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Gwalior’s legendary beginning stems from the hermit Gwalipa curing the Rajput chieftain, Suraj Sen, of leprosy using water from Suraj Kund tank (which still remains in Gwalior fort). Renaming him Suhan Pal, he foretold that Suhan’s descendants would remain in power as long they retained the name Pal. His next 83 descendants did just that, but number 84 changed his name to Tej Karan and, naturally, lost his kingdom.

In 1398 the Tomar dynasty came to power. Gwalior Fort became the focus of continual clashes with neighbouring powers and reached its ascendancy under Raja Man Singh 1486–1516, remembered for his love of music and architecture. After his death the fort fell to Ibrahim Lodi; two centuries of Mughal possession followed, ending with its capture by the Marathas in 1754.

Over the next 50 years the fort changed hands several times, including twice to the British. Finally it passed to the Scindias, one of only five noble clans to be honoured with a 21-gun salute by the British.

During the Indian Uprising in 1857, Maharaja Jayajirao remained loyal to the British but his troops rebelled, and in mid-1858 the fort was the scene of some final dramatic events of the whole uprising. Near here the British finally defeated rebel leader, Tantia Topi, and it was in the final assault on the fort that the Rani of Jhansi was killed.