Orchha's grandeur has been captured in stone, frozen in time, a rich legacy
to the ages. The word Orchha means hidden. In this medieval city, the hands of time
have rested lightly and the palaces and temples built by its Bundela rulers in the
16th and 17th centuries retain much of their pristine perfection.
In the heart of Bundelkhand lies this fortified group of dwellings, temples and
shrines bearing testimony to the medieval legacy in stone . The central feature
of the village is Jehangir Mahal , a 17th
century classic, that combines the ruler Bir Singh Deo’s eye for detail with sweeping
views from its turrets. On two other side lies the Raj Mahal, built by the ascetic
Madhukar Shah and Praveen Rai Mahal built for the beautiful companion of Raja Inder
Mani. But for sheer contrast, there is little to equal the 14 elegant chhatris that
line the banks of the river in the distance. Best seen from the bridge connecting
the massive midstream island, the image of the chhatris lingers long after the visit.
And not far off, the imposing Lakshmi Narayan, Chaturbhuj and Ram Raj temples strengthen
the Bundeli spirit in a profusion of ornamental paintings.
Having seen the monuments, you must head for the river. A cataract near the bridge
with gentle, rounded rocks is the ideal place to stop a while and savour the soothing
flow of the Betwa. The reverie must end well before the sun goes down. For there
is also the lure of the forest waiting to be explored. The road from the bridge
goes right through the dense growth. Feel the pulse of the wilderness just there,
only a few minutes’ drive from Orchha, as the road winds on to the second bridge
on the other side of the island. Back in the village, join the procession headed
for the temples. While at dusk, or if the moon is full, a walk near the water’s
edge will revive the memory of the Bundela chiefs treading beside the silhouette
of their imposing constructions.