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Hindu History of Gwalior

Gwalior is named after a saint known as Gwalipa who cured a chieftain of the region (Suraj Sen) of leprosy. The known Hindu history of Gwalior begins with this incident. Hindus were living in the region for thousands of years before this incident. It is believed that the region was occupied by cowherds and the name of an ancient nearby place is Gopalakhetaka. Hiuen Tsiang who visited India between AD 627-643 mention of Maheshwarapura in the context of Gwalior and thereby gives the idea that the place was famous for the worship of Hindu God Shiva.

Gwalior was ruled by the Huna Chief Toramana and his son Mihiragula during the 6th Century. Gwalior became a place of pilgrimage when Mihiragula constructed a Surya Mandir – Sun Temple.

The place was then ruled by numerous Hindu kings including Gurjara-Pratihara King Bhoja of Kannauj in the 9th century AD.

In 1210 AD, the Rajputs captured Gwalior back from barbarian invader Kutubuddin.

The Tanwar Class of Rajputs recovered it again in 1398 from another invader and kept is safe in the hands of Hindus for more than a century until 1518 AD. The most illustrious Rajput King of this dynasty was Raja Man Singh (1486 to 1517).

Gwalior became a great center of music during the reign of Raja Man Singh. His queen Mrignaina patronized music and it became a center of music learning and attracted famous musicians of the region.

Starting from 1518 AD, Gwalior was captured by Muslim invaders. Several invaders plundered the area for next 200 years. The valiant and proud Marathas wrested the region from the Mughals in 1751 AD. Thus, the Hindu rule returned to Gwalior.

It remained a part of the Scindia state until 1947 when it was merged with Madhya Pradesh.

During the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, when Gwalior fort was captured, Maharani Lakshmi Bai of Jhansi, dressed in man’s attire was found among the slain.

The religious History of Gwalior is a synthesis between Hinduism and Jainism. Hindu kings of Gwalior were worshippers of both Shiva and Vishnu but they held the Jains in high esteem.

The Gwalior fort contains both Hindu and Jaina sculptures. The ancient temples found in various inscriptions include Vayilla Bhata, Swamini Temple, Vishnu Narakadvisha Temple and Padmana Temple.

Teli-ka-mandir (oil man’s temple) and Saas Bahu temple (mother – daughter-in-law pair) in the Gwalior Fort contain Vaishnava images.

The Seshayi Vishnu image here is unique with Lakshmi, Brahma, Ganesha and the nine planets.

  • Dey, N.L. 1899. Geographical Dictionary of Ancient and Medieval India, Kolkata: New Man and Co.
  • Law, B.C. 1954, Historical Geography of Ancient India. (First Indian reprint). Paris: Societe Asiatique De Paris.
  • Encyclopedia of Hinduism Volume IV – India Heritage Research Foundation – page 413 - 414