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Gwalior History, India

Gwalior history is easily divided into three different eras – the ancient era, the medieval era and the modern era. Here, the different eras/periods are discussed under three separate headings.

Gwalior History – Ancient Period

The Gwalior city region, like other areas in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, exhibits traces of early human habitation. Cave paintings, artifacts and tools belonging to Paleolithic Age have been excavated from various sites in and around present-day Gwalior. Iron Age relics and pottery have also been unearthed. Gwalior is also believed to be an ancient seat of Jainism and many rock-cut Jain sculptures/statues have been excavated. Gwalior, in those days, was most probably referred to as Gopadri or Gopgiri and there is ample proof that one of the important episodes of Mahabharata took place in Gopadri.

In the 2nd century, the rule of the Naga-clan was established over the Gwalior region and they ruled over the region for few generations until the last ruler, Ganpatinag, faced defeat at the hands of his contemporary Samudragupta.

Construction of the famous Gwalior Fort began in the 5th century A.D. under the Kachwaha ruler Suraj Sen. Gwalior also saw the rule of the The Great Gurjar, Mihir Bhoja.

Gwalior History – Medieval Period

Mahmud of Gazni attacked Gwalior in the first quarter of the 11th century and his army wrested control over the Gwalior Fort. Mohammad Ghauri attacked Gwalior towards the end of the 12th century and Sallachan, the then ruler, surrendered. This was followed by a period that witnessed Gwalior’s incorporation into the Delhi Sultanate and thereafter a number of rulers belonging to the Slave as well as Tughlaq lineages ruled over Gwalior.

The waning power of the Delhi Sultanate rulers in the 14th century led to the emergence of the Tomar dynasty. Mansingh Tomar was the most eminent ruler of the Tomar dynasty.

Gwalior was annexed to the Mughal Empire after the First Battle of Panipat. The decline of the Mughals led to the rising prominence of the Marathas and Gwalior was taken over by Ranuji Scindia as part of the Maratha Confederacy in 1726. The Third Battle of Panipat saw Gwalior being included into a Jat-ruled territory temporarily but the Scindhias regained control under the tutelage of Mahadji Scindhia.

The medieval period in Gwalior history is interesting in the sense that the city flourished both architecturally and culturally. The city’s architectural heritage, which includes historic forts, palaces, temples, etc. were mostly built during this period. Again, culturally enriched by Islamic influence of the Sultanate rulers, Gwalior had an established vocal music school, the "Gwalior Gharana" by the 15th century. (The Gwalior Gharana is one of the oldest schools of Indian classical khayal (music); the other vocal music/khayal gharanas like Indore Gharana, Jaipur Gharana, Kirana Gharama, etc. were established later. Only the Agra Gharana had been founded in the 1300s).

Gwalior History – Modern Period

Under Mahadji Scindhia, the Scindhia state of Gwalior became a powerful presence and commanded control over a sizeable region; however, following the defeat of the allied Maratha forces in the decisive Anglo-Maratha War of 1818, it was reduced to a mere princely state.

Gwalior came to the limelight once again during India’s first war of Independence in 1857. The soldiers of Morar cantonment actively participated in the struggle; Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi came to Gwalior seeking help from the Gwalior Maharaja.

In the post-independence era, Gwalior was merged with Indore, Malwa and other small states to form the Madhya Bharat State (in 1948). Gwalior became a part of Madhya Pradesh when Madhya Bharat was merged with Bhopal, Mahakoshal and Vindhya in 1956.

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