April 17, 2008

Of Bundelas and Mughals

A visit to Datia was originally not in my 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. 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.”


Ananda Niyogi said...

Fascinating and interesting post Celine! Eagerly looking forward to the next installment

Indrani said...

Interesting story of the Jehangir palace. Looking forward to the next part. :)

Merisi said...

Another great report from a most beautiful sight! Do these palaces stand as if in the middle of nowhere or where they connected to a city with similar, albeit smaller buildings around it?

indicaspecies said...


Thanks a lot. I'm delighted that it could hold your attention. :)

indicaspecies said...


Thank you. Glad you found it interesting. Part 2 will follow shortly. :)

indicaspecies said...


Thank you very much. :)

This Palace is on a hillock of the small Datia town that is accessible by road or railways from a larger city. Foreign tourists usually visit such places on a package tour arranged from the nearest city, while those like me venture out solo.

Additionally, nearby there is another smaller palace called Raj Garh (literal translation, King's Abode) now converted into an uninteresting museum (I passed by that too), and in the vicinity of the Palace, there is also a fort and a few temples around.

GMG said...

Hi Celine. Incredible palace this one. Another one...
Sorry for this short visit, but I wanted to say thanks for your comments on my blogs. This weekend, I’m going to take a musical break, and next week I’ll make a very short trip, crossing South Atlantic. I’ll try to catch up with your posts as soon as possible. Meanwhile, leave you with some chocolate champagne truffles at Blogtrotter.
Have a lovely weekend and an excellent week!

Indrani said...

You have been tagged. :)

Indrani said...

Please fill the questionaire and continue.

freethinker said...

Celine, shouldn't blogging be more about fun than so much diligence?

backpakker said...

these are the kind of stories I love..they add so much of meaning to the bricks and pillars..celine, awesome research and yet told so simply ..


di.di said...

nice post.. seriously, thank you for the interesting facts

M.KATE said...

very informative..i always learn something new whenever i am here :)

indicaspecies said...


Thank you very much. :)

Have a good time, both with the music and the trip you've planned. ;)

indicaspecies said...


Thank you for the tag. Will respond shortly. :)

indicaspecies said...


Being diligent is a virtue, at least till one likes to be. I do what I enjoy doing. Each one to his/her own idea of "fun", ain't it?

That makes me want to add, if you do not like what is in here, of course you are "free" to go to those blogs or wherever that you "think" you can have your idea of

indicaspecies said...


Thank you. I'm very much delighted that you enjoyed it as much as I did sharing it. ;)

indicaspecies said...


Thanks. Pleased to share. :)

indicaspecies said...


Thanks. Pleasure. :)

Saibal Barman said...

A few days back I had a quick flight over it. The reference to the past of Orcha has really fascinated me. I'm not curious to know whether it was a part of Gwalior or the Central Province or else during Akbar's period. Most of the northern parts of river Narmada was conquered by Akbar during 1558 to 1570; maybe, Orcha part could withstand the assault till 1604. Another interesting connection is about Selim's rebellion, which most likely surfaced between 1600-03 and by 1604, he and Akbar had probably reconciled their strained relationship. The reference of its ruler in freeing Jahengir from the captivity of Mahabat Khan is also very important information so as to relate to its past alliance with him during conflict with Akbar.
Thus, Orcha history, as it seems, has much to say on history of Mughals' reign over the Central India during the second half of the sixteenth century and the first half of the following.
Your post has enough ignition to revisit books of history...
Thanks for sharing such a fantastic academic article with us !

indicaspecies said...


You think this can be called such an academic article? You are so gracious. If and when you come up with anything new on this topic, may I request you to kindly share it with me as well? Thanks in advance.

Thank you for your valuable comments here on the relationship between the Bundelas and Mughals and on the interesting phase of history of the Central Indian region.

I intend to put up a post or two on Orchha in days to come with some pictures that I've shot. I hope you will pass by again. :)

Saibal Barman said...

I really enjoyed the article and academic inputs it bears are pretty interesting--some rarely discussed items in normal historical anecdotes...
Please omit "not" before "curious" in my comments at 3rd line. I'm so sorry to be so careless, friend !
I will love to know more about Orcha, and surely await your next posts on it.
Best wishes,

indicaspecies said...


Thank you. I shall write on Orchha, after a couple of posts on Jhansi asap. :)