We reached the beautiful, tiny town of Orchha sometime in the afternoon. Our hotel was a little removed from the main hustle-bustle, and was instead nearer to the Betwa river, on the banks of which this settlement came up and hence nearer to the cenotaph complex made on the Betwa’s banks. Yes, there seem to be a lot of cenotaphs in M.P. Even Shivpuri had as it’s most important monuments…cenotaphs. But these structures are beautiful. Especially, everything, when bathed in the mellow rays of the rising or setting sun, always looks breathtaking, doesn’t it?
So in the evening, we were walking along the banks of the river and looking at some pretty old cenotaphs. Did I mention it was all empty? That added to the lost-in-time feel which I value so much. My dad and I also climbed up the steep stone stairs up to the upper levels of some of the cenotaphs, while my mom stood below and kept warning us to not go too high up, stay away from the edges, for heaven’s sake not to roam around like that up there. You get the gist.
The next day, we went to visit the Ram Raja Temple first. The legend behind this temple was quite interesting. The story goes that the Queen of Orchha was a Ram devotee. However, her husband, the King, a Krishna devotee, ridiculed her faith. So she went to Ayodhya, to pray to her Lord Ram so that he would come back with her in some form. For this purpose, she told her servants in Orchha to start building a temple to keep him in. This temple is the Chaturbhuj Temple. In Ayodhya, the queen prayed and fasted for many days in front of a Ram temple. Hence, Lord Ram appeared in front of her. She pleaded with him to come with her to Orchha. The God agreed to go with her as a baby boy. On reaching Orchha, the queen, tired of journeying, decided to rest a little. But as she placed the baby Ram there, he became a statue and would not move. He was, after all, a Raja (King) and must stay in a palace. Hence the palace became the temple and is called Ram Raja temple.
I was hence, very excited about visiting this temple. I just couldn’t wait to see how the statue looked and how the palace-turned-temple looked.
I was disappointed.
The temple looks nothing like an old palace anymore (if even it ever did). It’s that white and yellow construction at the back. It’s extremely crowded, but that’s usual for any temple in India. But really…white and yellow paint? WHY?! *sigh*
After having been inside the temple (the statue indeed, is slightly different from other statues I’ve seen) we were supposed to go to the Chaturbhuj temple. But there was an army of monkeys and langurs roaming around it. This was when my parents decided it would be better to go on to Lakshminarayn temple. And so we did. Now this is a beautifully located temple. It’s on top of a small hillock, and you can see all the way around, miles of farmland and the main Orchha centre in the distance. Also, the temple itself? B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L!
Inside this beautiful structure, are a lot of wall frescoes of varying scenes from Hindu mythology, war scenes and even a few Mughal paintings which were most probably made to welcome some Mughal emperor who came to visit Orchha
There was also a very interesting person outside the temple
This is why I love travelling. Especially when I’m living in a country as diverse as India, there’s so much to see. Every place has something new to offer, every road leads somewhere new and beautiful.
Next, we came back to the centre of Orchha. We now had to go visit the Orchha palace(s). The main palace is the Raja Mahal (which I’m guessing the King of Orchha had to build once Ram Raja took over his original palace). It’s disappointingly ill-maintained, but there are a few frescoes in wonderful condition.
Right next to the Raja Mahal, is the Sheesh Mahal which has now been converted into a hotel by Madhya Pradesh Tourism. And right next to that (yes. There are three-four palaces right next to each other here), is the Jehangir Mahal. It was built when the Mughal emperor Jehangir was to visit Orchha. To welcome him, the Jehangir Mahal was made and hence the style of construction is different from all the other structures here in Orchha. This palace is made in the Islamic style, with jaali work (stone lattice windows), domes and some other characteristic features.
It’s got a huge courtyard with a shallow tank in the middle, surrounded by four other smaller pools. The jaali work is really spectacular and gives the structure an instant Mughal feel.
You can climb right up to the top too. I did. It’s a lot of stairs. Steep stairs. With no lighting. And no railings on the top floors. With monkeys roaming around. But it was bloody amazing!
This was sort of the end of our sight-seeing in Orchha. We went back and lounged around at the hotel (which had some absolutely smashing gardens). We watched the sun set next to the cenotaphs and it was truly an out-of-this-world experience. It also, in some way, signalled the end of our stay at Orchha. The next morning we were off to Khajuraho!
(To be contd.)