The Rajputs and Marathas are well known as warriors who carved out and ruled kingdoms along the western flank of India, but 35 kms from Bharatpur in Rajasthan is the palace complex that was at the heart of the rise of the Jat kingdom in the early 18th century CE. The Deeg Palace is a stand-out for its great style of architecture and its relevance in the rise of the Jat community.
The Deeg Palace was at the heart of the rise of the Jat kingdom in the early 18th century CE
In the declining years of the Mughals, the Jats who were hardy cultivators living in the area bordering Jaipur , rose in revolt against the central Mughal authority. In this time of turbulence, Badan Singh fought his way to establish power at Deeg in 1722 CE and so became the first Thakur of Deeg. Singh was a warrior and a smart ruler who aligned with various powers such as Maharajas of Jaipur, the Nizam of Hyderabad and others, to build his kingdom. It was his son, Raja Suraj Mal (1707- 1763) who expanded the Jat kingdom to its greatest heights.
One lesser known aspect of Thakur Badan Singh was the fact that he was also a great aesthete. He built a large palace, now called Purana Mahal at Deeg. His successors kept adding palaces, pavilions and gardens to it and over time it became a part of a large palace complex. While the capital of Jat Kingdom was shifted from Deeg to Bharatpur , by Raja Suraj Mal, the palaces at Deeg continued to be used as the summer retreat of the Bharatpur royal family, right up to 1947.
The Deeg palace complex is flanked on two sides by large water tanks, Gopal Sagar and Rup Sagar- and the palaces, gardens and pavilions are in the centre. The palaces are cooled by an elaborate and smartly devised cooling system, that keep the palaces cool in the summers. The most striking building in the complex is the palace called Gopal Bhawan and two pavilions, Sawan and Bhadon, after the two months of monsoon.
A lesser known aspect of Thakur Badan Singh was the fact that he was a great aesthete
The architecture of the Deeg palace is characterized by its Bhawans, which are mansions, namely Gopal Bhawan, Suraj Bhawan, Kishan Bhawan, Nand Bhawan, Keshav Bhawan and Hardev Bhawan. Keshav Bhawan is the monsoon pavilion and is next to the Rup Sagar lake . It is said that bullocks were employed to draw water to the tank using leather buckets. The walls of the tank are pierced with several water jets. During Holi, pouches with colours were inserted into the piercings of the reservoir wall. The water which flowed through them through a network of pipelines sprouted coloured water through the jets giving a rainbow fountain like effect!
At Deeg you will also find some of the pieces that were taken from Mughal palaces. A fine marble swing originally belonging to Mughal Emperor Jehangir was brought as a war trophy from Agra by Raja Suraj Mal. Many of the marble fountains and tanks were dug out from Agra Fort by Raja Jawahar singh. In 1764 , he also brought in a black marble throne, believed to have belonged to Emperor Akbar or Jehangir, as a war booty from Delhi, which can be seen today in front of Gopal Bhawan.
Even now, on the day of Holi, the palaces and fountains of Deeg come alive with festivities, and now the Rajasthan Government is actively promoting the ‘Deeg Holi festival.’
LHI TRAVEL GUIDE
Deeg Palace is 32 kms away from Bharatpur on the boundaries of Rajasthan. The nearest airport to Deeg Palace is Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyay Airport, Agra about 90 kms away. The nearest railway station is Bharatpur junction, 35 km away.
Get access to weekly Live events, experiences and an exclusive repository of films, articles and books