Deeg was the retreat of the martial Jat chieftains of Bharatpur. This is where they dallied with their mistresses, indulged their sybaritic fantasies and built some of the country’s most beautiful palaces. Today, Deeg is a sleepy little town, but most of the palaces are in an excellent state of repair. The erstwhile royalty of Bharatpur occupied the palaces until the 1970′s. In fact, the palaces still contain some of their original furnishings and some are even looked after by the occasional old family retainer.
The palaces were set in extravagantly laid Mogul gardens with placid pools and fountains. There are richly carved cornices, pavilions and eaves. The rooms are filled with trophies collected from Jat adventures in Delhi and Agra. It is said that Raja Suraj Mal actually carried home an entire marble building from Delhi. Much of the inlaid marble here was plundered from Mogul palaces. Gopal Bhavan, completed in 1750 by Raja Suraj Mal, has a marble swing believed to have belonged to emperor Jehangir’s queen – the Persian beauty, Noor Jehan. An interesting anecdote is attached to a marble statue of an Englishwoman dressed in a nautch girl’s garb. She is said to have been a reigning beauty at the court of Raja Kishen Singh. Though English, she conformed to the Rajputana tradition of sati when the Raja died. The palaces are filled with fascinating articles and features, each with a colorful story of its own.
Deeg, just 39 kms from Krishna’s Vrindavan, is also the place where the dark god’s gopis (milkmaids) had their skirts embroidered. Their frolic is the subject of a large repertoire of erotic art and literature. Deeg has an interesting bazaar, peopled by tall good-looking Jat farmers in pristine white turbans and dhotis (an unstitched garment wrapped loosely at the waist) and brightly dressed women in swinging skirts. For this farming community, tractors are the main mode of transport, and they trundle along the roads, packed with people going off for a fair or a wedding.
Built by Suraj Mal Singh in the 18th century, Deeg was formerly the second capital of Bharatpur state. Located at 34 kms from Bharatpur, it is known for its magnificent palaces and gardens which reflect the Mogul influence on their architecture. Deeg, not far from Mathura and Agra, was susceptible to frequent attacks by invaders. Though Suraj Mal shifted his capital to Bharatpur, he built exquisite Bhawans in a garden complex, with grand fountains in the front and extensive water bodies as the backdrop. Deeg’s palaces were declared a protected monument when Bharatpur’s Royal family handed it over to the Archaeological Survey of Indian in 1951.
Suraj Mahl’s Palace
The maharaja�s used Suraj Mahl�s Palace also known as Gopal Bhavan until the early 1970s, most of the rooms still contain their original furnishing.
Built in a combination of Rajput and Mughal architectural style, the 18th century fronts onto a tank, the Gopal Sagar, and is flanked by two exquisite pavilions. The tank and Palace are surrounded by well maintained garden which also contains the Keshav Bhavan, or the summer pavilion, with hundreds of fountains, many of which are still functional but usually turned on for local festivals.
The palace is open 8 am to 5 pm daily. The entry is free.