India is full of surprises even when you think you know the place. Wandering around in Braj Bhoomi, we stumbled upon Deeg palace and fort, a small little town with a magnificent palace and fort. Built primarily by the Jat kings Badal Singh, Jawahar Singh and Suraj Singh in the mid 18th century.
Deeg Palace & Fort – Rajasthan Tourist Places to visit
Deeg palace is best known for its numerous fountains that have the mechanism to put colors in the water and make the whole place look colorful, and appropriately called Jal Mahal or the water palace. A mixture of Mughal and Rajputana architecture, this palace with immense gardens and pavilions make it a very poetic palace.
Being a part of the Braj Bhoomi, or the land of Lord Krishna, most buildings in the Deeg palace premises are named after him – Gopal Bhavan, Keshav Bhavan, Kishan Bhavan, Nand Bhavan, etc. The two pavilions flanking the main building Gopal Bhavan are called Savan and Bhadon the monsoon months of Hindu lunar calendar. In fact, the whole palace celebrates the monsoon season or Varsha Ritu as it is called in Hindi or Braj.
Lakes & Fountains
The palace is placed between two lakes Gopal Sagar and Roop Sagar and has fountains all over the garden and even inside the buildings. The guide at the palace said there are 2000 fountains but the ASI guide says there are 500 or so. My guess is that the real number is somewhere in between the two. About 60 lakh liters of water is required for all the fountains to function. We were told that in olden days bulls were used to pull all this water into the tanks from where it flowed to the fountains. Apparently, there is even an artificial mechanism to create the sound of thundering clouds. So that you can create monsoon at your will here.
Every year on 4th Feb and for 2-3 days around Bhadon Amavasya that falls sometime in August/September, a fair is organized here. During the fair, The fountains are run with colored water to re-create the past glory. This was the summer palace of the kings while Bharatpur remained their main palace.
Gopal Bhavan – Main Palace
A bit of mystery has been built around the main palace Gopal Bhavan by giving it a single-story look from the front. Double-storey from the sides and four-stories from the back that merges with the lake. One-story was always immersed in water when the Deeg palace was in use. Now, of course, it is used by the washermen to wash clothes. The main palace is traditional from the outside but is quite modern from inside for its times. The entrance proudly displays a granite bed which the Jat kings brought from Delhi after they won a small war there. Thinking it to be the bed of the king, only to discover that it was used for bathing dead bodies before they were buried.
The huge main hall has a floor made of crushed seashells and displays the hunting honors of the kings in the form of a stuffed tigress. There are two elephant feet also preserved on the tables. These are said to be the feet of the elephant who opened the gates of the Red Fort for the king’s army. Though the elephant died in the war, king preserved the feet as a mark of respect for the animal. The furniture is pretty colonial. The influence of the British in the lifestyles of the kings in the 18th century can be seen. This hall also has the fountains with water channels running across.
Narrow staircases lead to the first floor where there are two dining halls. One a regular western style with dining table and chairs. The other an Indian style with a low marble table for people to sit around. And in between space, for kitchen staff to serve while guests and hosts eat. I found this concept quite interesting, wonder why no one else built an Indian dining table like this. This palace is also known in the region for the silver bed of the king. But we found that only the pai or the feet of the bed are made of silver.
There were pretty modern bathrooms complete with bathtubs. An attached staircase from outside that directly landed in the bathroom for the cleaners to come. There is a mechanical cooler that was operated by two men to create the cool breeze for the king. It still works. This is what the royalty had access to 250+ years ago. As you drive around this region in mornings or evenings you can see a row of people still using the roadside for relieving themselves. There are few rooms for the kind of space, but I guess it was meant only for the king and the queen to live.
Gardens & Water Management
Deeg palace has borrowed the Mughal char bagh style for laying its gardens with water channels running through the length and breadth of it. The pipes we were told were made of terracotta and continue to work until date. There is a marble swing that the guides claim belonged to Jahanara, Shah Jahan’s daughter. And was brought over from Delhi. A swing in the middle of a palace built on the theme of monsoon is a perfect fit irrespective of its origin.
Open Palaces are now covered with mesh doors, which is a good way to maintain them but take away the feel of the place. Most of the palace is made of pink sandstone. Except for Suraj Mahal that is built in white marble with colorful inlay work typical of the Mughal style. Guide told us that the building was actually located in Agra or Delhi. And was brought here after dismantling by Suraj Singh and then re-assembled here. But my guess is that it might have been built from the rubble of the royal buildings of Mughals. This building is more like a pavilion rather than a residential place.
Separated by Rup Sagar, on the other side of the palace is the fort, which now only has a Tope to see. The huge bastions give the impression of a strong fort but most of it is withering away. The palace was obviously a pleasure-place for the rulers, and fort may be a place to defend in case of an enemy attack.
While you go there for the architectural beauty of stone, you would see a whole lot of birds around the two water bodies, especially parrots, and owls. Well, Bharatpur bird sanctuary is not too far from here. Of course, there are lots of monkeys as well. Outside the palace and fort, it is a typical north Indian small town. Where you can wander around and see women walking around with their faces fully covered by their Sari pallus. You can see everything being sold on the pushcarts. And you can see all the dirt and filth that the town lives with.
Weekend Getaway from Delhi
Recommend you to read the following Places to visit in Rajasthan.