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Introduction

The small town of Orchha (or Urchha), just a few hours south of Agra is positioned on the edge of the state of Madhya Pradesh and just a few miles west of Uttar Pradesh. With the Betwa River to the east which also surrounds the palaces and with huge rocks and boulders that seem carefully positioned on the rivers-edge the palaces seem almost unattainable.

Founded in 1501 CE by the Bundela chief, Rudra Pratap Singh, he became the first king of Orchha and went on to rule for 30 years.

Orchha means 'Hidden Place' and the majority of visits would agree with this description. Orchha's history has been captured in stone, many of the palaces and temples built by its Bundela rulers retain their grandeur and seem unaffected by modern day influences.

Easily accessible from Agra and on the way to Varanasi, Orchha is often missed out but is well worth stopping off for a few days. Unlike a lot of India, Orchha is incredibly laid back and carefree and is becoming more and more popular with backpackers, hippies and tourists in general.

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Sights and Activities

The Ram Raja Temple

Located in the centre of the market square, thousands of Hindus believe that the Lord Rama lives here, pilgrims flock to pray on a daily basis. This is the only temple where Rama is worshipped as a king.

Originally built for Madhukar Shah's wife in the 16th century, but became a temple when an image of Rama was installed and proved impossible to remove.

Chaturbhuj Temple

Dedicated to Vishnu, Chaturbhuj temple (chaturbhuj meaning four-armed), the temple has plenty of space inside and allows in a lot of light, which is unusual for a Hindu temple. It was built between 1558 and 1573 by Raja Madhukar.

A highlight of this temple are the views from the roof. Climbing the stairs you may need a torch, which of course can be bought from one of the main stalls at the bazaar.

Lakshmi Narayan Temple

Vir Singh Deo ordered the construction of the Laxmi Narayan Temple around 1622, but due to inadequate maintenance over the years the temple soon began to fall apart and had to be reconstructed by Prithvi Singh in 1793. The temple is worth seeing because it has been built using a mixture of temple and fort architecture.

Built for Laxmi, the Goddess of wealth, inner chambers were built for pilgrims to offer sacrifices to the Goddess. Strangely and unlike the majority of temples, there is no idol of the Goddess kept there.

Chhatris

These are dome-shaped pavilions built and then dedicated to the memory of previous rulers, including Bir Singh Deo. Located about half-a-mile outside of Orchha, these are best since as the sun is setting in the distance, while the birds swoop around the domes.

Jehangir Mahal

The Jehangir Mahal is Orchha's most admired palace. It was built by Bir Singh Deo as a welcome present for the Mughal emperor Jehangir when he paid a visit in the 17th century.

Two stone elephants guard the stairway, holding bells in their trunks to announce the arrival of the Raja. The palace is filled with light during the day due to it has countless windows and pierced stone screens looking out over the skyline to the west.

Raj Mahal

Rudra Pratap Singh ordered the construction of the Raj Mahal in the 16th century, however the palace was not completed until the successor to Rudra Pratap Singh, Madhukar Shah took power.

A key feature of the Raj Mahal are the lavish royal accommodations that are marked by elevated balconies.
The interiors of the Raj are lined with mirrors and paintings which are all over the walls and ceilings, some of which are still in superb condition.

Saaket Museum

Housed here are some great examples of Indian folk paintings from the different states of India.

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Events and Festivals

  • Holi is quite popular in the Indian sub-continent and is traditionally celebrated on the day after the full moon in the month of Phalguna (early March), according to Hindu callendar. Holi is a thanksgiving festival, where people offer prayer to God for good harvest and fertility of the land. However it has a legend attached to it according to which an arrogant king resents his son Prahlada from worshipping Lord Vishnu. He attempts to kill his son but fails each time, finally he asks his sister Holika, who is said to be immune to burning, sits with Prahlada in fire. However Prahlada emerges alive and Holika is burnt to death. Holi commemorates this event from the Hindu mythology, and huge bonfires are burnt on the eve of Holi as its symbolic representation. This festival is also associated with the immortal love story of Krishna and Radha, and hence celebrations are spread over a period of 2 weeks in Vrindavan and Mathura - the two cities associated with Krishna. Holi is a festival of freedom from social norms and caste inhibitions are shed for a day as people indulge in fun and merry-making. Colors and 'gulal' are showered on the people dressed up for the occasion and the whole community seems to merge into one big family under the guise of colors, without any distinction whatsoever. Children with face smeared with colors run around with 'pichkaris' (big syringes to splash colored water) and play amongst themselves. People exchange good wishes, sweets and gifts. Holi is also marked by vibrant processions which are accompanied by folk songs, dances and drum beating. Parties are also organized where snacks and the traditional milk-based drink “Thandai” is served which is often intoxicated with “Bhang”. Of late, lots of foreigners have started taking interest in this festival and they even enjoy the colors and the intoxicating drink. It is advised to cover your hair with a cap and eyes with sunglasses to avoid the colors splashing the eyes and damaging the hair.
  • Republic Day - Republic Day is a national holiday in India every January 26 to commemorate the adoption of the Constitution in 1950 and the declaration of independence in 1930. The capital of New Delhi is the focus of the celebrations, including a flag raising ceremony, wreath laying, 21-gun salute, Presidential speech, and presentation of awards for selflessness and bravery. A massive military parade includes elephants ridden by children who have received national accolades.
  • Gandhi Jayanti - Gandhi Jayanti is a national public holiday commemorating the birth of the peaceful activist, Mohandas Gandhi on October 2, 1869. The celebration coincides with the United Nations’ International Day of Non-Violence. In India, Gandhi is remembered through statues, flower and candle offerings, prayers and singing the devotional hymn Raghupati Raghava Raja Ram. The Indian government issues special mint rupees and postage stamps bearing his picture.
  • Ganesh Chaturthi - The ten-day September festival of Ganesh Chaturthi celebrates the birthday of the elephant-headed Hindu god Ganesh with culture, concerts and feasts. The biggest events take place in Maharashtra where people worship an idol for ten days before taking it to the river or sea and drowning it.
  • Navarathri, Dussehra Festival - This theatrical Hindu festival takes place over ten days in October. The first nine feature dancing to honor the Mother Goddess. The tenth day commemorates Lord Rama’s defeat of demon king Ravana and goddess Durga’s triumph over Mahishasura, the buffalo demon. The event is called Durga Puja in east India where the faithful create huge statues to immerse in the Ganges River.
  • Diwali - Diwali is the five-day festival of lights held in India in late October or early November each year. The widely celebrated Hindu event marks Lord Rama’s victory over the demon Ravan. Homes and streets are decorated with lights, candles and small clay lamps, and new clothes are worn and sweets are exchanged.

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Weather

The months of April to September are generally the hottest in Orchha with temperatures reaching the high 30s (ºC) but can easily raise into the high 40s. However June to September will be the wettest as well, but this does mean the Orchha will be lovely and green.

October to May are the coolest months and the driest but are by no-means cold as temperatures will still be around 20 °C. Although December and January has been known to fall to nine or 10 °C.

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Getting There

By Train

There are regular trains from Delhi, Agra and Varanasi. Once you arrive into the train station get a rickshaw to take you to the town itself.

By Car

Roughly a four hour drive from Agra and a three hour drive from Khajuraho. But Indian traffic can be a nightmare as anyone who has been to India before knows, so it may take longer.

By Bus

There are buses from both places to Orchha.

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Getting Around

The easiest way is by foot as the town is small, however like everywhere else in India, Orchha is littered with rickshaw drivers waiting to drive you around for a small fee. Always agree the price before hand though!

Bikes are for hire, these are a good way to see the surrounding areas of Orchha.

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Eat

Although there are not any particular foods that Orchha is famous for, you can still get a wide variety of Indian food from the bazaar stalls to the more expensive restaurants. Dhal, pakora and paneer all available from most restaurants. Whether you are a carnivore or herbivore, you will not go hungry and if you tire of Indian food, why not try the Korean, Chinese or Dutch food available.

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Drink

Not a particularly great place to party or enjoy the night life, the main places service alcohol are the restaurants. Orchha is more about having a quiet Chai under the shade of a tree.

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Sleep

Accommodation to suit all budgets here, hostels for the backpackers to the Bundelkhand Riverside which is owned by the grandson of Orchha's last king, Vir Singh.

View our map of accommodation in Orchha or use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)

Booking.com

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Keep Connected

Internet

There's good coverage over most of India for Internet cafes. However, following the recent terror attacks in Mumbai and some other cities, all internet cafes have been instructed by the authorities to maintain a register and note down the identification details of all persons using internet. Sify iWay is a reliable and cheap cafe with over 1,600 cafes over India. iWay also allows you to open a pre-paid account that you can use all over India. Whenever you have Internet access probably the best and cheapest way to call family and friends at home is software that allows users to make voice calls over the Internet such as Skype.

Wifi hotspots in India are, for most part, limited. The major airports and stations do offer paid wifi at around RS.60-100 an hour. Delhi, Bangalore, Pune and Mumbai are the only cities with decent wifi coverage. At Mumbai airport, you get to use WiFi internet free, for an hour or so.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

The country code for India is 91. To dial outside the country from India, prefix the country code with 00.

The general emergency number is 100 (emergency response police & fire), while for ambulance you should dial 102 or 112, though some regions have 108 for this emergency. 108 is used in in the Indian states of Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, Gujarat, Uttarakhand, Goa, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Kerala, Odisha,Assam, Meghalaya, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. 108 can be called for medical, crime, fire, or any other emergency from any phone.

Local phone numbers can be anywhere from 5-8 digits long. But when the area code is included, all landline phone numbers in India are 10 digits long. Cellphone numbers usually start with '9', '8', or '7'. Toll-free numbers start with 1-800.

If staying longterm it is probably wise to think about investing in a mobile phone. You'll possibly need to provide a photocopy of your passport and itinerary, so come prepared. Make sure you arrange it upon arrival in a big city, as it can sometimes be difficult to organise with language barriers and such in more regional areas. You can buy a cheap nokia for about RS.1,200 with a pre-paid plan. Airtel is a good carrier to think about as they have great coverage, and constant offers for cheaper calling. To recharge, most shop vendors with phone carrier signs can do it via their own phone. You give them your mobile number, they put it in their phone and you'll both get messages as to whether or not the recharge has been successful. Also, if possible, buy the phone in the state where you do the most travelling as the charges are higher in the states where you did not originally buy the phone.

Over the entire country there are plenty of public phones, even in the middle of the countryside. Although most of the time these phones are not very well maintained and have horrible connections. Therefore remember when using one of these public phones one must be extremely patient.
For international calls from payphones, you'll have to visit a reputable internet cafe with a phone-booth. Mobile phones are usually a better and cheaper option.

Post

India Post is the national postal service of India, and on their website you find details about prices to send postcards, letters and parcels, both domestically and internationally. For most postcards to send internationally, it is better to visit the post office before writing on the card as you may need quite a few stamps. Parcels must be taken to a tailor, he will then sew it up in white linen. Make sure he seals it with red wax, otherwise the post office may refuse to send it or try to get you to pay them to do it. Sewing up a parcel should only cost RS.50 to 200. In general, post offices are open from 10:00am to 1:00pm and 1:30pm to 4:30pm in most bigger towns and cities, though there are regional variations and some might keep longer hours or be open during (part of) the weekend as well. Ask around.

If you want to send bigger packages/parcels, it might be better, faster and sometimes even cheaper, to contact a private company like DHL, TNT or UPS.

Accommodation in Orchha

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Orchha searchable right here on Travellerspoint. You can use our map to quickly compare budget, mid-range or top of the range accommodation in Orchha and areas nearby.

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This is version 8. Last edited at 15:42 on Nov 20, 17 by Utrecht. 2 articles link to this page.

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