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In Deeg, many mansions

M P Nathanael Nov 11 2017, 21:09 IST
Superior by structure - Gopal Bhavan, one of the many mansions of Deeg Palace.(Photo by author)

Superior by structure - Gopal Bhavan, one of the many mansions of Deeg Palace.(Photo by author)

After visiting the Keoladeo Bird Sanctuary and even the Lohagarh Fort in Bharatpur, we have ample time to visit any other place of tourist importance. Our queries reveal that there is no better place to visit than Deeg, a small town about 34 km from Bharatpur.

Next morning, we set out in an autorickshaw - as taxis are not easily available - for Deeg.

After a little over an hour-long drive, we enter Deeg, which boasts of a fort and a palace, though the former is in a dilapidated state. Driving through the town to avoid the potholes on the shorter route, our driver Gurbachan Singh halts right in front of the main Deeg Palace entrance.

Maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India, we enter the vast stretch of the palace through the main entrance known as Singh Pol (Lion's Gate).

Built more or less in Mughal style in 1730 by the only Jat ruler of the region, Maharaja Badan Singh, the magnificent palace served as a summer capital. With over 200 fountains adorning it in the gardens surrounding it, the cool ambience is at once inviting. It speaks volumes of the technical knowledge and skills of the maharaja; like, of the four storeys of the Gopal Bhavan, one is always submerged in water to give it a cool effect. Two pavilions on either side - Sawan and Badhon - add symmetry to it. In the rear portion of the palace is Gopal Sagar.

Bang opposite the Gopal Bhavan is a marble swing known as hindola, which by its lustre and position draws the attention of the visitors. This swing, we are told by the palace guide, was brought as a war trophy from Delhi by Maharaja Suraj Mal after defeating the Mughals. It is also conjectured that the swing may have been removed from the Phulkari Palace in Bayana and placed here.

Mistaken identity

At the entrance to the Gopal Palace museum is a bed-sized marble slab that Maharaja Suraj Mal is said to have brought under the impression that it was the Mughal king's royal bed. As learnt much later, it was a slab meant for washing the bodies of Mughal kings and princes.

The museum has several objects of interest. Among them are two amputated feet of elephants turned into a table. The massive bed in the bedroom of the maharaja with sofa sets nearby speaks of opulence. Our guide leads us to the dining hall of the maharaja. In typical Indian style, the guests used to squat on the carpet with a low-height oval-shaped stone as the table. From here we have a view below of the western dining hall with a wooden table and chairs around. A grand view of Gopal Sagar from the dining halls is at once alluring.

We then move to Suraj Bhavan nearby. This mansion is made up of marbles that were plundered from Delhi Fort by Maharaja Jawahar Singh, the son of Maharaja Surajmal, when he went to Delhi and attacked the Mughals. Maharaja Jawahar's contribution to the palace complex has been no less, apart from Maharaja Badan Singh, who initially set up his palace here as a summer resort. Maharaja Suraj Mal's contribution to Deeg and Bharatpur is remembered to this day with his statues adorning important junctions in the two towns. He developed the two towns and gave them a stature that now attracts tourists in hordes.

Right across the Gopal Bhavan is Keshav Bhavan, with its rear dipping into Rup Sagar. To Rup Singh goes the credit for creating this sagar by digging the area behind Keshav Bhavan. The ingenuity of the maharaja can be gauged from the fact that one could hear the sound of thunder, and even experience rains in the bhavan by the noise of rolling balls along the ceilings, and water gushing out through pipes above the arches. The spectacle was an attraction. It is not functional anymore for want of a large quantity of water to keep it going.

Nand Bhavan, which faces Kishan Bhavan, resembles an auditorium. Its earlier timber beams of the roof collapsed in 1867. It was repaired by using iron girders. Kishan Bhavan, built by Raja Balwant Singh in the mid-19th century, boasts of 13 fountains on its terrace.

Hardev Bhavan, to which Maharaja Suraj Mal made additions and alterations, was largely meant for the women of the royal clan. Purana Mahal, which was originally built by Maharaja Badan Singh, now houses the office of the state government.

On our way back to Bharatpur, we visit the fort at Deeg, which is in ruins. An old canon atop one of the imposing bastions known as Lakha Burj has many visitors. A dilapidated palace within the precincts of the fort stands as a mute testimony to the life of opulence the royal families once lived. The moat around the fort speaks of the alacrity with which they strengthened their defence.

Since Bharatpur was ruled by Jat kings, the Jats of these places were not given any reservations in jobs and education as they were considered prosperous.

As the temperature soars, we return to our hotel, impressed by the historical revelations about the Jat rulers in this part of Rajasthan.

Fact File

Getting there

Nearest railway station is Bharatpur, 35 km away.

All important trains other than Rajdhani and Duronto halt at this station on Delhi-Mumbai mainline. From Deeg, Delhi is 200 km away.

Nearest airport is at Agra, 88 km away.

Accommodation

Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation runs two hotels in Bharatpur - Hotel Ashok (within Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary) and Saras Hotel.

Going around

Autorickshaws are available, but taxis can be hired, though they are known to charge exorbitantly.

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