Hello everyone. I am back with another post regarding one of the hidden gems of India. I hope you would have found my previous posts useful. Today, I am going to talk about Orchha, a quaint little town in the Niwari district of Madhya Pradesh, India. So, sit back and enjoy the marvelous insights about this place.
A Brief Overview of Orchha
If you are wondering about the word ‘Orchha’, it means a hidden gem. It is a medieval city lying on the banks of the Betwa River. However, when you look at it today, you would almost feel that this medieval city is still living in those times. The temples and palaces still display their grandeur. These cenotaphs or chattri architectural masterpieces date back to the 15th and 16th centuries. It was also awarded as the best heritage city in the past by the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India.
Historical past of Orchha
It was one of the most powerful and largest kingdoms in Central India. Maharaja Rudra Pratap, who was the Bundela Rajput chieftain, founded Orchha in 1531 AD. It is said that the Bundelas migrated to Garh Kurar and Orchha from Varanasi. The Bundelas had an on and off relationship with the Mughals as they sometimes expressed friendship and fought with them as well at times.
Many temples in the town were built by Vir Singh Deo, one of the great Bundela kings. The walls of Orchha till today have several legends of Madhukar Shah, Rani Ganesh Kunwari, and Hardaul. As a traveler, it is sure to leave you stunned. When the Tughlaqs pushed the Bundelkhand rajas out of Garkhundar, they found solace in Orchha.
A City of The Palaces, Temples, And Chattris
The town is a testimony to the rich historical past of the region and its rulers. There is a story waiting to be told at every nook and corner of Orchha. Here are some of the amazing architectural marvels of Orchha and interesting tidbits about them.
- Orchha Fort
The fort lies on the bank of the Betwa River and is home to several palaces and temples that are a great reflection of the grandeur of the town. Rai Praveen Mahal, Raja Mahal, and Jahangir Mahal are some of the places you must see within the Orchha complex.
- Rai Praveen Mahal
It is a two-storey palace with lush gardens all around. Made by King Indramani for Rai Praveen, it is a picture-perfect epitome of love. Rai Praveen was a poetess and court musician, also popularly known as the ‘Nightingale of Orchha.’ The palace showcases her love and dedication towards the King.
- Raja Mahal
This palace depicts the scenes of Hindu mythology with religious-themed murals on the inner chambers. The exterior of the palace has umbrella-shaped structures (also called chhatris). There are interlocking passages and palatial royal quarters inside the palace. The palace has a sound and light show each day, which tells the tales of the era gone by.
- Jahangir Mahal
It was built as a tribute to Mughal emperor Jahangir by Raja Bir Singh Deo in the 17th century. It is a perfect amalgamation of the Rajput and Mughal architecture, overlooking the Betwa River. There are three floors and 136 chambers, with spectacular courtyards, arched entrance, and hanging balconies with finely carved chhatris or umbrella. There are stone-carved elephant structures on the main entrance. You can get a panoramic view of Orchha from the rooftop.
- Ram Raja Temple
According to the tales, King Madhukar Shah’s wife received an idol of god Rama from Ayodhya. She then placed it in the bed-chamber of the Raja Mahal. If the statue of got gets installed anywhere, it doesn’t move. So, the area got changed to Ram Raja Temple, where the idol gets revered as a King. It is the only temple in India where Rama gets worshipped as a King instead of God.
- Chaturbhuj Temple
It resembles a towering citadel and remained as a temple without any deity for many years. However, it all changed when the idol of Radha-Krishna got placed there. It lies on a huge stone platform and you can only access it through steep staircases. There are several paintings as well that adorn the interiors.
- Palki Mahal
It is in ruins and lies to the north of Ram Raja Temple. Originally, it was the palace of Dinman Hardol, a Bundela royal who people considered a demigod in the town. According to the tales, he was accused of having an affair with his elder brother Jhujhar’s wife. He eventually died trying to prove himself innocent. The town has Hardol Baithak, a small temple built by villagers in his memory.
- Laxminarayan Temple
An excellent amalgamation of fort and temple architecture, it lies close to Chaturbhuj Temple. The interiors of the temple have both Bundela and Mughal art forms. There is also a depiction of the 1857 war. There are no idols in the temple.
The cenotaphs or 14 stone chhatris lie on the Kanchana Ghat of Betwa River. Most of them have got dilapidated with time, with only some being preserved. They are a dedication to the erstwhile kings of Orchha and have similar spires like temples. The Raja Bir Singh Deo cenotaph has a Mughal touch.
- Orchha Wildlife Sanctuary
Last on this list is this beautiful sanctuary that spreads across 46 square kilometers. There is a range of wildlife like sloth bears, nilgai, blue bull, spotted deer, jackal, langurs, peacocks, monkeys, and many more. There are over 200 species of birds as well, including migratory ones like peafowls, minivet, and black swan. The Betwa River flowing through the sanctuary makes the place even more enchanting. You can also opt for adventure sports, camping, hiking, and jungle trekking.
I hope you find this information about the quaint Orchha useful. I am sure you would want to visit this place someday. So, why not do it on your next trip. Visit this beautiful place and let me know how was your experience. I am also on IG, FB, Twitter, YT. Subscribe to my blog and social media handles to receive regular updates delivered right on your mobile.