Having spent a couple of hours exploring the wonderful and less visited Datia Palace, I was keen to see what other sites might be worth checking out in the area, so asked the palace caretaker for any tips before leaving.
He suggested some chhatris that were nearby, but when I asked him for their name and location, the language barrier between us proved to be too much. We were both desperately trying to understand each other, but it wasn’t working out. So I asked him to write it down, hoping that armed with this piece of paper I might be able to figure it out.
This is where technology really comes to the fore, I had already downloaded offline maps from Google on to my phone, so within seconds I found the location of the chhatris and set off to see them.
The chhatris are located just 10 minutes drive north-east from the center of Datia, by the shores of Karan Sagar lake. Here the royal families of Datia built cenotaphs to commemorate their dead.
Unlike most of the chhatris at Orchha, here there is a mix of sizes and styles, the larger constructions for the rulers themselves, and I’m guessing more modest monuments for lesser members of the royal family.
If you’ve already explored those chhatris at Orchha, the ones here at Datia may initially seem a little uninspiring in terms of size and setting. However, it is the interior of the chhatris where all that changes and makes a visit immensely worthwhile.
Many of the chhatris here are elaborately decorated with stories, myths and legends, as well as depictions of great deeds done by those remembered. Most of these paintings are in quite good condition, in the 1990s the A.S.I. worked here to fix leaks that were damaging the artworks on the walls and ceilings, and made efforts to try and preserve what remains.
What follows is a photographic account of each of the major chhatris, along with a brief description of who’s memory they were built for. You would have no idea of the colour and splendour housed within these monuments.
Chhatri of Maharaja Vijay Singh Bahadur
Vijay Bahadur was the son of Diwan Surjan Singh, who was adopted by Maharaja Pariksha and assumed power in 1839. He died in 1857 and was succeeded by Bhavani Singh who built the cenotaph.
Chhatri of Maharaja Bhawani Singh
Bhawani Singh is credited with the modern progress of Datia, was a keen patron of scholars and, oddly, of wrestlers !
With his support, the Indian wrestler Ghulam Mohammad Baksh (1878 – 1960), known as “The Great Gama”, became champion and amazingly was undefeated in a career spanning 50 years.
Who would have thought visiting a chhatris would educate me so much in the sport of Indian wrestling ! 🙂 The ceiling of his chhatris is utterly breathtaking.
Bhawani Singh ruled from 1857 to 1907, his successor Maharaja Govind Singh built his chhatri.
Bhawani belonged to the Bhasnai branch of the Orchha royal family, descended from Kunwar Har Singh Deo, brother of the famous Raja Bir Singh Deo of Orchha.
Chhatri of Maharaja Parichhat Singh
Parichhat ruled from 1801 to 1839, his chhatri was built by his adopted son and successor Vijay Bahadur.
Parichhat allied himself with the British throughout the wars with the Marathas; and was rewarded in 1817, on the deposition of the Peshwa, by a new treaty and enlarged territories.
The paintings here are a little different, with scenes of Datia rulers, animals, birds, the Bundeli army, mughal sardars, and epic scenes related to shri krishan.
(Click each tile to view full-screen)
Notice how most individuals have been labelled with their name in the paintings, if only I could read Hindi !
Chhatri of Maharaja Indrajit Singh
Indrajit ruled in Datia from 1733 to 1762, and succeeded his grandfather Ram Chandra. The chhatri was built by his son and successor, Maharaja Shatrujit.
Chhatri of Maharaja Shubha Karan
Shubhakaran ruled from 1640 to 1678, having succeeded his father Maharaja Bhagawan rai Bundella, the founder of Datia state. Shubhakaran sided with prince Aurangzeb in his struggle for succession, and received a mansab (military pay grade) of five thousand with the rule of Bundelkhand.
Known for his bravery, Shubhakaran built the Karan Sagar lake right next to these chhatris.
I’ve been to India enough times now to know that the only thing one should expect is the unexpected. The Karan Sagar chhatris at Datia are a case in point, seemingly well off the tourist map and yet utterly beautiful. A visit to Datia is a worthwhile day excursion from Orchha if you decide to make that your base in the region.
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