Sunday, January 06, 2008
Datia wasn't originally on my itinerary; but a couple of days in Orchcha were enough to convince me that I needed to make a detour to check out that other wonderful palace built by the Bundela raja Bir Singh Deo. The palace did not disappoint, set amidst and atop a basti that has grown around it, and all but forgotten by tourists. Its confusing staircases and dark passages are almost impossible to navigate without a guide, but one's efforts are well rewarded by gorgeous architecture and spectacular views of the surrounding area; several rooms preserve portions of the original tile- and coloured stone-work, and towards the top lies the grave of Abul Fazl (more accurately, of his head), killed by Bir Singh Deo on the orders of Prince Salim (the future emperor Jahangir). There is something incredibly moving about the unmarked grave of one of the brightest of Akbar's nau rattan, who did more than perhaps anyone else to cultivate the aura of the Mughal emperor, a mythos that survived the loss of temporal sovereignty all the way down to the revolt of 1857. Abul Fazl's grave is small, reflecting the fact that only his head is buried in the palace at Datia.