“Khoob ladi mardani woh toh Jhansi wali Rani thi”
This excerpt from the poem on Rani Lakshmibai by Subhadra Kumari Chauhan truly exemplifies the zeal, courage and spirit of Gwalior!
Madhura and I were in Gwalior for three days for documenting case studies as a part of the Coffee Table Book at Lakshmibai National University for Physical Education (LNUPE). The work went off really well. On the whole, we were treated royally by the people at LNUPE (I guess there is something ‘royal’ about everything in Gwalior!)
The train journey from New Delhi to Gwalior has its share of ‘wow’ moments! One cannot miss noticing the eerie Chambal valley; the wild land which has given us the bandit queen Phoolan Devi! Anybody would get lost out there even if you had a Google Map application on your mobile phone! The Chambal River is a sight too. The bluish green water shimmers when the sun rays fall across it, which looks magical. I am sure if I stood in the river, I would feel history flowing past me – a history filled with fierce warriors and daring dacoits!
Gwalior is a city brimming with elegance and historical importance; filled with forts and palaces which are a visual and aesthetic feast to your soul. The city has been blessed by the classical music maestro Miya Tan Sen, as well as the Rani of Jhansi, Rani Lakshmibai. Memories of the mighty past have been preserved with great care in the grand palaces and museums.
One evening, we headed for the Gwalior Fort. One cannot take an auto rickshaw up to the fort. The drive up, by car, is very steep. The fort overlooks Gwalior and you have a magnificent view of the city all to yourself. The walls are works of art in the truest sense! They have been exquisitely painted in blue and brown, with intricate carvings representing the culture and traditions of the erstwhile royal clan! The fort surrounds one side of Gwalior, and looks over the city like a watchful protector!
The tourism department had a very small shop selling souvenirs. We walked up to a large board which announced “SOUND AND LIGHT SHOW”, which takes place on all evenings after sunset. The show basically provides the tourist an insight into the history behind the fort; on the battles fought, on the blood shed and the victories achieved.
Within Gwalior, it is best to move about in auto rickshaws*. A cheaper mode of transport is the tempos which serve as the local bus service (sort of!). While long distance buses are plenty, the local city bus service is more or less invisible. Gwalior is a small city. The maximum distance in any direction would be 10 kilometers. Keep that in mind when the auto guys come up with the ‘Kitna door jana padta hai’ excuse!
*Disclaimer: You have to bargain! In a short visit, you are bound to be ‘taken for a ride’ (Pun Intended) by the Autowaalahs. You see, the dacoits are not only in the Chambal!