India Now - page 57

India of the Maharajas. Built in the 16th and the
17th centuries, its monuments hide within their
walls the rich history of the region.
Literally meaning “the hidden” in Bundelkhan-
di, Orchha, justifies its name. The barely 2 sq km
historical city was founded by Bundela Rajput
chieftain, Rudra Pratap, who discovered this
island shrouded in dense forest and found it to be
an ideal spot to build his capital in 1501 AD. At the
time, for almost two decades, the Bundelas had
been flitting from one place to the other in search
of a safe and secluded haven, having lost Gardh-
kunder, their last capital. Gardhkunder, with its
magnificent fort atop a hill amid picturesque sur-
roundings, originally belonged to the Khangars,
who had captured it from the Chandela chieftain.
Later, the Khangars lost it to invading Mughals
and it was finally handed over to the Bundelas,
who were feudatories of the Mughals, in recogni-
tion of their services.
Bundelas though had a chequered history. They
ruled the province of Bundelkhand, a province
under the Moghul empire in the 16th and the 17th
centuries. Their time was marred with much war
and strife. They could not hold Orchha for long.
But before they left for their new capital at Tika-
mgarh in the 1820s, in the interim period, they
left an indelible imprint of their rule and majesty
on Orchha. It is amazing how the Bundelas, who
were not native to Madhya Pradesh, enriched
its history beyond measure. Descendants of the
Gaharwar Rajputs of Benares, they had been
forced to flee their homeland due to multiple
invasions. Today, each stone of the magnificent
kingdom, the many cenotaphs, palaces, chhatris
and temples, speak a thousand words of love,
treachery, warfare, pain, anguish and pleasure
that defined the history of the Bundela chieftains.
Folklore mixes with history and what you hear
from the locals makes for a fascinating tale. The
late discovery of Orchha’s tourism potential
ensured that it remained dreamily slumbering
as though in a trance hidden from encroaching
outsiders. For centuries, the surrounding Dhak
forests acted as its natural cover and Orchha
remained a spot unmarked by the ravages of
modernity. Till today, it retains its aura and seems
to be living in its illustrious past. Drive down to
the banks of Betwa, and the haunting beauty of
the place silently beckons you.
An ideal weekend getaway, Orchha is like an
oxygen chamber, away from the pollution of cities
with their honking cars, dust, smog and chaos
of life. Breathe in deep the freshness before you
succumb to the call of the royal abodes. You can
come back for more of the nature surrounding
the city, once you have uncovered its intriguing
past. The ancient monuments are living annals
of the Bundelas’ rich history and breathe it in
every detail. Begin your journey of discovery with
the Ram Raja temple, a classic example of a bit of
history enriched with folklore. According to his-
tory, Raja Madhukar Shah I was the son of Raja
Rudra Pratap. A religious king, he converted his
palace into a temple dedicated to Lord Rama. The
palace is today known as Ram Raja Temple where
Lord Vishnu’s incarnate Lord Ram is worshipped
as the eternal king. The local folklore adds a deli-
cious twist to this tale. Raja Madhukar Shah’s wife,
Rani Kunwar, had a holy visitation in her dream.
She travelled to Ayodhya for his
and the
lord appeared in the form of an idol. There was
a condition though—wherever the idol was set
down first would become the lord’s resting place.
Rani Kunwar immediately set off on the long
journey back, which took her more than eight
months. Meanwhile Raja Madhukar commenced
the construction of a temple for Lord Rama. Since
the construction was taking long, upon reaching
home, the queen set the idol in her room. Finally
when the temple was ready and she wanted to
install the idol in the new premises, the idol
refused to budge. The
then converted the
palace into a temple. You can visit the towering
Chaturbhuj temple in an adjacent compound, still
awaiting its lord. The faith of the local residents
has kept this palatial temple from falling into ruin
Ode to
The walls and ceilings of Rani Mahal
bring alive the canvas of the Bundela royalty’s lives.
In just 2 sq km of area,
Orchha offers tourists a
rich experiential stay with
varied offerings, each
The fantastic experience
of crossing a river on
foot is one of the many
attractions that this small
city packs in for tourists.
Shaheed Chandrashekhar
Azad lived in exile in
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