Orchha is a charming village on the banks of river Betwa, a prominent river system in the Bundelkhand region. Bundelkhand is the region that lies in the central most part of India, occupying the southern region of UP and the northern region of MP. Roughly 400 km from Delhi, the village served as the capital of Bundelkhand between the 16th and 18th centuries. The rulers were a clan of Rajputs friendly with the Mughal emperor Jahangir. Though distinctly Rajput in style, their architecture was also heavily influenced by the Mughals.
Today, Orchha is a chill town centered around the Ram Raja Temple, a temple where Lord Rama is worshipped as a king. Both the town and the surrounding countryside are dotted with forts, temples, and tombs; the area is well worth a day or two of Indian adventuring.
To help you make the most of your Orchha adventure, here’s a quick guide to travel in Orchha, Madhya Pradesh.
Things to do in Orchha
Roam about the palace area
The palace area is home to two grand palaces: the Raj Mahal and the Jahangir Mahal.
Both mahals are in great condition, and house plenty of intricate archways, lovingly painted murals, and little lookout spots great for photographic eyes. The island is filled with other smaller temples, havelis, and palaces in varying states of upkeep.
Walking around the grounds of the palace area is free, as is entering most of the buildings. But if you want to enter the Raj Mahal, Jahangir Mahal, and several other sights, you have to buy a ticket.
There is a combi ticket available for the two palaces, plus several other sites including:
- Cenotaphs of the Rajput rulers
- Chaturbhuj Temple
- Lakshmi Narayan Temple.
The combi ticket price is 10 Rs for Indians, 250 Rs for foreigners, plus 25 Rs per camera if you have one.
Check out the view from Chaturbhuj Temple
Another good reason to travel to Orchha is the magnificent temple dominating Orchha’s skyline.
Chatarbhuj was built in the 16th century and was supposed to house an idol of Lord Rama. Like the Orchha Fort Complex, you couldn’t avoid the Chaturbhuj Temple even if you wanted to. The spherical spires stretch nearly 350 feet into the air and are impressive and imposing, to say the least. The temple was started by Madhukar Shah, but completed by his son, Vir Singh Deo in the 17th century. The temple is dedicated to the god Vishnu, which is exemplified by the name “chaturbhuj,” which in Sanskrit literally translates to “one who has four arms.”
Looking at dates, it’s clear the Bundela Rajputs went on an unprecedented building spree in the early 17th century and constructed an impressive collection of buildings and temples, most of which are still standing today.
Get lost in Ram Raja and the surrounding bazaar
The Ram Raja temple is situated next to the Chatarbhuj Temple and houses a revered idol of Rama. The temple and the surrounding bazaar are a hive of activity, with devotees jostling to get a glimpse of the idol, and milk-sweet vendors vying loudly for your rupees. Vivid colors pop in the bazaar, which nevertheless has a chilled out atmosphere by Indian standards. Close to the temple and further into the bazaar you can find Phool Bagh, a small garden with the tomb of a local hero.
Weave through the Orchha Cenotaphs (Chhatris)
These cenotaphs are living monuments that pay respect to Orchha’s past royalty, including the likes of Vir Singh Deo, which is separated away from the rest of the cenotaphs near the water. As I mentioned before, during our afternoon off, myself and another participant, John, moseyed on down and were in awe when we got there. Chhatris, right on the banks of the Betwa River, is just a 10 or so minute walk from the center of the town, and I’d strongly recommend a visit.
Climb to the top of Lakshmi Narayan Temple
Impressive temple on a hill at the eastern edge of town. Offers great views from the roof, to which you can climb, and has well-preserved murals inside. Don’t forget to take off your shoes. Part of the combi-ticket that can be purchased at the entrance of Raj Mahal.
This small town is truly a tale of kings, mythology, and folklore. With so many stories that abound and so many still to discover, you must pay a visit as soon as you can. Places like Orchha – smaller places that can sometimes get lost in the tourist fray – provide value because you don’t have a set of expectations for the town or city to live up to. You get to arrive with an open mind and heart, and simply let yourself get swept away.
So here is your quick guide to the quaint riverside town of Orchha where Gods turn into Kings.
Till then- KEEP TRAVELING. KEEP WANDERING.