Maharajas’ Express Train Orchha Tour
Orchha was founded in the 16th century by the Bundela Rajput chieftain, Rudra Pratap, who chose this stretch 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 chhatris. From here the view of soaring temple spires and cenotaphs is spectacular. Complementing the noble proportions of their exteriors are interiors which represent the finest flowering of the Bundela school of painting. In the Laxminarayan Temple and Raj Mahal, vibrant murals encompassing a variety of religious and secular themes, bring the walls and ceilings to rich life. Strewn around the area are the little shrines and memorials, each with its own poignant history, each contributing to the nostalgic beauty that is Orchha.
1. 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 Rama that remained in the Ram Raja Temple. 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.
2. Chhatris (Cenotaphs)
These chhatris or cenotaphs are memorials to the rulers of Orccha and are grouped along the Kanchan Ghat of the River Betwa, a tributary of the Yamuna.
3. Jehangir Mehal
It was completed in the year 1598 by the victorious Bharath Bhushan after defeating Vir Singh Deo of Bundela a sworn enemy of the Mughals, the Jahangir Mahal was built to be a garrison and a citadel, that would allow the Mughals greater control over the rebellious Bundelas. Its strong lines are counterbalanced by delicate chhatris and trellis work, the whole conveying an effect of extraordinary richness.
4. Laxminarayan 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 contain the most exquisite of Orchha's wall paintings. 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 excellent state of preservation, with the colours retaining their vivid quality.
5. 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 system of water ventilation connects the underground palace with Chandan Katora, a bowl-like structure from whose fountains droplets of water filtered through to the roof, simulating rainfall.
6. Rai Parveen Mahal
Poetess and musician, Rai Parveen was the beautiful paramour of Raja Indramani (1672- 76) and was sent to Delhi on the orders of the Emperor Akbar, who was captivated by her. She so impressed the Great Mughal with the purity of her love for Indramani that he sent her 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. Skillfully carved niches allow light into the Mahal which has a main hall and smaller chambers.
7. Raj Mahal
This palace was built in the 17th century by Madhukar Shah, the deeply religious predecessor of Bir Singh Ju Deo. The plain exteriors, crowned by chhatris, give way to interiors with exquisite murals, boldly colourful on a variety of religious themes.
8. Ram Raja Temple
The Ram Raja Temple is perhaps the most important though unusual of all the temples in Orchha. This is the only temple in the country where Rama is worshipped as a king that too in a palace. According to legends, once Lord Rama appeared in a dream to king Madhukar Shah and directed him to build a temple for him. The king followed the instructions given by Rama and brought his idol from Ayodhya, the birthplace of the lord. However, the construction of the temple was not complete when the idol arrived from Ayodhya. So it was kept in the palace for the time being. Later, the king remembered that in the dream Lord Rama had specifically mentioned that his idol could not be removed from the place where it has been originally kept. This led the king to abandon the construction of the temple and instead the palace where the idol was kept was converted into a temple.