Datia Palace: Secluded and Desolate testimony to friendship

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Datia was initially not on my original itinerary, but my guide suggested visiting this beautiful Palace on the way to Orchha. Therefore added Datia to my itinerary 40km north of Orchha on the road between Gwalior and Jhansi. After a lovely stay in Deo bagh with outstanding hospitality, we drove towards Orchha after a hearty breakfast. I have heard many stories about multiple forts but hardly heard stories about the fortress of Bir Singh. And Datia Palace is one such construction of the citadel of Bir Singh, which has a blend of Hindu and Islamic styles that the fusion. It said it was built to welcome Mughal Emperor Jahangir for a night’s stay. Made in the 17th century and known as Satkhand, it is divided into seven blocks or storeys that can easily be seen from a long distance. However, called Govind Mahal, Govind Mandir initially got popular with the name Jehangir Palace.

Datia Palace: Secluded and Desolate testimony to friendship
The Entrance to Palace

Bir Singh’s history is also fascinating; my mom, my encyclopedia, shared it briefly on our drive to Datia. Akbar captured Orchha in 1604, and Raja Ram Chand, Bir Singh’s eldest brother, was deposed. It is believed Bir Singh- an errant chieftain himself beheaded Abul Fazl (Akbar’s vizier) and sent his head to Jehangir. It is also alleged that Jehangir prompted. In his memoirs, he declared that Abul Fazl had abused Akbar’s mind to turn his love for his son away. However, historical accounts could not verify if this is a fact or friction.

Datia Palace: Secluded and Desolate testimony to friendship
Indo-Islamic Architecture

Fazl’s death tormented Akbar, and to challenge Bir Singh’s audacity, Akbar tried to have Bir Singh captured. Bir Singh teamed up with Jehangir, who rebelled against his father. Before ascending the throne, Bir Singh and Jehangir shared anxious moments. Adding to the interest, when Jehangir was imprisoned on his way to Kabul by one of his generals, Mahabat Khan, it is said 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. That’s impressive!

Datia Palace: Secluded and Desolate testimony to friendship
The King’s room

Now I know the story, hence not surprised why a palace in the middle of the land of Bundelas is called Jehangir Palace. In the 17th century, the Bundelkhand rulers and Mughal emperors were closely connected to life and time. Upon reaching, I bought tickets from the ASI and was lucky enough to get a guide who toured the Palace.

Datia Palace: Secluded and Desolate testimony to friendship
Seven Storey Palace

The Palace is entered from the west with a wonderfully imposing facade with balconies, coloured tiles and paintings. As we climbed the stairs, our guide started his narration about the Palace. Built on top of the Data hillock in 1614- the Datia palace has seven levels, two of which are underground and has more than 440 rooms and several courtyards.


The guide showed us the PalacePalace was built in the shape of a swastika. It is visible from the 3rd floor but in portions. I felt delightfully lost in the hundreds of passages while darting from one room to the other. These maze of passageways and stairs shoot off in all directions, mostly blocked, so your route is predetermined. The lower storeys are dimly lit, and the sunlight hardly penetrates the interior. But as my eyes adjusted to the dark conditions, some of the splendour of this Palace became apparent. The walls and ceilings were once richly decorated. The best-preserved was a complete surprise, a splash of vibrant colour in an otherwise primarily greyscale world.

Datia Palace: Secluded and Desolate testimony to friendship
Swastik architect

There is an excellent history of this luxurious yet tragic Palace. The Palace neither got to house the King who commissioned it nor the emperor for whom it was built. Therefore the Palace was eventually lost to the vagaries of time. However, the Palace is constructed using stone and bricks, with a mixture of lentils, jaggery, and oil to hold them in place instead of cement.No one will not find wood or iron used anywhere here. The fortress has withstood the test of time; as I explored its many corridors, rooms, and staircases, the structure’s visible sturdiness inspired confidence. 

Play of Light & dark

My photography opportunities here are almost endless, with an exciting play of light across doorways, columned passages, and the bonus of nobody around except me & my mom to accidentally photobomb the scene! The construction took nine years to complete, and the Palace is said to stand in testimony to the friendship. It was a fantastic time roaming around the corridors, exploring the various secret passages, and watching the sun cast beautiful patterns on walls and floors.

Datia Palace: Secluded and Desolate testimony to friendship
The chausath

I was astounded since the facade is decorated with intricate bracketed balconies. I was in awe at the ornate and elegant designs on the walls & ceilings. The Palace interiors are painted in vegetable dyes, and in the style of Persian carpets, ceilings were embellished with exquisite patterns that left me spellbound. 

Persian Sculpture

Even the pretty latticework on the windows, ceilings and gates is adorned with beautiful paintings that have miraculously survived the ravages of time. I could make out the beautiful Mandana paintings and some religious and mythological motifs. The palace complex also houses impressive artworks from the Bundela School.

Bundelkhand artistry

As I walked up to the terrace, I passed balconies and windows offering spectacular views of the Datia town and the nearby Karna Sagar Lake on the southern end. There is another lake on the western end of the Palace called Lalaka lake, with Badal Mahal attached. The lakes cooled down the Palace in summer and offered water. Along with lovely views and a calm place to serenade.

Datia Palace: Secluded and Desolate testimony to friendship
The Library

The terrace has a square dome with a net and star vaulted ceiling of Maharaja’s bedroom; Maharani’s dressing room and adjoining balconies are lavishly painted with the Ragamala series, replete with floral imagery in natural colours. With their graceful appearance, curved shapes and lilting movements, the murals of Datia exhibit a sophisticated approach to natural form.

Ceiling with stars

Another interesting exquisite art at Datia Palace is that while the interiors of the central tower are adorned with stucco, a mixture of lime, mud and acrylic fibres, the Cuerda Seca Tiles boast illustrate the exterior. The technique Cuerda Seca applies a waxy layer to ceramic tiles to prevent the colours from mixing, especially during firing. The method originated in Central Asia and allowed for more vibrant colours and complex patterns. It’s Quite Fascinating!

Cureda Seca technique

 The visual aesthetics is evident from the entrance to the private apartments inside the Palace. The Palace also inspired Sir Edward Lutyens, the architect of New Delhi, who incorporated aspects of the Palace in the interiors of New Delhi’s North and South Blocks. With its picturesque location, the British couldn’t resist hosting the Governor-General Lord Hastings in 1818, and in 1902, the Palace hosted a grand darbar for then-Indian Viceroy Lord Curzon.

Aesthetic corridors

However, the town that has grown around the Palace contrasts the grandeur and excellent planning. However, the reward is worth the bonus if you brave through it for a few minutes and visit the Palace. Datia Palace is one of the crowning glories of Madhya Pradesh’s architecture. 

How to Reach

By Air: 

The nearest airport is Gwalior, approximately 10 km away from the city. At the airport, hire taxis to reach the city.

By Rail:

The Gwalior is a well-connected railway station with all the major cities in India. You need to hire private cabs or take a shared taxi from the station to reach the city.

By Road:

Gwalior is well-connected via road with Delhi, Agra, Mathura, Jaipur & other closeby cities of Madhya Pradesh. Buses, private cabs, and shared taxis ply to Gwalior from these places. You can also book a private cab or a shared taxi. One can drive to Gwalior too.




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