Constructed by Bir Singh Deo at the height of the Bundela “golden age”, the little-visited majestic palace at Datia, 30km northwest of Jhansi and 71km southeast of Gwalior, is one of India’s finest Rajput buildings.

Presiding over a mass of white- and blue-washed brick houses from its seat atop a rock outcrop, the 440-room, seven-storey Bir Singh Deo Palace (sometimes called Nrsing Dev Palace) stands in the east of town. Half the fun of visiting is trying to find a path from its pitch-black subterranean chambers, hewn out of the solid base of the hill for use during the hot season, to the rani’s airy apartment on the top floor. In between, a maze of cross-cutting corridors, flying walkways, walls encrusted with fragments of ceramic tiles, latticed screens and archways, hidden passages, pavilions and suites of apartments lead you in ever-decreasing circles until you eventually run out of staircases. The views from the upper storeys are breathtaking. There are guides on hand, armed with torches, to show you around if you wish, and they can also open up some of the rooms that contain wall paintings.

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