October 1, 2016

Orchha - Land of Forts, Palaces, Cenotaphs, Relics and Ruins

Going beyond the ravines of Chambal, we were on the way to explore a small hidden town of Orchha, which literally means hidden. Orchha is a small town in the Tikamgarh district of Madhya Pradesh and is 125 km. from Gwalior and 15 km. from Jhansi. Kingdom of Orchha was established in the 16th century AD, year 1531 AD by the Bundela Rajput chief, Rudra Pratap Singh on the banks of Betwa River. Orchha was developed as an impenetrable fortified citadel. Orchha fort complex consists of numerous temples, forts and cenotaphs (Chhatris), which all make Orchha an interesting spot to visit.

All good things shall start with a prayer to the Gods; first spot in Orchha shall be the Raja Ram Temple, an acclaimed temple which was earlier in fact a queen’s palace. This is the only temple in the world where Lord Rama is worshipped as King Rama.

Adjacent to Raja Ram temple is the gigantic Chaturbhuj Temple, built by the king Madhukar to idolize Lord Rama. However Lord Rama decided to rest in the Rama Raja Temple.
Read the interesting story about Raja Ram temple and Chaturbhuj Temple...

After praying, time to walk the heritage trail. Orchha fort consists of many palaces like Raja Mahal, Jahangir Mahal and Rai Parveen Mahal. Jahangir Mahal reflects the Bundela architecture. The views from the balconies in the palace are spectacular.

Raja Mahal is most ancient historic monuments in Orchha fort. Standing on the island created by Betwa River, Raj Mahal is surrounded by a battlement wall.

The fort consists of several buildings connected to each other in a perfect display of battle architecture, the most significant of which is the Raja Mahal. The most prominent palace in the Raja Mahal is in fact the Rani Mahal (Queen's Palace) Mahal. Rani Mahal from inside...

Decorated walls of House of Commons, Deewan-e-Aam in the Raja Mahal...

More mural paintings in one of the abandoned spot in this palace...

After Raja Mahal, the Jahangir Mahal with such a grand view of  from the Raja Mahal...

The Jahangir Mahal is built on a rectangular base and has a circular tower at each corner surmounted by a dome. The Jahangir Mahal is a beautiful example of Bundela architecture. 

It is believed that it was constructed for Jahangir's reception. The mother for Jahangir was also a Rajput, Jodhabai. Looks like that with this fact in mind, the Rajput king of Orchha had built the Jahangir Mahal. To actually see the beauty of this palace one should climb up to the roof, which is crowned by eight large domes with smaller domes between them connected by beautiful railings.

From the roof get an amazing view of Raja Mahal with Chaturbhuj temple in the backdrop...

There is also the Unth Khana, the royal Shelter for the Camels, where the King's camels used to get relax, is right next to the fort and at back of Jahangir Mahal.
This was one of the structures to support the powerful military of bundles kingdom. Take a few steps and climb on the roof of the Unth Khana and enjoy a fantastic view of Orchha town. It houses the residences of various military officers and ministers of Orchha rulers. Although most of them are in ruins, a silent walk through the ruins is not for the fainthearted.

Also worth mentioning is the Rai Parveen Mahal, however related to any of the royal family member. Now it is in ruins, but must have been a beautiful palace with lush gardens surrounding it. Rai Parveen was a poetess and a dancer par excellence who had bedazzled the king by her charm so much that king Indramani built a palace for her. Sounds familiar with the movie script of Bhool Bhaiya...! Check out the prime location of this palace...

Dauji ki kothi, the ruins of one of the prominent ministers in the Bundela kingdom...

And some ruins around the Raja Mahal. Battlement wall of the fort is clearly visible...

After illustrious fort and the palaces, let’s make our way to the Cenotaphs. The kings of Orchha built huge cenotaphs to celebrate their afterlife journey. There are 15 (Fifteen) cenotaphs (memorials of rulers) locally called as chhatris on the banks of the Betwa river at Kanchana Ghat.

Cenotaph of Vir Singh Ju Deo at the river front and some neglected structures...

The Cenotaph of king Indramani...

Chhatris or Cenotaphs were built to honour the dead ancestors of the Bundela kings. Meaning of word Bundela - "One who has offered drops"; first king of the dynasty, offered drops of his blood to the Goddess Kali and was called Bundela. His descendants carried this tradition till the royalty came to an end.

Word Orchha literally means “Hidden”. No doubt the place is still unknown in the tourism circles and surely can be classified as one of the best offbeat destinations in Madhya Pradesh. But that is the advantage India, here every spot turns out to be more beautiful than the previous one. Travelling back in time is an integral part of a visit to Orchha. Orchha has been a witness to a bloody rebellion by price Salim (Jahangir) against his father emperor Akbar. Around Orchha there are a number of unusual temples and tombs. The more unguarded and neglected of these buildings have become hangouts for bees, wasps, and other such excitable creatures.

Please note - Entry ticket is required to visit all the monuments in Orchha, other than the temples. Entry tickets are available at the entrance of Orchha fort only. Cenotaphs shall be visited after Orchha Fort.

To reach Orchha:
By Train: Nearest Railway Station is Jhansi,  18 Km. on Delhi- Mumbai route. All express trains including Shatabdi Express stop at Jhansi. From Jhansi individual as well as shared taxis are available. One can also enjoy Auto-Rickshaw drive.
By Air: Gwalior is the nearest airport, 125 km.
By Road: Jhansi is well connected by roads to major cities. Road condition from Jhansi to Orchha is very good.
One day is all which is required to explore Orchha. Trip to Orchha can be easily coupled with a trip to Khajuraho (175 Km. from Orchha) or just extend the Chambal Safari by one day.
Enjoy a virtual tour of Chambal and Betwa basins...

Keep travelling Guys…



Reactions:

10 comments:

  1. Orchha has been high on my list for the last few years. Fingers crossed that I am able to make it this year.

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    1. Good travellers never plan in advance, the way I got a chance for Orchha. Believe me the place is much more exciting than many regular destinations. You can club Orchha with Gwalior and Khajuraho.
      Winter season is the best time to explore these hidden gems..

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  2. I've read a lot about Orchha but never got the chance to visit the place in person.Glad you covered the place so beautifully.

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    1. Thanks Saumy for dropping by...The place is actually different from other destinations,sheer size of every monument here is gigantic unlike any other place in India. At times you feel like in the land of Goliaths. Perhaps the rulers took the saying "Make it Big" too seriously...

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  3. Orchha is very interesting place. You have documented it well.

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    1. Thanks for dropping by...
      Orchha is one of those hidden spots which surprise the visitors with its uniqueness...

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  4. One of the most underrated places in tourism circuit, despite proximity to Jhansi...Do not know the reason...

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  5. Orchha is a legendary place on this part of earth. The stories of extra ordinary valour of the Kings of Orchha is well known. Though small in numbers,they took head on again and again the mighty Mogul Empire. Never surrendered and in turn almost destroyed and routed, but never bowed down. This piece of glorious history, if one sees from his eyes and listen to the stories, one forgets the present and roam in past. Such a lovely and inspirational place for today's generation. Love history, to live life fully. Getting to know the roots, is important to live a meaningful life.

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    1. Thanks for dropping by...
      Orchha is a gem in the history of India and should a source of inspiration. But sadly somehow these symbols are lying neglected. History of our India is an open book, everyone can learn for the past for a meaningful life, full of pride...

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