Orchha: As Seen From My Eyes & Places To Visit In Orchha
The City of Jhansi is very famous and is known to most of India as the city represents Rani Lakshmi Bai, a freedom fighter of India who participated in the War of 1857. The city of Jhansi has forts, palaces, museum and other monuments that were associated with Queen of Jhansi. Jhansi is always important for me as it is the city from where I completed my graduation and spend four fantastic years of my life.
Orchha is a small town situated in Tikamgarh district of Madhya Pradesh, and it is situated only 15Km from Jhansi. Orchha is a historical city and once it was center of Bundela Kingdom of Central India. Orchha lies on the bank of Betwa River which is a tributary of Yamuna River. Though the name Orchha is not so common among travelers in India, the city encompasses many ancient buildings, forts, Temples and wildlife sanctuary. In this article, I would be sharing my trip to Orchha, the important places to visit in Orchha, the importance of structure situated in Orchha, the best time to plan a trip to Orchha.
My Trip to the City of Orchha
As mentioned above I did my graduation from Jhansi and since Orchha lies close to Jhansi, during my college years I got many opportunities to visit this place. The swift flow of Betwa River and Temples of Orchha holds such an importance that no matter how many times you visit this place it won’t be sufficient. After completing college life, I didn’t get any chance to visit either Jhansi or Orchha but it was an unfulfilled desire to visit this place once more. I got this opportunity when one of my college juniors informed me that he is getting married and venue of marriage was Jhansi. It was a boon for me as now I had a chance to visit both Orchha and attend the marriage ceremony. I soon as the call ended I logged into IRCTC website and booked my ticket from New Delhi to Orchha.
Importance of City of Orchha
The Bundelkhand Region lines in the center of India and this area was mostly under the control of Hindu Rajput Kings (excluding the Mughal Period and British Empire Period). The region has many temples and Monuments dedicated to Jainism and Gods and Goddess of Hinduism. The famous Khajuraho Group of Monuments also lies in the Bundelkhand region. Although the Mughals did control the region for a period of 200 years they were not able to fully control this region due to its tough and harsh topography. Orchha was founded in the 16th century by the Bundela chief Rudra Pratap Singh, who became the First Raja of Orchha. The Chandela Rulers of Bundelkhand also successfully repulsed the Mughal invasion many times. The impact of Hindu dominion ensured the survival of many Hindu Temples of Orchha and monuments. Khajuraho Group of Monuments is already a UNESCO World Heritage and many forts and temples in Orchha hold significant importance. The architecture involved in the construction of temples situated in Orchha was far advanced of that time and it is due to this fact that these temples have survived so many years. Not only the architecture but also the selection of the site of construction was precisely chosen. The Chattris on the bank of Betwa river looks marvelous in moonlight so does the Raja Ram Temple attracts thousands of visitors every day.
Delhi To Jhansi and Finally Orchha
While visiting Orchha this time, I was a bit lucky as I visited this place twice in two days. First with my relatives (in afternoon) and next day in the morning (with my college juniors). My train was from New Delhi Railways Station at 11:30 PM and I reached Jhansi at 5:30 in the morning. After reaching Jhansi I went to my relative’s home and took rest for few hours. After talking and morning breakfast we all were ready to visit Orchha. Since it was a month of April (Bundelkhand region is famous for scorching summer) temperature was already breaking limits and our first impression was that we did mistake by visiting in afternoon. Anyways after acclimatizing our self, we decided to visit the famous fort situated in Orchha. Since it was afternoon all temples were closed and we had the only option of visiting the Forts situated in Orchha.
Places to Visit in Orchha
All the places that can be visited in Orchha can be divided into three parts.
- The Temples Situated in Orchha
- Forts in Orchha
- Chattris on the Bank of River Betwa
- Orchha Wild Life Sanctuary
Although there are many smaller buildings in the surrounding areas, due to lack of care they were in very bad shape. Also, the best time to visit Orchha is during the Monsoon season, as it is during this time the Betwa River flows in its full might and the entire area is covered with greenery. If you are planning to visit Orchha just avoid the summer season i.e. from mid-March to mid-July. Excluding this period, you will also find Orchha a beautiful place to visit.
Forts Situated in Orchha
There are three famous forts situated in Orchha and they all lie close to each other. The first one is Jahangir Mahal (Jahangir’s Fort), second is The Raja Mahal (King’s Fort) and third is Sheesh Mahal.
- Jahangir Mahal: The Jahangir Mahal lies within the compound of RajaMahall and it was built by Bir Singh Deo in 1605 to honor the Mughal Emperor Jahangir when he visited the City of Orchha for the first time. The Jahangir Mahal is three storied and its architectural style resembles both Muslim and Bundela Architecture. The entire complex is symmetrical in shape and has eight large domes. The entrance of Jahangir Mahal is marked by an artistic gateway and the walls are covered with paintings. The fort has many big rooms and balconies associated with it and it provides a perfect view of the temples situated in Orchha as well as Betwa River is clearly visible form all the floors of Jahangir Mahal.
- Raja Mahal: The Raja Mahal was constructed for Kings and queen of Bundelkhand in early 16th Century. The walls of Raja Mahal are decorated with paintings and chambers are designed with patenting carved on walls. Raja Mahal is again symmetrical like Jahangir’s Mahal and upper floor of the palace has mirrors in the celling’s and walls. One important feature of Raja Mahal is that the from the central western window of the palace, one can see the inside of Chaturbhuj Temple where initially the idol of Lord Rama was supposed to be placed. The Chaturbhuj Temple was constructed in a way that queen can see the idol of Lord Rama directly from palace window but due to delay in the construction of Chaturbhuj Temple, the idol of Lord Rama Was placed in Raja Ram Temple. The entire construction is ventilated and we felt the breeze even in this scorching summer. It is also believed that there are many secret passages in Raja Mahal but we didn’t find anyone.
- Sheesh Mahal: The Sheesh Mahal lies in between Raja Mahal and Jahangir Mahal and it used to serve as royal accommodation. The Sheesh Mahal is now converted into Hotel cum restaurant where tourists can enjoy delicious food and experience the royalty of Bundela Kings.
Temples Situated in Orchha
During the first day of my visit, I only visited the forts of Orchha as temple gates were closed. Next day I came back to Orchha from Jhansi (in the early morning) to visit the temples and participate in the Aarti held at Raja Ram temple. I was also accompanied by my college juniors and we were ready to explore the beauty of Orchha as we did during our college days. The important temples situated in Orchha includes The Raja Ram Temple, The Chaturbhuj Temple, and The Laxminarayan Temple.
- Raja Ram Temple of Orchha: The Raja Ram Temple is one of the most important temple that is situated in Orchha. It attracts thousands of devotees every day and on some auspicious day, the pilgrim’s count goes in Lakhs. One important thing about Raja Ram Temple of Orchha is that in this temple Lord Rama is prayed as a king rather than as a god. The Raja Ram temple was initially a fort and queen of Orchha went to Ayodhya to bring the idol of Lord Rama which was to be installed in the newly constructed temple. Since the construction got delayed the idol was placed in the palace and it remained there and even after the construction of Temple. The temple complex is very big and has four domes like structure. The temple also hosts the idols of Goddess Sita (on the left), and brother Laxman (on the right). Apart from this Sugreev (Monkey King who supported Lord Ram) and Narsingh Bhagwan (incarnation of Lord Vishnu) are also present. It is common in temples dedicated to Lord Ram that there will be an idol of Lord Hanuman and so is in the case of Raja Ram temple.
- The Chaturbhuj Temple: The Chaturbhuj temple lies adjacent to Raja Ram Temple and Chaturbhuj Temple was initially constructed to house the idol of Lord Rama. The word Chaturbhuj means four arms which indicated the incarnation of Lord Vishnu as Lord Rama. Temple has multistory structure and its construction resembles that of a temple, a fort and palace altogether. At present Lord Krishna and Radha is worshipped here. From Chaturbhuj Temple one can view the panoramic view of both the Raja Mahal & Jahangir Mahal as well as the Chattris on the Bank of River Betwa.
- Laxminarayan Temple: The Laxminarayan Temple is at a short distance from the Raja Ram Temple and Chaturbhuj Temple. The structure of temple resembles a bird with wings wide open. It is believed to be constructed in shape of Owl (Goddess Lakshmi Vehicle). Over a period, this temple has somehow lost its importance and only a few people visit this temple. Majority of devotees goes to Raja Ram Temple.
Chattris On the Banks of River Betwa: Once we were done with prayers and temple visits we went to the other side of River Betwa (The riverside containing Chattirs was heavily crowded). Chattris on the bank of River Betwa is another architectural masterpiece and they were constructed as the memorials of Bundela Kings of Bundelkhand. In total there are 15 chattris in Orchha. Although all the chattris looks similar in size, you will get to know the difference once you visit them. The Chattri dedicated to Vir Singh Deo is the most popular and frequently visited by tourists. The side of the river where Chattris are situated has staircases leading to the river but the best view can be seen after crossing the Betwa River and viewing the Chattris from Sanctuary side. When we all were enjoying the water of Betwa River we clicked few photos of Chattris and they were as beautiful as the Chattris are. It is also recommended to view the Chattris in evening but due to lack of time we returned before evening as we have to attend the marriage ceremony (the primary reason why we were in Orchha!)
Orchha Wild Life Sanctuary: To visit the Orchha Wild Life Sanctuary one has to cross the narrow bridge and reach another side of River.It covers an area of 25km in length and 15km in width. The wildlife sanctuary has animals like Blue Bull, Peacock, Wild pig, Monkey, Jackal, Nilgai and Sloth Bear. The sanctuary also has 200 distinct species of birds and therefore also termed as Orchha Bird Sanctuary. Entrance fees is INR 50 per person and one can hire cycle if they want to explore a larger area. Since it was too hot and sun already climbing, we decided to avoid renting cycle and spend some time bathing and playing in the clean and slow-moving water of Betwa River. It is advisable to visit the Orchha Wild Life sanctuary immediate after the rainy season as it is the time when animals in this sanctuary are at its peak.
Returning to Jhansi, Attending marriage and Back to Delhi: Once we were done with visiting all the places and reviving old memories of college days, we left for Jhansi and then started preparing ourselves for the marriage function. Next day I had a reservation and I went back to Delhi with a lot of memories of Orchha and Jhansi in my heart and mind.
Best Time to Visit Orchha: Although Orchha can be visited at any time of the year, it is advisable to avoid the summer month as the temperature is at peak and there is very less water in Betwa River. You will miss the greenery and the way greenery surrounds the Chattris and other monuments of Orchha. Best time to visit Orchha is from August to January.
Places to Stay in Orchha: There are many big and small hotels available in Orchha and one doesn’t require prior reservation. Hotel Amar Mahal is one of the finest hotels in Orchha but it is quite costly. I would recommend staying in Jhansi as the city has some good hotels and restaurants and since Orchha is only 15Km from Jhansi once can reach there in 30 Minutes.
Other Places to Visit Near Orchha: The entire Bundelkhand region has some great forts and temples alike of which can’t be seen in entire India. Khajuraho, a UNESCO world heritage site is only 170Km from Orchha and it is must recommend the place. The city of Jhansi has forts of Queen Lakshmibai and Museum. The city of Gwalior is nearly 115Km from Orchha and it is also a beautiful place to visit. Datia district is only 25km from Jhansi (40Km from Orchha) and it has Fort of Veer Singh and Pitambara Peeth which is a major place of worshiping of Goddess Durga.
Thanks for reading this article and if any of our readers want to visit this beautiful place they can ask/question in the comment section and I would love to help them. If you really like this article do share with your friends.