Nestled in the heart of the country, the medieval city of Orchha in Madhya Pradesh is a haven for history buffs and architecture enthusiasts. The rich historical legacy of the city is preserved in the beautiful stone sculptors and the ancient forts and buildings. Roosted 18km from Jhansi railway station and 119km from Gwalior airport, it once had the distinction of being the capital of one of the largest and most powerful kingdoms of Central India.
Founded by the Rajput king Rudra Pratap in the 16th century, Orchha means hidden. It was when the ruling Tughlaqs pushed the Bundelkhand kings out of Garkhundar, they retreated and settled in Orchha, making it their capital city. The atmosphere here is laid-back and hassle-free making it an ideal place for a relaxing holiday.
The moment you reach the city, you will be welcomed by rich architecture and historical sites. Its palaces, temples and forts still retain their original grandeur. If you have an inclination towards capturing frames, you can visit the Orchha fort. The best time to capture it is during sunset and sunrise. A historical landmark of the city, the fort is divided into three parts, Raj Mahal, Jehangir Mahal and Rai Praveen Mahal. Raj Mahal was built in the 17th century and its plain exteriors give way to interiors with exquisite murals. Jehangir Mahal was built by Raja Bir Singh to commemorate the visit to Emperor Jehangir to the city. It is known for its trellis work and is the single specimen of Mughal architecture in the city. The Rai Parveen Mahal was made in honour of the great poetess Rai Parveen. Skillfully carved and intelligently designed, this palace is known for its greenery.
The ruins behind the fort complex are an even greater watch. It makes a tourist travel back in time and is an integral part of a visit to Orchha. It houses the residences various military officers, ministers (housing, roads etc.), gunpowder factory etc. Although most are in absolute ruins, a silent walk through the ruins can give one goosebumps.
Take a walk in the Phool Bagh and you will be overwhelmed by the refined aesthetic qualities of the Bundelas. A row of fountains culminates in an eight pillared palace-pavilion. There was once a subterranean structure beneath the fountains which was used as a summer retreat by the Orchha kings.
When in Madhya Pradesh, how can one forget about the heritage and faith coming together. The city of Orchha boasts of impressive temples with Ram Raja temple being the most visited one. It is temple around which the life of Orchha revolves; Lord Rama is the presiding deity here. It is the only temple of the country where Lord Rama is worshipped as a king inside a palace. The lovely hues of pink and yellow give the temple a bright look.
Another important temple of the city is the Chaturbhuj temple. Built in 17th century, the temple was constructed by Madhukar Shah but was completed by his son Vir Singh Deo. It has tall spires and is built on huge platform. Richly ornamented by lotus symbols, the building is a blend of temple and fort architecture. You must also visit the Lakshmi Narayan temple to witness the vibrant murals covering a variety of spiritual and secular subjects. These murals are now under preservation retaining their vivid quality.
Orchha is also known for its cenotaphs. Made as memorials to the rulers of the city, these cenotaphs are grouped along the Kanchan Ghat of the Betwa River. Built during the 17th and 18th centuries, these cenotaphs have temple-like spires but only the Bir Singh cenotaph has veracious Islamic features on it.
Apart from these architectural marvels, you can also visit the Shaheed Smarak which was built in the honour of freedom fighter Chandrashekhar Azad. He lived in hiding in Orchha during 1926 and 1927. Other places worth seeing are the shrines of Siddh Baba Ka Sthan, Jugal Kishore, Janki Mandir and the Hanuman Mandir at Ochharedwara.
SOUND AND LIGHT SHOW:
This mesmerizing show of the sound and Light takes place at various destinations in Orccha. These destinations include the Chaturbhuj temple, the Jehangir Mahal, the Raj Mahal, the Cenotaphs, etc. The show takes place from 7:30 pm to 8:30 pm in English and 8:45 pm to 9:45 pm in Hindi at these places during summers (March to October). And from 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm in English and 7:45 to 8:45 pm in Hindi during the winters (November to February). Entrance fee for these shows is Rs. 250/- per person for foreigners and Rs. 75/- per person for Indians.
Text by Supriya Aggarwal