Deeg Palace

‘Deeg’ing deep into the past

There goes an old saying among the Jats:
“He who remembers his Jat history, honours his parents and ancestors. He who forgets his Jat history, spits on his parents and ancestors.”
Often considered as the ‘purest of Aryans in India’ by historians and frequently mentioned in the Vedas and Indian mythologies, the Jats have but gained historical prominence not before the 17th century AD. In the face of radical social changes, they took up arms against the Mughal empire and were often involved in power collisions with the Rajputs and Marathas. Following not only Hindu, but also Muslim and Sikh religion, they were mostly looked down upon by the Rajputs and Marathas because of their past identity as pastoralists, hence a lower caste. Though they received recognition under Akbar, the later Muslim rulers in alliance with the Rajputs, tried to subjugate them. The Hindu Jath kingdom reached its zenith under Maharaja Suraj Mal of Bharatpur(1707-1763), after Auranzeb’s death. And henceforth, though they lost considerable power, they maintained their status quo even under the British ruled India. A pronounced evidence to it is the Deeg Palace, 32km away from Baratpur Rajasthan.
Also known historically as ‘Jal mahal’, this palace possesses 800 fountains in front and enormous water bodies in the reer. Though mostly absent from travel itineraries, Deeg Palace in Bharatpur district scores over the big names when it comes to aquatic ingenunity, which was not only built to sustain life, but also to keep out the extreme summer heat. It is also called ‘Monsoon Palace’ because of its sound and colour show which imitates the clouds and rain. The palaces form a quadrangle. At its centre is a well-laid garden with walkways, decorative flowerbeds, shrubs, trees and numerous fountains. A curious feature of these palaces is the appearance of a single storey from the front while there are actually two additional floors cleverly concealed at the back. One floor of these palaces is either partially or wholly submerged in water throughout the year, lending it the illusion of being a lake palace. The entire complex of palaces and gardens is a marvel of engineering skill.
Deeg, strategically located between Delhi and Agra, was the capital of the Jat rulers in the early 18th century before they shifted to Bharatpur. Because of its location, Deeg was vulnerable to repeated attacks by invaders. In 1730, crown prince Surajmal is reported to have erected the strong fortress with towering walls and a deepwater moat with high ramparts about 20 feet wide in the southern portion of the town. Deeg was witness to the legendary battle between the Jats and a combined forces of Mughal and Maratha army of 80,000 men. Emboldened by his victory, Suraj Mal began making assaults into enemy territory for eight years. Jat ruler, Maharaja Suraj Mal, was so impressed with Mughal palaces that on one of his conquests of Delhi, he got an entire marble building dismantled from the Red Fort and resinstalled at Deeg! It was further elaborated by Badan Singh, the successor of Suraj Mal.
People believe that the magnificent royal palace of Deeg and its campus is influenced by the Mughal architecture and they tried to imbibe the spirit of the contemporary designing. The other are of the view that the Deeg Palace is more appealling and architecturally rich building which though reflects the contemporary era but has its own footprints. The palace, which was turned into a summer resort for the royal family, is a romance and a wonder in itself.

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