Orchha in India and the sights of the city

Orchha

Orchha is a medieval town in the state of Madhya Pradesh in north central India in the Tikamgarh region. It is known for its well-preserved temples and palaces on the banks of the Betwa River. Orchha, built in the XVI-XVII centuries, still amazes tourists with the beauty and grandeur of the stone facades of the past centuries. You can come to the fortress through the bridge with several arched openings. On its territory there are several temples, three palaces, and a rectangular square in front of them. The most famous palaces are the Raj Mahal, the Rai Parveen Mahal, and the Jahanjir Mahal.

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Video: Orchha

History

Orchha was the capital of the Rajas of Bundela from the 16th century until 1783 when they fled to nearby Tikamgarh. Bir Singh Deo ruled Orchha from 1605 to 1627 and built Jhansi Fort. As a favorite of Mughal prince Salim, Bir Singh had a terrible relationship with Emperor Akbar, his father, who nearly destroyed his entire kingdom.

When Salim became emperor Jehangir in 1605, Bir Singh gained power at court. The Jehangir Mahal Palace was built a year later specifically for the emperor’s visits.

Sightseeing ticket

The Orchha Sightseeing Ticket (Indian/foreigner Rs. 10/250, Photo/Video Rs. 25/200) covers seven monuments: Jehangir Mahal, Raj Mahal, Raj Praveen Mahal, Camel Stables, Chhatri, Chaturbhuj and Lakshmi Narayan Temples. You can buy it only at the ticket office (8.00-18.00) . You can walk around the palaces for free.

What to see

The Raj Mahal Palace was built in the 17th century by Shah Madhukar, the deeply religious predecessor of Vir Singh Ju Deo. Simple on the outside, the palace inside is elegantly decorated with ornate ornaments and colorful paintings depicting various religious subjects. Legend has it that Emperor Akbar was fascinated by the beauty of the poetess and musician Rai Parveen, one of the concubines of Raja Indramani. On his orders she was brought to Delhi, but Raja Parveen was able to convince the emperor of her love for Indramani and she was allowed to return to Orchha. Raja Indramani had a palace built for his beloved. The low two-storied brick structure was to be in harmony with the tall trees and the wonderfully landscaped gardens.

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Jahangir Mahal, built by Raja Bir Singh Ju Deo in the 17th century to commemorate Emperor Dahan Vir’s visit to Orchha, is known for its beauty, exquisite proportions and architectural decorum.

In addition to the palaces, Orchha is notable for its temples, not the least of which is the Ram Raja temple complex, one of the most unusual in India.

The temple of Chaturbhuj was erected on a massive stone platform with a stone staircase leading up to it. The Chaturbhuj houses the sacred statue of Rama. The lotus and other religious symbols are the main motif of the wall ornaments. Inside, the sanctuary is distinguished by the impeccable clarity and purity of the lines of the vault.

Next to the Ram Raja temple is the Lakshmi Narayan temple, which combines the appearance of a fortress and a temple, and inside is one of the most exquisite paintings in Orchha.

The regular Huu Bagh Park is planned according to the principles of refined Oriental aesthetics. A series of fountains leads the visitor to a pavilion palace with eight columns and an underground part, where the rulers of Orchha rested from the summer heat. An ingenious system of ventilation and water supply was implemented here. The palace was connected to the Chandan Katora, a bowl-shaped reservoir from which drops of water seeped through the ceiling, simulating rain.

The smaller palace, Sunder Mahal, which lies in ruins, is still a place of pilgrimage for Muslims. Dhurjban, son of Jhujkar, converted to Islam by marrying a Muslim girl from Delhi, and spent the rest of his life in prayer, and after his death he was venerated as a saint.

Entertainment

Walking Trails.

Some trails in the vast palace grounds lead out to the river through gates. Another option for a walk is the 12-kilometer trail at Orchha Nature Reserve, a 44-square-kilometer island surrounded by the Betwa and Jamni rivers. Buy a ticket (Indians/foreigners 20/150 rupees) at the ticket office (8.00-18.00) to the reserve, which you can explore on your own, although you will be offered a guide (200 rupees) . The trails are well marked and the roads are signposted, so it’s nice to ride your bike here. Along the way, you are sure to see local fauna such as monkeys, deer, rams, and peacocks. If you want to see one of the four species of turtles that live here, you should go to the Ret Ghat, 14 km south of the box office, on the Jamni River.

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Massages and Yoga

Amar Mahal and Orchha Resort (252222; www.orchharesort.com) offer high-quality Ayurvedic massages (from Rs 500; 8.30-20.30) and yoga classes (Rs 500) . Of the two options, Amar Mahal is better, but more expensive.

Rafting

River rafting (single descent 1.5/3 1200/2500 rupees) : the trek starts from the boat club, but tickets need to be purchased at MP Tourism offices in Sheesh Mahal or Betwa Retreat hotels. One to six people per raft.

Swimming

Locals swim daily in Betwa. The most popular beach is in front of the boat club near the bridge that leads to the Orchhi Reserve. Another option is the gravel bottom area near the Bundelkhand Riverside Hotel. Follow the path from Jhansi Road to the hotel, but at the point where the road turns left to the hotel, continue down to the river.

Some hotels offer bassinets for those who don’t live there. These are Bundelkhand Riverside (Rs 150), Betwa Retreat (Rs 150), Amar Mahal (Rs 200) and Orchha Resort (Rs 300).

Ganj Village: Stay at homes of locals

Thanks to Friends of Orchha (9098353799; www.orchha.org; 1-bed/ 2-bed. Rs. 350/450, extra room Rs. 100, breakfast/dinner Rs. 30/50), a non-profit organization led by Dutchman Louk Vreeswijk and his Indian wife Asha D’Souza, travelers now have the opportunity to stay directly in the homes of villagers in a delightful homestay program.

This is a unique chance to get a taste of real Indian village life, so don’t expect much luxury: only the most basic amenities await you. “Friends of Orchha” helps with credits for some renovations – such as installing ecological dry toilets in the yard of each house – but you will still live in earthen houses and eat the same simple vegetarian food that your hosts’ family eats every day.

One-night stays are not welcome for logistical reasons. If you want to stay just one night, however, the room rates will be a little higher. In any case, the measured pace of life in the village of Ganj should be experienced slowly. At the time of our exploration there were only five families ready to receive guests (although there are plans to set up guest rooms in several more), so it’s worth booking accommodation in advance.

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Friends of Orchna runs clubs for the children of the village, where the latter go after school. Volunteers and, of course, donations are always welcome. The Friends of Orchha office is right in the village of Ganj, on the left side of the main street when entering from Orchha.

Information

Internet cafes (20-30 rupees) are everywhere. Canara Bank (252689; Jhansi Rd; 10.30-14.30 and 15.00-16.00 Mon-Fri, 10.30-13.00 Sat) Exchange of travellers cheques and currency. There’s an ATM near the bus stand. MP Tourism (252624; Sheesh Mahal or Betwa Retreat hotels; 7 a.m.-22 p.m.)

The way to and from Orchhi.

Tempo (big car rickshaws for several people; 10 rupees) run all day from the bus stand in Jhansi to Orchha and back. Private auto rickshaws cost about 150 rupees. When you arrive from Khajuraho, you can ask the driver to drop you off at the National Hwy at the Orchha turnoff, where you can catch a car that will take you to Orchha.

Unfortunately, there are no buses from Orchha to Khajuraho. You have to go to Jhansi first and then take the bus (120 rupees, six hours, 6.00-14.00) . Jhansi-Khajuraho buses usually do not stop on the road to pick up voters. A cab to Khajuraho will cost at least 2,000 rupees.

You can also take the slow passenger train to Khajuraho from the tiny railway station in Orchha, which is on Jhansi Road, 3 km from the village center. The train leaves daily at 7:25 and takes 5 hours (if there are no delays). There is only 2nd class here, so tickets cannot be booked. Just come to the station and buy a “general” ticket (30 rupees) . The train from Khajuraho leaves at 12:30.

Raiu Bikes (Laxmi Narayan Temple Rd; 7.00-18.00) provides loose bikes for a great price (hour/day 5/40 rupees) .

Orchha

Orchha is a forgotten Indian town that has kept all its attractions intact.

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Literally, “Orchha” translates as “the lost place”. And indeed, the city is abandoned. But thanks to this it has preserved its identity and historical monuments, becoming the most preserved ancient city in India. Orchha is rightly considered a symbol and a calling card of the country. Only here you can fully plunge into the rich history of the country, see numerous forts, temples and cenotaphs. Those who are interested in the history of India, should definitely visit Orchha.

The ancient city of Orchha

The banks of the Betwa River attracted Prince Rudra Pratap Singh for many years. In 1501 he built a city here, which later became the capital of India’s largest principality. During the reign of Bir Singh Deo, the city began to flourish at its peak and gave modern times magnificent palaces and holy places. After unsuccessful wars with the Mongols, Orchha begins to decline. The final devastation comes after the raids of Marathas. From then on Orchha is lost among the forests. The city became unnecessary to anyone, as it was not an important strategic position or economic center.

Looking at the city nowadays, a powerful contrast is created. Among the modern signs of stores, cafes and restaurants there is a piece of ancient India. Modern Orchha is not a bustling big city. The population is 10000 people. On the streets you will not find crowds of tourists or locals, even no endless vendors. It’s as if the city is asleep, waiting for its ruler. All the historical sites are located next to each other. Leaving one building, you can immediately get into another.

Orchha’s fortresses and temples had seen many battles in their time. There were internecine wars and Mongol attacks. In the modern world everything is quiet, no one is fighting, but there is a new enemy – time. It moves inexorably forward, destroying all those particles of the past, which remained a legacy to mankind. All the landmarks of the city, though fully preserved, are now in a dilapidated condition. Their inhabitants have become monkeys and bats. Unfortunately, the authorities do not seek to protect constructions, which have often been subjected to acts of vandalism.

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That is why when tourists come here, they see majestic but completely abandoned palaces. However, their number is not decreasing; on the contrary, each day there are more and more curious people.

Sights of Orchha

On the bank of the river Betwa the most beautiful city fortress of the Mongolian period is situated. This majestic construction astonishes with its architecture. It is decorated with numerous painted arches and domes. The fortress consists of several palaces. Let us take a look at them.

Raj Mahal.

This is the palace of the ruler of the city. It consists of the female half and the ruler’s chambers. The palace is completely painted with patterns and inscriptions. On its walls one can find plots from Hindu mythology. In the architecture of this palace the Indo-Saracenic style is considered to be the basis.

Jahangir Mahal

This is the personal palace of Emperor Jahangir. It is a three-storey well type building. The whole building is filled with magnificent arches, large balconies and terraces. There were once painted walls and stained glass windows all around, but they have not survived to this day.

Rai Praveen Mahal.

This palace was built by Raja Indramani in honor of his concubine. Her beauty was legendary throughout India. Many important people tried to win her favor, but the girl remained faithful to her raja.

Lakshmi Narayan Temple

The temple was built in honor of the goddess of fertility and good luck. It was built in 1662, but in 1793 the building was rebuilt. The architecture of the temple is similar to that of the forts. It is the only holy place in India built in a triangular shape.

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