The city of Gwalior, also known as the “tourist capital of Madhya Pradesh”, bears a strong historical legacy starting from the Tomars, the Mughals, the Marathas and finally the Sindhias. Sindhia, a Maratha clan in India, included rulers of the Gwalior State in the 18th and 19th centuries. The Sindhia state figured prominently in the three Anglo Maratha war.
At the close of Maratha War of 1817-1819, Gwalior remained the most powerful Indian Military State under Daulat Rao Sindhia, who permanently fixed his headquarters near the Fort of Gwalior. The Gwalior Fort, also called “the Gibraltar of India” was captured in the year 1780 by East India Company.
Mahadji Sindhia, the most outstanding Maratha chief of the period, recovered the Gwalior Fort in 1784. At the age of 67, he died on the 12th February, 1794. He was succeeded by his 13 year old nephew and adopted son, Daulat Rao Sindhia, who inherited vast possession and military resources of Mahadji Rao Sindhia. Mahadji’s death sealed the fate of Maratha Supremacy in the north, where the British were left comparatively free to build up their dominion.
Later, the British compelled Daulat Rao Sindhia to sign the Treaty of Gwalior on the 5th November, 1817, which bound him to co-operate with the British who were given the liberty to enter into engagements with other states. After the death of Daulat Rao in 1827, Jankoji Rao (II) Sindhia was installed as the Raja with an ambitious woman, Maharani Baiza Bai, widow of Daulat Rao Sindhia, as the regent. The weakness of the new ruler, and the activities of the regent, gave rise to various plotting and disorders in the State. In the midst of these Jankoji Rao (II) Sindhia died in 1843 without issue. A minor named Jayaji Rao was then raised to the Gadi; but plotting and counter-plotting multiplied over the selection of a regent for the boy king.
As is natural during civil strife, the Gwalior army became restless. Haunted by the fear of revolt, Lord Ellenborough assumed a dictatorial attitude, and even though the Gwalior authorities accepted all his demands, which were unjust and unreasonable in the extreme, he personally led an army into the territory of Sindhia.
Gwalior was placed under a Council of Regency and its status was reduced to a protected State, which was to manage its affairs during the minority of the Maharaja subject to the control of a British Resident.
During the Indian Rebellion of 1857 the fort of Gwalior was briefly held by rebel forces. Sir Hugh Rose, who conducted successful campaigns in Bundelkhnad, defeated Tantya Tope on the Betwa River and stormed Jhansi on the 3rd April. During the night of the 4th April 1857, Rani of Jhansi left the city of Jhansi with a few followers to Kalpi. Kalpi (Jhansi) was captured by the British in May 1858 and thereafter the indomitable Rani of Jhansi and Tantya Tope sought shelter at the Gwalior Fort.
The Maharaja of Gwalior was a strong ally of the British and was not willing to give up his fort. After negotiations, his troops surrendered and the rebels took possession of the fort. Realising the danger of a Maratha rising, Sir Hugh Rose took prompt measures to check the activities of the Rani of Jhansi and Tantia Tope. The battle was fought and Rani of Jhansi, dressed in male attire, died a soldier’s death on 17th June 1857, whereas Tatya Tope and Rao Sahib escaped to Nepal. The Fort of Gwalior was captured by the British, which remained occupied by them until 1886.
Maharaja Jivajirao Sindhia was the last king of Gwalior State. The Sindhia family ruled Gwalior until India’s independence in 1947. The Gwalior residency was abolished on August 15, 1947 and all treaty relations between the British crown and the princely states of India were abolished. A number of other princely states were merged with Gwalior to become the present time state of Madhya Pradesh.
Post independence, wife of Late Maharaja Jivajirao Sindhia, Rajmata Vijayraje Sindhia entered electoral politics and was elected to the Lok Sabha. Later her son, Maharaja Madhavrao Sindhia and thereafter his son Jyotiraditya Sindhia, were elected to Lok Sabha representing the Congress Party.
The city is also famous for being the birthplace of the great musician, Tansen, who was one of the nine jewels of Akbar’s court and was distinctively regarded as the “father of Indian Classical Music”. The famous Sindhia School, established in 1897 for nobles and princes, is now among the prominent boarding schools in India. Old monuments, massive forts, temples and museums in Gwalior are prime tourist attractions.