The imposing Datia palace complex looking down from the hilltop and the lake, Madhya Pradesh © RealityImages
The Significance of Datia Palace
The road between Orchha and Gwalior is a memorable experience although the landscape is arid and dry; every now and then the motorist will glimpse what seems like an impenetrable fort sitting on top of a hill. In fact, this erstwhile kingdom of the Bundelas is peppered with innumerable temples and fortifications built by the Rajput rulers. Mostly they are located on hillocks for extra protection against enemy attacks. Datia is one of these palace forts.
An otherwise inconspicuous little town, Datia is mentioned under the name of Daityavakra in the Sanskrit epic of ancient India, the Mahabharata. However, it is of special interest since it is the location of maybe the most superb palace in the whole of India. In 1620 Bir Singh Deo, ruler of Orchha and Datia chief built his seven-story palace called Bir Singh Palace.
The colossal entry gate at the Bir Singh Palace in Datia is not only impressive in its structure but also how it still stands strong and beautiful with intricate carvings, Madhya Pradesh © Yogesh Raut
Zoomed out, the Datia Palace looks even more majestic with its carefully crafted carvings and wall decorations made by local artisans centuries ago, Madhya Pradesh © RealityImages
On the approach road from Gwalior, this huge structure crowns the hill. The solid building contrasts beautifully with the pink bougainvilleas on the slopes. Mughal influences are evident in the symmetrical lines and architectural structure of this palace but the ancient holy Hindu swastika symbol is also present. The fusion of styles attracted the interest of the architect responsible for most of the buildings in British New Delhi
, Sir Edwin Lutyens and he subsequently spent a lot of time here.
An elevated shot of the upper half of the Datia Palace that shows its extensive structure complete with complex designs and carved structures on the roof, Madhya Pradesh © RealityImages
India’s Architectural Gem – Magnificent Datia Palace
The design of the Datia palace does not differ much from the other Rajput royal dwellings of the time. A central courtyard is surrounded by chambers on different levels reminiscent of Orchha’s Jahangir Mahal. Its unique feature though, is a square, tall pavilion in the center of its courtyard. From each side, a bridge connects it to the rest of the palace building. To the south lies Lake Karna Sagar while the entrance to the palace faces east. This palace is an excellent example of the magnificent architecture of the period.
The internal courtyard of the Datia palace, also known as the Bir Singh Dev Palace or Bir Singh Palace which was built by the ruler to welcome Mughal Emperor Jahangir, Madhya Pradesh © RealityImages
Something else that sets it apart is the building materials; no wood or iron was used and the entire structure was constructed with bricks and stone. Inside are treasures like detailed jaali work, brightly colored murals, rare paintings, as well as exquisite stucco figures adorning the royal chambers. Persian motifs are painted on stucco demonstrate the strong influence of Mughal paintings. Catherine Asher, author of a work on the Mughal architecture says that these motifs resemble those on the Allahabad tomb of Nisar Begum, Jahangir’s daughter. The main gateway has a towering arch with beautiful paintings on the sides of its niche. Portrayed in the numerous paintings are the usual Mughal symbols and scenes of riders on their horses, wine vessels, geometric designs, and depictions of the royals.
The courtyard of the Datia Palace looks at the two-storeyed passageways that take one across the palace with over 440 rooms, Madhya Pradesh © RealityImages
The original function of the hilltop building was to serve as a rest-house for the royals. In time though, it fulfilled many different roles. The entire first level consists of dark rooms, similar to barracks. It is evident that they were meant for prisoners. The next floor up housed the guards and soldiers and the fourth was used for entertainment. Above that was the audience hall or diwan-i-aam and the sixth level was reserved for secret meetings. The top floor consisted mainly of watchtowers for detecting enemy hostilities and from here the sentinels had a magnificent sweeping view of the entire surrounding region.
While some spots have given into the trap of time, the walls still tell a tale of royalty with exceptional decoration work which was carried out by local artisans at the time of construction, Madhya Pradesh © ImagesofIndia
Visit Datia’s Famous Temples and Other Interesting Sites
Peetambhara Peeth Temple is very popular with the citizens of Datia and many devotees pay a visit, particularly on Saturdays. Other temples inside this complex are the Dhumawati Mai, Buglamukhi Devi, and Vankhandeshwar Temples. The town of Datia has more attractions; Karna Saga Tank has ruined temples, surrounding chhatris, and ghats and Fort Bhara Garh is worth a visit. On another hill in the vicinity is Rajgarh Palace, constructed by Shatrujit Bundela. It offers a splendid view and the museum is quite interesting.
With adorned walls and complicated stone-made ceiling decors, the Datia palace is a fine example of India’s regional palaces. It is made entirely of bricks and stone, Madhya Pradesh © ImagesofIndia
The ceiling of Datia Palace displays glorious artwork, intricate murals, and design, Madhya Pradesh © Yogesh Raut
How to Reach Datia
By air: Fly to Gwalior, the nearest airport 42 miles away.
By rail: The nearest railway station is in Jhansi 17 miles away.
By road: Datia is only 27 miles by road from Orchha.
A shot of the shaded spot at the doorway of a room at the Datia Palace, perhaps used as quarters by important guests within the Mughal visitors, Madhya Pradesh © Dmitry Rukhlenko
A shot of the perfectly architectured doorways that fall perfectly concurrent to each other at the Datia Palace, also known as Purana Mahal – meaning Old Palace – by locals, Madhya Pradesh © Dmitry Rukhlenko
A view of the inside of Datia Palace, which is also named Bir Singh Dev Palace or Bir Singh Palace, Madhya Pradesh © RealityImages
The shot of a passageway within the Datia Palace lit by daylight, the same as they were when constructed by the ruler of Datia in the seventeenth century, Madhya Pradesh © ImagesofIndia
Balcony of Datia Palace overlooking the town and the lake @ EPhotocorp
The railing of an open balcony passageway at the Datia Palace shows the skilled craftsmanship of the artisan who carved careful patterns onto single pieces of stone that then became the railing, Madhya Pradesh © ImagesofIndia
Folkloric artwork on the ceiling of the chhatri of Datia King, Madhya Pradesh © RealityImages
The ceiling of Maharaja Parikshat’s Chhatri in Datia has a foloric painting, Madhya Pradesh © RealityImages
On the interior of Datia Palace is lovely stucco work, Madhya Pradesh © Yogesh Raut
An ancient painting on the ceiling of the Datia Palace, inspired by Sufi traditions and customs which enamored the Mughal kings, Madhya Pradesh © RealityImages
A visitor stands inside the outer rim wall of the Datia Palace in Madhya Pradesh, in awe of the majestic Bundela heritage and the imperial charm that this age-old monument exudes © Mdsharma
Known to combine the elements of Mughal and Rajputana architecture, The Datia Palace also has the ever-popular cenotaphs, Madhya Pradesh © RealityImages
Chhatris (Royal Cenotaphs) of Datia Kings, Datia was once a state in the region of Bundelkhand. It was founded in 1626, Madhya Pradesh © RealityImages