My friend from the group joined me in Gwalior, we hired a taxi to get dropped at Jhansi, we continued to Oraccha in an auto (costs about Rs.300/-). We reached Oraccha by evening, with detour to a place called Datia on the way.
The reason we chose a taxi instead of a train to Oraccha was my greediness to check out some more historical locations on the way to Jhansi. Before Oraccha, I will tell you about Datia.
I hadn’t come across Datia Palace and Fort during my research for the trip, but only heard about it my INTACH Gwalior facilitator. At Gwalior Fort museum I saw pictures of Datia Fort and Palace, and I knew they were too precious to be missed.
I was so right. The small town is spectacular and full of old rustic buildings.
The Palace was built by the Bir Singh of Orachha as a guest house, he never stayed here, as he would live in his Palace in Oraccha. But this Palace is so beautiful, some paintings inside are still intact. Thankfully a caretaker was available who took us for a tour of the Palace. We climbed upto 5th floor for breath taking views inside as well as outside the Palace, it has more 2 floors which are closed. The pictures I’m posting do not do justice to the magnificence of this place, so I just stopped clicking and soaked in whatever I could in my memories. Unfortunately this town is not under M.P. ASI’s or Tourism Department radar, and hence not at all being maintained. But if your taxi guy or any guide tries to divert you from this place as missable, or because no tourists visit it, please insist, and go there. Make this place famous!
From the Palace you can see the Datia Fort on a small hill in farsight. Due to disinterest of my friend and also the unwillingness of our driver, we did not go to the Datia Fort. I wish I could. I definitely will do it someday! It has a nice museum as told to me.
The other building you see in foreground, it was supposed to be the Jail building.
The other palace campus you can see from the Bir Singh Palace, is the actual residence of the King of Datia. It is off-limits for tourists as the the descendant family still stays there, probably only one person (as told to me by Mr. Vikas of INTACH), they are not in a very good state and looking to convert the property into a heritage hotel.
Now about Oraccha.
Since we reached in the evening, and our resort staff wasn’t very helpful in giving directions, we did not pay much attention to the town, also none of the beautiful buildings were visible in the dark.
The next morning was much more interesting, as our tents at Oraccha Resort were located right beside the Cenotaphs.
Oraccha is full of historical buildings and temples. The Palace was built by the King of Oraccha, Bir Singh Deo, it is called Jahangir Mahal because he gifted it to Jahangir (Salim), son of Shahjahan, in order to provide him safe house while he was in danger of being assassinated. But the story is that people of Oraccha never considered any King for themselves other than Lord Ram Chandra himself. Bir Singh Deo’s son, Madhukar Shah was the one who built the Raja Ram Mandir as part of a bet he held with his wife. You will hear that story few times on the trip so I shall spare the narration here.
The 3 major monuments in Oraccha are the Jahangir Palace, Chaturbhuj Temple & the Laxmi temple. Raja Ram mandir is a renovated version which is more of a pilgrimage location.
Jahangir Mahal: It is quite huge with about 7 stories, narrow passages and stairs that take you up to different floors. All across the buildings are mesmerising paintings, some of which are still intact. The Govt. hasn’t yet woken up to restoring these beautiful pieces of art, and our great indian tourists have made every typical ugly-fying act to spoil them as usual. The Campus has 2 parts, the Jahangir Mahal & the King’s Mahal, where the King resided probably. The main entrance is actually beautiful and sort of hidden unless someone leads you there, the back entrance is being used for entering the campus. There is a vast expanse beyond this entrance, one must take a walk and explore.
Chaturbhuj Temple: The temple was originally built to seat the Lord Rama, whose idol Madhukar Shah’s wife was to bring from Varanasi. As per the story, some twists of tale happened and Lord Ram was never enshrined in the actual temple built for him. Instead, the current Raja Ram Mandir was supposedly Royal womens’ quarters where the Queen placed the idol in the kitchen assuming it to be a temporary location until the real Temple building reached completion. But as the story narrates, Lord Ram never left or allowed to displace from the first spot itself. Its a lovely story, narrated by a local would sound more interesting.
Laxmi Temple: This is the most unsuspecting place. While going to it, no one would warn you about the beauty you are about to witness (If you are an admirer of art!). This place is full of amazing artwork. I had to take videos of the artwork as it was just not getting better documented using photographs. Video either isn’t doing much justice.
There are several other places I read about like the Raj Mahal, which is now a heritage hotel resort in Orccha. Other is Rai Parveen Mahal, which to my surprise the guides conveniently missed on mentioning. It is in front of the main entrance of Jahangir Mahal (that I have mentioned earlier). I kind of felt it was unfair to not let me walk in the field in front of the main entrance, I saw it from the top floor, it looked so enticing, but due to lack of time probably I did not insist.
Thankfully I did find it in my photographs, the building you see in the Rai Parveen Mahal, it is completely ignored for now, and has some wall paintings still intact. We can only pray that they don’t get spoilt as the palace remains completely unattended at all times. It apparently has a main entrance too and a grand campus, partially visible in this image. I wish someone took possession of this place and restored it, I wish I could do that.
I may have mentioned earlier, photos cannot do justice to the places you visit in M.P. This happened to me both in Datia and Oraccha, I just had to put my camera down as nothing came out well in the picture with the same magnificence I was witnessing with my naked eye.
How to reach:
From Gwalior to Oraccha trains are available, you can book anytime, most of trains have seats available.
To reach Oraccha from anywhere else you have to either take a train to Jhansi, or take a Flight to Gwalior via Delhi/Mumbai. (Air India Flights only, which are highly unreliable, get cancelled anytime)
We took taxi, From Gwalior taxi was for the price of Rs.3500/- to get dropped at Jhansi. For a drop till Oraccha the taxi was asking for Rs.4500/- which was clearly too high given the distance between Jhansi and Oraccha is a mere 25 kms. Later we figured this was a very expensive deal, from a Taxi guy in Oraccha, whose services we continued to use because of his reasonable charges and good nature until the end of our trip. (You can reach Bir Singh Yadav at +919109773211 for trips all across M.P. and even U.P. or Uttarakhand)