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Oli’s: The Majestic Artisans and Halwai Lanes of Old Gwalior

Gwalior city is known for its rich culture, religious, spiritual and historic values. Situated in the state of Madhya Pradesh, India. The old city of Gwalior is filled with a diverse heritage and culture which can be experienced by exploring these old lanes of the city.

Today this beautiful city encompasses the three-ancient settlements namely Old Gwalior, Lashkar and Morar. During the ruling period of Rajputs, Mughals, Britisher’s and Scindia’s the city had political and trading importance due to which the city manifests infinite heritage localities and old lanes. Among the tourists, the city is majorly famous for its monuments, handicrafts, multi-religious wayfaring centre, and market areas but eventually, for apprehending the city’s authentic culture we need to explore its historical market areas, old localities and lanes. Gwalior has numerous historical market areas, old localities and lanes, some of them are Hazira, Sarafa Bazar, Naya Bazar, Loha Mandi, Jiwaji Ganj, Kainth Wali Galli, Khashi Bazar, Badaga, Nazarbagh market, Bala bai ka Bazar, Sagar tal, Kila gate, Batasewali Gali. Some areas which are further divided into numerous lanes are called as Oli’s. Some Oli are Dana Oli, Kasera Oli, Lasera Oli, Didwana Oli, Chitera Oli and Mochi Oli. Similarly, Goth’s are Sirsath ki goth, Bakshi ki goth, Chitnis ki goth, Nimbalkar ki goth, Subey ki goth, Gadve ki goth, Paanpatte ki goth and Sathe ki goth. These all lanes have their individual antique history, ancestry and stories which include a huge significance to the culture of Gwalior.

What is Oli?

In Gwalior, Olis is a cluster of small-small lanes which was earlier started with the concept of the specialized service, market and trade of the locals. The settlement of these Olis was established dating back to hundreds of years back when the Scindia dynasty was established in the Gwalior and they invited lots of artisans from different regions of the country. These all lanes are also rich in architecture and have numerous ancient temples in and around a few of them are Chaturbhuj Nath Temple, Goverdhan Nath Temple and Santoshi Mata Temple, Jain Temples.
We have Dana Oli, Kasera Oli, Lasera Oli, Didwana Oli, Chitera Oli and Mochi Oli. These all lanes are different from each other but are interconnected.
-Dana Oli was earlier a sweets lane and still, this small lane has numerous old shops of Sweets and famous pit stops in this lane are consist of Old haveli, narrow lanes, Jain temples, Gwalior famous Gajak shops, Petha shops, stuffed Choti kachoris, Halwai shops and much more.
-Kasera Oli was a lane for the artisans who makes brass, aluminium and iron utensils. Kasera word comes from the common surnames of the artisans who reside here.
-Mochi Oli: people who reside in this lane were cobblers.
-Chitera Oli: Chitera is a local painting of Gwalior which is still painted by the special Chitera painter who still resides in Chitera Oli. This is one of the lost artworks followed by the locals as people are getting modern so they don’t prefer any wall painting on the front door of their houses.
Though today Gajaks, Petha, other seasonal sweets, utensils and much more from these Oli lanes are exported all over the country.

My reason behind working on the old lanes of my ancient beautiful Gwalior city is to create heritage awareness for the locals and by making these old fascinating lanes a part and product of Tourism so this will result in the blooming of cross-cultural tourism, help locals, creating new tourist attraction by showing them these lanes in through heritage walks, cultural walks, food walks, ancient city lanes walk or by adding these sites in tours and make tourist visit these old havelies as well as the direct and indirect interaction of the city.

Knowing our place’s art, culture, history and heritage is one way to connect with our culture. Thus, this work concerns the knowledge and pedagogy of the ancient localities, Oli’s which are further divided into narrow lanes.

Nowadays, with the increasing developments and changing cultural forms and our busy lifestyle, it is resulting in the lack of knowledge sharing from one generation to another which was habitually done by our grandparents, parents and other locals of our residential place in the form of storytelling. This research work is concerned with all the known and unknown facts, stories, history and heritage related to the antiquity, ancestry and stories of all lanes of the Oli area of Gwalior, which is being gathered from different sources at my best to important part of every cities culture. Meanwhile, all this information is not directly given in a single place and is scattered in a different document which makes it tough for people to find out more about them. Thus, this essay is a quite collective knowledge and cultural work at one platform of Gwalior’s Oli’s.

This article is based on the primary and secondary data collected from various textbooks of the history of Gwalior, Scindia’s history, documents of government offices and by interacting with locals to summarize the actual condition of all the lanes of Oli by estimating its potential as a part of our history, art and culture.

Ms. Shikha Dhakad

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