Mohan Palace was the architectural outpouring of Raja Bhartendra Singh Ju Deo, who helmed the Panna State’s Forest and Police Department. He was overwhelmed by the United Kingdom’s Windsor Manor, where he fell in love with its architecture and decided to recreate it in the princely state of Panna.

Surrounded by forests where the majestic Bengal tiger resides, filled with the thick flora and fauna that this tribal region of Bundelkhand is known for and flanked by India’s most revered diamond mine, Panna was a princely state in colonial India. According to the accorded with 11 guns salute state, it belonged to the Bundelkhand Agency and covered an area of 1,008 villages within its borders. The state was founded in the 16th century by Chhatar Sal, who led a revolt against the Mughal Empire, establishing an alliance with the Maratha Peshwa. When he died in 1731, his kingdom was divided among his sons, with one-third of the kingdom going to his son-in-law, the Peshwa Baji Rao I. 

Inside the Mohan Niwas Palace.Night view of the Mohan Niwas Palace.An aerial view of the Mohan Niwas Palace.The Mohan Niwas Palace.

When India gained independence, the ruler, Maharaja Mahindra Yadvendra Singh, acceded to the Government of India, and his family has remained as well-respected leaders who have always had the best interests of their people in mind.

Panna National Park is a deciduous and dry forest, home to the Bengal tiger. Among the animals found here are the Bengal tiger, Indian leopard, chital, chinkara, nilgai, Sambar deer, sloth bear, rusty-spotted cat, and Asian palm civet. The park is home to more than 200 species of birds, including the bar-headed goose, crested honey buzzard, red-headed vulture, blossom-headed parakeet, changeable hawk-eagle, and Indian vulture. A much-loved destination for wildlife enthusiasts, it is also frequented by tourists from across the globe, with the family turning many of their properties into warm home stays and cosy heritage hotels.

“Built by my forefather, Lt. Colonel Raja Bhartendra Singh Ju Deo, who was the younger brother of HH. Maharaja Yadvendra Singh Ju Deo,” says the tall, lanky, and handsome Rajkumar Prithviraj Singh of the Mohan Niwas Palace. An advocate enrolled in the Delhi Bar Council, he spends most of his time fighting pro bono cases for the tribals who reside in and around Panna. “Our family has always been considered their protectors.” These tribal people are truly marginalised and I feel most fulfilled in fighting for them in the court of law. “ Cases pertaining to their rights in land, livelihood, and against atrocities inflicted on them keep this handsome prince busy. His sisters, meanwhile, doctors Rajkumari Aditya Singh and Rajkumari Mrinalini Singh, treat the poor people of Panna for free.

 Their parents meanwhile run the warm and friendly palace for tourists in quest to view the Bengal tiger. “Our parents Keshav Pratap Singh Ju Deo (Keshav Raja) and wife Divya Singh (Divya Rani) run the homestay, hosting the guests and allowing them the experience of living in a breathing castle with the royal family themselves as their hosts,” shares Prithviraj.

Mohan Palace was the architectural outpouring of Raja Bhartendra Singh Ju Deo, who helmed the Panna State’s Forest and Police Department. He was “overwhelmed by the Windsor Manor, where he fell in love with the architecture of it in the United Kingdom and decided to recreate it in the princely state of Panna,” according to an avid traveller.

The castle is surrounded by warm and generous arches and is made of the famous white sandstone Panna, which is mined. The walls are filled with a lime mix and immaculate Arabian work in the vintage style (where they used seashell to give the Arabian plaster a finishing shine as opposed to the modern marble powdered Arabian). Early morning jeep trips to the park for tiger sightings, laid-back afternoon siestas and a generous meal cooked by the chefs from the Bundelkhand royal kitchens make the stay in this quaint palace a wildlife lover’s delight.