Are you the one who loves heritage, architecture, cobblestoned streets, ethnic cuisine and all of it beside a river bed? The tiny town Orchha is the answer destination for you.
Imbued with the might of India against the British rule and a pinch of Mughal architecture once a princely state the river front town casts a spell with its erstwhile medieval ambience. Though modern housing has progressed but nostalgia is still here.
Now, with clean India campaign the small town dotted with forts, palaces and temples is cleaner than ever. The government of Madhya Pradesh state has finally laid its focus on the value of the small town and is now working to preserve the chivalry and romance of it.
The state government is organising a festival from March 6 to March 8 to attract more exposure to a tourist wealth that had been lying unused for years. Orchha, once a princely state and bastion of Bundela Kings with still best-preserved architecture, paintings, culture and everything if you love Located west to world famous Khajuraho, the town was once nestled within a glorious fort known as Orchha fort of 16th century AD. The most famous place for the townspeople is the Ram Raja temple, a temple dedicated to Lord Ram who is worshipped as the King of city. In a unique tradition the deity enjoys official guard of honour from the police and administration twice every day.
Still untouched from the ultra-paced modern life Orchha in olden times was an ideal place to build a capital as the town is sheltered by thick forest, which is probably the reason that these age-old monuments still exist in excellent condition, despite there being no major preservation efforts.
As you walk down to the river banks from the temple you may catch a glimpse of local life at its colourful best. On auspicious days, villagers throng here to pray, while vendors sell vermillion powder, sweets, beads and bangles and folk musicians strike up their instruments to accompany bhajans (hymns) sung soulfully by wandering mendicants. Just steps away, huddled together on the banks of the river are the grim but imposing chhatris (cenotaphs) of the medieval rulers who left their mark on this place.
Over the years, several generations of kings and their queens lived in this complex, with a lobby of officials, servants, horses and elephants. Entry to Orrcha fort takes you to a large courtyard from which you enter the Raja Mahal (King’s Palace). Inside the royal chambers, one can see intricate murals of gods, mythological creatures, humans and animals, depicting religious and social themes. The upstairs rooms still have remnants of mirrors in the ceilings and walls; take a minute to imagine the effect when dancing girls swirled around.
Just a short walk away is Jehangir Mahal, a palace built for the Mughal emperor Jehangir’s one-night visit to Orchha in the 17th Century – such was the obsequious flattery shown towards the emperor of India by the local rulers. This four-storey architectural masterpiece is a mix of Muslim and Rajput architecture and has countless rooms with arched entrances, balconies and latticed windows that frame miniature painting-like views of the monument-studded riverbank outside.
Chaturbhuj Temple, an imposing structure with stark interiors as no deity was ever worshipped inside. The god Rama, for whom the temple was built, chose instead to reside in a part of the Raja Mahal, appearing to the queen in a dream where he refused to move to his grand, newly built accommodation. Thus, a section of the palace was converted into the Ram Raja Temple, which continues to be a lively and bustling venue packed with worshippers who come to pay respects to “King Ram” who rules the town.