Orchha – A Hidden Gem!!

Orchha is an idyllic town on the banks of Betwa river in the Tikamgarh District of Madhya Pradesh. Orchha means “hidden”. It is aptly named, as for many years it remained hidden in the dense forest. Until 15th century, when Bundela Chieftain Maharaja Rudra Pratap Singh founded this place and decided to build his kingdom here. The construction work of Orchha fort was started under his rule but was completed by one of the strongest successors and rulers of Bundela kingdom – Raja Madhukar Shah. It is written in the pages of history that Raja Rudra Pratap Singh died while saving a Cow from a Lion. Orchha is a quaint village dotted with magnificent palaces, temples and cenotaphs. The palaces depicts the emaculate work of artisans on Hindu and Islamic architecture.

The journey started from Delhi by Bhopal Shatabdi. Jhansi is the nearest railway station to Orchha. It is 20k.m from Jhansi. By the time we reached Orchha half a day was already passed. And we were suggested by locals to start our sightseeing to Orchha from next day as there is a single pass valid for a day to visit all the palaces, temples and cenotaphs in Orchha. So we decided to explore the town on bicycles which were available from our homestay on rent. Surpassing the alleys of Orchha, we reached on a bridge built over a river that connects town from one end to a Nature Reservoir on the other end. The picturesque rocky shores and river were mesmerizing. We crossed the bridge and reached Nature Reservoir.

Cenotaphs from Banks of Betwa River

Cenotaphs from Banks of Betwa River

There is a sunset point on the banks of Betwa River. The only way to reach that point is through reservoir. There is a minimal charge of Rs.15 for Indians to enter the reservoir. And it has many small sanctuaries in it. It was a rainy day so we didn’t get to see any sunset but the fizzling sound of Betwa was magical. The flowing river seemed to me as if some musician is playing a stringed instrument. It was already dark and we had to go back to our homestay. It was Shivratri and streets were full of Mobile DJ’s and people dancing to the beats of bhajans.

Day 2 started little late as we were tired because of cycling done on previous day. After having a stomachful breakfast we headed towards fort complex. An arched bridge leads to the complex. The Fort houses 3 palaces:

The gateway to Jahangir Mahal

The gateway to Jahangir Mahal

1) Jahangir Mahal: It is the most princely palace of the complex. It was built by Raja Vir Singh Bundela for his friend Saleem, then the Emperor of India, to welcome him on his visit to Orchha. The gateway to the palace is splendid. A large door is haunched by two elephants and above it are windows and balconies. There is a large courtyard in the centre of the palace. And one can see stairs leading to the balconies of the three storeys palace. The jharokhas, domes, balconies, rooms, chhatris  clearly depicts the fecund imagination of Raja Vir Singh  and the influence of Mughal architecture on him. Some of the rooms in the palace have murals of Gods and Goddesses on the walls.

Courtyard of Jahangir Mahal

Courtyard of Jahangir Mahal

2) Raja Mahal: It was started by Maharaja Rudra Pratap Singh in 15th Century and was completed by Raja Madhukar Shah in 17th century.  In the centre of the Mahal is a huge stage to hold the prformaces of the artists of that time. It is not as fascinating as Jahangir Mahal.

3) Rai Praveen Mahal: Raja Indrajeet Singh (brother of Raja Vir Singh) had many dancers and poetess in his courtyard. But the most beautiful and intelligent in the reign was Rai Praveen. Even Emperor Akbar was enchanted by her beauty and asked for her to be sent to Delhi. On reaching Delhi, Rai Praveen impressed the Emperor with her love for Raja Indrajeet Singh and she was sent back to Orchha. This palace was built by Raja Indrajeet Singh for her.

After exploring palaces, it was time for a tea break. I strongly believe that we Indians tend to drink tea not only to energize ourselves but to sit and share our experiences. After having sumptuous  pakodas with finger-licking green chutney, we headed towards river to explore the cenotaphs or chatris built at the banks of the river. It is very unusual to see cenotaphs built for Hindu Kings as tombs are  associated with  Mughal Rulers. Entry to some of the Chattris is open but we didn’t go inside as the closing time for Cenotaphs is 5:00 pm and only 10 minutes were left. One can see vultures sitting on the top of the domes.

Day 3 started early as we wanted to see the Betwa river in the morning. The ghats were buzzing with activities. People were bathing and washing clothes. We again went to the sunset point from the reservoir (not to see the sunset in the morning 🙂 but because that was a clean and a silent place). I will not forget to mention a special member we met at the river side “Gaddu – a crab”. We gave him that name  and played with him:)

Top View of Laxmi Narayan Mandir

Top View of Laxmi Narayan Mandir

It was a day to visit temples of Orchha and we started with Lakshmi Narayan Temple as this was the first temple on the way. A large slope leads to the temple. The temple looks like as if it has a triangular shape but it is rectangular in shape. It was built by Raja Vir Singh Bundela. It combines the feature of temple and fort. The unique temple is not abided by its traditional definition and features as it lacks the presence of any idol. More surprisingly, it even allows the visitors to step in with their footwear. Some rooms of the temples have beautiful murals showcasing the scenes from Ramayana, Mahabharta, hunting scenes and even paintings of Britishers having a drink.

Mural inside Lakshmi Narayan Temple

Mural inside Lakshmi Narayan Temple

The next was Raja Ram Temple. It was actually a palace which has been converted to a temple. History says that Raja Madhukar Shah was a devotee of Lord Krishna but his wife Queen Ganeshi was a devotee of Lord Rama.  One day Madhukar insisted his Queen to accompany him on a pilgrimage to Vrindavan. But Qeen was adamant and wanted to go to Ayodhya. Angry Madhukar Shah left the room and said to his Queen you can go to Ayodhya if you want to but you can return to Orchha only when Lord Rama comes with you. It is said that Lord Rama in his childhood avatar accompanied Queen to Orchha but ordained that – “The place where I sit first shall become my temple and I shall not be removed from that place.”. The Chaturbhuj temple was built for Lord Rama. But when Queen reached Orchha, it was already night, so she placed Lord Rama in her bedroom. In the morning, she was not able to move Rama’s statue  according to Rama’s ordain and therefore, the palace was converted to a temple. The popular hymn for Lord Rama by locals is –

“जग व्यापक राजा राम के दो निवास हैं खास| सुबह ओरच्छा में प्रकट, रात अयोध्या वास|”

A dome at the top of the Chaturbhuj Temple

A dome at the top of the Chaturbhuj Temple

Then  was Chaturbhuj Temple. This was the temple built by Madhukar Shah to house the idol of Lord Rama. But since the idol could not be shifted to this temple. It was dedicated to four armed – Vishnu, hence named Chaturbhuj Temple. It is surmounted by four conical shikaras on the four corners.

The day ended by seeing Light and Sound Show at Fort Complex which was entertaining and informative both. Thanks to the show, I have been able to write about Orchha.

The visit to Orchha was small and simple. It is a calm town bearing testimony to the grandeur of Bundela Kingdom.

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9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. eartherian
    Mar 05, 2014 @ 19:54:36

    Very nicely written, it’s a very good read. The Lakshmi Narayan Temple looks magical; can only imagine how cool it would be to see it in real!
    Waiting for more such travelogues to come next!

    Reply

  2. Sushmita
    Mar 06, 2014 @ 04:31:02

    Good going girl… waiting for more to come…

    Reply

  3. Arunima Shekhar
    Mar 10, 2014 @ 04:53:39

    Welcome to the world of blogging! Great post. Orchha is indeed a magical place.

    Reply

  4. Blue Emperor Scorpio
    Mar 10, 2014 @ 06:46:37

    Nicely Written…. You provoked me to must go to visit Orchha…. It will be the next destination to explore now… 🙂

    Reply

  5. pawandeep
    Mar 10, 2014 @ 19:36:12

    damm gud work . reaaly great hatts off

    Reply

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