Orchha, situated in Tikamgarh district, Madhya Pradesh, is a small historical town that truly lives up to the meaning of its name – the hidden city. Surrounded by a forest from all sides and situated by River Betwa, this place is a true respite for tourism in the Bundelkhand region. It was founded by Rajput King Rudrapratap in the 16th century and during the Mughal rule, the Orchha kings ruled here among favour and resistance from three generations of Mughal emperors. But Orchha gradually grew to be the capital of Bundela kings and was therefore a home to some marvellous structures of historical significance including temples, forts and various chattris situated beautifully by the banks of River Betwa. Most places in Orchha can be explored as you lazily walk down the roads taking in the grand architecture and fragrances. However, the roads are well maintained for the tourists to travel in their choice of vehicle.
PLACES TO VISIT
One of the major attractions is the Orchha Fort Complex, which consists of several connected buildings erected at different times, and is only a minutes’ walk from the main marketplace. The first palace inside the complex is Raaj Mahal. The beautiful residence of the kings is well known for religious murals painted on the walls. It was built by Madhukar Shah in later half of the 16th century.
Jahangir Palace was built in 17th century by Bir Singh Deo, to welcome his close friend Jahangir during his one day visit in Orchha. This three storied structure has a courtyard in the centre and is a fine example of Hindu architecture in middle ages.
Rai Pravin Mahal, the palace to the beautiful and exceptionally gifted queen is the third building within the complex. She was a gifted dancer, and it is said that Jahangir had fallen in love with her on his visit and proposed to marry her. However, loyal to her husband, she had respectfully declined the offer!
Sheesh Mahal is another building which shares a portion of Jahangir Mahal that has now been converted to a beautiful heritage hotel.
Orchha is also famous for Raja Ram Mandir – the only temple in India where Ram is worshipped as a king. This temple was originally a palace and the idol of Lord Ram was brought from Ayodhya by Rani Ganesh Kunwari, wife of Madhukar Shah. It was to be installed in a temple which was yet to be built. However when the statue was placed inside the palace temporarily, it occurred to the queen that it was given to her on a condition that once the statue had been placed anywhere in the town it would become its place for eternity. So, it was placed here and was never moved.
Chatirbuj Temple was the place where the statue was supposed to be placed. Built by Madhukar Shah, this is an exemplary work of Hindu architecture.
Laxmi Narayan Temple, an architectural fusion, this temple is partly built in the style of a fort.
At the southern end of the town lies the famous chhatris of Orchha. These famous temple like monuments, built to remember the Orchha kings are beautifully situated on the banks of River Betwa and make for a breath-taking site during sunset and sunrise.
A bridge to living the historical life is a Gaushala, run and managed by Dhyan Foundation. Enroute Ram Raja Temple, it is an excellent location to be amidst sprawling greenery, fresh air and about 1500 cows waiting to welcome you with warmth unmatched. You can go back in time as you cut greens, feed the cows and just get lost in time and beauty unsurpassed. You may even stay at the Gaushala to experience how things work, lend a hand, help in the daily chores, preparing feed, taking the cows for a walk, etc. You will however have to carry your own sheets and toiletries.
Orchha is situated nearly 20 kms from Jhansi and provides excellent staying facilities. There are some famous resorts here along with a wide range of medium and economy range hotels and guest houses. It is highly advisable you plan a weekend trip to Orchha directly to enjoy the sunsets and sunrise and make a half day visit to the Jhansi fort.
You can take a train to Jhansi and explore Orchha in a cab.
On my recent visit to Jhansi, I went to ORCHHA GAUSHALA. The place is like an eco-resort, a sanctuary for cattle. The experience was truly amazing. I learnt to distinguish one cow from the other by its features and realized how different they all are in appearance and character. Some have pretty eyes, some a pink nose; some are bossy and some others so homely. In the evenings, the calves would come out to play just like children and by the night they would retire to sleep. It was heartening to see so many people including ladies and kids take care of these cows day and night. Thanks to their effort the cow population at the gaushala has trebled.
The gaushala also housed certain injured cows, looking at them was painful. I along with my friends volunteered and together with the gaushala keepers, we built a casualty ward and also did fencing to mark their grazing and ambling area. Staying and eating in the gaushala made me feel so close to nature, the place has a different feel of purity attached to it. It was an unforgettable experience. – Shivam Dewan, 22 years.