Orchha is a charming village in Northern Madhya Pradesh besotted with some stunning pieces of architecture and it translates into 'hidden city'. Tucked away in the plains of central India, 15km from the city of Jhansi, Orchha truly presents a picture of a tiny hidden city what with its glorious structures, cafes serving English, Israeli and Korean food, souvenir shops and plenty of foreigners.
I visited Orchha a few days back during my double off. My total journey to and fro from my room was to take up 32 hours and I had a visiting time of 5 hours in Orchha. That too got shortened when my train was late by a couple of hours and I reached Jhansi by 9am. I had a small breakfast and immediately started looking around for shared autos to Orchha. An autowallah informed me that shared autos to Orchha start from the bus stand and he took me there. An auto to Jhansi bus stand takes around 15 minutes and Rs10. From there a shared auto to Orchha takes 40 minutes and Rs15. This is a very cheap mode and one can save almost Rs200 as compared to engaging an auto. If you are alone with little luggage, a shared auto is the preferred mode.
I reached Orchha at 10am. As I entered the town clinging to the side of the auto, I could see the landscape dotted with many ruins here and there. I got down at the last stop and to the left side I saw the entrance to the palace complex. After a quick look at google maps I trudged along the road leading to the palace complex. The right side of the road was lined with souvenir shops and two cafes claiming that they were recommended by Lonely Planet. One of them really is, as in my preparation for the trip I had referred to Lonely Planet and could recall the name. The other one I couldn't recall and I probably need to check the latest edition.
I approached the palace complex, passed under the arch and just ahead saw the ticket counter. I took the tickets and entered the complex. There was a man seated at the entrance who greeted me warmly and asked if I wanted a guide, I politely declined and went ahead. I came across a big open ground and went straight ahead. To my left lay the Sheesh Mahal, a palace turned into a hotel. One can stay in it to get the experience of staying in a palace. Straight ahead lay the splendid Jahangir Mahal. The architecture of the Mahal was different from the kind I was used to seeing with domes and arches all around. This one had umbrella like structures called chhattris all over. As I entered, I came across a sqaure courtyard with a fountain in the middle. There were four exquisite chhattris on the four sides of the top floor. There was excellent symmetry in the structures here. I climbed the stairs on one of the sides and strolled around all the four sides. The view is stunning from here. One can see the nearby Chaturbhuj temple,the Laxminarayan temple and the Betwa river from the sides. On one of these sides I met a foreigner, one of the many I would see that day. Jahangir Mahal was built in honor of Mughal King Jahangir sometime in the 1600s.
After I saw the whole mahal to my heart's content I moved on to the Raja Ram Mahal. This was to the left of the Jahangir Mahal a little bit ahead. Built in the same 17th century, this palace was very plain when compared with the Jahangir Mahal. The exteriors are plain, there aren't any exquisite chhattris. But one thing that stands out are the paintings on the wall. The murals are very beautiful and interesting. There are many hidden stairs here and one has to keep looking for a way to reach the top. From the top, the views are magnificent. Some of best pictures I took are from here.
Then I walked back around the main palace complex. Behind the Jahangir Mahal is the Rai Parveen Mahal built for a courtesan of the ruling Raja.This is a very small palace and nothing is interesting here except for a few paintings inside. Other than that there is a small garden outside. Everything is systematic here. The whole garden is divided into the Mughal style of four quarters. I met a tourist from Switzerland who was fascinated by the whole palace. We talked for a few minutes and since I was in a hurry now I left rather quickly.
Around here are some other ruins which I did not visit as my time was running out. I had a train to catch at 3pm and it was already 12 30pm. I still had to eat my lunch and I pondered over the possibility of visiting the famous chhattris nearby. I finally came to the conclusion that it was not possible. So I went to one of the cafes, Ram Raja cafe and had a banana Pancake. From here I went to a souvenir shop and bought a few things. Next I went to the other cafe on the road, called Bhola Cafe. Here I ordered kimchi, a Korean dish but the cook said that it was not possible so I settled on the simple egg fired rice. It was horrible. Anyway, after this I immediately started looking for a shared auto to take me back to Jhansi and found one nearby. I took it and reached Jhansi bus stand. From there I took another auto to reach the railway station just in time to catch my train back to Raigarh.
I was very happy with this trip and my 32 hour journey was worth the 3 hours I spent in Orchha.
This trip was originally published on Razzaq was Here.