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Mark Moxon's Travel Writing

India: Gwalior

The Man Singh Palace on top of Gwalior's rock fortress
The Man Singh Palace perches on top of Gwalior's rock fortress

When other travellers find out that I'm planning to explore Rajasthan and Gujarat in June and July, there's a collective sucking in of breath. The reason? The heat.

Pavilions on top of the northern end of Gwalior Fort
The pavilions on top of the northern end of Gwalior Fort are highly atmospheric

Gwalior Fort

A mythical beast guarding the entrance to Gwalior Fort
A mythical beast guards the entrance to the fort

Gwalior's main attraction is its fortress, and what an attraction it is. Up there with Mandu, Bijapur and Golconda for beautiful Islamic atmospherics, Gwalior Fort dominates the town completely. Houses lie compressed at the foot of the steep 300 ft cliffs that make up the citadel; it's a little like a smaller Mandu with a city at its feet. I struck out to explore the area early on Friday morning.

One of the Hindu Sasbahu Temples
One of the Hindu Sasbahu Temples

George of Gwalior

Jai Vilas Palace
Jai Vilas Palace, the opulent home of Maharaja George of Gwalior

Suitably drained by my exploration of Gwalior's magnificent fortress, I decided to spend the afternoon indoors, preferably somewhere with air conditioning or at least some fans; the Jai Vilas Palace and Museum fitted the bill perfectly. The residence of the Maharaja of Gwalior – who still lives there, although he's converted most of his little shack into a museum – the palace is at once everything that was majestic about the Maharajas, and everything that was sickeningly decadent.

Gwalior Fort
Gwalior Fort sits on top of a hill, overlooking the old city
Old Gwalior from the fort
Old Gwalior from the fort
Intricate roof carvings in the Hindu Sasbahu Temples
The insides of the Hindu Sasbahu Temples are beautifully carved
The Teli ka Mandir
The Teli ka Mandir

Political Romp

Locals partying in the streets of Gwalior
Locals partying in the streets of Gwalior

As if this pomp and circumstance wasn't enough to make me feel like a downtrodden member of the proletariat, when I got back to my hotel there was a right royal ruckus going on in the railway station. A band was playing, fireworks were exploding and people were milling about, so after dumping my bag, I shot straight back out for a look.

An Indian politician
The politician who caused such excitement when he visited Gwalior
A colourful marching band
The politician's marching band

1 Which mean, in Hindi, Light and Air respectively. When westerners give their kids crazy names – like Moon Unit (Frank Zappa's daughter), Zowie Bowie (David Bowie's son), or Peaches, Pixie and Fifi Trixibelle (Bob Geldof and Paula Yates' daughters) – they tend to be regarded by the populace as having taken far too many drugs. India, on the other hand, is full of people called Moon, Mountain, Monsoon and so on; it's just that hardly anybody in the West speaks Hindi, so we don't notice. Yet again the Indians were ahead of the hippies by generations. Good for them.

2 That's Lotus and Black to you and me.