Orchha was founded in the 15th century AD, by the Bundela chief, Rudra Pratap Singh, who became the first King of Orchha, (r. 1501-1531) and also built the Fort of Orchha. The Chaturbhuj Temple was built, during the reign of Emperor Akbar, by the Queen of Orchha Ganeshi Bai, while Raj Mandir was built by ‘Madhukar Shah’ during his reign, 1554 to 1591.
The medieval city of Orchha seems to have frozen in time, its palaces and temples still retaining their original grandeur. Orchha had the distinction of being the capital of one of the largest and most powerful kingdoms of Central India. The Bundela Rajput chieftain, Rudra Pratap, founded the city, located by the side of the beautiful Betwa River, in the 16th century. The word Orchha means ‘hidden’. When the Tughlaqs, who were ruling Delhi in the 15th century, pushed the Bundelkhand rajas out of Garkhundar, they retreated to distant Orchha.
The fort complex is a great place to visit; hit this first to obtain an all-day ticket good for all the sights in Orchha. Divided into 3 parts, it consists of Raj Mahal: Situated to the right of the quadrangle, this palace was built in the 17th century by Madhukar Shah, the deeply religious predecessor of Bir Singh Ju Deo. The plain exteriors, crowned by chhatris, give way to interiors with exquisite murals, boldly colourful on a variety of religious themes. Get a good guide inside here to take you all over the complex, including locked rooms, for a tip. Jehangir Mahal: Built by Raja Bir Singh Ju Deo in the 17th century to commemorate the visit of Emperor Jehangir to Orchha. Its strong lines are counterbalanced by delicate chhatris and trellis work, the whole conveying an effect of extraordinary richness. Rai Parveen Mahal: Poetess and musician, Rai Parveen was the beautiful paramour of Raja Indramani (1672- 76) and was sent to Delhi on the orders of the Emperor Akbar, who was captivated by her. She so impressed the Great Mughal with the purity of her love for Indramani that he sent her back to Orchha.
Raja Ram Temple
The Ram Raja Temple is built on a square base and has an almost entirely plain exterior, relieved by projecting windows and a line of delicate domes along the summit. The Jahangir Mahal is built on a rectangular base and is relieved by a circular tower at each corner surmounted by a dome, while two lines of graceful balconies supported on brackets mark the central storeys. The roof is crowned by eight large fluted domes, with smaller domes between them, connected by an ornamental balustrade. The Jahangir Mahal is considered to be a singularly beautiful specimen of Mughal architecture. A point worth mentioning here is that the mother for Jahangir was also a Rajput, Jodha. It is with this in mind that the Rajput king of Orchha had built the Jahangir Mahal.
Laid out as a formal garden, this complex testifies to the refined aesthetic qualities of the Bundelas. A central row of fountains culminates in an eight pillared palace-pavilion. A subterranean structure below was the cool summer retreat of the Orchha kings. An ingenious system of water ventilation connects the underground palace with Chandan Katora, a bowl-like structure from whose fountains droplets of water filtered through to the roof, simulating rainfall.