About the Blog: The erstwhile capital of the Bundelas, Orchha is a laid back town in Madhya Pradesh. Offering a rare glimpse into the history, Orchha boasts of temples, forts, palaces and historic monuments. Read our blog to know more about Orchha, the places to visit in Orchha, how to reach and where to stay in Orchha. Hoping this Orchha Travel Guide will help you plan your trip and itinerary to this small, but beautiful historic town in India.
This was perhaps one of the best sunsets we have witnessed in a long time to come. The winter sun was setting behind the Chhatris of Orchha while we watched the dramatic colours of the sky from the banks of the Betwa River. To be honest, I did not have huge expectations from Orchha after our visit to Khajuraho. We came from Khajuraho to Orchha with an open mind to enjoy whatever came our way. While we were researching for places to visit in Orchha, we realized how much this small town in Madhya Pradesh had to offer. And after exploring Orchha, we simply fell in love with this underrated destination in the Bundelkhand region of Madhya Pradesh.
Orchha has an old-world charm. Located on the banks of the Betwa River, this small agricultural town of India has some of the most beautiful architectural gems in India. While the town is centered around the Ram Raja Temple, the town and its surrounding countryside are dotted with several monuments, forts, temples and cenotaphs. This 500 years old town is a place rich in history and heritage – a place that was going to become one of my favourites.
Orchha – A Brief History
Orchha was once the capital of a flourishing kingdom ruled by the Bundela Kings. The State was founded in the 16th century by the Bundela Chief Rudra Pratap Singh. He also shifted his capital from Garh Kundar to Orchha on the banks of River Betwa. The site of the new town was a better place to fortify against the Mughal attacks. The Bundelas were the descendants of Gaharwar Rajputs of Varanasi.
After almost a decade, Bir Singh Deo (1605 – 1627) became the King of Orchha and was perhaps one of the greatest Bundela Kings of Orchha. The state reached its zenith in political power and splendor in architecture during his reign. He had built several forts, palaces and monuments, not only at Orchha, but also at Datia and Jhansi. He had also built several temples at Mathura and Varanasi and is one of the major contributors of spreading Bundeli architecture to the Northern parts of India.
Orchha remained the capital of the Bundela Dynasty from 1531 to 1783. Later the capital was shifted to Tikamgarh.
During British rule, the area became a part of Bundelkhand Agency. After the independence of India, Vir Singh, the then king, merged his state with the Indian Union on January 1, 1950. The district became a part of Vindhya Pradesh state, which was later merged into Madhya Pradesh in 1956.
We visited Orchha during the winter months of January. Our Madhya Pradesh trip started with Gwalior and Morena. After that we visited Khajuraho before arriving at Orchha. Once we landed at Orchha, it seemed like any other small town of India. But once we were exploring the place, we were totally engrossed with the chilled-out vibes of the place. We spent two days in Orchha and explored most of the attractions in the place.
Orchha literally means hidden. There are a lot of interesting places to visit in Orchha, especially for history enthusiasts. Even if you are not into history, the magnificence of the place will definitely draw you in. So here is a quick Orchha travel guide to help you plan your trip and make most of your time in Orchha.
How to Reach Orchha?
Orchha is located in the Niwari district of Madhya Pradesh. The nearest major railway station from Orchha is in Jhansi, around 20 km away and takes about 30 minutes to reach. To get to Orchha, you have to reach Jhansi first.
Jhansi is one of the major railway stations of Central India and is well connected to all the major cities of the country. From Delhi, it is about five to six hours of train journey. However, you should get your tickets well in advance.
If you are flying in, the nearest airport is Gwalior Airport, 130 km away. From Gwalior, you can either take a train to Jhansi and then reach Orchha, or take a private cab to reach Orchha directly. Buses are also available from Gwalior to Orchha.
Since we were coming from Khajuraho, we took a train from Khajuraho to Jhansi and then took a cab to Orchha.
How to reach Orchha from Jhansi?
You can take a private auto or cab from Jhansi to Orchha. A private cab will probably cost you around INR 500. Buses are also available from Jhansi bus stand to Orchha.
Getting Around Orchha
Orchha is a fairly small place and you can easily walk around to visit most of the attractions.
You can also get rickshaws and auto rickshaws to roam around the city. A short ride within the city will probably cost you INR 100 to 200.
You can also rent bicycles and bikes (scooty as well) in Orchha and explore the place.
Places to Visit in Orchha
Now that you have reached this beautiful town, let us find the places to visit in Orchha. Apart from Orchha Wildlife Sanctuary, the entire town is within a radius of 5 km and you can easily plan your trip in 2 days. There are monuments scattered everywhere across the small town. Most of these are a mixture of Bundeli and Muslim architecture. There are also fortified gates or Darwazas marking the limits of the town.
While you can definitely jump from one monument to the other, do the touristy thing of taking insta-worthy photographs, the best way to explore Orchha is to savour the place. While you think about how many days you want to spend in Orchha, here is a list of the must visit places in Orchha.
1. Orchha Fort Complex – Amazing Places to visit in Orchha
The Orchha Fort Complex is perhaps the grandest structure in Orchha town. This is one place that you will not miss even if you wanted to. The Orchha Fort Complex dominates the skyline of the town containing a large number of monuments that includes palaces, gateways, gardens, stables, temples and pavilions.
The fort is protected by a thick wall and has four main palaces – Jahangir Mahal, Raja Mahal, Rai Praveen Mahal and the Sheesh Mahal and several other smaller, but impressive structures. The Sheesh Mahal that has now been converted into a boutique hotel. The Betwa River acts as a moat on one side having an arched bridge connecting over the river. Various structures in the complex have been built at different times by various rulers, something that is seen in most of the historic monuments of India. There are plenty of intricate archways, colourfully painted murals, chambers and passageways in the huge Orchha Fort Complex.
Walking around the grounds of the palace area is free. However, if you want to enter Raj Mahal, Jahangir Mahal, and some other monuments, there is an entry fee.
This is the first place you enter after getting the tickets. This part of the complex was built by Madhukar Shah in the seventeenth century. The design has been inspired by the Mughal courts, the hall was used by the King to meet the public and deal with matters of administration and justice.
The main highlight of this hall are the beautiful paintings on the vaulted ceilings and the walls. Just look up and you will see some amazing examples of Bundela style paintings.
Once leaving Diwan-e-Am, you will enter the Raja Mahal, or the King’s Palace. The construction of Raja Mahal was started in 1531 by Bharti Chand and it served as his private residence. The inner courtyard, perfectly square in shape, was the first part of the palace to be built. The rooms around the courtyard served as private quarters for the royal family. You will see these rooms are painted in Bundela style.
The main highlight of the Raja Mahal are perhaps the vibrant Bundela styled paintings in the six rooms around the courtyard. There are paintings of the Avatars of Vishnu as well as episodes of Ramayana. Other beautiful paintings are found on the wall as well.
There is a second courtyard at the far side and the rooms there also have several beautiful and unique paintings. It is difficult to see the paintings first, but once your eyes are used to the light you will see how impressive the paintings are.
There is another interesting painting of an elephant that is actually made up of 12 women. See it below.
Another rectangular courtyard was added by Madhukar Shah, brother and successor of Bharti Chand. This time, the architectural style was slightly different, perhaps influenced by Mughal architecture. That is why you will see that there are different types of arches at Raja Mahal.
There are staircases to take you to the upper levels and there are five storeys in total. From the upper levels you can look down at the courtyard and the other fort complex surrounding you. It is from here, you get a view of the towering Chaturbhuj Temple and the Cenotaphs.
Once you have explored and head out of the Raja Mahal, climb up a few steps to reach the Jahangir Mahal.
Jahangir Mahal is perhaps architecturally the most impressive building in the Orchha Fort Complex. It was built in 1610 having a single huge courtyard. The architecture of Jahangir Mahal has both Hindu and Islamic elements.
Jahangir Mahal was built by King Bir Singh Deo to commemorate the visit of emperor Jahangir to Orchha. The place seems to have been used as a guest house and for entertainment. The main entrance was decorated with two stone carved elephants with a bell. The palace has three storeys with 236 chambers.
You can climb up to the upper levels and marvel at the cupolas, domes, pavilions, balconies and the ornate windows. Look around and you will only find brilliance and beauty. From the upper levels you will also get a view of the other buildings and if you look a little far, the Betwa river will also be seen.
Within the Orchha Fort Complex, there are several other structures. One of the interesting structures is the Unth Khana or the camel stable.
A short distance from here is the Rai Praveen Mahal. This was built in the sixteenth century and is named after Rai Praveen, a famous courtesan known for her beauty. The upper levels of the buildings have paintings of Rai Praveen.
Information Good to Know:
Entry Tickets: INR 10 for Indian tourists and INR 250 for foreign tourists. Camera charges are INR 25 for still cameras and INR 200 for video cameras.
Orchha Fort Timings: Orchha Fort Complex remains open from 8.00am to 5.00pm.
2. Chaturbhuj Temple – Places to visit in Orchha
While the Orchha Fort is no doubt fascinating, it is the Chaturbhuj Temple that steals the show. Located right in the heart of Orchha, the temple dominates not only the skyline, but also the heart of the town. Built on a high plinth, with impressive spires of various sizes that seem to reach out to the sky. The temple is mammoth, huge and magnificent.
There is an interesting story behind this temple. Historically, the construction of the temple started in 1558 by Madhukar Shah for his Queen Rani Ganesh Kunwari. The construction of the temple was completed by his son Bir Singh Deo.
Legend of the Queen
Legend says that one night Rani Ganesh Kunwari was a devout follower of Lord Rama. One night, she had a divine dream from Lord Rama, instructing her to build a temple for him. The queen was instructed to visit Ayodhya and bring the idol of Rama with her to Orchha. The only condition was that Lord Rama was to be brought from Ayodhya to the temple in one go. Once he was laid down, he would not move from the place.
The queen, with all her devotion went to Ayodhya and brought an idol of Lord Rama with her to Ayodhya. However, the construction of the temple was not yet completed (which is quite understandable) and so the idol was placed at the Rani Mahal, adjacent to the main palace. After the construction of the temple was completed, several attempts were made to move the idol of Lord Rama to the new temple. But the Lord simply refused to move!
Apparently Lord Rama remained in the Rani Mahal itself leaving the Chaturbhuj Temple vacant. The Rani Mahal was converted to Ram Raja Temple and the Rama idol is actively worshiped there even till date.
The Chaturbhuj Temple now houses the idol of Radha-Krishna.
Interiors of the Temple
The interior of the temple is 105m high and is as impressive and elegant as its exteriors. Today the temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu, who is also known as Chaturbhuj, or the one having four arms. Architecturally, the temple is built in a cross shape representing the four arms of Vishnu.
Having explored the ground levels, you can go up to the upper galleries of the temple. The winding staircases are a bit dark and after climbing some flight of steps with crumbling masonry, you will reach the roof of the Chaturbhuj Temple. The views are, as usual, awesome; with all the major and smaller monuments of Orchha in front of you.
Location: Opposite the Orchha Fort Complex
Chaturbhuj Temple Timings: 5.00am to 12.00pm and 4.00pm to 9.00pm
Entry Fee: None
3. Ram Raja Temple – Places to Visit in Orchha
If the Orchha Fort speaks of architectural brilliance and the Chaturbhuj Temple the magnificence of Orchha, then Ram Raja Temple is undoubtedly the heart of Orchha. Ram Raha temple is one of the interesting places to visit in Orchha.
Ram Raja Temple in Orchha is the only temple in the country where Lord Rama is worshiped as a king and not as a God. It is here you will see that police are designated to guard the temple and they give daily gun salutes to the deity. It is absolutely fascinating.
The temple does not look like any other temple. It is a rectangular building with four towers. It is because Ram Raja Temple is originally the Rani Mahal or the palace of Queen Gansh Kunwari. Just go through the local legend about the Chaturbhuj Temple in the section above to know more about it.
One of the best times to visit Ram Raja Temple is during Ram Navami when local musicians from neighbouring villages gather to sing songs and hymns in praise of Lord Ram.
Ram Raja Temple Timings: 8.00am to 12.30pm and 1.00pm to 8.00pm
4. Laxmi Narayan Temple
Located on a hilltop about 1 km from the Orchha town, what catches attention in Laxmi Narayan Temple is its unique architecture. The building has a blend of temple and fort architecture, something I have not seen in a single building. The fortified outer walls of the temple is square and is flanked by octagonal towers. The inner sanctuary is however triangular. Indeed, a unique architecture. And there is a huge high domed octagonal tower above the inner sanctuary.
The exterior of the building was undoubtedly impressive. But what captivated me entirely was its interiors. The interiors have some very beautiful murals and paintings on the walls and ceilings. Episodes of Ramayana, Mahabharata and even episodes from Indian history were painted. There are also paintings depicting scenes of the 1857 uprising.
Laxmi Narayan Temple is absolutely beautiful. The walk of 30 minutes from the Chaturbhuj Temple was completely worth it.
5. Chhatris, the Royal Cenotaphs of Orchha
The Chhatris of Orchha or the royal cenotaphs are one of my favourite places to visit in Orchha. Constructed in the honor of the rulers of Orchha on the banks of Betwa River, the Chhatris are the highlight of Orchha. There are 15 Chhatris in total of the Bundela kings and their families.
These Chhatris are the memorials and have been built on the spot where the royals were cremated. The monolithic Chhatri dedicated to Raja Bir Singh Deo is one of the finest among the rest.
The entrance of the chhatris faces the River Betwa. A few meters away is the significantly smaller chattri of Kirpa Ram Gaur, who was the military commander during the time of King Bir Singh Deo. This is the only Chhatri here that belongs to someone not from the royal family.
The Chhatris are a wonderful set of monuments and also one of the best places to watch the sunset in Orchha. The best place to watch the sunset is from the narrow bridge near the Chhatris. From there you can see the falling rays of the sun on the monuments giving them a golden hue. You can also go on the other bank of Betwa River for a great sunset view.
Entry Ticket: The entry to the Chhatris is included in the ticket for the Orchha Fort Complex. So keep the ticket properly.
Location: 800 m south of Chaturbhuj Temple
Timings: 9.00am to 6.00pm
A Few More Things to Do in Orchha
1. Watch the Sound and Light Show
The Sound and Light show takes place in the courtyard of Orchha Fort Complex. The show is organized every evening for one hour both in English and Hindi language. The Sound and Light Show in Orchha brings to life the 500 years old history of the place. It narrates the discovery of Orchha, the rise and fall of kings, battles and romances and various stories of the royal household. It also throws an insight into the Bundelkhandi architecture, paintings and culture.
If you are fond of Sound and Light shows, then Orchha Sound and Light Show should definitely be on your list.
Entry Fee: For Indian tourists: INR 100, Foreign Tourists: INR 250
Timings: March to October: 7.30 – 8.30pm in English & 8.45 – 9.45pm in Hindi
November to February: 6.30 – 7.30pm in English & 7.45 – 8.45pm in Hindi
2. Go for River Rafting at Betwa River
If you are looking for adventure, then go for river rafting at the Betwa River. The rafting begins at Kanchan Ghat and takes place at a 3.5 km stretch along the Orchha town to Shiv Ghat. The river is generally calm, but there are a few rapids (Grade I/II). There is another option for 6 km of rafting.
Once you start from the Kanchan Ghat, you will see the Chhatris or Cenotaphs first. After crossing the low lying Orchha Bridge, you will come across the Chaturbhuj Temple and several smaller temples. Rafting at Betwa combines adventure with history as you watch the historic monuments of Orchha while tackling the rapids. It is undoubtedly a wonderful experience.
3. Jungle Safari at Orchha Wildlife Sanctuary
Lying on the banks of River Betwa, Orchha Wildlife Sanctuary is spread across an area of 45 square kilometers. While you can spot Chital, Sambar deer, Nilgai and several reptiles inside the sanctuary, the place is more known for its birds. Orchha Wildlife Sanctuary is the home to as many as 100 species of birds. This is a good place for nature hiking and walks.
Location: 1 km from the cenotaphs. You have to cross a narrow bridge over the Betwa river.
Entry fee: Indian tourists: INR 40 and foreign tourists: INR 350
Timings: 9.00 am to 5:30 pm
4. Join a cookery Class
If you want to get some local experience, join a cookery class in Orchha. These cooking classes are usually hosted by a local in their home. Here you get to see what literally happens inside an Indian kitchen and also get to taste some lip smacking food.
5. Explore the Market Around Ram Raja Temple
The Ram Raja Temple and the surroundings are always buzzing with activities. There are devotees vying to get a glimpse of the idol, street vendors trying to get your attention – the place is a cacophony of sound and colors. Explore the market place and taste some local street food to complete your Orchha trip.
Where to Stay in Orchha?
Orchha, though a small town, has several stay options of various categories and ranges. Here are a few stay options that you can choose from as per your budget.
- MPT Sheesh Mahal, Orchha : This is an MP Tourism property located within the fort complex.
- Amar Mahal: One of the luxurious hotels in Orchha.
- Bundelkhand Riverside: This is one of the premier heritage hotels in India. Built across 50 acres of land on the banks of River Betwa, this is a perfect place for comfort and luxury.
- Orchha Palace Hotel: Another good hotel located near Ram Raja temple.
- MPT Betwa Retreat: Situated on top of a hillock, this is a beautiful property with a great location and ambience.
- Sunset Backpackers Hostel
- Ganpati Palace
There are several budget hotels in Orchha near Ram Raja temple and the bus Stand.
What is the Best Time to Visit Orchha?
The best time to visit Orchha is the winter months between October to March. The weather remains pleasant from the beginning of October and stays the same till March.
Another good time to visit is during the Ram Navami Festival that usually takes place in April. During this time, a lot of devotees travel to Ram Raja Temple in Orchha.
The monsoons are also a good time to visit Orchha if you can handle the rains. The monsoon brings out freshness to the town and the lush greenery is pleasant to the eyes. The monsoon season is between mid-July to September.
Try to avoid the summers as it gets quite hot and sunny during the summers.
Orchha Travel Guide & Places to Visit in Orchha (FAQs Answered)
If you are someone who enjoys a laid back ambience and small towns, then Orchha is definitely quite a great place to visit. There are many interesting places to visit in Orchha that are rich in history and heritage. There are palaces, forts and temples of elegant architecture that are definitely worth visiting.
Orchha is known for its temples, mainly the Ram Raja Temple, the temple dedicated to Lord Rama. It is also famous for its architecture and heritage, having monuments and buildings dating back to the 16th and 17th century.
Orchha, a small town situated on the banks of Betwa River has several historic palaces, forts and monuments. While you can explore the major attractions of Orchha in a day, it is recommended to spend at least 2 days in Orchha.
Orchha is relatively well connected from the major cities of Madhya Pradesh. To get to Orchha, the best way is to reach Jhansi and from there hire a cab or take a bus to Orchha.
Orchha is about 130 km from Gwalior. It takes about 1.5 hours to reach by road
Orchha is located about 14 km from Jhansi and takes about 30 minutes to reach by road. Jhansi is the nearest railway station to Orchha.
Khajuraho is about 175 km from Orchha and takes about 3 hours to reach by road.
Orchha is nearly 500 km from Delhi and can be reached by 5 to 6 hours drive. You will also get trains from Delhi to Jhansi and from there you can travel to Orchha.
The easiest way to get to Orchha from Khajuraho is by taking a cab or bus. Alternatively, you can also take a train from Khajuraho to Jhansi and then take a cab to Orchha.
A Few More Pictures of Orchha
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