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Legend has it that some 2000 years ago, a Rajput chieftain Suraj Sen was cured of leprosy by the water from a hilltop pool at the insistence of the hermit saint Gwalipa, who lived nearby. The grateful nobleman built a fort on the hill naming it Gwalior in honour of the saint. The pool was named Suraj Kund but its medicinal properties seem to have faded away with time. References to the great fort can be traced back to 425 AD. Several Rajput clans ruled Gwalior at different times, notable amongst them being the Kachawahas, Pariharas and Tomars. Iltutmish, the second sultan of the Slave dynasty of the Muslim Sultunate of Delhi, overthrew the Hindu kingdom of the Pariharas in 1232.

The Tomar Rajputs retook Gwalior in 1398 and from then on the strategically located fort played a key role in moulding the history of Central India till India’s independence. Gwalior’s renowned ruler Raja Man Singh Tomar (1486 to 1516), stood up to the might of Sikandar Lodi of the Delhi Sultanate in 1505, but was finally overcome in 1517 after a yearlong siege by the Lodis. The fort was captured by the Mughals, who in turn lost it in 1754 to the powerful Maratha clan of the Scindias. A turbulent period till the early 18th century saw the fort change hands several times till the Scindias came back to power, albeit with the tacit approval of the British.

The plains around Gwalior was the scene of fierce fighting during the First Indian War of Independence in 1857 before the nationalist Indian soldiers led by Tantia Tope and the heroic Rani Laxmi Bai of Jhansi were defeated by the British. The Scindias ruled till India’s independence and during their rule, Gwalior saw great industrial and economic progress.

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