The wonderful town of Orchha, situated by a river, is the true respite for tourism in the Bundelkhand region of Madhya Pradesh. This historical town lives up to its name, Orchha, meaning the hidden city. Surrounded by a forest from all sides it was founded by the Rajput King Rudrapatap in the 16th century. During the Mughal rule over India, the kings of Orchha ruled here among favor and resistance from three generations of Mughal Emperors. However, truly blessed, the town grew to be the capital of Bundela kings, who built some marvelous structures here. Today, it is one of the towns with a high density of tourist attractions in India. This relatively small settlement hosts various temples of historical as well as religious importance, a magnificent fort with a wide range of monuments within and the chatris of the Orchha kings situated beautifully on the bank of Betwa River. Most of the places in Orchha can be easily reached afoot. However, the roads are good enough to roam through the village in a vehicle.
One of the major attractions of Orchha is the Orchha Fort Complex. On a one minute walk from the main marketplace, this set of grand structures dominates the eastern side of the town. The first of the palaces within the complex is the Raaj Mahal. This beautiful residence of the kings is well known for the religious murals painted on its walls. It was built by Madhukar Shah during the later half of the 16th century.
The next and the best monument inside the fort is Jehangir Mahal. It was built by Bir Singh Deo in the 17th century. Bir Singh, who was a close friend of Jehangir, built it to welcome Empror Jehangir during his one day’s stay in Orchha. This three storied structure has a grand courtyard with a fountain in the centre. This beautiful palace is a fine example Hindu architecture during middle ages.
Rai Pravin Mahal, the palace of the beautiful and exceptionally gifted queen, resides on the Northern end of the complex. Rai Pravin was a talented dancer and singer with a great taste in art. It is believed that Jehangir had fallen in love with her during his visit and proposed to marry her, but loyal to her husband, Queen Rai Pravin had declined the offer respectfully.
Amongst other monuments within the complex is Sheesh Mahal. This beautiful building sharing a portion of Jehangir Mahal has been converted into a heritage hotel. There are also some camel stables in the rear of the complex.
Orchha is also famous for its Raja Ram Mandir. This is the only temple in India where Ram is worshiped as a King. This temple was originally a palace. The statue of Lord Ram here was brought from Ayodhya by Rani Ganesh Kunwari, the wife of Madhukar Shah. It was to be installed in a temple that would be built. However, when the statue was placed inside the palace temporarily, it occurred to the queen that the condition upon which the statue had been given to her was that once the statue had been placed anywhere in the town, it would become its place for the eternity. Hence the statue never moved from the fortified palace, and the structure later took form of a temple.
The great building of Chatirbhuj Temple near Raja Ram Mandir easily dominates the western half of the town. This was supposed to be the temple where the statue of Raja Ram would be placed. It was built by Madhukar Shah. This temple, a wonderful example of Hindu architecture, is an exciting place to visit and roam through. You will need a flashlight and a ticket (bought from the fort) to climb up the narrow stairways that connect three stories of the temple. The windows and balconies reached this way offer nice and all around view of the town.
At the far Northeastern end of the town is Laxmi Narayan Temple. An architectural fusion, the temple is partly built in the style of a fort. There are some magnificent murals on the walls of this temple. At the southern end of the town lie the famous Chatris of Orchha. These temple-like monuments built to remember the Orchha kings are beautifully situated on the bank of River Betwa and make a wonderful site during sunrise and sunset.
Orchha is situated nearly 20 kilometers from Jhansi and provides excellent staying facilities. There are some famous resorts here along with a wide range of medium and economy range hotels and guest houses. It is highly recommended that you stay here by night, so that you can enjoy the early morning as well as evening atmosphere in the town, which can be enjoyable as Orchha is a place made for tourists. It wont be a bad idea to reach Orchha directly instead of going to Jhansi and root a two-night halt, during which you can make a half day trip to visit Jhansi Fort.