Entered via the Hathiya (“elephant”) Paur gateway, with its twin turrets and ornate blue tilework, the Man Singh Palace was declared “the noblest specimen of Hindu domestic architecture in northern India” by nineteenth-century explorer Sir Alexander Cunningham. Built between 1486 and 1517 by the Tomar ruler Man Singh, it’s also known as the Chit Mandir (“Painted Palace”) for the rich ceramic mosaics encrusting its facade. The best-preserved fragments of tilework, on its south side, can be seen from the bank left of the main Hathiya Paur gateway. Spread in luxurious bands of turquoise, emerald green and yellow across the ornate stonework are tigers, elephants, peacocks and crocodiles brandishing flowers.
By contrast, the interior of the four-storey palace is very plain. However, there are some fine pierced-stone jali screens, behind which the women of the palace would assemble to receive instruction from Gwalior’s great music gurus. The circular chambers in the lower storeys were once dungeons.