India Now - page 58

as till today, devotees flock to it for the lord’s
and ritual daily
This is the only place in India where Lord Ram is worshipped as a king.
The atmosphere in Rai Parveen Mahal though is thick with devotion of
another kind. Dedicated to the eponymous paramour, the singer-courtesan
of Raja Indramani (1672–76), the Mahal speaks of the purity of love. Hearing
of her legendary beauty and talent, Akbar summoned her to court. But the
clever courtesan recounted her distaste of being a part of his court in a verse
that gave the message that only a dog or a crow eats the carrion meat left over
by some other animal. Akbar returned her to Orchha untouched. Jahangir
Mahal, on the other hand, tells the tale of loyalty of the Bundela kings. Built
by Maharaja Bir Singh Deo (1605–1627), who was a contemporary of Mughal
Emperor Jahangir, it commemorates Jahangir’s visit to Orchha. Bir Singh
was made Raja of Orchha in 1605 as a reward for killing Abul Fazal, Akbar’s
(Jahangir’s father) prime minister.
The most photographed and famous of the historical monuments in
Orchha are the cenotaphs and
. The 15
on the banks of Betwa
river are dedicated to the Bundela kings. Constructed on raised square
platforms, most are designed in the Panchayatan style and are cooled by the
breeze blowing over the river. The quietude of the place draws one to linger
and from here, Orchha appears to be in a sweet reverie. Raj Mahal, built by
the devout king Raja Madhukar, is the oldest monument in Orchha and is
an imposing building with elaborate interiors. Inhabited by a succession of
Bundela rulers, it smacks of intrigue, love, ambition and the making and
unmaking of many a king. There are several other monuments and temples
to explore including the famous Swami Narayan temple and Sunder Mahal.
The latter is a monument to love by Dhurjaban, a Bundela descendant of
Madhukar Shah who converted to Islam for the love of his life.
But Orchha is not just about its monuments. Those little inclined towards
such tales can explore the nature beyond the stone walls or immerse them-
selves in the serenity of the space. The wildlife sanctuary once was the hunt-
ing ground of the Bundela kings. Today, it offers
sightings of
, spotted deer, peacocks, wild
boar, monkeys and jackals, a multitude and vari-
ety of chirping birds and the songs of the crickets
at night. The flora is as rich as the fauna with sev-
eral varieties of trees dotting the landscape. Take
a safari down the sprawling sanctuary on the far
bank of Betwa river and relive the adventures of
Jungle Book
. Pick your stay at either a resort with
local live music and cuisine or take a backpack
adventure tour with cycling, walking and river
rafting thrown in. Whatever your choice, you will
come away enriched both in mind and spirit. Go
soak in the picturesque environs to the natural
song of the rhythmic Betwa while you contem-
plate Orchha’s history and many mysteries. The
best time to visit is now—November to June.
Orchha is
uniquely situated with a natural water body flowing beside it
and lush green forests creeping up at its edges. The place is hauntingly beautiful.
History in
beauty of the monuments
enriches Orchha’s history.
he decline of the Bundelas began when the next
generation after Raja Bir Singh met an untimely
end. They lost their powers when the Marathas came
to North India. In 1741, Peshwa Balaji Baji Rao came to
Orchha with the desire to build a fort in Bundelkhand.
They took away the Fort of Jhansi from Orchha state.
Later, Bundelas acceded more ground to the Marathas.
Beautiful and impressive paintings that are more than
100 years old enhance the beauty of Orchcha. Raja
Ram temple is unique as this is the only place where
Lord Ram is treated as a king and a guard of honour
is held everyday. The beauty of the fort dominates the
town. The light and sound show held here provides
tourists a better understanding of Orchha’s history.
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