Of Bundelas and Mughals, Palace of Datia

A visit to Datia was originally not in my original itinerary. While chit-chatting with a small group of travellers at Man Mandir, they described this beautiful palace in Datia that they had just returned from.

So on my way to Orchha, about 75 kms away from Gwalior on the border of UP (Jhansi being only 25 kms away), I had my taxi stop at Datia and was glad I did that.

The main attraction of Datia town is the captivating Datia Palace, locally called Govind Mahal (or Govind Mandir) and popularly called the Jehangir Mahal (Palace). It is overlooking the Karna Sagar Lake.



Akbar captured Orchha in 1604 and deposed Raja Ram Chand, Bir Singh’s eldest brother. It is said that Bir Singh, an errant chieftain himself, beheaded Abul Fazl (Akbar’s vizier, confidant and general) and sent his head to Salim (a young Jehangir). It is also alleged that this was done at the prompting of Jehangir, who in his memoirs declared that it was Abul Fazl who had abused Akbar’s mind so that he turned away his love for his son. I could not verify through historical accounts how much of this is a fact. Anyway, tormented at Fazl’s death and to challenge Bir Singh’s audacity, Akbar tried to have Bir Singh captured. Bir Singh teamed up with Jehangir, who by then was rebelling against his own father. Bir Singh and Jehangir apparently shared some anxious moments before either of them ascended the throne.

To make it more interesting, when Jehangir was imprisoned on his way to Kabul by one of his own generals, Mahabat Khan, it is alleged that Bir Singh’s youngest son, Bhagwan Rao, came to his rescue and liberated him. As a token of gratitude, when Jehangir ascended the throne, he made Bir Singh Deo the ruler of Orchha.

In return, Bir Singh Deo built the grand Datia Palace in honour of Jehangir. Now that we know the story, we should not be surprised why a palace in the middle of the land of Bundelas is called Jehangir Palace.

So, we see that the Bundelkhand rulers of the seventeenth century were closely connected to the life and times of the Mughal emperors. That is probably why the Datia Palace, that was originally called Govind Mahal or Govind Mandir got popular with the name, Jehangir Palace.

I found a guide who also is the caretaker of the Datia Palace. He was kind and helpful, and it was interesting to hear all that he had to say about the Palace.

As the main entrance is on the eastern side, the sun was beating down on the front portion of the Palace as I approached it. It is presumed that the Palace is built on the exact spot where Bir Singh Deo and Jehangir first met.

The Datia Palace was built on top of the Datia hillock in 1614. The Palace consists of seven levels, two of which are underground and has more than 440 rooms and several courtyards. The guide said it was built in the shape of a swastika but I could not really figure that out from the limited view I could get. It was easy to feel delightfully lost in the hundreds of passages while darting from one room to the other.

The Palace is made entirely of stones and bricks. It has a ribbed dome over which is a shikar (spire) with lotus petal design. The arched openings, brackets and dome is characteristic of the Mughal architecture, while the lotus petals and use of animal sculpture and avian painting are symbols of the Rajput architecture. The blend of the Mughal and Rajput architecture forms a typical feature of the Bundela style of architecture at the Datia Palace. It gave me an impression that the Bundela kings were favorably inclined towards the Mughals at least as far as the Datia Palace is concerned.

The halls have an embellished finish and some fine paintings.

Ceilings are intricately decorated. These murals seem to have somehow withstood the test of time.

The windows have beautiful stone lattice work. The guide informed that some repair work on those has been done by workmen brought in from Jaipur.

Certain places present a beautiful play of light and shade as can be seen in these pictures.

Strangely, this beautiful Palace is considered unique for it has never been used as a residence by King Bir Singh Deo or his descendants. It is interesting to read a few references to some refugees who are said to have been housed in this Palace for many years.

I found the view from the terrace particularly charming with the scenery dotted with temples and cenotaphs, and spent some time relaxing there with the cool breeze blowing on my face. Coming out, I had another good look at the Palace. It was hard to believe that this Palace was of the seventeenth century. Gazing at it for a while, I felt as if time had stopped. The Datia Palace of the seventeeth century has indeed well resisted the onslaught of time.

Datia can be approached by road from Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh or from Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh. Datia is on the Delhi-Mumbai railway line.

29 Comments

  • nandanjha says:

    The tentative plan which I have been making for many months, if not years, was for Orchha nad Khaujoraho. I was not 100% sure about Datia and it seems like the palace is definitely worth a visit.

    Very good photos and an apt dose of history makes it a valuable read. I think you have posted this after a long time. Be around.

  • Patrick Jones says:

    Interesting read. Good slice of history and nice pics.

    Shall include in our itinerary next time.

  • bikerdude says:

    interesting indeed… love the snaps showing the play of light…

  • Celine says:

    Nandan,

    Thank you. This time I hope you do not abandon your friends in Datia itself , like you did last time Manish & co in Orchha..LOL (yea, I do read ghumakkar’s comments too.)

    On a serious note, since Orchha and Datia are twin cities, a visit to Datia would be worth it. Jhansi can be covered easily too. Khajuraho is a must visit. All the best, and thank you for your kind comment.

  • Celine says:

    Patrick

    Thank you. As I just informed Nandan, Orchha and Jhansi can be easily accommodated in the same itinerary. :)

  • Celine says:

    Manish,

    Thank you. I love those pictures too. :)

  • Ram Dhall says:

    I think I did write about your formidable sense of photography while commenting on your article on Nahargarh and Jaigarh Forts. You have further excelled yourself – the pictures of Datia Palace and more so the Gwalior Fort, are simply awesome. And who on the earth would have thought of seven storeyed structure in the middle of nowhere and that too at a place like Datia, which many persons would not have heard of even.

    I believe there are some Jain temples in the close vicinity of Datia. Any idea about these !!!

    An excellent write up, well reasearched and full of history of the brave Bundelas.

    Needless to say that we would await your next post.

    Thanks for sharing

  • Celine says:

    Ram,

    Like I said Datia was not in my original itinerary but as you are aware, while on a journey we learn more along the way and therefore was pretty excited to discover Datia.

    Regarding the Jain temples, you must be referring to the cluster of beautiful white temples of Sonagiri, which I heard and read about while in Gwalior. I wanted to pass by Sonagiri too, but then it was difficult with the day’s travels to cover Datia and Jhansi and then to reach Orchha by evening the same day.

    Thank you very much for your compliments, which are highly encouraging.:)

  • nandanjha says:

    Oh, with this re-affirmation of facts I guess every one now knows what I did with Manish K. hmm. Mr. and Mrs Jain, with whom I fled back, would get popular some day.

    Currently in Lakhimpur (a nondescript town near Nepal Border) and heading to Dudhwa Tiger Reserve. Would share once I back, early next week.

    I sincerely hope that Mr and Mrs Jain do not discover this and disown me (and probably I would never get the opportunity of fleeing in absence of their company).

  • manish khamesra says:

    :)

    Thanks Celine that you asked Nandan about it.

    Nandan,

    Meri Wafa kaa Sila kya mila mujhe,
    Ek din Zarra-Zarra tumse tumhari bewafai kaa hisaab mangega.

    Hahahahahhahaha

  • Celine says:

    Nandan,

    Enough of fleeing, now I hope you get a good opportunity to see some interesting wildlife in Dhudwa NP, if not a tiger or a leopard, at least the Swamp Deer. Lakhimpur sounds like an interesting place. Have fun, and all the best. :)

  • Celine says:

    Huh? Kaun bewafa? Kaun sa hisaab?

    Thanks Manish. :)

  • backpakker says:

    read the story again here and the pictures are stunning as ever
    lakshmi

  • Celine says:

    Thank you Lakshmi. :)

  • nandanjha says:

    I did touch Dudhwa but thats about it. Due to heavy rains, they have stopped safaris and vehicle movement inside the park. :) So we came back.

    Never mind, at least I saw the area and also drove in excess of 1000 KM over a span of two days (sat and sun) and everyone knows the state of roads in UP. Would share this and more over a story.

  • Ram Dhall says:

    “Wafaa kaisi kahan ka ishq, jab sar phodna tehraa,
    to phir ai sang-e-dil, tera hi sang-e-aastan kyon ho”

    Mirza Ghalib Sahib

    I am enjoying the “Noke Jhonk” of the three intellectuals.

    Carry on Manish, Nandan and Celine

  • Celine says:

    Nandan,

    Gosh, you seem to be having a real adventure out there, what with your passion for driving.

    Enjoy and come back safe to tell us the entire story. :)

  • Celine says:

    Ram,

    Thank you for the Ghalib Sahib’s shaayari, oh, thats one area where I am unable to respond appropriately.

    About Noke Jhonk, were you referring to comments on Manish’s Kottayam to Allepey post?
    Ref: http://www.ghumakkar.com/2008/05/19/backwater-trip-to-the-land-of-kettuvallams-%e2%80%93-kottayam-to-alleppey/

    But then according to Nandan’s self confession, he belongs to the “not intelligentsia” but pseudo-intelligentsia class..hahaha! And, at the cost of repetition, Manish and I are commoners. That leaves only you as an intellectual.:)

  • Ram Dhall says:

    Celine,

    You have been too modest. I am a very simple and humble person and honestly I have a lot of respect for the youngsters. I have learnt so much from you all (and am still learning) that it is hard to put to words.

    Yes, you have all made “Ghumakkar” an excellent place, which keeps persons like me informed and involved.

    God bless you all. Keep on doing this good work. Yes, as Fariborz Sahba, the architect of the Lotus temple once said “We all have to contribute”. So, let us all do our best to make life better for others.

    Regards,

    Ram

  • Celine says:

    Ram,

    Thank you very much for your kind words. I have my highest respect for you, and I thank Ghumakkar that I have had the opportunity to make new friends like you on this platform. Yes, we shall all contribute.:)

  • Deepak says:

    hey nandan
    lets not forget our warships our Great carriers to this grand odyssey
    i mean to say the great scorpios and the gypsies which takes us places
    a line ..or maybe para or two in your next ..
    for the vehicle to be chosen on long roads ?
    how about perfmnce of diesal car over petrol etc…etc…

    hope our autos do get some mention ….

  • manish khamesra says:

    I waited for days to reach to this beautifully written and photographed post, but I think I am well rewarded for my patience too.

    Beautiful piece of writing Celine and indeed it has thrown astonishing facts to us. I never heard before that the Abul Fazl was murdered. I had been to Orchha (as you know very well about it), but never got this information about the close association between Bundelas and Jahangir.

    Photographs as ever are wonderful. Datia and Orchha are so close that you have called them twin cities and I missed its mention or may be I forgot about it.

    Its a beautiful write-up Celine and thanks a lot for sharing it.

  • Celine says:

    Deepak,

    Thank you for a good idea, I second it.
    Yes, Nandan could write a post for us on what vehicle is best suited for what type of roads and terrain and give us many more hints on having a successful road journeys. He’s certainly the expert here. What say Nandan? :)

  • Celine says:

    Manish,

    The Bundelas had association with not just Jehangir, but his predecessor, Akbar too, as well as the rulers that followed including Shah Jehan though following Jehangir’s reign, relationship between the Mughals and the Bundelas only deteriorated.

    The golden era was during the reigning days of Raja Bir Singh Deo and Jehangir who were great friends. I am presently writing a post on Orchha.

    Thank you for your kind and generous words and I’m glad you liked this post.:)

  • nandanjha says:

    Deepak, Celine – I am still learning but hope to do that some day after I add many miles to myself.

  • Celine says:

    Nandan,

    Thank you. Shall be waiting for it.:)

  • Deepak says:

    Thanks… Celine,

    we all are learners at some stage or other
    coz we are ghumakkars ..
    its the sheer impulse to travel and to drive which takes us places
    its a concept i should compare it with…
    it to be going back to the theatre/multiplex and actually watching it, rather than to take a shortcut to fly down to a place unless ur bound by a office/business meeting
    cheers….

  • Around Delhi says:

    Seems to be a great place, but quiet far from Delhi. This can be covered with Jhansi,Orchha and Kahjuraho. For some options which are quiet close to Delhi chk out

    One Niters Around
    Delhi

    Dr Anand

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