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. To avoid confusion with another Palace in Orchha that is also called the Jehangir Palace (Orchha, being a twin city of Datia about which I shall write shortly), I’ll refer to this palace in Datia as the Datia Palace.
The historical account of Datia and Orchha is one of intrigue and worth a read.
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 find out 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 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 popularly called by the name Jahangir Palace.
In my next post I shall present more information and my pictures of this magnificent Datia Palace that Edwin Lutyens described as “one of the most interesting buildings in the whole of India.”