Orchha and Gwalior have been selected by the state Government of Madhya Pradesh as pilot cities for the Historic Urban Landscape programme and survey that UNESCO New Delhi will undertake jointly with the Tourism Department of Madhya Pradesh.
Established in the early 16th century by the Bundela chieftain Rudra Pratap Singh, the town boasts of some lofty and beautifully sculpted monuments, temples, palaces and cenotaphs. (Image: Tarun Bhardwaj/Financial Express Online)
Poetry carved in stone, landscape dotted with stone boulders, temples and royal palaces, and the sound of a slow meandering river breaking the silence of a sleepy town – sounds like Hampi but that’s Orchha in Madhya Pradesh for you. Situated slightly over 12 km from Jhansi, Orchha, just like the meaning of its name, is a hidden gem waiting for travelers to explore its magic. It is a perfect gateway for those who want to break the monotony and see India beyond glossy coffee table books. From history to nature and from religion to adventure, Orchha has something or the other to offer for any travel itinerary. Orchha and Gwalior have been selected by the state Government of Madhya Pradesh as pilot cities for the Historic Urban Landscape programme and survey that UNESCO New Delhi will undertake jointly with the Tourism Department of Madhya Pradesh. This programme will serve as a tool for a heritage-based urban development for both cities by the state Government of Madhya Pradesh. The decision has given the erstwhile Bundela capital city a new identity on the world tourism map. Established in the early 16th century by the Bundela chieftain Rudra Pratap Singh, the town boasts of some lofty and beautifully sculpted monuments, temples, palaces and cenotaphs. Lets explore the places to visit in this quaint wee town situated on the banks of River Betwa.
Orchha Fort and Jehangir Mahal: Situated on an island in the Betwa river, Orchha fort complex houses many palaces including Jehangir Mahal, Raja Mahal, Sheesh Mahal and Rai Praveen Mahal. One can reach the fort from the town via granite stone bridge having 14 arches. The main attraction of Orchha fort is Jehangir Mahal which has 236 rooms and a big central courtyard. It was built by the Bundela king Vir Singh Deo as a symbol of his friendly alliance with Mughal Emperor Jehangir on his visit to the region. The Mahal has a unique blend of Mughal and Rajput architecture and has an imposing entrance, big enough to even accommodate war elephants. The palace is situated at the highest point in the fort complex and overlooks the whole town and Vindhya range across the two branch of the Betwa river encircling the fort.
Right in between the Raja Mahal and Jehangir Mahal is the Sheesh Mahal palace built by king Udait Singh. It now houses a beautiful accommodation for tourists maintained by the MP Tourism Board. Its royal suites offer some stunning sights of the surroundings.
Ram Raja Temple and Chaturbhuj Temple: Together, they are the two most visited and lofty sites in Orchha respectively. Ram Raja temple has a unique distinction of housing Lord Ram as a child-king. Originally a Ranivaas or queen’s palace, the Ram Raja Temple is frequented by devotees on especial occasions like Makar Sankranti, Vasant Panchami, Maha Shivratri, Ram Navami, Kartik Purnima and Vivaha Panchami. The story of how a queen’s palace came to become temple and why the deity did not move to the Chaturbhuj temple built for it is a stuff of legends. The Chaturbhuj Temple built by King Madhukar Shah and King Vir Singh Deo of Orchha is famous for having one of the tallest Vimanas among Hindu temples. It towers in the skyline of Orchha town, standing at 344 feet.
Lakshmi Temple: Dedicated to the goddess of wealth and prosperity, the Lakshmi Temple was built during the reign of Bundela king Vir Singh Deo. Its structure is a unique mix of temple and fort architecture and is built using lime mortar and bricks. It has cannon slots on its roof top. Its wall are lively with rich painting depicting Hindu religious legends like Kroshna leela, Ramayana, etc. Temple frescos display a blend of Mughal and Bundelkhandi art . One of the most famous paintings on its wall is that of ‘Shungi Chiriya’, a mythological monstrous bird which is said to have the strength to capture elephants in its talons.
Orchha Chhatris or Cenotaphs: The most iconic site of Orchha is its numerous cenotaphs dotting the banks of of Betwa river. The picture has become Orchha’s most recognized symbol. Chhatris or Cenotaphs are the memorials of rulers and other important figures. The most known cenotaphs are those of Kingh Vir Singh Deo Bundela, Jaswant Singh, Udait Singh, Pahar Singh and others. The chhataris of Orchha are constructed in Panchaytan style. Located on the Kanchan Ghat, these chhatris are frequented by most travelers to catch a glimpse of mesmerizing sunrise or sunset.
Adventure activities in Orchha: Its is said that the wee town of Orchha has something for every traveller – be it history or religion. For adventure enthusiasts, there is river rafting, kayaking, nature trekking and cycling. This rafting in Betwa river provides tourists an amazing experience of riding over the rapids near Orchha and also provides them with an opportunity to see town and its sights from a different angle.
Staying in Orchha: For a small town, Orchha offers some really amazing places to stay including homestays and plush yet affordable hotels. MPT Sheesh Mahal and Betwa Retreat are two of the most sought after accommodations. Other hotels are Amar Mahal Hotel, Orchha Palace Hotel, Bundelkhand Riverside, etc.
Visiting Orchha: The Best time to visit Orchha is From October to February-March. Some people like to visit Orchha during Monsoon to experience lush greenery of Vindhya hills. Orchha is well-connected by road to places like Jhansi, Khajuraho and Gwalior. It is just over 13 km from Jhansi. Tourists can hire a cab or bus to reach Orchha. The nearest railhead is Jhansi which is well-connected with every major Indian city and nearest airports are Gwalior and Khajuraho.