Orchha's grandeur has been captured in stone, frozen in time; a rich legacy to the ages. In this medieval city, the hand of time has rested lightly and the palaces and temples built by it's Bundela rulers in the 16th and 17th centuries retain much of their pristine perfection. Orchha was founded in 16th century by the Bundela Rajput chieftain Rudra Pratap who chose this stretch of land along Betwa river as an ideal site for his capital. Of the succeeding rulers, the most notable was Raja Bir Singh who built the exquisite Jehangir Mahal, a tiered palace crowned with graceful Chhatries. From here there is a spectacular view of the soaring temple spires and cenotaphs.
Complementing the noble proportions of their exteriors are 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 ceilings to rich life. Strewn around the area are little shrines and memorials, each with its own poignant history, and contributing to the nostalgic beauty of Orchha.
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Raj Mahal - situated to the right of the quadrangle, is a palace built by Madhukar Shah, the deeply religious predecessor of Raja Bir Singh Ju Deo. The plain exteriors crowned by chhatries, 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 Emperor with her love for Indramani that he sent her back to Orchha. The palace built for her is a low two-storied brick structure, designed to match the height of the trees in the surroundings. Anand Mahal has beautifully landscaped gardens with octagonal flower beds and an elaborate water supply system. Skilfully carved niches allow light into the Mahal which has a main hall and smaller chambers.
Chaturbhuj Temple is 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 which, however, remained in the Ram Raja Temple. Lotus emblems and symbols of religious importance provide ornamentation to the delicate exterior.
Phool Bagh is laid out as a formal garden. This complex testifies to the refined aesthetic qualities of the Bundelas. A central row of fountains culminates into an eight-pillared palace-pavilion. A subterranean structure below used to be the summer retreat of the Orchha Kings. An ingenious system of water ventilation connected the underground palace with Chandan Katora, a bowl-like structure from the fountains of which, droplets of water filter through the roof, simulating rainfall.
Dinman Hardaul's Palace
Sunder Mahal is a small palace almost in ruins today. It 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.
Cenotaphs - there are fourteen cenotaphs or Chhatries to the rulers of Orchha, across the Kanchana Ghats of river Betwa.
Shahid Smarak - Commemorates the great freedom fighter Chandrashakhar Azad who lived and worked in hiding in Orchha during 1926-27
Other places worth seeing in Orchha are Siddh Bawa ka Sathan, Jugal Kishore, Janki Mandir, and Hanuman Mandir at Ohharedwara.
Access to Orchha
Information: Courtesy Government of India
Editor: Romola Butalia   (c) India Travelogue. All rights reserved.