Orchha is a pleasant town settled on the banks of River Betwa in Madhya Pradesh, India. Blessed with pristine beauty in abundance, Orchha meaning “a hidden place” totally lives upto its name. It is a haven of centuries-old temples and palaces that are a visual and architectural feast for every tourist who visits here. The most fascinating of all the surroundings is the Orchha’s Fort complex. The medieval architecture of its heritage speak volumes of the city’s rich cultural history. This city is usually covered in any itinerary of Khajuraho. So if you’re planning a getaway to Khajuraho Orchha soon or Orchha is on your cards then below is a quick travel guide that will transport you to the golden times of Bundela Kingdom.
MAKING OF ORCHHA CITY
Founded in the 16th century, this city has managed to retain its medieval splendour over the years. It was originally built in the year 1501 by Maharaja Rudra Pratap Singh (1st King of the Orchha Kingdom) and in the early 17th century, the Mughal dynasty took over this city and ruled here for the next 6 years. This city observed tremendous development during the rule of Maharaja Pratap Singh who ruled Orchha in the year 1874. Post independence, Orchha was counted as a part of the state of Madhya Pradesh.
POPULAR ATTRACTIONS OF ORCHHA FORT
If you want to see the finest architecture examples of Orchha then Orchha Fort complex is a must visit. This biggest tourist draw in Madhya Pradesh, is a conglomeration of the palaces belonging to the Kings of Orchha Kingdom and temples dating back to 16th and 17th century. This complex houses three main palaces: Raja Mahal, Jehangir Mahal and Rai Praveen Mahal. You need to buy a ticket here to explore all the sights in the town and Photography is prohibited in certain parts of the complex. Within the Orchha Fort’s complex, you will take a tour of the below attractions:
RAJA MAHAL :
It was the official residence of the erstwhile Orchha Kings and Queens and is a fine example of Mughal architectural style that features lavish royal rooms with ornate detailing, elevated balconies, royal interiors fragmented with mirrors, decorated wall murals with gods, mythical animals and people, secret passages and lots more. It is a monument that has withstood the ravages of time and is totally worthy for a watch.
JAHANGIR MAHAL :
This 17th century palace’s construction was commissioned by King Bir Singh Deo ( one of the Kings of Orchha) in the honor of Emperor Jahangir’s visit to Orchha considering the good relationships between the Bundelas and the Mughals. This is why, it get its name from the Mughal ruler “Jahangir”. It is also known as the “Rani Mahal” since the queen of Raja Madhukar Shah (one of the Kings of Orchha) stayed here. This beautiful palace offers panoramic views of the nearby Betwa river.
RAI PARVEEN MAHAL :
The Rai Parveen Mahal was the leisure palace of the Orchha Kings. King Indramani when impressed by the beauty and passion for poetry and music of Praveen (popularly known as the Nightingale of Orchha), built this palace in her honor. It displays various life-sized paintings of Rai Parveen in difference dance postures. Upon entrance is a large assembly hall used for royal gatherings and dance performances organized by the Kings and the upper level comprises of the rooms meant for the royal women.
LAXMI NARAYAN TEMPLE :
This temple dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi (Goddess of wealth and female energy) and her consort Narayan is one of the main religious temples of Orchha. Its interiors are a vibrant composition of of Mughal and Bundelkhand art through its frescoes and paintings and its architecture is an exceptional blend of temple and fort architecture. Built in 1622 by King Bir Singh Deo, it is a one-of-a-kind temple in India that has no statue of the Goddess placed within the temple.
CHATTARBHUJ TEMPLE :
This temple is a creation of King Madhukar between 1558 and 1573. It houses a distinguished four-armed idol of Lord Vishnu and that’s how it got its name. The interiors of this temple are bleak compared to its outer walls. The intricate carvings, ornate balconies and pointed temple towers of this seven-storeyed temple are worth appreciation. This temple resting on a raised platform displays European cathedral style of architecture and its rustic appeal surely adds to its charm. Climbing up the stairs of this temple might be challenging so keep a torch handy.
RAM RAJA TEMPLE :
The Ram Raja Temple is a sacred Hindu Temple dedicated to Lord Rama (a form of Lord Vishnu). It is the only temple in India where the idol of Lord Rama is placed within a palace and worshipped as a Divine King. The everyday Aarti at this temple is something, you can’t afford to miss. An interesting feature about this Aarti is that it ends with a gun salute to the deity. Simply put, this temple has an intriguing history and interesting tales to tell that can be best explored when visited.
CHHATRIS (CENOTAPHS) OF ORCHHA RULERS :
At present, there are 14 Chhatris built between 17th-18th centuries are memorials to the earlier Bundela Kings of Orchha Kings. These cenotaphs depict the victories, history and grandeur of the ancient rulers of Orchha. They are basically tombs that house the mortal remains of famed Kings like Bir Singh Deo, Jaswant Singh, Madhukar Shah and various others. All these cenotaphs slightly vary in design from each other while and the cenotaph of Bir Singh Deo is the most spectacular one. For splendid views of these cenotaphs, an early morning visit to the banks of the Betwa river is recommended.
THINGS TO DO IN AND AROUND ORCHHA
1. Enjoy a Sound and Light Show at Orchha Fort
Orchha hosts a scintillating Sound and Light show in the evening at the Raj Mahal, usually between November-February. It is usually a one-hour evening show that enthuses tourists by its fascinating displays of historical events and battle-cries, infidelities, warrior struggles and the history of Bundelkhand empire combined with audio-visual effects.
Sound and Light Show at Raj Mahal
Timings (may vary):
English : Mar-Oct [07:30 PM to 08:30 PM]
Hindi : Mar-Oct: [08:45 PM to 09:45 PM]
English : Nov-Feb [06:30 PM to 07:30 PM]
Hindi : Nov-Feb [07:45 PM to 08:45 PM]
2. Discover the magnificent Jhansi Fort (20 km/Approx. 45 minutes from Orchha)
It is a 17th century fort placed on a hilltop. Built by an Orchha King, it has been a witness to the fiery battle of led by Rani Laxmi Bai (a brave and fearless queen of Jhansi) in 1857. The Karak Bijli and Bhawani Shankar cannon belonging to the Rani Laxmi Bai and a museum exhibiting historical insights of Jhansi and Bundelkhand are few major attractions here. You can also watch a Sound and Light show held here in the evening.
Sound and Light Show at Jhansi Fort
Timings (may vary):
Summer season (April to October) :
Timings – 7.45 pm (Hindi)
Timings – 8.45 pm (English)
Winter season (November to March) :
Timings – 6.30 P.M (Hindi)
Timings – 7:30 P.M (English)
3. Excursion to the nearby Khajuraho Group of Temples (180 km/Approx 4 Hrs from Orchha)
Khajuraho is a wonderland of various temples depicting the golden era of the Chandela dynasty. Dating back to early 11th century, only about 20 out of 85 temples have managed to survive. All these temples have been designed with a number of ornate sculptures and erotic carvings with such finesse that they are counted among the finest masterpieces of Indian art. To go deeper into the history of Khajuraho temples, you can witness a 60-minute Sound and Light Show here in the evening. It is an audio-visual spectacle that evokes the era of Chandela rule and takes you back into the history of these beautiful temples from the 10th century till now.
Sound and Light Show in Khajuraho
Timings (All days in a week) :
6:30 PM – 7:30 PM (English)
7:40 PM – 8:35 PM (Hindi)
4. VISIT TO THE GWALIOR FORT (130 Km/Approx. 3-4 Hrs)
This imposing Gwalior Fort, touching the skyline of Gwalior, spreads over an expanse of 3 km. Built by Raja Man Singh Tomar, it has been a witness to various historical events and changed multiple hands over the years. Its exteriors are adorned with blue ceramic tiles that adds more charm to this fort. It houses plentiful palaces and the famous Teli-Ka-Mandir and various other temples. Note: Photography is prohibited inside the fort. In the evening, you can watch a Sound and Light Show at an open ampitheatre in the Man Singh Palace within the fort.
Sound and Light Show in Gwalior Fort
Timings (All days of the week) : 7:30 PM (Hindi) and 8:30 PM (English)
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT ORCHHA?
The most favourable time to visit Orchha is November – March as the weather is slightly cold during this time and the beauty of Orchha is at its best.
HOW TO REACH ORCHHA?
Visitors usually combine their visit to Orchha with Taj Mahal in Agra and the erotic temples of Khajuraho.
The nearest airport is GWALIOR AIRPORT (Approx. 3-4 hrs away from Orchha). On arrival, take a cab or taxi to reach Orchha.
The closest rail head is JHANSI RAILWAY JUNCTION (Approx. 0.5 hrs away from Orchha). On reaching, book a cab to reach Orchha.