Orchha – captured in stone, frozen in time, a rich legacy to the ages

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Orchha - Quick Facts

Population: 8,501
Clothing: Summer- Light cottons, Winter- Woolens
Season: October to March
Latitude: 53.3833
Longitude: 28.73
Average Rainfall: 40 inches
Language: Hindi & English

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 its Bundela rulers in the 16th and 17th centuries retain much of their pristine perfection.

Orchha was founded in the 16th century by the Bundela Rajput chieftain, Rudra Pratap, who chose this stretch of land along the Betwa River as an ideal site for his capital. Of the succeeding rulers, the most notable was Raja Bir Singh Ju Deo who built the exquisite Jehangir Mahal, a tiered palace crowned by graceful chhatris. From here the view of soaring temple spires and cenotaphs is spectacular.

Complementing the noble proportions of their exteriors are interiors which represent the finest flowering of the Bundela School of painting. In the Laxminarayan Temple and Raj Mahal, vibrant murals encompassing a variety of religious and secular themes, bring the walls and ceilings to rich life.

By Air
 Nearest airport is at Gwalior (119 km), which is connected with regular flights from Delhi & Bhopal.

By Rail
 Nearest railhead is Jhansi (16 km), on the Delhi-Mumbai and Delhi-Chennai main lines. All major mail and express trains stop at Jhansi.

By Road
 Orchha lies on a diversion from the Jhansi-Khajuraho road. Regular bus services connect Orchha with Jhansi. Tempos and taxis are also available. 12Okm from Gwalior, 178km from Khajuraho.

Orchha's fort complex, approached by a multi-arched bridge, has three palaces set in an open quadrangle. The most spectacular of these are:

ehangir Mahal
Built by Raja Bir Singh Ju Deo in the 17th century to commemorate the visit of Emperor Jehangir to Orchha.Its strong lines are counterbalanced by delicate chhatris and trellis work, the whole conveying an effect of extraordinary richness.

Raj Mahal
Situated to the left of the quadrangle, this palace was built in the 17th century by Madhukar Shah, the deeply religious predecessor of Bir Singh Ju Deo. The plain exteriors, crowned by chhatris, give way to interiors with exquisite murals, boldly colourful on a variety of religious themes.

Rai Parveen Mahal
Poetess and musician, Rai Parveen was the beautiful paramour of Raja Indramani (1672- 76) and was sent to Delhi on the orders of the Emperor Akbar, who was captivated by her. She so impressed the Great Mughal with the purity of her love for Indramani that he sent her back to Orchha. The palace built for her is a low, two-storeyed brick structure designed to match the height of the trees in the surrounding, beautifully landscaped gardens of Anand Mahal, with its octagonal flower beds and elaborate water supply system. Skillfully carved niches allow light into the Mahal which has a main hall and smaller chambers.

Chaturbhuj Temple
Built upon a massive stone platform and reached by a steep flight of steps, the temple was specially constructed to enshrine the image of Rama that remained in the Ram Raja Temple. Lotus emblems and other symbols of religious significance provide the delicate exterior ornamentation. Within, the sanctum is chastely plain with high, vaulted walls emphasizing its deep sanctity.

Laxminarayan Temple
A flagstone path links this temple with the Ram Raja Temple. The style is an interesting synthesis of fort and temple moulds. The interiors contain the most exquisite of Orchha's wall paintings. Covering the walls and ceiling of three halls, these murals are vibrant compositions and cover a variety of spiritual and secular subjects. They are in excellent state of preservation, with the colours retaining their vivid quality.

Phool Bagh
Laid out as a formal garden, this complex testifies to the refined aesthetic qualities of the Bundelas. A central row of fountains culminates in an eight pillared palace-pavilion. A subterranean structure below was the cool summer retreat of the Orchha kings. An ingenious system of water ventilation connects the underground palace with Chandan Katora, a bowl-like structure from whose fountains droplets of water filtered through to the roof, simulating rainfall.

Sunder Mahal
This small palace, almost in ruins today 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.

Chhatris (Cenotaphs)
There are 14 Chhatris or Memorials to the rulers of Orchha, grouped along the Kanchan Ghat of the river Betwa.

Shahid Smarak
Commemorates the great freedom fighter Chandrashekhar Azad who lived and worked 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.

Barua Sagar
Situated 26 km northeast of Orchha, in the neighbouring state of Uttar Pradesh, Barua Sagar is a dam created on the Betwa River. It provides excellent views of the surrounding area. One can enjoy a swim in the lake or go for a walk in its beautiful environs. While here, one can also pay a visit to the Pratihara temple and the Jarai-ka-Math dedicated to Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. This place has a great historical importance as a battle between the Peshwas and the Bundela kings was fought here.

A part of the Bundelkhand region, Chitrakoot is situated in the region bordering Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. According to the Ramayana, Lord Rama and his wife spent 11 out of 14 years of their exile in the jungles around Chitrakoot. Most of the attractions of Chitrakoot are situated along the Mandakini like Janki Kund, Ram Ghat, Sphatic Shila, Dev Ganga, Sati Anasuya, and Hanuman Dhara.

Situated on the left bank of the Betwa in the western range of Lalitpur hills, Deogarh enjoyed political importance left from the Gupta Age. Its location on the main route from Delhi to Deccan has also ensured that it always remained a bone of contention. The main attraction here is the Deogarh Temple, dedicated to Lord Vishnu. This is the earliest-known Panchyatan temple in north India. The architectural plan of the temple displays terraced basement above the high plinth decorated with sculpted panels. Other highlights are the figures of Ganga and Yamuna that adorn the carved doorway leading to the sanctum sanctorum. Many parts of the temple are now ruined except the Anantshayi Vishnu depicting scenes from Vaishnava mythology. Two other attractions are the Karnali Fort perched on the hills that overlook river Betwa and the Deogarh Archaeological Museum with its fine collection of early Hindu sculptures.

Jhansi Fort
The fort was built by Raja Bir Singh in the 17th century purely for defence, as is evident by its location on the top of a hill. The fort was taken under siege by the mutineers in 1857 and they slaughtered all the occupants (mostly British). After the mutiny, the British ceded the fort to the Scindias of Gwalior and exchanged it for Gwalior in 1866. The fort houses the well-known Karak Bijli Tank as well as a museum with a good collection of sculptures and other remains.

Capital of the legendary Chandelas, who ruled over this region between 9th and 11th centuries, Mahoba is a place full of stories of warrior kings. There is a fort atop a hill showing the might of Chandelas as well as lakes built by them. The temples in Mahoba are built in the same style as that of Khajuraho. Today, the town of Mahoba is also known for its production of betel leaves and granite rocks.

There are number of curio and handicraft shops in the market opposite the western group of temples and nearby Gole Market .Though the historic Orchha is not a dream destination for the shopaholics still it is stuffed with exotic traditional items to lure any one visiting this place The ethnic pyjamas and kurtis having exquisite design exude the magic of Rajasthani embroidery.

They are immensely popular with the tourists.Some other things which attract anyone visiting the place are the beautiful Dokra crafts made up of metal and wrought items which serve as excellent souvenirs. The traditional Bastar handicrafts are a delight for any art enthusiast where every piece of work depicts the simplicity of the rustic lifestyle of the people.

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