Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Orcha: A City Lost in Time...

Located on the banks of the Betwa River in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, Orcha is a city virtually lost in time. A sleepy town of about ten thousand, it offers weary travelers a welcome respite from the more densely populated "must see" cities of northern India.  The air is fresh, the river is clear, and there is peace.  Happily, there are also numerous unusual medieval ruins - picturesque cenotaphs, imposing temples and massive palaces - to explore!

Layers of Stone...and History
View from Jehangir Mahal to Raja Mahal and Chaturbhuj Temple beyond
Orcha, India - 2007
Ruins of Rai Praveen Mahal with the Betwa River beyond
Orcha, India - 2007

Orcha was founded in 1501 by Raja Rudra Pratap, a Bundela Rajput king.  During the reign of Raja Bir Singh Deo in the early 17th century, the princely state reached the height of its political power and artistic achievement.  By the late 19th century however, the city was abandoned. This unfortunate circumstance has serendipitously provided us with a rare window into that lost world.

Today, the archeological investigation and historic preservation of Orcha's past is well underway at the Fort Complex, which dominates one side of the river.  The Fort Complex is a collection of three palaces, the most famous being Jehangir Mahal, which is considered to be a particularly beautiful example of the architecture of that era, a masterful blending of Hindu and Moslem architectural traditions.

Cupolas Mark Every Intersection
Jehangir Palace
Raja Bir Singh constructed the Jehangir Mahal as a gift to his friend, the emperor Jahangir (son of  Akbar, father of Shah Jehan). According to our local guide, two hundred workers labored four years to complete the palace in time for Jehangir's visit to Orcha in 1606.  Jehangir accepted the gift and spent one one night in the palace with his entourage before moving on to pressing affairs of state in other parts of the country.  The emperor never made it back to Orcha, so the palace has laid vacant for all but that one night.

Courtyard of Raja Mahal
Courtyard of Jehangir Mahal
Roof of Jehangir Mahal
Jehangir Mahal
Raja Mahal with Chaturbhuj Temple beyond
Orcha, India - 2007
No Elevators...Take the Stairs
Jehangir Mahal
All of the images posted here are available for purchase as 8x10 and 5x7 fine art prints and A2 size greeting cards (all printed on archival water color paper) at http://DigitalYak.etsy.com/.  Be sure to send me a message if there is something you'd like that you don't see listed, or if you'd like a custom size or item, as I truly enjoy creating one of a kind items that hold special meaning. Thanks!!

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