Orchha – A hidden Gem of Bundelkhand.

Reading Time: 10 minutes

Orchha was our next destination, a town of rustic charm and rugged beauty. It’s of the UNESCO heritage hence was my travel list. It was 11.30 am when we completed our tour of Datia Palace. Because of my fondness, I explored all the possible nooks and corners of the Palace. Orchha is a quaint place on the banks of river Betwa, a central river system in the Bundelkhand region. By the time we reached Orchha, it was 1 pm; hence we checked into our hotel, under MP tourism. Upon arriving, I called my guide Sunil, who was referred by our Gwalior guide. I confirmed to meet at the reception by 2 pm. So I decided on a quick lunch and asked mom to freshen up. Post our lunch at the hotel restaurant, we met Sunil, who would be helping us to explore the town. We drove towards our first destination, the Orchha fort. 

Orchha - A hidden Gem of Bundelkhand.
Orchha: Overlooking Betwa river

Sunil started to narrate about his beloved city Orchha-Rudra Pratap Singh founded it in the 15th century. And Orchha suddenly became necessary because of the impressive and opulent fort. When Jahangir took over the Mughal Empire 16th century, Orchha was gifted to Vir Singh Bundela as a token of his loyalty. In the Bundela reign, Orchha flourished with its glorious monuments of unique Indo-Muslim architectural style resulting from the cultural amalgamation of the Rajput kingdom in the Mughal era.

Orchha - A hidden Gem of Bundelkhand.
Jahangir Palace

This historic town of Orchha seems to be frozen in time. Since then, the city has not changed over the period, with a distinct medieval aura that woos you with its charm. Though modern daily life swirls around the city, the building blocks of the town are clearly and delightfully historical.

The exterior of Jahangir Palace

Our first stop was the famous Jahangir Mahal, known for its structural beauty. Upon entering the fort, I was mesmerised by the brilliance of this place—a vast courtyard with an aesthetic fountain in the middle. There were stairways leading everywhere, and the whole area just screamed of symmetry and beauty. 

Orchha - A hidden Gem of Bundelkhand.
Way to Inner palace.

Our guide suggested the Palace was built for the reception of Mughal emperor Jahangir. It has a beautiful colossal gateway at the entrance for a grand reception of the guest, with turquoise tiles covering the front. It is a three-storied structure with beautiful balconies, porches, and apartments. Jahangir Mahal portrays a fascinating mix of Bundela and Mughal architecture. 

Orchha - A hidden Gem of Bundelkhand.
The courtyard

Furthermore, the Palace is decorated with lavish exteriors and interiors, where its roof is crowned with eight Mughal-style domes in each corner and smaller domes between them. Even the windows of the Mahal are embellished with intricate lattice designs. The roof and the domes look pretty appealing with the naturally coloured turquoise stones.

Orchha - A hidden Gem of Bundelkhand.
Main Entrance

An elegant garden is annexed to the fort complex called Phool Bagh. It is again an amalgamation of Bundela and Mughal styles, where the garden’s architecture is Rajput, and the plantation is Mughal. A palace inside Phool bagh was built for the prince Dinman Hardaul.

Orchha - A hidden Gem of Bundelkhand.
The Bundela architecture

There is a story about Dinman Hardaul. It is said that Jujhar, the elder brother of Hardaul, suspected his Queen’s relationship with him. Hence ordered her to poison Hardaul, but Queen could not do this. However, to prove his innocence Hardaul took poison himself and died, giving birth to a legend of noble sacrifice; the people of Bundelkhand still worship Hardaul.

Orchha - A hidden Gem of Bundelkhand.
The balconies

Next, we walked up to the Raja Mahal (King’s Palace), built by Madhukar Shah, who ruled from 1554 10 1591. In the built-in Rajput style, the Palace is enormous, with a courtyard in the centre similar to the fort. Though the exterior facade of the Palace is simple, the interior chambers are decorated royally. The traces of mirror embellishments that once adored the first-floor chamber walls are still visible.

Orchha - A hidden Gem of Bundelkhand.
Interior of Mahal

The Rajput-styled domes of Raja Palace have braved various war and weather attacks but haven’t lost the charm of their naturally coloured stone structures to date. The windows and gallery layout are designed to allow sunlight into the Palace. It creates different moods according to changing temperatures and light shades. Also, there are several secret passages in the Mahal.

Moreover, the interior chambers of Raja Mahal are painted with murals. All based on religious and social themes with various illustrations from Ramayana, different avatars of Vishnu, and social celebrations and festivals have been painted. The ceilings and inner walls of the kings’ and queens’ rooms have murals depicting a traditional wedding celebration.

Built by Raja Udai Singh, Sheesh Mahal was a royal accommodation. Raja Mahal borders it to its front and Jahangir Mahal to its left. It is known for its intricate mirror work in the royal suites and impressive hall room with a high ceiling. However, the Palace is now a heritage hotel under MP Tourism.

Orchha - A hidden Gem of Bundelkhand.
Raja Mahal

While wandering around the fort, our guide updated us that Ganeshkuwari, the Queen of Orchha, was Lord Ram’s devotee. The Queen insisted King invite Lord Ram from Ayodhya to Orchha. She built a massive Chaturbhuj Temple in His honour. The Chaturbhuj Temple was visible from Queen’s Palace window. But Lord Ram had one condition before agreeing to move to Orchha. He said he would stay in the place where he would be first placed. And Queen decided; however, the Chaturbhuj temple was still under finishing touches when the Queen arrived.

Orchha - A hidden Gem of Bundelkhand.
Chatrabujh temple overseeing the Palace

Therefore Lord Ram was placed in the Palace. Later, when they tried to move the idol, it was impossible to move. And then they remembered the lords’ wordings. Hence, the Palace became the residence of Lord Rama and is currently known as the famous Ram Raja Temple, the local guide tells us. Moreover, this is the only temple in India where Lord Ram is worshipped as a King. We decided to visit this in the evening during the Aarti. 

Orchha - A hidden Gem of Bundelkhand.
The main entrance to Palace

Our next destination was the Royal Chhatris/Cenotaph of the Bundela Rajput kings on the Betwa river banks. These grand palatial cenotaphs flaunt the royalty of the Bundela kings. The chhatri with large domes and mighty pillars is the memorial of Vir Singh Deo.

Orchha - A hidden Gem of Bundelkhand.
Chhatris on the banks of Betwa river

This chhatri reflects Hindu architecture. However, the shikhara remained incomplete due to political instability. The structure overlooks the river, which is quite picturesque. There is a beautifully manicured garden that surrounds the Chhatris. We walked around before heading towards the Betwa river to enjoy the sunset.

I sat at the river’s edge on a stone, looking at the flowing water. The colour of the sun started to change, and the sunset in the sky was like fresh colours brushed upon an artist’s canvas. As if those rays were destined to create a great work of art – one given to those open to capturing simple moments in the soul.

Orchha - A hidden Gem of Bundelkhand.
A colourful painting

I watched the river, lost in the rhythmic percussion of clouds floating on the horizon’s edge. My eyes are steady to the horizon, my face aglow with the last orange rays before twilight beckons to the stars. My lips resemble a smile, just enough to show that I was enjoying my thoughts, whatever they may be. I moved closer to my mom, so she could feel my presence yet stays quiet, allowing me to remain lost in the moment a while longer.

Orchha - A hidden Gem of Bundelkhand.
Sunset on Betwa river

Later I made my way through the charming little streets lined with colourful markets to reach my next stop- Raja Ram Mandir. This rustic temple is home to many pilgrims who travel worldwide to offer their prayers. I wanted to see the temple to experience this place of worship’s sheer devotion and spirituality. The temple is dedicated to Lord Ram. 

Orchha - A hidden Gem of Bundelkhand.
Entrance to Ram Raja temple

I was at the temple as dusk was leaving, the exact time the evening Aarti takes place. I wanted to witness it, so I stood among hundreds of devotees. All stood with closed eyes in remembrance of God. I could feel the spiritual and energising vibe. And one could think that Lord Ram had descended on the earth, making his way to the temple. 

Orchha - A hidden Gem of Bundelkhand.
Inner Sanctum

After this, I headed straight to the Light and Sound show in the garden near the Raja Ram Mandir in Orchha. It was held in the courtyard. And is pure genius where the symphony of music and lights are well synchronised. Moreover, the show gives a holistic understanding of the history of this place. I was delighted to learn so much and realised how important this place was and its significance in history.

Orchha - A hidden Gem of Bundelkhand.
Light & Sound show

I was transported back to the era of Orchha’s glorious days, where I could imagine the King coming down from his horse and the Queen, in her gorgeous attire, waving to the thousands of subjects lining the streets to catch a glimpse of their rulers. The show was an audio drama supported by changing lights. The stories are well narrated and keep you hooked. However, we were slightly disappointed as we expected a laser light show.

Orchha - A hidden Gem of Bundelkhand.
The show

By the time the show ended, it was late, & the weather was getting colder. We drove back to the hotel & ordered dinner. The following day was our departure to Gurgaon, but we had to cover Jhansi fort, so we had an early start. After dinner, I freshened up & headed to bed; the day’s tiredness worked as a medicine for a sound sleep. After breakfast, we headed towards Chaturbhuj Temple in Orchha the following day. It was 8.30 am, and the tiny town was already up with people heading towards their daily chores. But we headed towards Chaturbhuj Temple, famous because of India’s tallest Vimana (ornate monumental tower). The Basilica-styled multi-storeyed structure with tall spires in the shape of pine cones can’t fail to attract anyone’s attention. 

Orchha - A hidden Gem of Bundelkhand.
Chatarbujh temple

Chaturbhuj Temple is a unique structure with an eccentric architectural blend of a temple and fort. Chaturbhuj means one with four arms and refers to the avatar of Vishnu. Our guide explained that the Bundela Rajputs constructed Chaturbhuj Temple to enshrine the image of Lord Rama. 

Orchha - A hidden Gem of Bundelkhand.
The architecture

According to the local legend, as mentioned above, the idol of Lord Rama was placed in Ram Raja Temple. Hence the Charutbhuj Temple remained without any sanctum. The architecture is marvellous & intricate. I took some pictures before heading towards Lakshmi Narayan temple.

Orchha - A hidden Gem of Bundelkhand.
Bundela construction

Sri Lakshmi Narayan Temple, built by Bir Singh Deo in 1622, is one of Orchha’s three most important temples. q The temple is dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi, which lost its charm due to inadequate maintenance. Prithvi Singh reconstructed the temple in 1793.

Orchha - A hidden Gem of Bundelkhand.
Lakshmi Narayan temple

The temple displays a perfect and unique mix of temple and fort architecture. Built with lime mortar and bricks, it has slots for cannons used during the wars. The architecture is rectangular, with four multi-faced projecting bastions at its four corners. The temple looks like an Owl, the Vahan of Goddess Laksmi.

Orchha - A hidden Gem of Bundelkhand.
Entrance to temple

However, the interiors contain the most exquisite of Orchha’s moral paintings. These murals are vibrant compositions that cover the walls and ceiling of three halls and cover a variety of spiritual and secular subjects. They are in an excellent state, and the colours retain their quality.

Orchha - A hidden Gem of Bundelkhand.
Frescos on wall

The theme of the temple’s painting has been taken from Rama Charitra Manas and India’s Independence. And the carved designs of the temple have been arranged in a geometrical pattern. And below are scenes from Lord Krishna’s life adorned with flowers and animals. 

Orchha - A hidden Gem of Bundelkhand.
Sculptures on wall

The altar of this temple is constructed in the shape of a yoni or vulva. At the same time, its inner sanctum is similar to a Tantric cult. Though this temple is dedicated to the Goddess Lakshmi, no idol of the Goddess is kept inside the temple.

Orchha - A hidden Gem of Bundelkhand.
The vulva

Lastly, we stopped at the Azad memorial. A small cave where Shaheed Chandra Shekhar Azad was hiding from Britishers during the freedom struggle. This place is tranquil with a Hanuman temple, and it is said that Azad disguised himself as the temple priest and ran his freedom mission from here. There is also a small creek, which I walked up to the edge to get a feel of freedom struggle. Then we drove towards Jhansi.

How to Reach

By Air: 

The nearest airport is Gwalior, approximately 126 km away from the city. At the airport, hire taxis to reach the city.

By Rail:

The closest railhead is Jhansi, 17km from Orchha. It is a well-connected railway station with all the major cities in India. You need to hire private cabs or take a shared taxi from the station to reach the city.

By Road:

Orchha is located at the turning between Jhansi and Khajuraho. Both cities are well-connected via road with Delhi, Agra, Mathura, Jaipur & other towns of Madhya Pradesh. Buses, private cabs, and shared taxis ply to Jhansi and Khajuraho from these places. You can also book a private cab or a shared taxi. One can drive to Gwalior too.



2 thoughts on “Orchha – A hidden Gem of Bundelkhand.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Translate »
error: Content is protected !!