With a heart full of respect for the Queen of Jhansi and disappointment with the current state of Jhansi, we started towards Orchha. Orchha, just 16 km from Jhansi, is capable of taking you to another world of peace and calmness. Orchha’s literal meaning is ‘Hidden place’. True to its meaning, Orchha isn’t on most tourist maps, but with beautiful monuments, Orchha deserves a trip of its own, not just clubbed with Jhansi. When u start, narrow roads will lead you to the town and back in time with green fields on both sides. But if this fails to do so, the monuments and landscape will definitely succeed.
Covered by forest from all sides, Orchha was founded by Rajput king Rudra Pratap Singh of the Bundela dynasty at the banks of river Betwa. (Raja Bir Singh Dev was his son, who ruled in Orchha and build a great palace at Datia). This place is a relatively small settlement, which hosts a wide range of monuments within the fort complex, temples of religious importance, and cenotaphs.
Orchha Fort Complex
To start your visit, park your vehicle on one side and either hire a bicycle or walk on foot. The first attraction of Orchha is Orchha Fort. At the gate, you can buy a combined ticket for all the monuments which exist in Orchha. Orchha fort majorly comprises three buildings. First is the Raja Mahal, a palace for the king’s living. The second is the Jahangir Mahal. Again built by Raja Bir Singh Deo, a good friend of Mughal King Jahangir. Part of the Jahangir Mahal was ‘Shees mahal’, which means a mirror palace. Now it is a heritage hotel. The third part is the Rai Praveen Mahal, exclusively built for the queen.
The Folklores Said
When you move towards the main Orchha city from the fort passing through the granite bridge, the major attraction is Chaturbhuj Temple. This was built for King Rama, who was brought from Ayodhya to Orchha by the Queen herself. As per the local folk tales here, Queen prayed to Lord Rama and King to Lord Krishna. King challenged the queen to get Lord Rama in Orchha when she refused to visit Vrindavan (the Birthplace of Lord Krishna). After that queen prayed in Ayodhya and made Lord Rama fulfill her wish. Two conditions were put forward by the Rama, first, I will come only for daytime to rule your Kingdom and second, where ever I sit once, I will not change my location.
Facts that might amaze you
Chaturbhuj temple was built for Lord Rama but was not complete. The Queen established the idol of Lord Rama in her room for the time being. Everyone failed to move the idol afterward. It has been more than 400 yrs since the queen’s palace turned into Lord Rama’s resting place, Ramaraja Temple. There are specific timings for the temple which only change twice a year. Proper guards of Madhya Pradesh Police are present there 24×7. Everyday Guard of honor is given here. No VVIP is authorized for any special guards here. No one can enter the temple with belts on, which means a person is ready for war.
On a little distance, right at the banks of Betwa river, exists Royal chattris. For me, it was the first time, that I was witnessing Cenotaphs for Indian kings, which too huge and breathtakingly beautiful. Right outside these, you can enjoy a boat ride in the river Betwa. There are various smaller monuments in the city. The one you must visit is Laxminarayan Temple.
Laxminarayan temple looks like a fort from the outside but is a temple inside. Currently, no idol is present there. This place is must visit to witness famous Orchha paintings. The interior wall and ceiling of the three halls are elaborately decorated with mural paintings based on mythological themes. These all are mainly depicting incidents from Ramayana and the life of Krishna. One of the halls has paintings depicting the first Indian revolt for independence in 1857, thus belonging to the British era. Some of the walls have Scratch Paintings. The walls are painted brown and the drawings are created by scratching off this paint.
Food and Stay
I would recommend, you stay in Orchha rather than Jhansi until you have some specific reason to stay in Jhansi. This place has a few beautiful stays. to start with Hotel Shees mahal, part of the main Orchha fort complex. Then the MP tourism resort, Betwa retreat, and Bundelkhand Resort. For food, you can either try local restaurants or your hotel’s restaurants. But you have to adjust with limited options only.
PRO TIP: MP tourism hotels have good facilities and services. You all have basic food options. Few have a buffet system for morning breakfast.