Orchha is an extremely interesting town. While the interesting description could apply to most towns and cities in India, Orchha’s identity is unique. Orchha is a simple agricultural town, like 70% of India. Yet Orchha finds itself as one of the major highlights of Madhya Pradesh’s tourism circuit.
The reason why Orchha has found relevance among travelers is due to a very contrasting effect it has on everyone who visits this gem. Orchha is one of the most historically and culturally rich places in Madhya Pradesh, but what is the most endearing about this little farming town is its unassuming simplicity and indifference towards its rich history.
The fact that Orchha was one of the most important urban centers, a few hundred years ago and is a religious and spiritual center that attracts hordes of pilgrims regularly is lost on the locals of Orchha. Orchha is truly one of the most accurate representations of India and not just because of its rich history but because of hospitality that Orchha showers upon its visitors.
History and culture of Orchha
Founded in the 16th Century by the Bundelkhand Chiefs. Orchha history is deeply connected with the Rajput and the Mughal kingdoms. Orchha is an extremely important place of worship for devout Hindus. The Raja Ram temple and the Chatturbhuj temples attract pilgrims throughout the year. While a gunshot sound may rattle your senses, there isn’t much to worry about it is a way of saluting the deity.
While the Orchha fort and the cenotaphs or the ‘chattris’ dotted around the town tell an interesting story of all the local Hindu kings that ruled the Bundelkhand kingdom from Orchha. Orchha is also home to a beautiful testament to Mughal Architecture, The Jehangir Mahal. Jahangir the Mughal Ruler to a Rajput Mother, was reason enough for the Rajput King or Orchha to commission its construction.
Orchha is also home to the Orchha natural preserve, you can rent a bike through your hotel and spend a day exploring the reserve in the lap of mother nature.
How to get to Orchha
By Air – The best way to get to Orchha by Air is via the newly opened Khajuraho airport. Khajuraho is approximately 4 hours away from Orchha and you can take a direct flight from Delhi and Varanasi
By Rail – Jhansi railway station is about half an hour away from Orchha, Jhansi is one of the main railway stations in India and owing to its central location is extremely well connected to major cities and tourist hubs in North and South India.
By Road – Orchha is well connected to Jhansi, Gwalior and Khajuraho, while Agra and Lucknow are not too far away. A/C and Non A/C bus services by state and private providers is an option.
Best time to travel to Orchha
Winter months are the best time to visit Orchha, Orchha is really pleasant starting from November and it stays that way till the early weeks of April. Ram Navami, a festival that takes place in early April is celebrated with a lot of fervour as the city is a major religious center for Hindu pilgrims of Lord Rama.
Monsoons amplify Orchha’s beauty in the most surreal of ways, its lush green and there’s a sense of Freshness to the town. Ganesh Chaturthi is also widely celebrated in Orchha and generally takes place at some point between August and September
Avoid the summers at all costs, Orchha is excruciatingly hot and tits best to wait until the monsoons arrive.
Getting around Orchha
Orchha is really small and walking around or renting a bike to go check out all the sites this beautiful town has to offer is the best way to explore. For a more rustic experience, you could travel in a shared auto/ tempo like the locals. It is extremely inexpensive and at times uncomfortable but when in Orchha do as the warm affable locals of Orchha do.
Breaking stereotypes about Orchha
Orchha does not have much to offer – A stereotype that would hold true for most towns but Orchha, While Orchha is a sleepy town, there’s so much to see and do! From the royal ‘chattris’ that have come to define Orchha as a stronghold of the Rajput kingdoms, to the Raja Ram and Chhatarpur temples that have seen pilgrims pay homage in numbers from centuries. Orchha will surprise you with how much it has to offer for a town of its size.!
Go check out
Raja Ram Mandir – The locals of Orchha worship Lord Rama not just as a God but as their king. Legend has it that Lord Rama visited Orchha with the Queen of Orchha as she promised the king her devotion would lead to Lord Rama visiting Ayodhya in the form of a little boy and she would not return from Ayodhya if he did not.
Lord Rama visited Orchha with the Queen and said that he would not move from the first house he would accept in Orchha. That house today stands as the Temple of Lord Rama and hundreds of thousands of pilgrims visit this temple annually to pay their respects. There is a unique Gun salute, where the temple fires a gun in honor of Lord Rama during Ram Navami. Just opposite the Orchha for and an absolute must visit.
Orchha Fort – Orchha fort is a huge complex that is divided into 3 major parts. Raj Mahal, Sheesh Mahal and Jahangir Mahal. The Raj Mahal as the name suggests was the palace of Rajput Kings and Queens. This section of the complex is full of wide passages and murals of Lord Vishnu. The Sheesh Mahal was once the residential quarter of Rajput kings is now a heritage hotel run by Madhya Pradesh Tourism.
Jehangir Mahal – Built in the 17th century, Jehangir Mahal was built by Rajput King Bir Singh Deo to commemorate the visit of Emperor Jehangir. Jehangir’s Rajput lineage was enough for the Rajput King to build the palace in his name. The palace’s architecture takes from both Rajput and Mughal elements and is an absolutely fascinating visit.
Chaturbhuj Temple – A little further away from the Raja Ram temple, Chaturbhuj temple was built across the reign of multiple Rajput kings. The temple was built to worship the idol of Lord Rama but since the idol is placed in the Raja Ram Temple. An Image of Radha Krishna (also an avatar of Lord Vishnu, just like Lord Rama) is now worshipped at the temple.
Chaturbhuj is also known to have a 344 feet Vimana, which is the tallest for a temple in India.
The Royal Chattris or Cenotaphs – 14 Chattris lie along the bank of the river Betwa. These were built after the Royal rulers of Orchha. Climb up the Cenotaphs for panoramic views of Orchha that are truly mesmerizing.