Center of Incredible India: Madhya Pradesh

September 2, 2023

Some places look rustic at the first glance but on exploring unravel most astonishing places that narrate our history and its unending grandeur. Madhya Pradesh being centre of the country containing monuments that depict the rise of the early temple architectural style and also which is carrying forward the rich royal traditions.The state has witnessed the rise and downfall of many royal dynasties and at the same time it has adapted to different style of art of various existing royalty.

Despite having such great options for tourist to look around the state, the Madhya Pradesh tourism was a sphere that was rarely explored until the recent times .But in the past few years the department had made significant developments. Many historical monuments and locations are being excavated and well maintained heritage spots welcome tourist with all required facilities. Considering this we set off to tour Madhya Pradesh. Gwalior, Mitouli, Jhansi, Orccha, Khajaraho, Panna and Bhopal are some places to explore when in the state.


First day in the culture city of Madhya Pradesh was a little unknown environment, but we started our travel by visiting this place in Gwalior. These were the cut in monulet of 26 Jain Thirthankaras both large and small and having inscriptions, which refer to a ‘Tomar king’, Dungar Singh(A.D. 1425-1459),who might have influenced to build this.

There is a Bouli (well) near the 1st cave which is popularised as the Ek patthar ki bouli. The monuments have really stood the test of time over centuries being invaded and destructed. Though most of the facial details have been erased the minute carvings still stand out.

Situated on a hillock, these range of caves are famous for the statues. This place gives a peaceful vibe during the off seasons of the April sun.


This memorial stands out at the midst of the hustle of Gwalior city, it is a epitome of true feminism. ‘Samadhi’ of Veeranghana Rani Lakshmi Bai of Jhansi, well known freedom fighter who is known to have kick started the early freedom movement in India. ‘The Azad Joth’, in front of the Queen’s memorial signifies sacrifice, patriotism and pride.


Built in the memorial of great Indian musician Tansen, who brought the glory to Akbar’s court. Originally from Gwalior, Tansen was appointed by Akbar to his court. The king of Gwalior had himself carried Tansen to Delhi in a palanquin. Impressed by the Kings emotions, Tansen vows to only play music with his left hand and dedicates the art of his right hand to his homeland.

In the gracious memory of his teacher, Sufi Mohammed Ghoz lies the Tansen tomb besides his teacher’s large Dargah.


ALAMGIRI GATE: 1st entrance gate to the Gwalior fort. Built by Motamid Khan, Aurangazeb’s governor in 1680 C E. Named after Alamgir Badshah Aurangazeb is the Alamgir gate. Example of Islamic architecture.

BADAL GATE: Following the Alamgiri gate to the inwards is the Badal gate named after, Badal Singh. ‘Hindola pol’ is also the other referral name for this. Signifies Rajput architecture. It was reconstructed and named as Shah Jahan Gate by governor Sayyid Alam during the reign of Shah Jahan.

As it was the “world heritage day” the entrance fee was an exception for a day in all the Heritage sites.

GURJARI MAHAL is now converted as a museum and taken under the archaeological department. But once this palace was built by Raja Man Singh for his beloved queen Rani Mrignayani. She was the 9th consort of Raja Man Singh and mother of his successor Vikram Singh.

Man Singh fell in love with this village girl for her bravery and proposed her for a marriage. The girl put forth 3 conditions,
1. that she will drink only the water of her village river
2. that she would not stay with the 8 other queens of the king.
3. that the water of ‘Raee’ river of her village was brought to palace.

The king agreed to all 3 conditions and built ‘Mrignayani’ a magnificent palace at the foothills of the Gwalior fort, called as the ‘Gurjari Mahal’.

The world famous sculpture ‘Indian Monalisa’, ‘shalabhanjika’ which was displayed in Europe at the exhibition; is preserved in the museum, under heavy protection and would be shown only on request.


On the higher and top notes of the Gwalior fort, in fact the largest and the oldest fort of India, 10km in its extension, visuals at the top of any corner of the fort will blow your mind up by its fascinating huge structural beauty.

History of the fort going back to the 5th century to 9th century B.C.E. There’s a popular folk that narrates the rise of the city Gwalior. Raja Suraj Singh was believed to come to hunt in this area and felt thirsty, he finds a sage meditating nearby and requests him to show the source of water. The hermit shows him the way to the spot, it is said in folks that as soon as the king drank the water from the pool, his disease of leprosy was cured; grateful for the kind act of the hermit the king asks him his hearts will; the sage requests him to build a pond and provide the holy water to the common people of the region. Following the words, the king builds a pond ‘Suraj kund’ and names the region after the name of the hermit ‘Gwalipa’ as GWALIOR.

The fort compresses of many palaces built by the dynasties ruling the place over time. Withholding in itself the main and the most recent palaces is the ‘Man Mandir Palace’ built by Raja Man Singh (1486-1516 AD) which has a Darbare Khas and a Darbare Aam which later during the Mughals rule came to be known as the Diwane Khas and Diwane Aam respectively.

The musical rooms, the dancing hall, 5 floor underground cabins which has a ‘Jhoola cabin’ for the 8 queens of Man Singh were they used to play swings. The same cabin was converted as the Assassination hall during Aurangazeb’s reign. These cabins also have store houses, swimming pools etc.

The palace also consists of a ‘Jauhar Kund’ where 1200 Rajput Royal women committed Jauhar after the death of Raja Man Singh. There’s a palace named after Man Singh’s son Vikram Singh called as Vikram Mahal, Jahangir palace, Shah Jahan palace. The fort boundary also has tax collection office and well maintained Rain water harvesting system.

The fort was ruled by about 7 royal dynasties and 110 kings. During the British, ‘barrod houses’ were also built in the fort premises. The fort has an excellent view from every visible angle. Fort area also has a ‘Gurudwara’.


This temple owes its name from ‘teli’ means oil dealer at whose expenses it was built during the reign of King Mihira Bhoja of the Pratihara dynasty. It is the loftiest temple among all the buildings in the Gwalior fort with probably height of 30m.The most striking feature of the temple is the ‘wagon-vaulted roof’ which is Dravidian in style and rarely found in North India. But the decorative details are in Indo-Aryan style. The temple is estimated to be dated of the 9th century.


Both the temples face the North West direction facing the Man Mandir Palace of the Gwalior fort. This temple is situated in the fort premises. The Sahasra Bahu temple (later known as saas bahu), constructed during Ratnapala’s rule and completed during Mahipala’s reign. Both the temples; one dedicated to Vishnu and the other to Shiva has intricate carvings. The stone inscription on the portico of the bigger temple refers about its construction, religious congregation, folk rituals and revenue allotted to the temple.

Both the temple consists of the Garbha griha, Antarala, Mahimandapa and Ardamandapa. The exterior walls are richly carved with the floral, geometric design, elephant figures, dancers, musicians and scenes of Krishna leela. The temples are at the edge of the fort boundary and shares an excellent view. Both the temples are a must visit when visited the Gwalior fort.


One of the royal families still existing in Gwalior is the SCINDIA’S royal dynasty. Descendents of Maharaja Chatrapati Shivaji of the Marathas. Jai vilas is the private property of the Scindia’s of which a part is left out by the existing royal family for museum.

Jai Vilas built during the British reign in India was gifted to the later Scindia’s by the British government. Famous rulers ruling were Maharaja Bade Raje Jayaji Rao Scindia, his son Maharaja Madhorao Scindia and the present royal; minister of steel; central government; Maharaja Raj Jyothiradhitya Madhorao Scindia.

Down the lane of History the Scindia’s have stepped into politics from royalty and also have switched parties. Jai Vilas showcases the cultural richness of the royal household from dress code to kitchen utensils, from paintings to bedrooms to drawing rooms to hunting rooms, everything that is eye pricking to common citizen, but nothing more than mere pieces of glory and excitement for the royals to lead a luxurious life.


This cosy historical place was recently excavated and is still under the process excavation by the Archaeological department of India. A group of ruined temples spread over the western slope of an isolated hill are located south west of Padavali village in Morena district of Madhya Pradesh. The temples can be stylistically ascribed to the post Gupta period ranging from 6th to 9th century. It shows early stages of development of temple art. One of the surviving temples, dedicated to lord Shiva known as the Bhuteshwara temple, shows all feature of Pratihara art.

The temple shrine consists of curvy linear Shikaras over the sanctum. Some temple still contain a linga whereas some do not. The place is yet to be fully discovered. Two pushkarani’s (kalyani’s) are also found in the temple complex.


Destructed during Aurangazeb’s reign, the fort was converted to a jail complex; before this it was a holy temple dedicated to lord Shiva. The Garba gruha has been completely destructed, only the Linga has been restored. A Nandi Mandap straight opposite to the past present Shiva complex still stands out.

The Nandi Mandap is richly carved with the sculptures of Bramha, Vishnu, Maheshwara, Surya, Ganesha, Chandi and 10 avataras of Vishnu. The mandap ceiling is richly carved with the stories of 4 yugas of Hinduism. Built during 10th century fortified later by rulers of ‘Jat Ranas of Gohad’ during 19th century.


This circular structure located on an isolated hillock is known as Ekttarso Mahadeva Temple, the preceding Indian parliament house has drawn its structural reference from this monument. Similar to the layout plan of Chausath Yogini Temple. This temple has an entrance from east. The main shrine is in the centre is placed on a raised circular plinth/platform; it has a Shivalinga. On the basis of the inscriptions this temple was constructed in 1323 AD by Maharaja Devapala, sculptures of the Kushana period adorned with heavy ornaments are restored at the Gurjari Mahal, Gwalior fort.


Cultural city Gwalior is famous for its monuments as well as its huge industrial square limits. Gwalior having the largest amount of textiles in India is well known for its hand printed Chanderi sarees adorned with ‘Meenakari’ works on it. City has a Subhash main market where the local sellers sell their stuffs like fruits, vegetables, clothes, chats, electrical and what not .You get everything and every kind you ask for. Surrounded by ancient buildings of the British era, this place gets madly crowded after, 5 in the evening.

The local electric autos may guide you through this horrifying crowd. But still it’s a huge bowl of business and regional culture coming together. People being soft spoken, well-mannered and very friendly to visitors. You can trust them in minutes and they will not make a profit out of you for sure!

The heritage city Gwalior has lot to offer, experience and take away. Carrying the rich historic culture, tradition and its oldest monuments for centuries now. Looking back at this visit to Gwalior, it has made me discover that the place has a vibe, it may not offer you with all the luxury needs but it surely treats you with the best it has got to offer you.





By Sunidhi Hebbar
Sunidhi Hebbar is a 2nd BSc at Bhandarkars' Arts and Science College, Kundapur.
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Comment on this article

  • William Rodrigues, Milagres, Mangalore

    Mon, Sep 04 2023

    Very informative article. Congratulations..good work. Keep it up. Best of luck.

  • KS Mayya, Mangalore/Bangalore

    Sat, Sep 02 2023

    Nice compilation. When we can afford, we go to Europe for holidays.... because they have celebrated and monetized their past glory. Here we have a glory which is time immemorial, and we are preparing to be surprised each time we are exposed to it. These are not our next destination for vacation.... wonder why? Thanks for caring to share it!

  • Gautam Das, Bangalore

    Sat, Sep 02 2023

    Sunidhi, your article is absolutely spectacular. I was carried away just by reading it without physically being at the spot. Good job. Carry On.

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