For many generations Datia allowed its gothic past to sleep, undisturbed. Now, slowly, it's stirring awake again like a spell from an old, hinged, magical book, creaking open. Even its name is drawn from a legend of dark violence. "Datia" is the diminutive of Danta Vakra, the demon monarch who was slain by Lord Krishna. In more historic times, the old palace glowering down from a hill in Datia was reputedly built by Bir Singh Deo, controversial king of the Bundelas. He is credited with assassinating Abul Fazl, adviser to the Mughal Emperor, and having his gory, severed head delivered to his patron, Prince Salim. There is also the blood-thirsty tale of his condemning his own son to be torn apart by savage dogs for having killed a seer in the same pitiless manner.
Clearly, those were days much like our own, perhaps - when heinous crimes were condoned by a beleaguered society. But for all his ruthlessness, Bir Singh was a multi-talented man and there is a belief that he had a major influence in creating the very assertive Bundela style of architecture. He was also very astute. To prevent dissensions amongst his sons, he divided his kingdom among them and gave Datia, and the Palace, to Bhagwant Rao. Datia became an independent state in 1626 and the palace, built in the 17th century and hunching over the old town like a somnolent ogre, is still known as Vir Mahal.