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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Gwalior Fort, Up Close

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As I learn the extent of pain and suffering caused by the Covid-19 pandemic in India, the more heartbroken I feel for the country and its people who have given me countless wonderful experiences.

Gwalior Fort was once called the ‘Gibraltar of India.

To momentarily blank out the sorrow, I draw from an almost full vault of delightful memories and remember India the way I experienced it. From time to time, I will share in this space some of my fondest recollections of India. Let’s get started with a famous fort in Madhya Pradesh.

As I was letting every second of being awed linger, I fixated my thoughts on the massive walls of Gwalior Fort—the popular landmark in the state of Madhya Pradesh in India. I started wondering about the stories of resilient kingdoms and bloody battles it conceals. Like peeling off layers of paint, I survey the colossal architectural grandeur of the 8th century structure before me and briefly imagined being transported in time.

As if voicing out loud what’s in my head, I hear our tour guide narrate how the Fort changed hands during its height of significance. “The fort has seen several changes, throughout its history. It came under the rule of the Rajput, then the Mughals, the Mamluks, the Huns and the Akbars, Suris, Marathas and even the British.”

If only the walls of Gwalior Fort could talk, it would reverberate with never-ending battle cries, yells of triumph and cries of defeat. The sheer amount of history it has witnessed fills every inch of its 3 sq km area.

Originating from a smaller fort first constructed strategically atop Gopachal Hill by a local king Suraj Sen in the third century, the bigger portion of the fort were constructed beginning as early as the 6th century, according to the inscriptions found inside detailing a sun temple that was built during the reign of Mihirakula, who ruled Central India from 502-530 CE.

It s exterior is adorned exquisitely with blue ceramic tiles.

While the outer walls appear like an artwork due to its varying intricate designs, the fort houses various temples and palaces adorned with diverse architectural styles—thanks to the sundry tastes of a list of rulers who lorded over the fort.

Entering a time capsule

After a pleasing time regaling at the picturesque outer walls of the fort, we gingerly walked behind one of the mammoth gates and instantly, as if hurtling our group inside a time machine to the past, a fascinating set of architectural marvels greeted us. Intricately carved walls, giant stonewashed doors and moss-covered ceilings, all super-sized to fit the spacious fort grounds, were combined for a hodgepodge of painterly details.

Likening the mood to the ones I’ve had visiting other forts in India—especially in the state of Rajasthan—which is falling into some sort of historical envisioning, I darted my mind to the time when  Babur, the founder of the mighty Mughal empire, captured the fort only to lose it to the Hindu General Hemu, but then his grandson Akbar recaptured it many years later.

It is one of the largest forts in India.

Mirroring the Taj Mahal in Agra, Gwalior Fort is also the setting for some of the Mughal empire’s infamous events.  It was here where Aurangzeb (remember him? the one who jailed his father Shah Jahan, the builder of The Taj Mahal in Agra Fort) had his brother Murad and nephews Sepher and Suleman executed.

Towering carved Jain Monuments

After bidding goodbyes with my fellow travel writers and the staff from Madhya Pradesh Tourism Office, I opted to extend my stay in Gwalior for a couple of days. I took advantage of my alone time by going back to the Fort. This time, I made my way to the 300-feet Gopachal Hill on foot.

On my way up on the side of the steep curving road heading to Gwalior Fort, I saw the 7th century rock-cut Gopachal Parvat Jain Monuments. Spanning hundreds of meters, these boulder-carved shrines were built from the 7th century until the 15th century.

Regaling at the intricate details of each statues gave me an opportunity to rest as well, so I milked every delightful details of every statues until my interest was piqued by the deities of the Jain Tirthankara s—said to be the spiritual teachers of the “dharma way” or the “righteous path”—which are presented in a seated Padmasana and a standing Kayotsarga postures.

Towering 7th-century Jain monuments can be seen on the side road.

A few hundred meters away, another series of carved monuments can be seen, including the 57 foot image of Adinatha (another famous Tirthankara).

As I arrived back at the top of the hill just a stone-throw away from the thick walls of Gwalior Fort, I sat on a ridge and stared at the view of the city below. I imagined being one of the watchmen during one of the bloody wars of many centuries ago. Just when I was starting to picture in my head the deathly spears flying in the air, a flock of doves flew by on top of me and a group of young students alighted out of their bus.

The fort’s imposing structure is part of the city’s identity and architecture.

I delighted at the thought that a new group of people—especially them young ones—will have their turn in learning the many enthralling stories hidden inside the thick walls of Gwalior Fort.

Image courtesy of Marky Ramone Go

Read full article on BusinessMirror

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