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
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
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
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.
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
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.