Kingdom of Gods: Deogarh, Rajasthan

Text and photos : Niloy Duttagupta

On this journey, we head to Deogarh, the soil of the Chundawats; a 15th century ruling clan from Rajasthan who had conquered territory far and wide, becoming the unchallenged rulers of the region. 

Travel about 120 kms north of Udaipur, and you'll reach Deogarh palace. It stands magnificently at the far end of the present-day village, a proud bastion of the famed Mewar reign. Rawat Dwarkadas, a descendant of the great Chunda, had built this ornate palace in 1670, close on the lines of a declining Mughal rule.

Step inside the grand Deogarh Mahal, and watch a kaleidoscope of history unravel itself in front of you. When you arrive at its doorstep, you'll receive a royal welcome, complete with drumbeats and battle tunes. 

Back in its prime, Deogarh was one of the first 16 feudatories of the Mewar aristocracy, controlling as far as 210 villages under its reign. It had a fully functional administration with a judiciary, treasury and a jail; following the old, princely state model of governance. It even had the typical Diwan-e-Aam where the public, noblemen, and feudatories would come together with the royalty for matters of everyday importance. 

After flourishing over a course of 3 centuries and more, Deogarh Mahal spiralled into a state of ruin and tatters, stagnating in despair for a period of about 30 years. With the painstaking efforts of the current royal lineage, the crumbling mahal was restored to its former glory, and turned into a living, pulsating palace today.

  The Deogarh Mahal

The Deogarh Mahal

  You are sure to always have company at the Mahal.

You are sure to always have company at the Mahal.

  Sheesh Mahal; built by Ranjit Singh, 1830. A treat for the eyes and a confusing cocktail for the camera lens as bright tinted colours dance off the sunlight reflecting through the windows.

Sheesh Mahal; built by Ranjit Singh, 1830. A treat for the eyes and a confusing cocktail for the camera lens as bright tinted colours dance off the sunlight reflecting through the windows.

Just five kilometres from the mahal, there’s an island fortress sitting in the centre of a huge, water-parched lake, nearby. Called Seengh Sagar, it was once a huge land patch with thick flora. The area used to also be densely inhabited by lions (Seengh: lion; Sagar: ocean/lake/waterbody) and the royalty used it as a hunting-cum-summer getaway. Close to the ruins of the deserted village of Manpura, Seengh Sagar has also been converted into a state-of-the-art heritage retreat with excellent tent spaces and camping facilities. With the able supervision of the Deogarh royal family, the mahal is now home to everything a benchmark heritage property can boast of. 

  Seengh Sagar;   During months of summer, the royal family would spend weeks here, r  elishing the cool lake breeze and frolicking in the thrills of shikaar (hunting), in the company of family and friends.

Seengh Sagar; During months of summer, the royal family would spend weeks here, relishing the cool lake breeze and frolicking in the thrills of shikaar (hunting), in the company of family and friends.

  Seengh Sagar; now overlooking a parched lake. As you gaze far into the vast horizon, you’d soon realize what a peach of a spot the royalty picked to be their hunting retreat.

Seengh Sagar; now overlooking a parched lake. As you gaze far into the vast horizon, you’d soon realize what a peach of a spot the royalty picked to be their hunting retreat.

Back in the Deogarh palace, you'll see that it was built largely on organic designs without following any typical blueprints and master plans, Its spellbinding construction owes itself to the famed ‘Sompuras’, a clan of architects from Gujarat known for their beautiful temples and palaces. 

Moments spent at Deogarh feel akin to being in a time capsule—a unique blend of traditional and modern living, with royal memorabilia strewn all around. 

The old walls, stumbling staircases, chalk and lime cast window sills, low-height arch doors and the ornate arches— every piece of architecture of this marvel is seeped with stories of the past-waiting for you to draw your ears closer. For the rather hopeless romantics still upbeat in this modern world, spending a night here will transport you to a scene straight out of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel or The Darjeeling Limited. 

You can also visit the very old Anjana village nearby, beautifully adorned with forgotten specks of ancient history. Anjana is considered to be the simian god Hanuman's mother and this now-dilapidated village is believed to be her birthplace. As you make your way past, the folk still living here will wave at you with utmost enthusiasm. The Rajputs are also ardent worshippers of Shiva, so you'll find that on top of a hill is a small, austere temple, the Anjaneshwar Mahadev. The entrance to this temple leads into a cave which has a passage dug through to the mahal itself! The priests and the orderly here still look after and stay in the cave-temple, along with families of bats still hanging inside. 

The Sun now slowly descends with you, as you make your way downstairs along the temple steps. Arrive at the Anjana Fort nearby and watch him regally retreat into his picturesque dusk from atop the fort— it is a sight not easy to forget. As you walk past the beautiful baoli (old, traditional step well) nearby, you'll find a small patch of land strewn across with a handful of Chhatris (royal cenotaphs of deceased rulers). 

   Anjana Kund; built under the patronage of the Baisa (princess) of Jodhpur, who was married to Sangram Singh I of the Chundawat clan. DO make it a point to climb all the way downstairs.

 Anjana Kund; built under the patronage of the Baisa (princess) of Jodhpur, who was married to Sangram Singh I of the Chundawat clan. DO make it a point to climb all the way downstairs.

  Built atop a small hill, Anjana Fort lets you enjoy a sprawling view of the horizon; a landscape that was once a glorious patch of history.

Built atop a small hill, Anjana Fort lets you enjoy a sprawling view of the horizon; a landscape that was once a glorious patch of history.

  Anjana Fort

Anjana Fort

  Anjana Fort

Anjana Fort

  Sunset from Anjana Fort

Sunset from Anjana Fort

  As the sun slowly set from Anjana Fort, we were greeted by the sound of drums, which turned out to be an evening salute performed by musicians from the village who had served the palace years ago!

As the sun slowly set from Anjana Fort, we were greeted by the sound of drums, which turned out to be an evening salute performed by musicians from the village who had served the palace years ago!

  Some friendly chat with the locals

Some friendly chat with the locals

On the walk back, pitted beautifully against an orange and maroon dusk, the Deogarh Mahal stands beaming like a timeless artifact, waiting to relive its old tales of family, feud, and innumerable legends soaked in a slice of history and time.

 

Niloy Duttagupta dayjobs as a copywriter at an ad agency and moonlights as a nihilist comic-maker on his blog