By Sanjeev Nayyar Sanjeev@esamskriti.com | 2008

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Orchha is app 20 kms from Jhansi. The Shatabdhi Express takes app 4 hours from Delhi to Jhansi. See Chhatris, Chaturbhuj Temple, Raja Mahal, Ram Mandir and Laxmi Narayan temple & Bundela paintings. You see the Chhatris on the banks of the river Betwa. River rafting starts from here.

One of the cenotaphs is that of Banka Umed Singh. Orchha was founded in the 16th century by Bundela chieftain Rudra Pratap who made it his capital. The most notable Bundela ruler was Raja Bir Singh Ju Deo.

A closer view of the chhatris. There are 14 chhatris to the rulers of Orchha grouped along the Kanchan Ghat of river Betwa.

A sun set view with the chhatris. We spent one hour on the river banks with our feet in water. A city person like me loved it. There is a small bridge across the river.

We found more foreign than Indian tourists. The main market road has a number of small restaurants that cater to tourists as you see in this picture. You get Italian, Mexican and Israeli food.

You see the famous Ram Raja Temple. It is the only temple in the country where Ram is worshipped as King because of the icon of Shri Ram in the palace. According to tradition Rani Ganesh Kunwari, wife of Madhukar Shah brought the icon from Ayodhya to Orchha to install it in the temple. For more read travelogue.

You see Chathurbuj Temple. I tried clicking this picture from the Raja Mahal i.e. opposite the temple but there was no place to click from hence the post card.

A side view of the temple. A tall shikhara (spire) rises over the sanctum. This is an amazingly huge structure. The temple was built by Madhukar Shah for his queen Kunwari.

The temple is reached by a flight of steps. Since it was Diwali time the temple was full of visitors. They performed a dance called Momiya dance. It involves dancing with peacock feathers as you can see in this picture.

You come up the stairs into a huge open hall in front of the icon. I clicked this picture of them dancing from a height. It is full of fervor, noise and action.

From the temple I saw a Pandit (priest) doing puja of a newly purchased Hyundai I10 car.

Clicked this picture from ground level for you to see how big and tall the temple is. It has many floors. You have to climb a series of narrow steps to reach the temple top.

A close up view of the Shikharas (spire). This is the highest point that we could climb to. You get a spectacular view of the town from here.

A near 2 km stone path links the Ram Raja Temple to the Lakshminarayana Temple which fuses elements of fort architecture in temple moulds. The interiors contain some of the most exquisite murals and walls of the Bundela School of painting. It was built on an elevation and on a rectangular plan by Veer Singh Deo in 1622 and renovated by Prithvi Singh in 1793.

A view of the Raja Mahal complex clicked from Chathurbuj Temple. A four arched bridge leads to the fort complex on the island. The complex has a 14 kms fort wall around it. It consists of Raj Mahal, Jehangir Mahal, Rai Parveen Mahal. A must see.

In front see Betwa River, small bridge and background is fort wall of Raja Mahal complex. When we went river rafting we went below the bridge. Clicked this from the across the river i.e. wildlife sanctuary side.

Raj Mahal, the second palace in the fort is well known for its murals depicting religious themes. Its plain exterior, a solid single block crowned by chhatris (umbrella like memorial cenotaphs). In the Janana (women’s) chamber is a huge courtyard that overlooked the Queens rooms which is what you see.

The deeply religious Madhukar Shah built Raj Mahal between 1554 and 1591. You see an enterprising guide dancing with Italian tourists. Guides of Orchha are very good at speaking foreign languages including Japanese.

You see a front view of the Jahangir Mahal clicked from Raj Mahal. It was built by Bir Singh Deo in the early part of the 17th century to mark the visit of Mughal king Jahangir.

You see courtyard of Jahangir Mahal. The 70m square palace has a small interior courtyard with a central fountain around which are apartments and terraces in three storeys. A dome caps each corner bastion. There are eight domes. The architecture is a blend of traditional Hindu and elaborate Mughal. Centre dome is Hindu, lotus flower upside down while right dome is plain i.e. Islamic.

You see main entrance to Jahangir Mahal ie from the eastern Betwa river side. Earlier I thought that Jahangir Mahal meant it was made by Jahangir. During this trip realized that Mahal was named after him only because it was made by the local king in his honor.

A close up of entrance to Jahangir Mahal. Note the architecture and elephants on either side of entrance.

You see sun rise at Orchha, notice bridge in center of picture. As we were getting ready to go river rafting we got an amazing and enriching feel of rural India.

Devotees from far and wide come in buses that you see in picture, camp on the banks of the Betwa River before having darshan at Chathurbuj Temple which is what you see in the background.

You see devotees on the river banks washing clothes and having a bath. They sleep in the buses.

You see devotees cooking food. They come prepared with stocks of provisions. All they need is a place to cook. Most city bred people like me might never travel like this. We would crib. But these people were enjoying themselves. They looked so happy.

MP Tourism organizes a one hour river rafting program for Rs 1200/. There are a couple of rapids not as exciting as rafting on the Ganges but great fun though. We loved it. You get a great view of Orchha from the boat. You see wifey with our guides who I must say were very competent and courteous.

MP Tourism hotel is called Betwa Retreat. You see the garden. Great place, great service, great food and situated on the banks of the river. Read a book on its terrace i.e. virtually next to the river.

Manager’s wife Mrs Malhotra made a beautiful Rangoli in garden since it was Diwali time. A must see Orchha. Keep two days if not three. It is a very clean and well laid out town. Read Travelogue.

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