Orchha – A Hidden Wonder

Orchha (means Hidden), a small sleepy town in Madhya Pradesh unknown for many is actually, a hidden treasure. Nestled on the banks of river Betwa, this historical town founded in the 16th century by King Rudra Pratap, the Bundela Rajput Chief. What makes this town special are the fascinating temples and palaces that make this town seem frozen in time. Orchha was once the capital of the largest and most powerful kingdoms of Central India. The monuments here still retain the grandeur of its lost era. The Mughal inspired Rajput architecture resonates in the palaces and temples here. So we did not think twice to make Orchha a stop on our laid back fun-filled Delhi to Kanha Road Trip.

Orchha - The Hidden Wonder

The Iconic Chattris

In 1501, King Rudra Pratap stumbled upon this beautiful piece of land on one of his hunting trips. He found the location perfect as it was well hidden with dense foliage (hence the name Orchha) with the confluence of two rivers surrounding it. He then made this place his citadel and transferred the capital of his kingdom to Orchha from Garkhundar.

Chattris of Orchha


The most distinct feature about the landscape in Orchha are the 14 Chattris or Cenotaphs along the banks of River Betwa at the south end of the town. These chattris are funerary monuments constructed in honor of its rulers. The rulers were cremated along the banks of the Betwa River and individual chattris were built around the place of the funeral pyre to commemorate the Rulers of Orchha and his family members. The best time to capture these serene structures is against the backdrop of the setting sun on the Kanchana Ghat. The chattris are intricately made just like a palace with same Bundela architectural style. Most of the chattris are similar in design but the chattri of King Bir Singh Ju Deo stands out due to its architectural design.

Orchha - The Hidden Wonder

View from Kanchana Ghat

How to Reach Orchha


By Road


With only 16 km from Jhansi, Orchha can be easily reached by road. Also, you can easily drive your way to Orchha like we did all the way from Delhi.

Read more: Family Road Trip from Delhi to Kanha National Park

By Train


Orchha has a small railway station which very few trains stop at. The Jhansi – Khajuraho Passenger stops here. The next biggest railway station is Jhansi which is well-connected to all major cities like Gwalior, Agra or Delhi. Jhansi to Orchha distance is only 16 Kms. There are autos or prepaid taxis available outside Jhansi railway station to take you to Orchha.

By Air


The closest airport to Orchha is Gwalior which is about 115 Kms away.

Orchha - The Hidden Wonder

Paintings at the Raj Mahal 

Also Read: A Guide to Visiting the Taj Mahal

Best Time to Visit Orchha


The best time to visit Orchha is during the months of October to March when the weather is pleasant and the temperatures range from 8 degree C to 25 degree C. However, in January it gets too cold once the sun sets. The summers can get too hot and most of the sightseeing places close by 6 pm so it is not a good idea to visit Orchha in summers.

Orchha - The Hidden Wonder

The main Courtyard at Jahangir Fort

Read more: Wildlife Jungle safari at Kanha National Park

Things to do in Orchha


Orchha Fort


The fort complex is divided into 3 parts and gives a great view of the river banks. It requires an entry ticket which costs INR 10 for Indians and INR 250 for foreigners. Camera fee is INR 25 and Videography fee is INR 200. However, there are no charges if you want to take pictures or record video from your mobile phone camera.

Raj Mahal


Orchha - The Hidden Wonder

The Raj Mahal was built by King Madhukar Shah in the 17th century. The outside of this palace crowned with the chattris may look ordinary, but the interiors are adorned with beautiful colorful murals based on religious beliefs. The grandeur of this palace can be experienced only first hand. The paintings inside the palace rooms still have the murals on them. The murals are made with vegetable dyes and depict the Ramayana or the Dashavataars of Lord Vishnu or the stories of Lord Krishna.

Jehangir Palace


Jehangir Mahal was built by Raja Bir Singh Ju Deo to commemorate the visit of Emperor Jehangir to Orchha. The detailing shows the riches of that era and symbolize Indo-Islamic architecture. Both the cultures are so beautifully combined to create this masterpiece which was presented as a gift to Jehangir. This palace is even more grand and beautiful than the Raj Mahal.

Rai Parveen Mahal


Orchha - The Hidden Wonder

Rai Parveen Mahal as seen from the Raj Mahal

Rai Parveen was a gifted dancer, singer, poetess and musician during the rein of Raja Indramani. She was so popular that even Mughal Emperor Akbar was besotted with her and wanted her to be part of his courtroom as he was connoisseur of talented artists. She was made to go to his kingdom on his invitation but via her very skillful poetry she showed her reluctance to stay there which made Akbar realize his mistake that he allowed her to return to Orchha. Rai Parveen Mahal was thus built for the rumored lover of Raja Indramani. It houses many murals of the beautiful poetess and musician. It is also intricately made with red sandstone carvings colorful paintings inside.

Pro Tip: Entire Orchha is loaded with history and interesting facts. This information is not mentioned anywhere so its better to hire a Government Authorized guide who will share this info and show you interesting spots for photos (and happily click them for you too).

The guide rate list for Orchha is as follows:

1-5 tourists: INR 470 for 1-4 hours and INR 660 for 4-8 hours.

6-15 tourists: INR 660 for 1-4 hours and INR 840 for 4-8 hours. Language charges: INR 200 extra

16-40 tourists: INR 750 for 1-4 hours and INR 940 for 4-8 hours. Language charges: INR 250 extra

Although the guides can be found at the Orchha fort near the entrance ticket booth, however our guide not only showed us around the Orchha fort but also took us to the Chattris, Kanchana Ghat, Lakshmi Narayan temple, Chaturbhuj temple and finally the Ram Raja mandir.

Also Read: Jhansi Fort and the Legend of Jhansi ki Rani

Ram Raja Mandir


Orchha - The Hidden Wonder

This temple of Lord Ram is the lifeline of Orchha. This beautiful temple has a marble tiled courtyard with pink and yellow walls. According to the story, the idols placed here were to be installed at the Chaturbhuj Temple but once placed here, the idols could not be moved so this temple was made around it.

This is incidentally the only temple in India where Lord Ram is worshiped as a King and not a God. Hence the name Ram Raja Mandir. The temple is also constructed as a palace with sentries near the entrances.

According to the story, Queen Ganesh Kunwari, was a devotee of Lord Ram and the King of Orchha Madhukar Shah Ju Dev was a devotee of Lord Krishna. Once, while deciding the location of their annual pilgrimage they had a fallout and King left for Vrindavan and the Queen left for Ayodhya, with the condition made by the King that she will only return to Orchha if she brings her Lord with her. She then offered penance on the banks of River Sarayu in Ayodhya and Lord Ram came to save her in a child’s avatar. She then returned to Orchha with her Lord and so Chaturbhuj temple was built for it. Since the temple was still under construction the idol was kept in the Rani Mahal for time being and later it could not be moved so the Raja Ram Temple was built around it. Which was initially the Queens Palace.

Read more: Dhuandhar falls – India’s Niagara Falls

Lakshmi Narayan Temple


This place is a must visit for the beautiful murals and wall paintings. These paintings have been made with vegetable dyes and depict various stories of Hindu Mythology. The paintings are so vibrant and colorful even today. They are well maintained and so thankfully we can experience the beauty of the Bundela era.

Chaturbhuj Temple


Orchha - The Hidden Wonder

This is another architectural marvel in Orchha. This Temple was build to house the idol Queen Ganesh Kunwari, brought back with her from Ayodhya but it then housed the Idol of Lord Vishnu. This temple was special for the queen so the entire temple can be viewed from her bedroom window in the Raj Mahal. The idols of this temple are now in Raja Ram temple and there is a painting of Radha Krishna in Chaturbhuj.

Sound and Light Show


Madhya Pradesh Tourism Department has started daily sound and light show at the Jehangir Palace in Orchha Fort. The show gives a detailed historical account of Orchha and its rulers. It’s quite informative and interesting. It is good for history enthusiast and kids get a first hand knowledge of history they study in their books.

The tickets are available at the same ticket counter that sells Fort entry tickets in the Day time. The Duration of the show is one hour. The timings in Winter months from October to February are 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm for English and from 7:45 to 8:45 for Hindi. In the summer months from March to September, the timings are 7:30 pm to 8:30 pm for English and from 8:45 to 9:45 for Hindi. The tickets are priced at INR 130 per Adult for Indians and INR 300 For Foreigners. For children, the tickets are priced INR 60 for Indians and INR 200 for foreigners.

River Rafting


Orchha - The Hidden Wonder

Betwa River

For adventure enthusiasts the department of Madhya Pradesh Tourism also operates 2 river rafting schedules of 90 minutes (1.5 kms) and 3 hours (3 kms) respectively on river Betwa. Kanchana Ghat is the starting point and ends at Shiv Ghat. The cost varies from INR 800- 2000 per person.

Read More: The Khajuraho Temple Guide

Places to stay in Orchha


Though Orchha is relatively unknown, it still has some very good resorts to choose from depending on your needs. We chose The Orchha Resort and Convention Center for our stay. This a beautiful property spread over 12 acres. The rooms overlook a huge lawn. My daughter was disheartened to see the swimming pool closed (as we went in winters) but the kids play zone made up for it. The food was good too. The rooms were spacious with all the modern amenities. Made for a perfect stay.

Check out the prices here

Book your Stay at Orchha


 

Have you been to Orchha? Do let us know about your experience at Orchha or if we are missing something, please contact us or comment below and I will update this blog soon. Your comments and/or feedback are welcome.

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About Manish Samtani

Namaste! A passionate traveller at heart and now a blogger as well. Thanks to my sailing career, travelling has always been an integral part of my professional life. Eternally fascinated by the World of Travelling be it either meeting new people, learning new cultures, experiencing their customs or just trying out some new cuisines. Off late, I’ve been exploring places with my family where my job has not taken me. Mail me at manishsamtani@laidbacktraveller.com

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