Orchha literally means ‘hidden place’ and it stays true to its name! Located in Madhya Pradesh, Orchha isn’t on most tourist maps and several travelers club their visit to Orchha with a trip to Jhansi (16 km away) or Khajuraho (170 km away). But with beautiful monuments, both big and small, revealing tales of battles between kings and emperors, Orchha deserves a trip of its own.
Once the capital of the Bundela Rajput kings, Orchha was established by Maharaja Rudra Pratap Singh in 1501. The medieval city has since seemingly frozen in time. Its several monuments continue to retain their original grandeur even as the city itself seems quite content to be hidden away from the throngs of tourists that descend upon Madhya Pradesh year after year.
The closest railhead to Orchha is Jhansi (about 16 km) and the best way to reach your destination is the ever-reliable auto rickshaw. If the narrow winding roads with fields on either side that lead you to this little town don’t transport you back to a more peaceful time, the several monuments that dot the Orchha landscape most certainly will.
The Orchha fort complex is the biggest tourist draw of this small town. You can buy a ticket here that will grant you access to all the sights in the town. The fort complex itself is divided into three parts:
The Raj Mahal was constructed by Madhukar Shah in the 17th century. His deeply religious beliefs are reflected in the design: the stunning murals are bold and colorful and revolve around religious themes. A well-tipped guide will be thrilled to open the doors of various chambers for you.
Also constructed in the 17th century, but by Madhukar Shah’s successor Raja Bir Singh Ju Deo to commemorate the visit of his friend, the Mughal emperor Jahangir, the eponymous Jahangir Mahal is another stunning piece of architecture in this hidden gem of a place.
Rai Parveen Mahal is dedicated to the musician-poetess, Rai Parveen, Raja Indramani’s (1672- 76) paramour. Emperor Akbar who was taken in by her beauty and had summoned her to Delhi sent her back to Orchha impressed with her dedication and love for Indramani.
The center of Orchha is the Ram Raja temple whose presiding deity is Lord Rama whose idol was supposed to be installed in the magnificent Chaturbhuj temple. Legend has it that the idols refused to move after being installed here and so a temple was built around them!
Chaturbhuj temple is yet another impressive piece of architecture and was built to house the idols that are now inside the Ram Raja temple. Today, it houses the image of Radha-Krishna. Tip the security guard who will unlock a hidden staircase that leads to the roof and offers panoramic views of the surroundings.
Home to some of the most exquisite wall paintings in Orchha, the Laxminarayan temple is yet another must-visit place. The murals are well-preserved and the colors of the murals retain most of their vibrancy.
The smallest palace in Orchha (and one that is in ruins) is the Sunder Mahal that was constructed by Prince Dhurjban who embraced Islam after marrying a Muslim girl and devoted his life to prayer and meditation. Dhurjban eventually came to be revered as a saint and Sunder Mahal became a pilgrimage site for Muslims.
Orchha also has 14 cenotaphs or chhatris that serve as memorials to Orchha rulers and the well laid-out garden, aptly called Phool Bagh.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN ORCHHA
Even though there are limited accommodations, Orchha has an array of options in terms of location and ambiance. The Sheesh Mahal, which was once a palace of a Bundelkhand king is now a heritage hotel and a beautiful place to stay. You can also opt to stay in a backwater resort, some of which offer tent accommodation facing Betwa River. The MPTDC runs a hotel that offers budget accommodation as well.
Orchha Resort is another delightful place to stay here, though it might serve you well to give their rooms a pass and book yourself in one of the tents that overlook the banks of Betwa.
BEST PLACES TO EAT IN ORCHHA
There aren’t too many restaurants around Orchha but the Indian vegetarian food served is worth trying. While hotels have in-house restaurants that serve Indian and Chinese cuisine, the restaurants on the main road are best for the local cuisine. Meat eaters might have a little trouble finding a good meal since non-vegetarian food is served in few restaurants. Consider taking your lunch break at the Sheesh Mahal’s restaurant after visiting the fort complex.
BEST TIME TO VISIT ORCHHA
The average minimum and maximum temperature of Orchha is as given below. The best time to visit Orchha is also specified.