The bustling town of Datia, near Gwalior, is known to be mentioned in Mahabharata as Datiyavakra and boasts of a few temples dating back to the era of Mahabharata.
Legend says that the King Bir Singh, a friend of Jahangir and the Bundela king of Orchha, was the one who helped ‘Salim’ (Jahangir) to win against his brother Abu Fazl and become the emperor of Delhi. The Mughal Emperor was later invited to the Kingdom of Orchha. And Bir Singh, the then king of Orchha, wanted a best place to welcome his best friend. And thus this majestic palace was built.
The palace is a seven-storeyed building which stands sturdily for centuries without any support of iron or wood which makes this a unique architecture. This is one of the tallest building constructed solely using stones and bricks. The strength of the building lies in the ancient mixture of lentils, jaggery, and oil in place of cement during that time.
The main building is constructed on the raised platform of a hill on the bank of Kama Sagar Lake giving it the privilege of being the tallest building in the town. The huge compound at the entrance was probably made for the welcome ceremony of the royal guests.
The entrance gate is carved with intricate paintings and carvings. Colorful images of Lord Ganesha guarded by horses on each side are the prominent features.The gate is further beautified by the balconies over it on each floor, with the last floor having a complete latticework suitable for the royal ladies to peep through.
As I climbed the stairs to reach the main building, I was told to go along with a torch-man before I bang my head on the walls somewhere. The first two floors only had small rooms that didn’t get light from anywhere due to the close exteriors and the basement location. We kept passing by the empty floors with closed doors leading to the dark passages that served as the arsenal of the palace. We also hired a local guide to know the history of the place in a better way. The Palace is a kind of maze but one can get through it.
After the complete darkness of the first two floors, the third one welcomes you with a painted balcony and a splendid view of the town. Remember to take a left turn towards the entrance side in order to reach the balcony from the open area.On entering the courtyard area one can see the five-storied building with its Indo-Islamic style central dome. The stairs at the upper floors of the building are made inside the walls boundary so as to give it a mysterious look and save some space.
The 6th and the 7th floors are closed for the tourists due to the restoration work in progress. The rooms are supposed to be the personal bedroom of the Maharaja and the dressing room of the Maharani. The top floor is an open dorm that served as a watchtower.It took nine years to complete the construction of this magnificent building. The estimated cost of the building in those days is said to be around 23 lacs.
With most of the tourists taking rounds of Orchcha, Datia is almost forgotten. Only a handful of tourists visit this palace. The government seems least interested in completing the restoration work. Due to its ongoing work, most of the tourists return without seeing the top floors.A visit to the historical Datia makes it suitable for a good one day trip and a night stay isn’t required. Not many-staying options are available apart from some Dharamshala, a few small budget hotels and the Madhya Pradesh Tourism Highway Motel.Do catch a glimpse of the majestic Kama Sagar Lake from the intricate jaali work of the top floors in the southern direction. Rooms are built in such a way that there is proper cross ventilation and sufficient light without affecting any privacy. The Datia Palace of the seventeenth century has indeed well resisted the onslaught of time.
Interestingly Bir Singh built the Datia Palace for his friend, Jahangir who could not come and stay. In 1627, the then Bundeli king decided to gift it to his son who was the first ruler of Datia. Bhagwan Rao however never lived in this great palace. He lived nearby in a smaller palace, which is ruined now. Rao’s son Subha Kiran built his own palace at Datia on another outcrop. Subha Kiran’s son Dalpat Rao (1683 – 1707) established a fort in the middle of Datia town. So, mysteriously this palace was never lived in!
Till then- KEEP TRAVELLING. KEEP WANDERING.