Cenotaphs of Orchha : So Beautiful, You May Want to Die

It was as whimsical as one could be; Orchha had beckoned for years and I had chosen the middle of April to finally set foot in this land of riches and subsequent ruins. While the original plan was to see it over 2 days; I ended up spending close to a week. It was slow travel at its best, caused largely due to the searing heat in the afternoons.

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How huge! First look of the cenotaphs of Orchha, built in the 17th & 18th Centuries.
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A pretty frame on one of the structures near the cenotaphs.

A shared auto ride costing 20 rupees each bring us to Orchha, from Jhansi. The small town feel of the former capital of Bundela Rajas is charming indeed. Although there is much to  write about the sights and monuments of Orchha, this post is about the cenotaphs (or Chhatris) of the kings of Bundela Dynasty; and I must not digress.

Read : The Goodness of Strangers : Curfew in Kashmir

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Orchha is home to a endangered species of vulture. Photograph of the same on a cenotaph.

Orchha was founded in 1531 and was the capital of Bundelkhand (Kingdom of the Bundela Rajas) until 1738. There is a certain air of melancholy that prevails in Orchha. The grandeur of the past feels like a mirage with derelict monuments of the present.

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Humongous structures in memory of the dead Bundela Kings, spread over a large area as the Betwa River flows by.

My first sight of the cenotaphs is etched in my mind; I had gasped ‘Wow’ at the conical spires of the tombs. Even the chićness of the French origin of the word ‘Cénotaphe’ isn’t lost on me; these are classy monuments for real.

Read : Hitchhiking in a truck : Stories from Nakee La

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A golden light creates a glowing effect on this relatively simple cenotaph.
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The trees are devoid of any leaves and only a few bougainvillea provide some solace to the eyes.

The sky is bursting with light even at 1630 hrs, after all this is the summer of India. The path to the cenotaphs winds across the village. The cenotaphs themselves look identical, except the one made for the most successful Bundela Raja – Vir Singh Deo. His cenotaph is round and square, reminiscent of Mughal architecture – maybe because of his friendship with Prince Salim. I wonder if it would be a spectacular sunset with the cenotaphs in the background across Betwa river, clicked from the other side.

Read : Diwali Celebrations in Jaipur, in Pictures

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Pious man or Sadhu seen near the Cenotaphs; although I should say he sat nonchalantly and didn’t bother asking me for any offerings.

The cenotaphs are home to endangered vultures and emerald parakeets, who laze on the spires. The greenery of manicured lawns is history; water levels in the Betwa have plummeted after successive years of scanty rainfall. Drought like conditions have ensured Bundelkhand is in dire straits and the warm winds are almost unbearable.

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Cenotaph of Vir Singh Deo in a neglected state; some growth can be seen from the top of the dome.
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The most elaborate and different cenotaph of them all, the Betwa river flows on the left side and almost touches the base of the cenotaph of Raja Vir Singh Deo.

In total, there are 14 cenotaphs in memory of the Orchha rulers built on Kanchana Ghat on the banks of Betwa River.The monuments shine like gold when fading sunlight falls on them; and quickly become a structure of stones when the light goes away. It is a telling statement on the plight of Orchha; capital of a flourishing empire once and reduced to a neglected obscure town now.

Read : The Tomb of Safdarjung in Delhi

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The sunlight creates magic as it goes down; perhaps carrying Orchha’s fortunes with it.
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Delightful evening strolling the serene sights and colours of Betwa River, that flows adjacent to the cluster of cenotaphs.

If I compare the cenotaphs to the more illustrious designs found in Rajasthan; the cenotaphs of Orchha will lag behind. What they lack in intricacy and carvings, they surely make up for in size. I will pen down more anecdotes and sights from Orchha in due course of time; this was my most memorable first day of the journey; from April 2016.

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One of my favourite photographs of the cenotaphs; the flowers add so much character to the photograph. What do you think?
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Golden orange sunset colours of Orchha as viewed from a monument in the vast open spaces near the cenotaphs.

Entry Tickets : There is a small priced entry ticket for entry to the cenotaphs in Orchha. I can’t exactly remember the price. Dusk is a recommended time to visit them.

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A gorgeous silhouette of the cenotaphs as I made my way back to the guest house in the market.

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8 Comments Add yours

  1. wow! thanks for capturing these beautiful structures. The golden sunset hues make them look more majestic.

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    1. Yay. Thanks so much for checking it out and thanks again for the appreciation. :))

      Like

  2. Mid april 😮 😮 So its spiti in winters and MP in summers 😀 hehe.
    Okay back to your post:
    I love architecture and a big FAN of chattris. I agree the ones in Rajasthan sure have a lot of character. Your pics are fabulous. Love the silhouette and the pot in the wall 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Heehee, 😀 You gotta visit when you gotta visit, right! Also, off season is always a good time.

      Thank you so much for this. I fell in love with Orchha and would go back in a jiffy. Maybe someday in the monsoons 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Just Yamini says:

    I went to Orchaa and Gwalior last month. And found the place to be as beautiful as your post and pictures.

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    1. Wow. I went to Gwalior as a kid and have faint memories. Thank you so much for your kind appreciation :))

      Like

  4. Gaurav says:

    Always wanted to see Orcha through your lens. Is camping possible near Betwa lake ?

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    1. Hey! Thanks Gaurav. I think it is possible to camp near Betwa Lake in the season; MP Tourism puts some camps there 🙂

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