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Orchha

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Situated in the rough terrains of the Bundelkhand region, Orchha is one of the more historic towns of the Tikamgarh district, in Madhya Pradesh. It is located in the northwestern part of the district, beside the Betwa River, some 15 kilometers from Jhansi.

As of the Indian census taken in 2001, the town has a population of 8,499 people with the males making up 53% of it. Literacy rate is lower than the national average, at 54%. The town has a mean elevation of 231 meters above sea level. The name of the town is a local word that means “hidden.”

Orchha was founded in 1501 by Rudra Pratap Singh, a Bundela chief who became the first ruler of the town from 1501 to 1531, when he died in an attempt to save a cow from a lion. Rudra Pratap Singh built the Fort of Orchha. In the early 17th century, Raja Jujhar Singh rebelled against the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan. This decision ended in disaster as, between 1635 to 1641, the Mughal army took over the princely state and brought destruction and carnage to Orchha.

However, Orchha rose from this defeat and eventually grew to be a powerful empire. Together with Datia, the two were the only Bundela states that did not succumb to the rule of the Marahas in the 18th century. In 1783, the town of Tehri (which eventually became the present-day Tikamgarh town) became the capital of Orchha state.

Orchha has had many illustrious rulers across the centuries. Among them was Hamir Singh, who was granted Maharaja status in 1865. He ruled Orchha between 1848 to 1874 and was succeeded by Maharaja Pratap Singh, who devoted himself entirely to the development of the princely state. He designed most of the engineering and irrigation works that were used during his reign. It is widely acknowledged that Orchha was at the zenith of its prosperity during his rule.

In 1901, Orchha has become the oldest and highest in rank of all the Bundela states, encompassing an area of 2,000 square miles and a population of 52,634. Its Maharajas bore the title of First of the Prince of Bundelkhand, which are passed down from ruler to ruler. After India’s independence, the Maharaja of Orchha that time, Maharaja Vir Singh, acceded to the Union of India on January 1, 1950. This led to the state becoming a district of Vindhya Pradesh, which was later merged into Madhya Pradesh. Today, the town of Orchha is practically nondescript with a population that does not even compare to half of what it used to have. However, its rich and varied history still marks it as one of the district’s most important towns.

Arguably, the most famous tourists attractions in Orchha are the chattris or cenotaphs that are laid along the banks of the the Betwa River, which are erected at different times of the town’s history. There are 14 buildings all in all, serving as memoirs of the Bundela kings. The most famous of these are Rajmandir and the Jahangir Mahal, with the latter being considered as a singularly beautiful specimen of domestic Hindu architecture.

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