I have been home for nearly two months and still finishing the last few posts. Some mornings I wake up and dream of India outside my window, but it’s too quiet for that. It feels like yesterday in one moment and a lifetime gone the next. As difficult and frustrating as it was to publish a blog with limited connectivity and upload speeds it pales in comparison to putting it together as time away softens the brain. If only the pictures could talk. That being said the last of the India posts hold some truly great memories.
Ignore the dates of the posts, the blog follows history of our journey and less about the precise timing of the visits. Gwalior was the last city before our return to Delhi and it was Christmas Day…
The final few days of our India trip. I was in a most reflective mood and my thoughts drifted back to the beginning. I considered our early days and reflected upon what some would conclude as daft, but The Taj Mahal was one of my least favorite monuments along our trip. We landed in Delhi shortly after Diwali celebrations and the area of choking smog extended the 210 kilometers following us to Agra.
My experience in Gwalior was somewhat of a letdown. Mandu and Orchha which preceded this destination were special sites for us. Hidden gems discovered almost by accident. This was a larger urban location and we were staying a fair distance from the sites. It was Christmas Eve and tough on Chelle. It was another long train trip and late in the afternoon. We flopped on the bed and ordered some room service. I rarely watched television since we’d arrived having decided that all the stations seemed noisy and indecipherable. However, I flicked it on as I unpacked and scanned the channels. Low and behold one of our favorite shows was on and not in Hindi. The CBS iteration of the Sherlock Holmes stories. We settled in for a couple of episodes before bed.
We headed to Gwalior Fort – the Gibraltor of India, situated on a sandstone hill. It had been the administrative headquarters of the Tomars and witness to the rule of several dynasties. Chelle and I intended to enter the fort via the main entrance but our driver let us off at the bottom of the Urwahi gate which is on Gopachal Hill and home of the Jain Tirthankaras. Twenty one temples cut into the rock with intricate carvings of their spiritual teachers. According to Jains, a tirthankara is a rare individual who has conquered the saṃsāra, the cycle of death and rebirth, on his own and made a path for others to follow.
Midway on the slopes of the fort on either side of Urwahi road, hundreds of images of Jain tirthankaras, large and small, standing and seated, sheltered in small caves or niches are carved on the rockface.
Not as intricate as the Dilwara Temples at Mt. Abu and having suffered the wrath of Mughal King Babur who mercilessly damaged the carvings. We wandered the caves and outcroppings for quite a while.
The fort consists of a defensive structure and two main palaces, Gujari Mahal and Man Mandir. It’s rampart is built around the edge of the hill, connected by six bastions or towers. The Ganesh temple at Gwalior Fort has the very first occurrence of zero as a written number in the world. Post-independence, Gwalior has emerged as an important tourist attraction in central India while many industries and administrative offices came up within the city. Before the end of the 20th century it became a million plus agglomeration and now it is a metropolitan city in central India.
Hotel Surbhi was an interesting experience beyond some entertaining television. The room service was quite tasty and cheap. What I remember most from the first night was someone’s television being very loud and repetitive, but too tired to contact the front desk. This turned out in my favor as it was not from an adjoining room but the elevator. A voice indicating up or down closely followed by ringing slot machine type bell…over and over and over. The day we departed for Delhi Chelle and I ventured out into the Naya Bazaar neighborhood in search of some good deals. We found some cute shops and experienced the personalized touch of a textile merchant, walking out with beautiful batik sheets.
Next to the guesthouse we found a copy store and the two fellows inside assisted us in purchasing train tickets to Delhi. Yet another example of the kindness shared by nearly all we came in contact with on our journey. We still had a few hours before the train and on the advice of our hotel staff we visited the Sun Temple.
Surya Mandir, the temple as the name suggests is dedicated to the holy Sun God. Built on the lines of legendary Sun Temple at Konark, Orissa, it also derives its name from it. This temple is a new entry in the list of majestic architectures of Gwalior built in 1984 exhibiting stunning sculpture of Lord Surya. The temple building is created in the shape of chariot pulled by seven horses, four on one side and three on other each one depicting seven days of the week.
We also had a small window of time to visit to Jai Vilas Palace, an example of European architecture, an odd combination of styles, the first storey is Tuscan, the second Italian-Doric and the third Corinthian. We liked the Indian architecture throughout the country and would have been content not seeing this site except that we had excess time to spend. Constructed in the 1800’s it is the home of the last of the Scindia family which ruled Gwalior from 1726 until India’s independence from Britain.