Orchha is a small village with big history. It's located about 18km away from Jhansi in northern Madhya Pradesh which itself is 400km (240 miles) south of Delhi. I came here on the train from Gwalior via Jhansi where I took a bus to Orchha and then I went on to Khajuraho.
Small as Orchha is, (population of approx 8,500), the skyline is dominated by some very impressive palace and temple buildings. This is due to the fact that it was founded by the Rajput Bundela dynasty in the 16th century. They started building palaces such as the Raja Mahal and later the Jahangir Mahal as well as temples, of which, the Chaturbhuj Temple is the most impressive. The state reached its peak at the turn of the 20th century with an area of some 2,080 square miles and a population of over 320,000. The state was then merged with the Union Of India in 1950 and so ended the Bundela's Orchha rule which lasted for 450 years. Orchha, today, is a popular tourist destination because of its history and architecture but is not as touristy or as popular as Khajuraho which means that it keeps its small village charm. I loved Orchha because of this and because it was quiet and peaceful as well as being my first step into rural India.
After the death of the king who had no son, the British virtually took over the administration. The independently minded queen was not content with the allowance given to her in compensation. When there rose an opportunity for revolt, she led the sepoys in the mutiny for independence in 1857, forcing the British to retreat. However, taking advantage of the internal strife among the sepoys that weakened them, the very next year (1858), the British occupied Jhansi. The queen lept on horseback from this fort at this spot on Bangra Hill, with her adopted son Damodar Rao, and took shelter in Gwalior fort.
Rani Lakshmi Bai lived here with her husband the king, Raja Gangadhar Rao. After he died, she lived at the Rani Mahal situated near the fort. This building was originally a five storey building built by Raja Bir Singh Deo during his period (1611-1627) but now only three storey's exist.
This temple was constructed during Naru Shankar's period which reflects the composition of local and Bundella Maratha style of architecture. Rani Lakshmi Bai worshipped here. The main Shivalinga is made of granite stone.
Raja Raghunath Rao built this area for his brother who was very fond of drama and the arts. The central structure was profusely decorated with floral and geometrical designs in stucco. The roof of the Baradari was formed like a pond from where it used to sprinkle in all directions. The king entertained himself by the dance and music of Gajra Bai.
It is presumed that this canon has the strength of the god, Bhawani which is how it got its name. A sign says the barrel's mouth has the design of a crocodile's mouth while the lateral portion is designed like an elephants face. The canon measures 5m long by 60cm wide and barrel has a diameter of 52cm. An inscription on it says that the name of the canon is Bhawani Shankar; the name of Guru Jairam and the date 1781. The canon was operated by Lady Gunner Moti Bai.
This temple is situated at the northern entrance of the fort. Rani Lakshmi Bai, (1828-58, the queen of the old state of Jhansi), used to worship here regularly. The ceiling was profusely decorated, remains of which are still visible.
This is the biggest canon within the fort and it was operated by Gulam Gaus Khan who was a warrior under Rani Lakshmi Bai. It measures 5.5m long, 1.8m wide and the barrel has a diameter of 60cm. It was used in the freedom struggle of 1857 but at one point it failed to fire and the cannon ball burst inside, killing Gulam Gaus Khan on the spot. He is buried in a tomb within the fort.
This fort, built on Bangra Hill, commands a dominating view over the city owing to its strategic and ideal location. It was built by Bundella chief Bir Singh Ju Deo in 1613 and later, it was occupied by the Mughals, Marathas and the British respectively. In 1729-30, Maratha Chief Naru Shankar made additions and alterations to the fort and this enlarged portion came to be known as Shankargarh. Further additions were made within the fort until it came under central protection. The fort gained importance as it remained under the control of Rani Lakshmi Bai who attained martyrdom fighting the British forces during the freedom struggle of 1857.
The fort covers an area of 16 acres and the wall once had ten gates known as Khande Rao, Datia, Unnao, Jhirna, Lakshmi Sagar, Orchha, Sainyar, Baragaon and Bhander gates. The fort comprises the Panch Mahal, Baradari and two temples dedicated to Ganesh and Shiva. The main attraction of the fort is the point where Rani Lakshmi Bai lept on horseback from the fort, with her adopted son Damodar Rao, to escape from the British.
Admission: Rs100 for foreigners.
This is the main entrance into the fort. The fort has a total of ten gates (Darwaza's). These include Khande Rao, Datia, Unnao, Jhirna, Lakshmi Sagar, Orchha, Sainyar, Baragaon and Bhander gates.
Freedom fighters deemed to be dangerous during the independence struggle of 1857 were kept imprisoned here by the British. It was actually built as a prison by the Marathas.
This is the tomb of Gulam Gaus Khan, the main gunner during the freedom struggle of 1857, Moti Bai, a woman gunner and Khudabuksh, a horse rider.
This was the place where criminals facing death sentences were hanged during King Gangadhar Rao's time.
Rani Lakshmi Bai used to visit this garden with her friends to entertain herself. The British converted it into an armoury.