Datia lies on the track from Gwalior to Jhansi. In fact it is closer to Jhansi, which is in Uttar Pradesh, than to Gwalior. 26km to the north of Jhansi is the small palace town founded by the Bundela chief Raj Bir Singh Deo.
Bir Singh supported Prince Salim (later Emperor Jahangir) when he rebelled against his father, the Mughal Emperor Akbar. The palaces at Datia and Orchha are the best surviving examples of a style of architecture that arose in the late 16th and early 17th centuries in the Bundelkhand area under the reign of the Bundela Rajputs.
Bir Singh Palace
It was built in 1620 by King Bir Singh Deo after whom the palace is named. Locally, the palace is also known as Govind Mandir.
It was a favourite of Sir Edwin Lutyens, the man who designed most of British New Delhi. Unlike Mughal inspired edifices, this was conceived as a single unit and therefore its form and decoration are well integrated.
Erected on a rocky ridge, the Bir Singh Palace has five stories visible. A central dome rising to 35m caps the palace. There are many underground chambers excavated in the rock but they remain hidden from view.
Suites of underground rooms hewn from solid bedrock on a series of different levels provide hot-weather accommodation. The palace has a square plan with a domed tower at each corner.
The main entrance is on the eastern side, while the south opens out to a lake, the Karna Sagar. What makes this palace special is that it is made entirely of stones and bricks with no use of wood and iron.
Another five-storeyed structure with apartments for the royalty stands in the central courtyard. It is connected by flying bridge corridors to the middle of each side. The facades are decorated with bracketed balconies, kiosks, arcades and wide eaves which create a glorious play of light and shade. Strangely enough, for all its mesmerizing beauty, the palace was never occupied and is now a well-preserved monument with some lovely murals.