Orchha's grandeur has been captured in stone, frozen in
time; a rich legacy to the ages. For on this medieval city, the hand of
time has rested lightly and the places and temples built by its Bundela
rulers in the 16th and 17th centuries retain much of their pristine
Orchha was founded in the 16th century by the Bundela Rajput chieftain Rudra Pratap who chose this streatch of land along the Betwa river as an ideal site for his capital. Of the succeeding rulers, the most notable was Raja Bir Singh Ju Deo who built the exquisite Jehangir Mahal, a tiered palace crowned by graceful chhatries. From here the view of soaring temple spires and cenotaphs is spectacular.
Complementing the noble proportions of their exteriors and interiors which represent the finest flowering of the Bundela school of painting. In the Laxminarayan Temple, Vibrant Murals encompassing a variety of religious and secular themes, bring the walls and ceiling to rich life.
Strewn around the area are little shrines and memorials, each with its own poignant history, each contributing to the nostalgic beauty is Orchha.
What to See
Orchha's fort complex, approaches by a multi-arched bridge, has threee palaces set in an open quadrangle. The most spectacular of thee are :
Jehangir Mahal : Built by Raja Bir Singh Ju Deo in the 17th century to commemorate the visit of Emperor Jehangir to Orchha. Its strong lines are counterbalanced by delicate chhatries and treillies work, the whole conveying an effect of extraordinary richness.
Raj Mahal : Situated to the right of the quardrangle, this palace was built by Madhukar Shah, the deeply religious predecessor of Bir Singh Ju Deo. The plain exteriors, crowned by Chharties, give way to interiors with exquisite murals, boldly colourful, on a variety of religious themes.
Rai Praveen Mahal : Poetess and musician, Rai Praveen was the beautiful paramour of Raja Indramani (1672-76), and was sent to Delhi on the orders of Emperor Akbar, who was captivated by her. She so impressed the Great Mughal with the purity of her love for Indramani that he sent here back to Orchha. The palace built for her is a low, two storeyed brick structure, designed to match the height of the trees in the surrounding, beautifully landscaped gardens of Anand Mahal, with its octagonal flower beds and elaborate water supply system. Skilfully carved niches allow light into the Mahal which has a main hall and smaller chambers.
Ram Raja Temple : This palace - turned - temple has a charming legend attached to it. Following the dream visitatio of Lord Rama, Madhukar Shah's wife, Ganesh Kunawari brought a statue of the god from Ayodha to Orcha. While the king was a worshipper of Lord Kridhna, the Queen was devotee of Lord Krishna, the queen was a devotee of lord Rama. The image was placed in a palace prior to its installation in a temple. When the idol proved impossible to move, the queen recalled, too late the deity's edict that the image would remain in the place where it was first installed. Today, with its soaring spires and palatial architecture, the temple is surely one of the most unusual in India. It is also the only in the country where Rama is worshipped as a king (Raja).
Chaturbhuj Temple : Built upon a massive stone platform and reached by a steep flight of steps. The temple was specially constructed to enshrine the image of Ram that remained in the Ram Raja Templ. Lotus emblems and other symbols of religious significance provide the delicate exterior ornamentation. Within, the sanctum is chastely plain with high, vaulted walls emphasizing its deep sanctity.
Laxminarayana temple : A flagstone path links this temple with the Ram Raja Temple. The style is an interesting synthesis of fort and temple moulds. The interiors Covering the walls and ceiling of three halls, these murals are vibrant compositions and cover a variety of spiritual and secular subjects. They are in an excellent state of preservation, with the colours retaining their vivid quality.
Phool Bagh : Laid out as a formal garden, this complex testifies to the refined aesthetic qualities of the Bundelas. A central row of fountains culminates in an eight-pillared palace-pavilion. A subterranean structure below was the cool summer retreat of the Orchha kings. An ingenious systems of water ventilation connected the under ground palace with Chandan Katora, a bow-like structure from whose fountains droplets of water filtered through to the roof, simulating rainfall.
Dinman Hardaul's Palace : Hardaul was a son of Bir Singh Ju Deo, and died to prove his innocence to his elder brother Jhujhar who cast doubts on his relationship with his (Jhujhar's) consort. This saintly prince was, after his martyrdom, worshipped as a god, and even today, the villages of Bundelkhand contain platform -like shrines where Hardaul is worshipped.
Sunder Mahal : This small palace, almost in ruins today, is still a place of pilgrimage for Muslims Dhurjban, son of Jhujhar, embraced Islam when he wed a Muslim girl at Delhi. He spent the latter part of his life in prayer and meditation and came to be revered as a saint.
Chhatries (Cenotaphs) : There are fourteen 'Chatries' or memorials to the rulers of Orchha, grouped along the Kanchana Ghat of the river Betwa.
Shahid Smarak : Commemorates the great freedom fighter Chandrashekhar Azad who lived and worked in hiding in Orchha during 1926 and '27
Other places worth seeing in Orchha are the shrines of Siddh Baba Ka Sthan, Jugal Kishore, the Janki Mandir and the Hanuman Mandir at Ohharedwara.
How to Reach
By Rail : Nearest railhead at Jhansi (16 km), on the Mumbai - Delhi and Delhi - Madras main lines, Al major mail and express trains stop at Jhansi.
By Road : Orchha lies on the Jhansi - Khajuraho Road. Regular bus service connect Orchha with Jhansi.