Rai Perveen Mahal, Orchha, MP - a palace for king's paramour?

Raj Parveen Mahal, Orchha. .flickr.com

Praveen-Mahal, Orchha fort, Orchha, MP. gosahin.com

praveen-mahal, Orchha fort, Orchha, MP., en.wikipedia.org

The Indian Maharajahs and Nawabs had  an uncontrollable  urge for  romance with opulence and expensive jewelry; their obsession was irresistible.   Apart,  some of them had a liking for young women and a  harem  on the palace or close to it. In the 19th century and earlier period  in the Indian subcontinent it had been  an acceptable custom for a ruler, in particular, Muslim king to have concubines on the sides and a harem is part of the royal residence. Further, it was a social status for a ruler to  seek the company of  courtesans. Harem  was where the courtesans or dancing girls used to stay  with women helpers /maids  Very few Indian rulers,  for some reasons, developed intimacy with  a woman  or a paramour outside royalty. Their romantic involvement with her was so deep some rulers would  honor her by building a memorial, an expression of their deep  and eternal love and affection.  The  Rai Praveen Mahal within the Orchha fort complex, Madhya Pradesh was built by a Rajput ruler in memory of his  concubine. 

The Rai Praveen Mahal, a protected monument and  one of the famous architectural  wonders of Orchha town  in Tikamgarh district,  stands as an epitome of wisdom, beauty and artistic talent of  a sedative courtesan  Rai Praveen in the court of King Indrajit, a Bundela Rajput ruler.  She was a good singer and a fine poetess. The  ruler built the Mahal, a three-story structure  in  1618  in the midst of  sprawling lawns of the  Anand Mandal bagh. North of Jahangir Mahal, it is at a lower level so that  the building is equal in height to the trees growing around it.

Grandeur in style, it used to be an entertainment place and on the ground floor near the entrance, there is a big  assembly  hall meant for royal gatherings. Dance performances by the courtesans were held here right before the dignitaries. The rooms  with lattice windows and fine decorations on the upper level were for the women of the royal family to view events and for aeration.  There are also other apartments  on the floors of Raj Praveen Mahal. The structure is made of sandstones and bricks and  the royal bath  called Hamam lies between Jahangir Mahal and this building.  There are many niches in the chambers and they keep the interior places cool and airy.  The  interior walls of the second floor in the central hall  have many life-size paintings  highlighting  various dance postures (Nattya mudras) and moods of  Rai Praveen  

The tradition has  it  since inception, the various flowering plants, shrubs, etc.,  have been periodically cut, pruned and  artistically shaped into various forms. The tradition continues even to day. The palace  is not visible upon entry into the complex as you have to  access it  from  the back of Jahangir Mahal downward  through a flight of steps  and through camel stables. 

Rai Praveen's bewitching beauty, her artistry - singing, dancing and poetic talents, and above all  her popularity and fame became a topic in that small village and her fame, over a period, reached  far and wide and Delhi was no exception, The Mogul ruler,  Akbar, upon hearing her stunning look and corresponding artistic talents, fell in love with her and  summoned her  to Agra  without grace  to his court / durbar.  His approach was a bit aggressive,  however  when the Mogul ruler heard from her about her loyalty to Maharajah Indrajit, being a just ruler,  he respected her  stand and commitment and later  sent her back with dignity.  Undeterred,  Rai   carefully composed a couplet before Akbar in his court  and in a subtle manner expressed her royalty to king Indrajit. This  bold and frank  expression immediately changed  Mogul ruler's   heart and mind.  Rai never compromised her principles and his loyalty to ruler Indrjit at any cost. This  won her more admirers and followers. No doubt,  she was known as the "Nightingale of Orchha".