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l   Khajuraho l

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 Orcha Temple           

Orchha was founded in the 16th century by the Bundela Rajput chieftain Rudra Pratap who chose this streatch of land along the Betwa river as an ideal site for his capital. Of the succeeding rulers, the most notable was Raja Bir Singh Ju Deo who built the exquisite Jehangir Mahal, a tiered palace crowned by graceful chhatries. From here the view of soaring temple spires and cenotaphs is spectacular.

Strewn around the area are little shrines and memorials, each with its own poignant history, each contributing to the nostalgic beauty is Orchha.

What to See

Orchha's fort complex, approaches by a multi-arched bridge, has threee palaces set in an open quadrangle. The most spectacular of thee are :

Jehangir Mahal : Built by Raja Bir Singh Ju Deo in the 17th century to commemorate the visit of Emperor Jehangir to Orchha. Its strong lines are counterbalanced by delicate chhatries and treillies work, the whole conveying an effect of extraordinary richness.

Raj Mahal : Situated to the right of the quardrangle, this palace was built by Madhukar Shah, the deeply religious predecessor of Bir Singh Ju Deo. The plain exteriors, crowned by Chharties, give way to interiors with exquisite murals, boldly colourful, on a variety of religious themes.

Rai Praveen Mahal : Poetess and musician, Rai Praveen was the beautiful paramour of Raja Indramani (1672-76), and was sent to Delhi on the orders of Emperor Akbar, who was captivated by her. She so impressed the Great Mughal with the purity of her love for Indramani that he sent here back to Orchha. The palace built for her is a low, two storeyed brick structure, designed to match the height of the trees in the surrounding, beautifully landscaped gardens of Anand Mahal, with its octagonal flower beds and elaborate water supply system. Skilfully carved niches allow light into the Mahal which has a main hall and smaller chambers.

Ram Raja Temple : This palace - turned - temple has a charming legend attached to it. Following the dream visitatio of Lord Rama, Madhukar Shah's wife, Ganesh Kunawari brought a statue of the god from Ayodha to Orcha. While the king was a worshipper of Lord Kridhna, the Queen was devotee of Lord Krishna, the queen was a devotee of lord Rama. The image was placed in a palace prior to its installation in a temple. When the idol proved impossible to move, the queen recalled, too late the deity's edict that the image would remain in the place where it was first installed. Today, with its soaring spires and palatial architecture, the temple is surely one of the most unusual in India. It is also the only in the country where Rama is worshipped as a king (Raja).

Chaturbhuj Temple : Built upon a massive stone platform and reached by a steep flight of steps. The temple was specially constructed to enshrine the image of Ram that remained in the Ram Raja Templ. Lotus emblems and other symbols of religious significance provide the delicate exterior ornamentation. Within, the sanctum is chastely plain with high, vaulted walls emphasizing its deep sanctity.

Laxminarayana temple : A flagstone path links this temple with the Ram Raja Temple. The style is an interesting synthesis of fort and temple moulds. The interiors Covering the walls and ceiling of three halls, these murals are vibrant compositions and cover a variety of spiritual and secular subjects. They are in an excellent state of preservation, with the colours retaining their vivid quality.

Phool Bagh : Laid out as a formal garden, this complex testifies to the refined aesthetic qualities of the Bundelas. A central row of fountains culminates in an eight-pillared palace-pavilion. A subterranean structure below was the cool summer retreat of the Orchha kings. An ingenious systems of water ventilation connected the under ground palace with Chandan Katora, a bow-like structure from whose fountains droplets of water filtered through to the roof, simulating rainfall.

Dinman Hardaul's Palace : Hardaul was a son of Bir Singh Ju Deo, and died to prove his innocence to his elder brother Jhujhar who cast doubts on his relationship with his (Jhujhar's) consort. This saintly prince was, after his martyrdom, worshipped as a god, and even today, the villages of Bundelkhand contain platform -like shrines where Hardaul is worshipped.

Sunder Mahal : This small palace, almost in ruins today, is still a place of pilgrimage for Muslims Dhurjban, son of Jhujhar, embraced Islam when he wed a Muslim girl at Delhi. He spent the latter part of his life in prayer and meditation and came to be revered as a saint.

How to Reach

By Rail : Nearest railhead at Jhansi (16 km), on the Mumbai - Delhi and Delhi - Madras main lines, Al major mail and express trains stop at Jhansi.

By Road : Orchha lies on the Jhansi - Khajuraho Road. Regular bus service connect Orchha with Jhansi.

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Khajuraho Temple               

Khajuraho great complex is open to speculation. With the decline of the dynasty, the temples lay forgotten for many centuries, covered by the encroaching forests, victim to the ravages of the elements. Re-discovered only in this century, restored and cleaned, these temples once again testify to a past glory. 
Architecturally too, they are unique, being very different from the temple prototype of their period. Each stands on a high masonry platform with a marked upward direction in the structure, further enhanced by vertical projections to create the effect of grace and lightness. Each of the chief compartments is mounted by its own roof, grouped so that the highest is in the centre, the lowest over the portico; a highly imaginative recreation of the rising peaks of the Himalayas, the abode of Gods. Three geographical divisions group the temples  The temples are superb examples of IndoAiyan architecture, but it's the decorations krith which they are so liberally embellished Sat has made Khajuraho famous. Around the temples are bands of exceedingly fine tad artistic stonework. The sculptors have shown many aspects of Indian life 1000 years ago - gods and goddesses, warriors and musicians, real and mythological animals. But two elements appear over and over again and in greater detail than anything else - women and sex. Stone figures of apsiirus or 'celestial maidens' appear on every temple. They pout and pose for all the world like pin-up models posing for the camera. 
In between are the mithunu, erotic figures, running through a whole Kamasutra of positions and possibilities. These temples were built during the Chandela period, a dynasty which survived 
for five centuries before falling to the Mughal onslaught. Khajuraho's temples almost all date from one century-long burst of creative genius from 950 to 1050 AD. Almost as intriguing as the sheer beauty and size of the temples is the question of why and  how they were built here. Khajuraho is a long way from anywhere and was probably just as far off the beaten track 1000 years ago as it is today. There is nothing of great interest or beauty to recommend it as a building site, there is no great population center here and during the hot season Khajuraho is very hot, dry, dusty and uncomfortable. Having chosen such a strange site, how did the Chandelas manage to recruit the labour to turn their awesome dreams into stone? To build so many temples of such monumental size in just 100 years must have required a huge amount of human labour. Whatever their reasons, we can be thankful they built Khajuraho where they did, because its very remoteness helped preserve it from the desecration Muslim invaders were 
only too ready to inflict on 'idolatrous' temples elsewhere in India. 
Large numbers of visitors come to Khajuraho in March for the dance festival. This lasts 10 days and draws some of the best classical dancers in the country who perform by the western enclosure, with the floodlit temples providing a spectacular backdrop.

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