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ET Travel

Article Summary   by:vas    
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Orchha
Every stone in the Rajput capital whispers the tales of times gone by. The two square kilometer town of Orchha, 16 km from Jhansi , appears to exist in fairytale dimension ,almost divorced from the rest of India. The town was once virtually swallowed up by the forest till it was rediscovered as a tourist spot. And it now revels in new glory and its great monuments sparkle like precious gems.The center of the town is Ram Raja Temple, which is adorned with heavily carved silver gates that are an attraction in themselves. It is said Rani Kanwar had traveled far to seek the darshan of Lord Rama. One day Lord Ram appeared in form of idol and told her in a dream that his final resting place would be where she put him down. So queen started on 8 month long return journey to Orchha while her doting husband King Madhukar Shah commenced work on the Chaturbhuj temple in which Lord Rama was to be enshrined. However the construction took longer than anticipated and queen was obliged to keep the idol in her bedroom. When it was time to shift the deity to its new abode the idol refused to budge no matter how many men tried together to lift it. So till today it remains there as that part of the palace was turned into the magnificent temple.
Locals believe that Lord Ram spends the day in Ayodhaya and sleeps in Orchha at night. So the temple remains closed in day and opens in evening for its famous arti. Till today the towering Chaturbhuj temple stands empty, still waiting for Lord Ram.
Equally famous is Laxmi Narayan temple. It has beautiful murals and its balconies offer a bird eye view of the entire town and its famed monuments.
Nearby is situated Rai Parveen Mahal, the palace of royal courtesan who was also the lover of King Indramani in 17th century. She was the most beautiful woman of the time and King Akbar summoned her to Delhi after hearing of her legendary beauty. In Mughal court while in purdha, in a beautiful verse, she conveyed her dilemma to King Akbar that implied, who but a dog or crow eats another's leftover. The emperor got the message, honored her for her poetry and let her return to her King untouched! This resulted in a strong bond of friendship between Mughal kingdom and Orchha. And Rai Praven is still remembered by locals for her love and loyalty to the humble king that made her reject wealth of Mughal court.
Jehangir Mahal is another relic of Mughal in Orchha. King Bir Singh Deo helped Jehangir in succeeding Akbar by personally assassinating his opponents in battle and even risking his own life. Greatful Jehangir visited Orchha to honour his friend and to commemorate the royal visit this palace with famed balconies, graceful chhatries and stone elephants was made. Its most unique feature is the equal numbers of floors below the earth, in basement, as there are above it.
The main palace of the town is Raj Mahal, the royal seat of governance, and is known for its rich murals depicting Krishna with his gopis. Even after centuries the colours of the murals have not faded with time. Near the Betwa river are situated 14 cenotaphs of the rulers of Orchha.Sprawled out on the far bank of the river is the Orchha Wildlife sanctuary which once bristled with tigers. Now it conducts regular safari tours but tiger sightings are next to nothing. However there are a host of other wild animals to bewitch travelers.The nearest airport is Gwalior .The place to stay albeit like royals is Sheesh Mahal Palace Hotel.
Published: December 11, 2005   
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