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The Beginning

Orchha (or Urchha) is a town in Tikamgarh district of Madhya Pradesh state, India. The town was the seat of an eponymous former princely state of central India, in the Bundelkhand region. Orchha is the erstwhile capital city of the Bundela rulers. The town is steeped in history and is famous for its palaces and temples built in the 16th and 17th centuries.Orchha lies on the Betwa River, not far from Jhansi and the forests around it attract tourist to this place.Orchha, meaning a "hidden place", certainly lives up to its name.

Orchha's grandeur has been captured in stone, frozen in time, a rich legacy to the ages. Orchha provides a reflection of rich Indian heritage with monumental marvels and its fascinating architecture.


The Past

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 and became the first King of Orchha.The architectural splendor of the monuments in Orchha reflects the glory of its rulers. 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. The town, surrounded by thick jungle that long made it impregnable, was founded in 1531 and served until 1783 as the capital of the former Orchha princely state.Orchha declined with the transfer of the capital to Tikamgarh in 1783.

The district became part of Vindhya Pradesh state, which was merged into Madhya Pradesh state in 1956. Today Orchha is almost a nondescript town with a small population, and its importance is maintained only due to its rich architectural heritage and tourism.

The Heritage

Orchha provides a reflection of rich Indian heritage with monumental marvels and its fascinating architecture. The architectural style of Orchha is predominated by the use of domes,brackets,chajjas,arches and pillars. Architectural gems abound in this town.Orchha are magnificent palaces and huge temples. Most of the places of interest are located very close to one another making it less tiring for tourists to enjoy the glory of Orchha.The Jahangir Mahal is the most grandiose structure in Orchha. The Raja Mahal is another monument of historical importance as is the Rai Praveen Mahal.An island in the Betwa, approached by a causeway, contains a large 17th-century fort and palace. Other buildings of historic interest are several temples and an excellent example of Muslim domestic architecture. There are also several cenotaphs of the Orchha rulers. Two fairs are held annually. With their rich historical background, these places hold great value for the legacy of Orchha.

The Position & Climate

Orchha is located in northern part of the state of Madhya Pradesh, in the central region of India. It lies beside the Malwa plateau. The Betwa River flows through the town. The climate of Orchha is temperate. Summers (April-June) are not too hot while winters are cool (November-February) and pleasant. It experiences southwestern monsoon rains in July-September. It is 18 km from Jhansi.

 Route to Reach

Air : Nearest airport is Gwalior (119 km) connected with Delhi, Bhopal, Indore and Mumbai. Khajuraho (170 km), is connected with Delhi, Agra and Varanasi.

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.

Road :
Orchha lies on a diversion from the Jhansi-Khajuraho road. Regular bus services connect Orchha with Jhansi.Tempos and taxis are also available.
Local Transport
Buses and taxis are the prominent means of transportation in Orchha. Rickshaws and taxis are also available in good numbers.


Time to Visit

The best to visit Orchha is between October and March.

Languages Spoken

Orchha is an important Cultural Centre. Languages spoken are Marathi, Hindi, English, and Gujarati.


Places of Interest

In the part of Central India known as Bundelkhand the monument of Orchha stand testimony to the grandeur of the Bundela style of architecture. Medieval India has been witness to it's glory by virtue of it serving as the capital of Bundelkhand.The place also served as an important cultural center with many of the monuments and temples serving till today as testimony to the past glory. The earliest buildings in Orchha were established on an island of rock surrounded in a loop by the river Betwa, the approach being provided by a many arched bridge. Nature has endowed the town with serene environment with the river and resplendent forest and vegetation providing a fascinating backdrop.

Jehangir 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. It is known for its delicate work on one hand and balanced with strong masonry on the other.

Raj Mahal
Situated to the right 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 while the interiors are stark.

Laxminarayan Temple
The Laxminarayan temple is a unique blend of temple and fort architecture. The frescoes within this temple depict social and secular themes. They are in excellent state of preservation, with the colours retaining their vivid quality.

Ram Raja Temple
With its soaring spires and palatial architecture, this temple is surely one of the most unusual in India. It is also the only place in the country where Rama worshipped as a King.

Phool Bagh
The Phool Bagh is a well-laid garden and was the resting place of the erstwhile Bundela rulers. This garden has fountains, pavilions and ingenious water ventilation system.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.

The Chhatris
A solemn row of pale brown weed-choked domes and spires, the riverside Chhatris are Orchha's most melancholy ruins. The fourteen chhatris or memorials to Bundelkhand's former rulers are situated near the Kanchan Ghat on River Betwa.

The Shahid Smarak commemorating the martyrdom of Chandrashekhar Azad, the great freedom fighter, is an important place to visit. Other places to visit in Orchha include the shrine of Siddh Baba Ka Sthan, Jugal Kishore, Janki Mandir, Dinman Hardul's palace, Sunder Mahal, and the Hanuman Mandir at Ochharedwara.

PLACES AROUND ORCHHA

The historic city of Jhansi is 18 km from Orchha. It is a famous tourist destination and is known for the exploits of Rani Jhansi, who played an important role in fighting the British during the revolt of 1857. A number of monuments belonging to this period including Jhansi Fort and Rani Jhansi's Palace are important tourist attractions of Jhansi.

Where to Stay

Orchha is not a very big city and the accommodation you will get here are simple and comfortable. You will also find many budget hotels that will provide you with all basic facilities and a good hygienic stay. Sheesh Mahal which is a part of the Jahangir Palace within the fort complex is a great place to stay and there are the very pretty Betwa cottages by the Betwa river. Orchha Resort is the only five-star hotel here. There are excellent accommodation facilities in and around Orchha. There are CPWD and Irrigation Dept guest houses also.

Conclusion

In the heart of Bundelkhand lies a fortified cluster of dwellings, temples and shrines bearing testimony to a medieval legacy in stone – Orchha.It has been called a medieval legacy in stone.Orchha is the oldest and highest in rank of all the Bundela principalities.Orchha is blessed with the historical attractions of 16th and 17th century palaces and temples, rich in their architectural splendor. Travel through this dreamland to explore famous and not so famous rural marvels of time!

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