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Gwalior Fort and Man Mandir Palace
Slightly off the Golden Triangle tourist route, Gwalior Fort is a divine excursion south of Agra 146 km. The massive fort walls, situated atop a 100-meter high sandstone hill and stretching nearly 3 km, exude wonder and awe viewed from below. Inside the walls, many unique characteristics including the Man Mandir Palace steal the attention of the eye and camera.
Some might compare the outward appearance of the Gwalior Fort, located in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh, to its more well-known counterparts in Rajasthan. However, upon passing through the Urwahi Gate on the western side, visitors enter into a vast cavern of unfinished rock walls on either side. Carved inside the rock walls (rather than a winding cobble or dirt pathway lined by colossal stone walls commonly seen elsewhere) are 21 enormous Jain sculptures depicting the Tirthankaras or founders of the Jain religion. This display is reason enough to visit the fort especially considering they somehow escaped irreparable damage from passing invaders through the years.
From here, visitors move to Teli ka Mandir. Teli is a business caste name in India, specifically for edible oil makers. In this case, Teli ka Mandir translates to Teli Temple. This is the tallest temple within the fort at 25 meters high. The richly carved stone building, dedicated to Vishnu, was completed in the 9th century. It embodies an eerie yet commanding blend of architecture more commonly found in South India.
A pair of temples also dedicated to Vishnu but built 2 centuries later, can be found north of Teli ka Mandir. Named Saas Mandir and Bahu Mandir, the terms translate to Mother-in-Law and Daughter-in-Law Temples respectively. The stonework is carved with sculptures of dancing girls and various deities.
The double-storied Man Mandir Palace (the main attraction within the fort) lies north of the temples. Regarded as one of the finest examples of Rajput secular architecture, many of the lavishly decorated features still exist. Stone latticework lines battlement tops feeding into rounded bastions topped with cupolas all decorated with colored tilework. The brilliant blue tiles outshine what remains of the yellow and green colors still mesmerizing against the pale stone facade. The artwork within the tiles intertwines with beautifully carved stone creating a richly unique exterior leaving imaginations to run wild about the grandeur of years past. The palace and fort are a worthwhile day-trip excursion from Agra.
Gwalior is accessed via road or a short train ride from the nearby city of Agra. Air service is provided just 3 days a week from Delhi yet still an additional option allowing a quick path back to the city.
Tourists should pre-book a local guide or use any of the numerous pick-up guides roaming the fort. The history of the palace and temples will enhance the visit. Plan on a minimum of 1 hour to enjoy the fort, but a more realistic pace will net you around 3 hours.