The land of Orchha, the soil of Bundelkhand has a very deep relationship with blood. This land has seen uncountable wars, battles, bloodsheds. But amidst these times of destruction and chaos, there have been moments when this beautiful land blossomed. When instead of waging wars, kingdoms flourished with music and poetry. When the earth was covered with green and not red. These moments were indeed fewer but were enough to create a land of diverse culture, enriched with several artistic expressions, blooming to its full extent. I crave for those moments, those golden pages in the book of history. And this desire has taken me to a journey across Bundelkhand, the land of warriors.
What better place can be to start the journey into Bundelkhand, but the one where it was born. It is here that Bundela Rajputs created their capital, naming the whole region as Bundelkhand. It is from here that Bundelas ruled and fought for centuries, keeping their much precious pride alive, intact.
But I did not find that magnificent capital of Bundelkhand. Instead, I found a tiny rustic town of Orchha, sitting on the curves of river Betwa, alive today just to tell the story of it's past.
Where is it?
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Jhansi: 17 km
How to reach:
Nearest Bus and Rail Head: Jhansi 17 km
Frequent buses, shared taxis and private cabs are available at Jhansi and can be booked directly on railway station or bus stand.
Nearest Airport: Gwalior (123 km), Very few airlines currently operate here. Better to take flight to Khajuraho (173 km) or Bhopal (341 km).
Orchha was founded in 1531 (the 16th century AD) by the Bundela Rajput chief, Rudra Pratap Singh, who became the first King of Orchha, (r. 1501-1531) and also built the Fort of Orchha. Orchha was the first capital of Bundela Rajputs, who conquered and named the place Bundelkhand, as it is known even today.
The temples of Orchha has become the heart and soul of the modern town. The Old Lakshmi Temple, marking my arrival to Orchha, feels like welcoming you to a different era, so eager to tell you it's stories. The Chaturbhuj Temple, being at apparently the centre of the town, can be seen from all over the city. But what brings much of public here is the Raja Ram Temple, and there is a specific reason behind it, as it is the only temple in the country where Lord Ram is worshipped as a King, in a Palace. In popular culture, it is believed that the Kingdom of Orchha is ruled and protected by Raja Ram, attracting a large number of devotees to the temple.
One of the oldest and perhaps most magnificent temple at Orchha is The Chaturbhuj Temple. The beautifully ornamented spires of temple were originally built to worship Raja Ram, which later transferred to Raja Ram temple, leaving behind the legacy of a golden time.
The glorious architecture of fort, combined with its location on a seasonal island of river Betwa gives it a 'just out of dream' expression. But its real beauty I felt when I reached one of its Jharokhas: the sight of thin curvy Betwa, of green fields beyond that, and howling winds, bringing fragrances of nearby crops and distinct past.
I could easily perceive, what would have driven Raja Rudra Pratap Singh to build this fort, to hold it until his last breath. He must have felt this peace of mind, this emotion of being complete, which I can see very clearly now. He must have believed, I now understand, that this feeling is something worth fighting for, worth dying for.
As I roamed around connecting corridors of Jehangir Mahal, around terraces decorated with fluted domes, I could see stories of a vanished time. I could see soldiers guarding the entry gates, I could hear laughs and whispers of princesses and their escorts. I could felt the Raja Rudra Pratap Singh and his successors must have felt, calling themselves king of this beautiful land of Bundelkhand.
But the pride comes with a cost. And most of the times, the price was their life. Bundela Kings always remained at war with their neighbours, be it Mughals, Marathas or Britishers. With exception of a few treaties and agreements, Bundela kings are known for their rebel behaviour, which is said to be in their blood, in the soil of this land.
Whatever be the case, Bundela kings indeed turned this land into a flourished kingdom, that even brought its name from them. And although the stories of Bundelkhand are full of wars and blood, it also saw the time of poetry and music, of silk and monuments. These Cenotaphs are in many ways, a reminder of that time, and the culture that came out of it.