Orchha, a small town in the state of Madhya Pradesh, was formerly a princely state of Central India, in the Bundelkhabd region. It is said to have been established in the 16th Century by Bundela Rajput Chief, Rudra Pratap Singh. He was the first king of Orchha who ruled from 1501-1531. He built Fort of Orchha, around the River Betwa, which had sections on its roof consisting of square opening for shooting. As time progressed, several other buildings were constructed around this Fort.
His son, Bharatichand, died young without an heir in 1554 and was succeeded by his brother Madhukar Shah (1554 to 1592). Madhukar Shah witnessed attacks under Mughal Emperor Akbar (1556-1605). He was made to surrender lands and mobilize himself and his family in the service of the Mughal Empire. His son, Ram Shah (1592-1604) sued for pardon and was allowed to succeed. Thereafter, Jahangir installed Vir Singh Deo as Raja of Orchha (1605-27). He was the most famous of all the rulers.
The Orchha state was without a ruler and remained under direct Mughal rule from 1635 to 1641, following the revolt of Raja Jhujhar Singh against the Mughal emperor. Thereafter, Pahar Singh (1641-53) was appointed as the ruler of Orchha by Shah Jahan in 1641. The following successors to Pahar Singh served the Mughal Emperors loyally.
The British supremacy was recognized in 1812 and the then ruler of Orchha, Vikramajit entered into relations with the British by a treaty signed in 1812. Gradually, the title of Raja was abolished and was replaced with that of Maharaja starting from Hamir Singh, who ruled from 1848 to 1874. It was during his reign that an attempt to invade the territory of Jhansi was made but his army was defeated by Rani Lakshmibai’s army and her allies in August 1857.
Hamir Singh was elevated to the title of Maharaja in 1865. He was succeeded by Maharaja Pratap Singh in whose reign the state witnessed the irrigation and engineering development. Thereafter, in 1950 the state was merged with the Union of India and later on became part of the state of Madhya Pradesh.
The town is recognized on account of existing magnificent buildings. The Ram Raja Temple and the Jahangir Mahal were built on a square base and rectangular base respectively. The Ram Raja Temple is the only sacred Hindu pilgrimage Temple where Lord Ram is worshiped as a “King” whereas the Jahangir Mahal is a beautiful example of Mughal architecture. It was built as a symbol of warm reception to the then Mughal Emperor Jahangir who used to stay in it during visits to his friend Vir Singh Deo.
There are several elevated, dome shaped pavilion on the banks of River Betwa, known as Chhatris, depicting the elements of pride and honour of the Maratha and Rajput period. One must also visit the Unth Khana (Camel Shelter) right next to the Fort and climb to its roof top to have a fantastic look of Orchha, the town which houses the residences of military officers, ministers, gunpowder factory etc. Numerous tomb-like monuments, temples (including the historical Chaturbhuj Temple of ‘four-armed’ Lord Vishnu) can also be looked around the vicinity of this town.