Madhya Pradesh trip - 1: Visit to Orchcha & Jhansi
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Overview: Orchha State was a kingdom situated in the Bundelkhand region and later a princely state in British India. The state was ruled by Bundela clan of Rajputs.
We started our day with a boat ride across the river Betwa overlooking the medieval chattris. This is a great feeling, somewhat similar to Varanasi.
Raja Ram temple -
Guards don't salute even the high ranking officials and politicians. In India this is the only temple where Lord Rama is worshiped as a king and that too in a palace. A Guard of Honour is held every day, police personnel have been designated as Guards at the temple, much in the manner of a king.
Its actually the Queen's palace, now a place of worship for Shri Rama as a King. The Queen of Orchcha, Kamala Devi, once went to Ayodhya and prayed for Ram Lalla and took a vow to jump into the river Sarayu if Rama didnt appear. Finally Child Rama appeared on the queen's lap and wanted to be taken to Orchcha as a king, and the first place he is seated by the queen from her lap would be his throne. The queen took Ram Lalla to the palace and placed her inside the chamber. This finally became the throne for Rama, instead of the majestic Chaturbhuj temple which was being built for Shri Rama nearby.
The Chaturbhuj temple is an imposing structure with the Gopuram reaching around 344 ft. The temple now houses the image of Radha-Krishna instead of Shri Rama for which the temple was intitally built.
The fort was built following the founding of the Orchha State in 1501 AD by Rudra Pratap Singh (r. 1501–1531), a Bundela Rajput.
Raja Mahal - The first structure we come across is the Raja Mahal, adorned with wall paintings, still looking fresh. The foundation of the palace was laid by King Rudra Pratap and was completed by his eldest son Bharati Chandra in 1554 CE. There are 2 halls - Darbar-i-Aam and Darbar-i-Khaas for the subjects, and the wall murals depict the stories of Rama and Krishna.
Some other parts of the Fort are the Sheesh Mahal, Jahangir Mahal, Rai Praveen Mahal and Hamam Khana.
Rai Praveen was a singer, dancer, horserider and a poet in the palace of Prince Indrajeet in 1572 CE. Indrajeet built a small palace for Rai Praveen inside the Fort area.
Jahangir Mahal was built during the 17th century CE when Vir Singh Deo hosted the Mughal ruler Jahagir for his first visit to the city.
Around 65km south-west of Jhansi is the largest impact crater in India, the Dhala crater. We have to go to the location of Tapkeshwar Mahadev temple and climb upstairs to get an areal view of the crater. We can see the mound made by the crater on the way to Tapkeshwar temple. There were some excavations done in this area and reportedly Uranium was found in this region, probably due to the asteroid impact, which was held several billion years ago during the early days of the formation of the Earth.
Tapkeshwar Mahadev temple is also a marvel in its own. According to the temple priest, Pandavas spent some years during exile and there are 5 ponds(kund) from which water continously flows down to the hill. The main temple of Shiva has to be reached climbing down a series of steps leading to a cave. The rocks around these cave temples are lined with inscriptions, which are reportedly not documented. These inscriptions may open up more clues about the place.
Located on the border of UP and MP, Jhansi has been a centre of freedom movement, with Rani Lakshmibai being a household name across India for her valiant fight against the British.
Jhansi Fort was built by Raja Bir Singh Deo of Orchcha in 1613 CE on top of Bangara Hill, which was later occupied by the Marathas. Rani Lakshmibai formed her army inside the Fort and fought the British with full valour. Finally, Rani left the fort along with her adopted son Damodar Rao on 18 June 1858 and rode towards Gwalior. The fort has different stages of construction - Baradari, Shankargarh and Panch Mahal. Also inside the fort is an ancient Shiva temple and a Ganesha temple.
Our itinerary so far:
Bangalore - Jhansi: 12649 Sampark Kranti Express
Jhansi - Orchcha - Dhala Crater - Jhansi: Cab (Raj Traders Tours and Travel, Ph 9415585451)
Accomodation: Indian Railways retiring room, Veerangana Lakshmibai Junction, Jhansi (Cost - Rs 570 for 36 hours in a Dormitory)
Food: Good restaurants are available in Jhansi and Orchcha for food. The common items in this region are Samosa, Kachori, Jalebi and Poha.