The ever watching rocky eminence of the fortress of Gwalior rises to a height of 100m. above the arid plain consisting, at present, the triple habitation complex of Morar, Laskar and Gwalior. The hill stretches to more than 3km. in length.
Its varying breadth ranges from 250m. to 950m. Its outline appears as a double headed reptile as found in a map published in 1844 A.D. (Map 1) As regards the facilities for settlement the citadel complex at the top, it has a wide open space punctuated by the ever flowing lithic springs and natural storage tanks.
Gwalior hill has its own grace. Its natural height and intricate passages to the hill top provide an excellent natrual defensive system against enemy advances. More important is the serenity of the place that takes the devotees to spiritual heights.
It, thus served people, both as a strategic centre for political manoveurs and for religious activities. Its approach is limited, to those few, who can adjust with its high position.
The importance of the hill was realised initially by the migrant communities of Jains who were troubled often by political domination of Buddhists and Hindus in Mathura .But the saint that discovered the serene spirituality of Gopagiri was Gvalipa who acquired miraculous powers of curing dreaded diseases like leprosy.
More imposing are the caves of the hill slopes that contained the huge standing Jain images carved out with utmost religious ferver along with the associated yakshas, yakshis and pratiharyas. The speciality lies in their stature and innumerable Jain images of varying heights, unheard off on the earlier sculptural traditions. They speak more about the popularity of Jain faith during times among the kings and masses alike.
Geographically, Gwalior and its surrondings cover the north- eastern region of Madhya Pradesh. It fringes the northern part of Malwa plateau that includes Vindhyan ranges stretching from north east to south west. Towards the south of Gwalior lies the Satpura and Mahadeva hills of the Nimar plain and the Narmada Valley. Away towards the west are the Aravalli ranges.
The chief rivers that flow through the Vindhyan slopes of Gwalior hills into the Chambal are Parvati, Sindhu, Para, etc. and their tributaries. With hilly ranges and swift flowing rivers, thick forests had grown all along from east to west. Thus, the region is studed with a good
Cnmo vpqtioes of ancient political and religious centres are hidden in ‘”e 01 ,he Gan9eT TranS‘ YamUna
and the Vindhyan highway, that leads to the Peninsular South. (Map 2)
The major part of the south and west of Gwalior, under thick forest cover, contains important ancient religious centres, like Seopuri. Pawaya. Padhavalt, Suhanla, Bari, Panihar, etc. going back to the early centuries of the Chiristian period.
It is these villages nestled on hills and forests that served as ‘cul-de-sacs’ for the growth of early religion. The ancient mounds at Suhania, Barai complex have the antiquity.
This could be confirmed from the archaeoloagical evidence in pottery consistimg of black- and- red wares, red wares made from slow wheel with astration marks found during the exploration. They indicate traditions dated to early Christian period.
Gwalior and its neighbourhood, has a lot of Epic and Puranic history. Besides, it has its own legends and traditions.
Epic and Puranic: According to the Puranic tradition, king Yayati of lunar race, before he took to vanaprastha, the last stage of retirement to forest life, assinged the region between Charmanvati (Chambal) and Suktimati (Ken) to Yadu, one of his five sons. This region comprises the eastern half of the present Madhya pradesh.
The dynasty of Yadu had divided itself into Yadavas and Haihayas. While the Yadavas moved in all directions mainly towards Gujarat side, the Haihayas confined themselves to Madhya Bharat. For sometime the Haihayas were eclipsed by Mandhata and Mucikunda, the kings of the solar race, who founded the great city of Mahismati. Subsequently.
The Haihayas exerted their power and raised their ancestral home to a great kingdom, especially during the time of ,’ Kartaviyarjuna’ who recovered, even Mahismati. The Haihayas later divided themselves into a number of branches at different places, like Avanti, Mahismati, Bhilsa, etc.
According to Dr. D.R. Patil, the above events correspond to the Vedic period which assigned by him to 8th century B.C. Incidentally, he also cited that the Aryanization of the area had taken place, during Haihaya period. Not much is known about its history during period of Ramayana.
But not far from Gwalior lies another village Kutwar with its association with daughter of the Kunti Bhoja and the aunt The place was ruled by Suraj sen, the uncle of Kunti.
During the period of Mahavira and Buddha, we do not hear much about Haihayas. -fpe region covering Gwalior and the entire Madhya Bharat, might have been held by the King P radyotas of Avanti. Some parts of the Avanti in the past were known under the names Vinda, Anuvinda (Akra ) and Dasarna.
The greatest ot the Pradyota kings of Avanti was Qfianda, who ruled from Ujjain. Both Jain and Buddhist texts refer several times to the prosperous kingdom of Chanda Pradyota. According to Majjhima Nikaya, the kinc Ajatasatru of Magadha, had to fortify his capital city of Rajagraha fearing the invasion o Chanda Pradyota.
This greatness of the kingdom of Avanti was known to the Near East countries c Babylonia and Persia. Probably, there was regular trade through Mahismati, Oasapurr Bharukachha (Broach ) and Surparaka (Sopara) to the great city of Ujjain.
Again from the Mauryan period onwards, the fairly a good portion of Madhya Prades consisting of Gwalior, Pawaya, Dasarna, Mahismati has yielded archaeological remains the form of inscriptions, coins, pottery, etc. The earliest evidence comes from Pangura cave, near Hoshangabad. It contains an ‘Asokan’ inscription referring to him as a ‘Mahar Kumar.`1
It was from Madhya Pradesh, the great Mauryan emperor Asoka, married Devi, daughter of a banker from Vidisha, to whom were born Mahendra and daughter Sangami They made history in promoting the gospels of Buddhism, not only in India but also in Lanka.
Asoka had laid the foundations for the great Buddhist stupa of Sanchi and raisr huge monolithic pillar close to it with his edict inscribed on it.
Very near the village Tikkala not far from Gwalior as aleady stated there is a shelter which contained an inscription in Asokan characters, indicating, that a gift was n by one Dambuka.
The Sunga period After Asoka, there was no effective ruler to preserve the Mauryan territory. Pusya rose to power in Magadha.
The above is only a preview of the historical events of Gwalior and its surroundings coming through legends and archaeological sources. A detailed picture of the later events can be had from the subsequent chapters.