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Gwalior

Gwalior is a busy town at the northern tip of Madhya Pradesh, dominated by a thousand-year-old sandstone citadel high on the cliffs above. Within its walls are palaces, temples, gates and water tanks which are illuminated at night by a son et lumière. The fort has a fascinating and turbulent history, changing hands throughout the ages from the Kachwaha in the 6th Century to the Tomars, the Lodhis of Delhi, the Mughals, the Marathas and to the Scindia in the 18th century, where it remained a princely state during the British Rule.

Described by the Mughal Emperor Babur as "the pearl in the necklace of forts of India", Gwalior Fort dates back to the 8th century, though much of this enormous fort was constructed in the 15th century. It has been well maintained and still boasts beautiful turquoise tiles around the iconic towns of its Man Singh Palace. Much of the fort is now occupied by the exclusive Scindia boarding school, established by Maharaja Madho Rao Scindia in 1897 to educate Indian nobility. A claim to fame of the Chaturbhuj Temple within Gwalior Fort is that the world's very first occurrence of zero as a written number took place here.

The Muslim Old Town at the bottom of the cliffs has the outrageously over-the-top (and still part-occupied) Jai Vilas Palace, stocked with antiques and furniture imported from Europe in the mid 19th century. There is also a fine mosque and the 16th-century Mughal Tomb of Ghaus Mohammed with beautiful pierced stone screens (jaalis). Ghaus Mohammed was one of the most noted Sufis of his times and he was a guru of Tansen, a prominent figure of North Indian (Hindustani) classical music, who attended a noted Gwalior singing school in the 15th Century. Gwalior has retained a wealth of Indian musical traditions and Ghaus’s Tomb enclave is the venue for the Tansen Music Festival.

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