts have been mentioned in the ancient text ‘Rajavallabh’ related to architecture. Bhumidurg, Jaldurg, Giridurg, and Gaghardurg. Among these four, Giridurga, i.e., a fort on the top of a mountain, is considered the best, as such a fort cannot be easily penetrated by the enemy. Hence, in such a fort, the rule of one dynasty usually lasts for decades. On the other hand, the example of Gwalior Giridurg in Madhya Pradesh is the opposite. We all know that it was owned by the Marathi rulers of the Scindhia Dynasty, but their rule was very last, and that too for barely sixty years. Before that, the fort was repeatedly under the control of different rulers, and each ruler modified it in his own way. These details are spread over a span of ten to twelve centuries.

The Legend Behind the Foundation of Gwalior FortGwalior Fort: Beyond the Walls – Legends and Folklore

The foundation of Gwalior Fort is believed to have been laid as early as the 6th century. According to a popular legend about the construction of the fort, there was a town called Kuntalpur near the hill on which it was built. Raja Suraj Sen was its ruler. A king suffering from an incurable disease called leprosy once went to the hill for hunting. On the way, he felt very thirsty. While searching for water, Suraj Sen met a monk named Gwalip. He pointed the direction of a nearby lake to the thirsty Suraj Sen. On reaching the lake, the king not only quenched his thirst, but as soon as he drank the water, his leprosy disappeared. Pleased by this miracle, the king went to the monk Gwalip and expressed his desire to serve him.Gwalior Fort: Beyond the Walls – Legends and Folklore

In response, the monk requested that Raja Suraj Sen expand the lake. The king granted it, increased the area of the lake, and also constructed a fort on the hill. He named the fort ‘Gwalip’ to show his gratitude to the monk. The hill on which the fort was built came to be known as ‘Gopachal’. This word is chronologically corrupted and became known as ‘Gwalior’. Monk Gwalip also showed his courtesy to the king. The enlarged lake was named Surajkund after the king, and he gave the title of ‘Pal’ to the king and blessed that he would rule for several years on this fort. A total of 83 generations of Raja Suraj Sen ruled over the fort, but in the 84th generation, the ruler Tejkaran was not able to retain the rule over the fort. The fort, after that, came under the reign of several dynasties. The stories of these changes of power are not a bit less exciting.

Gwalior Fort: A Historical Journey through Dynasties and Legends

Gwalior Fort: Beyond the Walls – Legends and Folklore

In the 10th century, the Chandel dynasty ruled over this fort. In the 11th century, the Muslim rulers learned about this fort and began their invasions. After Mahmud Ghazni captured this fort in 1923 AD. In 1196, Kutubuddin Aibak brought it under the Delhi Saltanat. In 1262 AD, Sultan Iltutmish of the Slave ‘Gulam‘ dynasty of Delhi conquered the Gwalior fort. Many Rajput ladies performed ‘Johar‘ by jumping into pyres and sacrificing themselves.

From 1398 AD, the Tomar dynasty ruled here for about seven hundred years. During the long reign of Mansingh Tomar (1487–1517 AD), the prosperity of Gwalior Fort increased manifold.Gwalior Fort: Beyond the Walls – Legends and Folklore He gave a new look to the old fort and beautified it by building new buildings and palaces. King Mansingh was a warrior as well as a connoisseur of art and music. His love story with Queen Mriganayani is very popular. Many of us would have remembered the serial ‘Mriganayani’, directed by Amol Palekar, starring Pallavi Joshi in the lead role in the ‘Doordarshan‘ era. Originally, it was the TV adaptation of the famous literary and historical novel writer Vrindavanlal Varma‘s ‘Mriganayani‘.

Gwalior Fort: Beyond the Walls – Legends and Folklore

Mriganayni was originally the daughter of an ordinary Gujjar family from a village called Rai near Gwalior, named Nimmi. Her fame for archery was widespread. Raja Mansingh, who came to Rai village for hunting, was fascinated by Nimmi’s beauty and hunting skills. He married her and took her to Gwalior. After marriage, Nimmi became known as ‘Mriganayani’. She began to learn painting and music and was encouraged by Raja Mansingh to develop these arts. This character is becoming a favorite among storytellers for many reasons. Many buildings built during the reign of Raja Mansingh are still visible in the fort of Gwalior.

In 1516 AD, Sultan Ibrahim Lodi of Delhi attacked this fort, and after a long fight, the king had to surrender.

The Legend of Man Mandir: Curse of The QueenGwalior Fort: Beyond the Walls – Legends and Folklore

One of the most enduring legends of Gwalior Fort revolves around the tragic tale of Queen Mrignayani. It is said that the queen’s beauty was unparalleled, and her jewelry, including the famous Mrignayani Necklace, was a sight to behold. However, this treasure came at a price.

The king Raja Man Singh Tomar had built a majestic palace in the 15th century for his beloved Queen, the Man Mandir palace. The palace is one of the most iconic landmarks in Gwalior Fort. The palace is known for its intricate carvings and stunning architecture.4 7

One of the most popular legends associated with the Man Mandir is the story of Queen Mrignayani, Raja Man Singh’s favorite queen. Mrignayani was known for her beauty and intelligence, and she was loved by both the king and the people of Gwalior.

One day, while Raja Man Singh was away on a military campaign, Mrignayani was kidnapped by a Sultan Ibrahim Lodi. Sultan was smitten by Mrignayani’s beauty and tried to force her to marry him. But Mrignayani refused, and she remained loyal to her husband.

When Raja Man Singh returned to Gwalior and learned of Mrignayani’s kidnapping, he was furious. He immediately launched a rescue mission and stormed the rival king’s fort. Raja Man Singh succeeded in rescuing Mrignayani, but she was badly wounded in the battle.Gwalior Fort: Beyond the Walls – Legends and Folklore

Mrignayani was brought back to the Man Mandir palace, where she died in Raja Man Singh’s arms. Raja Man Singh was heartbroken by his wife’s death, and he never remarried. He also refused to leave the Man Mandir palace, and he spent the rest of his days there, mourning the loss of his beloved wife.

Legend has it that the queen cursed her jewelry, which would bring misfortune to anyone who tried to possess it. To this day, the necklace remains in a museum, a silent witness to the curse that lingers.

Gwalior Fort: A Testament to Shifting Dynasties and Colonial Rule

Gwalior Fort: Beyond the Walls – Legends and Folklore

After Lodi, this fort came under the Mughals. Shahenshah Babur, the first Mughal emperor, has mentioned this fort in detail in his autobiography, ‘Babarnama‘. It is recorded that Babur’s son Humayun also came and stayed here. However, the Suri rulers captured this fort from the Mughals. Humayun’s son Akbar regained it in 1558 AD, the fort was converted into a prison. Akbar killed his cousin Kamran and later, Emperor Aurangzeb killed his brother Murad and nephews in this fort. Thus, from Akbar to Aurangzeb, the fort of Gwalior remained under the control of the Mughals. After the departure of Aurangzeb, the Ranas of Gohad occupied the fort.Gwalior Fort: Beyond the Walls – Legends and Folklore

In 1765, the rule of Mahadji Shinde (Scindhia) was established here. After fifteen years, after the defeat of the Marathas in the Maratha War, the fort came into the hands of the British. The Britishers kept the fort in their possession till 1886 AD and then handed it over to the Sindhia rulers. Since then, the fort has remained with the Sindhia rulers until the country gained independence.

Various Architectures Built Over TimeGwalior Fort: Beyond the Walls – Legends and Folklore

It is estimated that the Gwalior Durg fortification, built of sandstone on a hundred-meter-high hill, was completed in three stages. The lowest portion occurred during the reign of the Gurjar-Pratiharas. Huge stones have been used in the construction of this part. The wall of the fort is 3.5 meters, / about eleven and a half feet, thick. A comparison: Today’s houses have walls 9 inches thick—not even 1 foot!

Architectural Evolution of Gwalior Fort: A Multifaceted JourneyGwalior Fort: Beyond the Walls – Legends and Folklore

A tour of the Gwalior Fort offers a great variety of architecture, as it was used for different purposes during its reign. As such, Khilji and Mughal rulers used the fort as a prison. During the rule of the Marathas, a fort was built at the upper end of Surajkund for the needs of the army. The British used the fort mainly to store ammunition for the soldiers’ barracks. For this, they built some European-style buildings in the fort. There are a total of six palaces on the premises. Manmandir, Vikram Mahal, Kirtimandir or Karna Mahal and Gujri Mahal belong to the period of Hindu rulers, while Jahangiri Mahal and Shahjahan Mahal belong to Mughal rule.

Manmandir Palace: A Marvel of Stone Craftsmanship and Elegance

Gwalior Fort: Beyond the Walls – Legends and Folklore
Manmandir Gwalior Fort

The four-story Manmandir palace was built by Raja Mansingh. The palace can be reached through a gate known as Hathiya Pol. Stone-carved gratings, canopies, equestrian brackets, etc. add beauty to the Manmandir. It has six domed minarets at its top. The ceilings in the umbrella shape of these domes are made of copper. The lower two floors have rooms around a courtyard with artistic pillars. A fountain is also seen here. Of course, both of these floors were used as prisons during the Mughal period. The upper two floors have wonderful mosaic tiles in brown, yellow, and green colors inside and outside, with figures of animals like tigers, elephants, peacocks, and swans. The intricately carved stone latticesGwalior Fort: Beyond the Walls – Legends and Folklore are thought to be for palace women, who could see the outside view while staying out of the sights of others, and outsiders cannot see them. A jarukho (balcony) here has very fine carvings and elephant figures decorated on both sides. This is an example of how subtle yet strong the beauty that can be created from stone can be.

Gujri Mahal: A Musical Legacy and the Birthplace of Gwalior Gharana

Gwalior Fort: Beyond the Walls – Legends and Folklore

A palace called Gujri Mahal near Badalgarh Darwaza in the lower part of the main fort was specially built for Rani Mriganayi. This two-storied square building once used to host music concerts. The royal couple’s love of music was also well known. The very famous raga of classical music ‘Gujari Todi’ is believed to have been composed by Mriganani and Mansingh. Many popular songs of Hindi movies including like ‘Ek Tha Bachpan’ (Ashirvad), ‘Nirdhan Ka Dhan Lootnewalon’ (Baiju Bawra), ‘Vatan Pe Jo Fida Hoga’ (Phool Bane Angare), Raina Beeti Jaye’ (Amarprem), ‘Patzad Sawan Basant Bahar’ (Sindur) are sung in this raga. The town is the birthplace of ‘Gwalior Gharana‘, a very ancient and well-known style of Indian classical music that owes its origins to Mansingh Tomar.

Gwalior: The Cradle of Musical Excellence and Gharana Tradition

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Gwalior Fort is renowned for its unique acoustic properties, which have given rise to another fascinating legend. The singers here became so famous that 16 of the total 36 singers in Emperor Akbar’s court were from Gwalior. The people of Gwalior had a great love for music. The story goes that the great musician Tansen, one of the ‘Navratnas‘ in the court of Emperor Akbar, used to sing in the court of the Gwalior Fort. His magical melodies had the power to summon rain and ignite fire.

It is said that the haunting echoes of his music still linger within the fort’s chambers, a testament to his extraordinary talent. When any singer was in a financial crunch, he would put any of his RagsGwalior Fort: Beyond the Walls – Legends and Folklore as mortgage to lenders. When fans asked the singer to sing that certain raga, the artist would ask his fans to first release the pledged raga, only then would they sing the raga. Famous singers of the twentieth century like Pandit Dattatreya Vishnu Paluskar, Veena Sahastrabuddha, Pandit Omkarnath Thakur belonged to the Gwalior gharana.

The Gujri Mahal has now been converted into the State Archaeological Museum. The museum includes ancient sculptures, ancient coins, various copper plates, inscriptions, paintings, weapons and materials found during excavations.

Saas Bahu Ka Mandir: A Tale of Devotion and Divine Sculptures

Gwalior Fort: Beyond the Walls – Legends and Folklore

Apart from the palaces, the Gwalior Fort premises also have several temples, the main ones being ‘Saas Bahu Ka Mandir’ and ‘Teli Ka Mandi’. The original name of the ‘Saas Bahu’ temple is ‘Sahastrabahu’, which houses the idols of Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva. The queen of Mahipala, a ruler of the ‘Kachhvaha’ dynasty, was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu.

According to her wish, the king built this temple of Lord Vishnu, which was later known as ‘Sahastrabahu’. After some time, the son of the king got married. The daughter-in-law of the Queen was a great devotee of Lord Shiva. Eventually, the temples were known as ‘Saas Bahu Ka Mandir’ (Temple of Mother in Law and Daughter in Law). In this temple, many events from the life of Lord Krishna have been carved on pillars. Besides the relief sculptures of the temple The dwarf avatar of Lord Vishnu and the sculptures of four-armed (quadruped) Vishnu are beautifully carved.

**The Legend of Sas-Bahu Temple**

The Sas-Bahu Temple is another popular tourist attraction in Gwalior Fort. It is a twin temple complex, with one temple dedicated to Vishnu and the other to Shiva. The temple is named after the legendary story of a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law who were both devoted to their respective gods. The mother-in-law was a devotee of Lord Vishnu, while the daughter-in-law was a devotee of Lord Shiva.Gwalior Fort: Beyond the Walls – Legends and Folklore

As per the legend, One day, the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law were arguing about which god was more powerful. The mother-in-law insisted that Lord Vishnu was the supreme god, while the daughter-in-law insisted that Lord Shiva was the supreme god. The argument grew so heated that the mother-in-law cursed the daughter-in-law, turning her into stone. The daughter-in-law, in turn, cursed the mother-in-law, turning her into stone as well.

The two women remained in their stone forms for many years, until a wise sage came to the temple and prayed for their release. The sage’s prayers were answered, and the two women were transformed back into their human forms. The Sas-Bahu Temple is a reminder of the importance of religious tolerance and harmony. It is also a reminder that we should always be careful of our words and actions, as they can have far-reaching consequences.

**The Legend of Teli Ka Mandir**

Gwalior Fort: Beyond the Walls – Legends and Folklore

Inscriptions associated with the castle refer to different periods, which give an idea of which building was constructed during the reign of which ruler. The oldest reference dates back to the sixth century. According to it, King Mihirakula of the Hun dynasty built a sun temple in this premises. Then in the eighth century, during the reign of the Gurjara-Pratihara dynasty, the ‘Teli Ka Mandir’ was built.


Gwalior Fort: Beyond the Walls – Legends and Folklore

The Teli Ka Mandir is a Jain temple located within the Gwalior Fort complex. It is known for its intricate carvings and beautiful architecture. The temple is named after a legendary Teli (oil presser) named Vakpati. Vakpati was a devout Jain and he was known for his generosity and kindness. One day, a group of pilgrims were passing through Gwalior on their way to a Jain pilgrimage site. The pilgrims were tired and hungry, so they went to Vakpati’s shop and asked for food and water. Vakpati was happy to help, and he gave the pilgrims a lavish feast.Gwalior Fort: Beyond the Walls – Legends and Folklore

The pilgrims were so grateful to Vakpati for his kindness that they offered to build a temple in his honor. Vakpati initially refused, but the pilgrims insisted. Eventually, Vakpati agreed, and the pilgrims built the Teli Ka Mandir in his honor.

The Teli Ka Mandir is a reminder of the importance of compassion and generosity. It is also a reminder that we should always be willing to help those in need.

***The Escape of Rani Padmavati***

Gwalior Fort: Beyond the Walls – Legends and Folklore

Rani Padmavati, the queen of Raja Ratan Singh of Mewar, is a central figure in the folklore of Gwalior Fort. According to legend, during the siege of Chittorgarh by Alauddin Khilji, Rani Padmavati and her companions escaped to Gwalior Fort through a secret underground tunnel. This tale of courage, sacrifice, and ingenuity is a testament to the indomitable spirit of the time.

***The Haunting of Man Singh***

Gwalior Fort has its fair share of ghostly legends as well. One such story revolves around the ghost of Man Singh, a valiant Rajput warrior. It is believed that his spirit still roams the fort, guarding its secrets and treasures. Some visitors claim to have heard his faint battle cries on silent nights, echoing through the fort’s labyrinthine passages.


***The Hidden Treasure***

Gwalior Fort: Beyond the Walls – Legends and Folklore

Legends of hidden treasures abound within Gwalior Fort. Many believe that the fort conceals vast riches buried deep within its walls. Some say that the treasure was hidden by the Tomar rulers, while others believe it to be the spoils of war from various conquests. To this day, treasure hunters and enthusiasts continue to search for these fabled riches, adding an air of mystery to the fort.

Gwalior Fort: A Tapestry of History, Religion, and Architectural Marvels

Gwalior Fort: Beyond the Walls – Legends and Folklore
Gujari mahel

During Jahangir‘s reign, Sikh priest Hargobind Singh was imprisoned for two years in the fort of Gwalior. The Sikh community has constructed a Gurdwara here to commemorate this event related to the life of their Guru. It is a wonderful thing that a grand fort, palaces, temples, gurudwaras etc. are located in the fort. But the diversity of Gwalior Fort does not stop here.

One of the unique wonders of the fort is the Jain sculptures in it. Colossal rock-cut statues of Jain Tirthankaras are rarely seen anywhere else in the country. In fact, there are hundreds of such Jain structures in and around Gwalior. The statues on the way to Urwai Gate are the most visited place, as they are visibleGwalior Fort: Beyond the Walls – Legends and Folklore from the road itself. Mughal Emperor Babur was shocked to see these sculptures of enormous size, as these human figures were then in their infancy.

An attempt was made to break these statues. Although some of the statues are in a broken state, their magnificence remains. Thus, Gwalior Fort is a confluence of different eras, different rulers, and the unique architecture built during those reigns.

Points you must know for visiting the place:

For Gwalior Fort and its associated attractions, here are some important points to keep in mind:

Perfect time to visit: October to March is the best time to visit, as the summers here can be sweltering.Gwalior Fort: Beyond the Walls – Legends and Folklore

Transportation: Gwalior is well connected by air, rail, and road. Any of these convenient routes can be adopted.

Accommodation: As Gwalior is a big city, hotels are easily available to suit one’s budget. Information on some hotels is given on the Madhya Pradesh Tourism website.

Opening Hours: Check the opening hours of the Gwalior Fort and the associated palaces, as they may vary depending on the season.

Entry Fees: Be aware of the entry fees for the fort and any additional charges for specific palaces or sections within the fort.Gwalior Fort: Beyond the Walls – Legends and Folklore

Guided Tours: Consider hiring a local guide to get insights into the historical and architectural significance of the fort and its palaces. Guides can enhance your experience.

Comfortable Footwear: Wear comfortable and sturdy footwear as you may need to walk on uneven surfaces and climb stairs.

Sun Protection: Gwalior can get quite hot during certain times of the year, so wear sunscreen, a hat, and carry water to stay hydrated.

Respectful Attire: Dress modestly and respectfully, especially if you plan to visit any temples or religious sites within the fort.Gwalior Fort: Beyond the Walls – Legends and Folklore

Photography: Check the rules regarding photography. Some areas may restrict or charge for photography, while others may allow it freely.

Security: Be prepared for security checks at the entrance, and avoid carrying items that are not allowed inside.

Time Allocation: Allocate sufficient time for your visit. Exploring the entire fort complex and palaces can take several hours.

Historical Significance: Take an interest in the rich history of the fort and the various dynasties that have left their mark on it. Understanding the historical context enhances the experience.Gwalior Fort: Beyond the Walls – Legends and Folklore

Local Cuisine: After your visit, consider trying local cuisine in Gwalior to complete your cultural experience.

Weather: Check the weather forecast and plan your visit accordingly. It’s best to visit during the cooler months, if possible.

Safety: Be cautious while exploring the fort, especially if you are climbing steep stairs or walking on narrow pathways.

Local Culture: Respect the local culture and traditions. Greet locals with politeness and courtesy.Gwalior Fort: Beyond the Walls – Legends and Folklore

Souvenirs: If you wish to buy souvenirs, there may be shops or markets near the fort where you can find traditional handicrafts and mementos.

Plus know this: Gwalior city has many places to visit. Built by Jayajirao Scindia, the Jayavilas Palace houses a museum, with the famous silver train serving bottles of champagne on the dining table.

– The tombs of music emperor Tansen and his guru Sheikh Muhammad Ghaus are located nearby. It exhibits the style of Muslim architecture seen in the fourteenth-fifteenth centuries. The style of domes and stone-carved lattices in the mausoleum of Sheikh Muhammad Ghaus is also found in the architecture of Champaner.

# The museum of classical music known as ‘Sarod-ghar’ was originally the ancestral home of sarod player Ustad Amjad Ali Khan. He gave this building to a trust, in which a museum has been set up. Various instruments, documents, pictures, etc. are stored here.Gwalior Fort: Beyond the Walls – Legends and Folklore

– A replica of Orissa’s Konark temple and a sunken sun temple built in 1988 AD can be found here. The temple is shaped like a chariot pulled by two horses.

* Also attractive is the complex containing the umbrellas of the Sidhiya rulers. There are stone images commemorating various rulers, with beautiful carvings.

* Maharani Lakshmibai Park can be called a place of faith rather than a place of art or beauty. Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi, who became a legend in the Indian freedom struggle, died fighting bravely against the British. An Ashta-Dhatu (Eight metals) idol has been erected here at his tomb and an non-stop flame is also lit here. While there is a thrill at the thought that Lakshmibai may have breathed her last on this land, one also feels that this memorial should have been better.Gwalior Fort: Beyond the Walls – Legends and Folklore

* Foodies can relish Gwalior dishes like Kachori, Gajak, Pauha. Achaleshwar Road is a famous place for food. A shop named ‘S.S.Kachoriwala’ at Naya Bazar is famous. For more information about Gwalior

By keeping these points in mind, you can make the most of your visit to Gwalior Palace and Fort while ensuring a comfortable and enjoyable experience.


Gwalior Fort: Beyond the Walls – Legends and Folklore

Gwalior Fort is not just a testament to architectural brilliance; it is a living repository of legends and folklore that have transcended time. These stories, whether of cursed queens, musical marvels, or valiant warriors, add depth and intrigue to this historical gem. As you explore the fort’s magnificent structure, remember that its walls do more than just enclose history; they echo with the whispers of legends that refuse to fade away.

Gwalior Fort is a place where history and mythology intertwine, where the past is as vibrant as the present, and where every stone has a story to tell.




Visit this remarkable fortress, and you’ll discover that its true treasures lie not just within its walls but in theGwalior Fort: Beyond the Walls – Legends and Folklore enchanting legends that continue to breathe life into its storied halls.

The rulers who came from far away continued to rule here. Some stories of bravery, revenge, surrender, crime, punishment, loyalty, romance, invasion, etc. are engraved in the stones here. Alas! If the stones of the fort were able to speak, they would have told the story of each and every ruler!


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