Walk where kings once ruled
Madhya Pradesh in northern India is one of the least tourist states on the map of India. However, it’s still a home for several of India’s best destinations and things to do and see. One of them is the historic town of Orchha. Orchha was founded in the 16th century by King Rudra Pratap from the Mandela dynasty. He chose a strip of land next to the Batwa river to establish his capital. The most prominent ruler of the dynasty was Raja Bir Singh Deo, who built the Jahangir Palace, as a sign of friendship with the Muslim Mughal emperor. The remains of all the palaces and temples built in the 16th and 17th centuries are inspired by the architecture of the Mughal Empire that once influenced the Hindu kings.
Orchha is swamped with historical sites. Crumbling turrets of temples and once glorified but now abandoned palaces in what was the great capital of Hindu kings. At the beginning of the century vast conservation and recovery operations took place, and Orchha’s tourist scene started to bloom. The natural beauty of the landscape alongside the impressive monuments makes it an attractive spot. There is an array of high-quality hotels, family-run guesthouses, and good restaurants serving local food. There are lovely walks along the bank of the beautiful river, or stroll between the memorial structures (the Chahatri), visit the colorful market and relive the splendor of the royal past. Thanks to its compact size and the cluster of places of interest, it is a great opportunity to rent a bicycle or moped in Orchha just roam around leisurely and take in all the monuments and countryside.
A SHORT GUIDE TO ORCHHA’S MONUMENTS:
At the center of Orchha stands the massive Citadel. It holds three palaces built around an open rectangle:
Jahangir Palace (Jahangir mahal) stands on the top of the hill. Elegant pavilions are scattered around the courtyard, and remains of the blue ceramics which once covered the walls are still visible. The central courtyard has some impressive remains of work tools that were once used to grow the tulsi plant which is a type of basil that is sacred to Vishnu (one of the main gods in the Hindu Trinity).
In the second story, relics can be found off the decorated maharaja’s chair surrounded by the chairs of the princess (maharani). From the balconies, you can see a rectangular building that was the residence of the palace dancers and the remains of an exquisite garden.
The main entrance to the palace is from the city, from the side facing the river. Two statues of elephants stand in the entrance and above it paintings of geese, peacocks, elephants, and parrots. Not far from the entrance are the camel stables.
There are more interesting sites to see in Orchha: the impressive Raj Palace (Raj Mahal), opposite Jahangir Palace, towards the city. Inside it, there are many colorful wall paintings mostly on religious subjects. The Rai Praveen Palace (Rai Praveen Mahal) was named after a poet and musician, a lover of the Raja. The two-story low palace was surrounded by gardens. There are also several interesting temples in Orchha like the Ram Raja temple, the Chaturbhuj temple, and the unusual looking Laxminarayan temple.
HOW TO GET TO ORCHHA:
Jhansi is the main transportation hub of the area and has a service from main cities like Delhi and Agra. From there, buses and rickshaws are available to take the short 18 km journey to Orchha.
Orchha is a great place to visit. It’s laid back, relaxing and there a lot to see and do for a nice, enjoyable few days.