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Tikamgarh district

120 km (75 miles) SE of Gwalior

More tourism information:

MP Tourism, Sheesh Mahal,
Tel: (07680) 52 624

Orcha is dramatically positioned on a rocky island, enclosed by a loop of the Betwa river. Founded in 1531, it was the capital of the Bundela kings until 1738, when it was abandoned in favour of Tikamgarh. Crumbling palaces, pavil­ ions, hamams, walls and gates, connected to the town with an impressive 14-arched causeway, are all that remain today.

The three main palaces are massed symmetrically together. These are the Raj Mahal (1560), Jahangiri Mahal (1626) and Rai Praveen Mahal (mid-1670s), named after a royal paramour. The old town is dominated by three beautiful temples the Ram Raja, the Laksluni Narayan and the Chaturbhuj. A unique blend of fort and temple styles, the Chaturbhuj Temple is dedicated to Vishnu and has huge arcaded halls for massed singing, and a soaring spire.

Lying along the Kanchana Ghat of the Betwa are the 14 hauntingly beautiful ceno­ taphs of the Orcha rulers. Along with the many sati pillars in Jahangiri Mahal's museum, these serve as reminders of Orcha's feudal past when queens sometimes committed sati by jumping into their husband's funeral pyres.

Orcha:Jahangiri Mahal

An excellent example of Rajput Bundela .l1architecture, this palace was built by the Bundela king Bir Singh Deo and named after the Mughal emperor Jahangir who spent one night here. The many layered palace has 132 chambers off and above the central courtyard and an almost equal number of subterranean rooms. The square sandstone palace is extravagantly embellished with lapis lazuli tiles, graceful chhatris and ornate jali screens. It also has a modest museum.