We blogged about Khajuraho in our last post. Khajuraho is still a known name on the tourism circuit. Orchha is the real surprise! We ourselves came to know about Orchha when we were researching for our travel.
On our maiden trip, we spent a little less than a week exploring three destinations – Khajuraho, Panna Tiger Reserve & Orchha. Here, we take you through Orchha with our photo-blog.
An incredibly historic town, Orchha was founded in 1501 by Rudra Pratap Singh, a chief of Bundela Rajput descent. The town is settled on the banks of River Betwa. It is worthwhile to spend a couple of days here as there is a fair bit of heritage to ogle at.
We stayed inside the fort! Our preference is always a heritage hotel. So, the Sheesh Mahal, was a natural choice. The palace has been converted into a hotel & is run by Madhya Pradesh Tourism.
Evening light & sound show
Since we had reached in the evening, we started our Orchha sightseeing with the Light & Sound Show. This takes place in the Fort complex once the Sun sets. The sounds & the stories – both will astound you. The history of Orchha is narrated, a compelling one too, complete with tiger attacks & musical numbers.
We found this show to be better than the one in Khajuraho.
Our first morning in Orchha began with the Jahangir Mahal. This palace was built by the Bundela ruler, Bir Singh Dev, in honor of Prince Jahangir, who came & stayed here for one night.
Rani Mahal was the queen’s quarters. A series of frescoes depict the Dash Avatar (10 incarnations) of Lord Vishnu.
Legend has it that the temple was originally built for Lord Rama who was being brought from Ayodhya to Orchha. He, however, refused to budge from the spot where He was first put down. Another temple was built for Him there (now called the Raja Ram Mandir). A Lord Vishnu idol was established in this temple subsequently & given the name Chaturbhuj (literal: ‘one who has four arms’, referring to Lord Vishnu).
Raja Ram Mandir
This is the new temple that had to be built for Lord Rama.
One of those rare temples where Lord Rama is worshiped as a King, rather than as a God (condition the Lord had kept when He agreed to come to Orchha from Ayodhya). Hence the name – Raja Ram Mandir!
Since He’s the King, He gets a guard of honor every evening, at the time of the evening aarti! This is not something you see every day. So, brave the crowds & go for it.
Laxmi Narayan Mandir
Dedicated to Goddess Laxmi, this temple is built in a blend of temple and fort architecture.
Located beside the River Betwa, the chhatris (cenotaphs) have been built on the spot where the Bundelkhand royals were cremated.
Each Chhatri is a little different in design, showing the architectural brilliance of the ancient regional craftsmen.
Sunset at the Betwa River
If you travel from Orchha to Khajuraho by road, detour to Dhubela to visit the Maharaja Chhatrasal Museum & the Maharani Kamlapati Chhatri.
Chhatrasal was only twelve years old, when Aurangzeb attacked his father, Champat Rai. The latter was killed in a battle in Malwa. On growing a little older, Chhatrasal saw an opportunity to earn a name for himself by joining Aurangzeb’s army. However, soon his conscience started pricking him to take up the sword against the Mughals rather than for them. Chhatrasal escaped from the Mughal camp and made his way to the Deccan to meet Chhatrapati Shivaji. He intended to join Shivaji’s army, but the latter stirred his patriotic feelings for the liberation of Bundelkhand from tyrannical Mughal rule. Inspired by Shivaji, Maharaja Chhatrasal Bundela returned to Bundelkhand. He attacked & won the Mughal forts of Gwalior, Chitrakut, Kalinjar, etc. Twice Maharaja Chhatrasal was defeated by Aurangzeb’s armies but he would get back on his feet soon. When Aurangzeb died in 1707, Maharaja Chhatrasal governed a huge tract of land in Bundelkhand, comprising forts like Sagar, Jhansi, Sironj, etc. [Source]
The Maharaja Chhatrasal Museum was, thus, established in 1955 to honor the Bundelkhand king.
Maharani Kamlapati was Maharaja Chhatrasal’s first queen. Her cenotaph is an octagonal structure situated on a platform on the bank of lake Dhubela.
Orchha is best visited in the winter months – October to March. The weather is salubrious to walk around. The monuments become more radiant when the winter sun rays fall on them!
Orchha can be reached via the Khajuraho airport or the Jhansi railway station. We opted for a train to Jhansi – road to Orchha – road to Khajuraho – flight to Delhi.
Orchha is a paradise for architecture/ art/ history/ photography enthusiasts. However, if you are someone who yawns at heritage, pass!
The Bundelkhand region made a place in our hearts!