Orchha Fort Palace
Raja Rudra Pratap founded Orchha in the early 16th century, but most of the early construction work in the town was carried out by his successor, Raja Bharti Chand. He built the city walls, and the citadel that, unfortunately, is in ruins now.
Raj MahalWork on the Raja Mahal was started by Raja Rudra Pratap, but he died in 1531, leaving the construction incomplete. His son, Bharti Chand, completed the front and the main portion of the palace, but could not complete the building during his lifetime. The final touches to the Raja Mahal were added by one of the most prominent rulers of Orchha, Madhukar Shah built several other monuments in the town as well.
The Magnificent Architecture
The Raja Mahal is a fine example of Mughal architecture with typical stone jali (lattice) work and multifaced arches at the entrance. The palace is in the shape of a perfect square that is further divided into two courtyards. The main courtyard is flanked by the palace which has a four-storeyed building at one end of it.
The other three sides have five-storeyed apartments. The Raja Mahal's facade is simplicity personified with hardly any ornamental detailing, but the interiors house some splendid paintings. The outer courtyard has some beautiful arches arranged in floral patterns and carved out in lime mortar.
Inside Attractions of The Palace
Inside the Mahal, the two places worth a look are the Durbar-e-Khas and the Diwan-i-Am. The Durbar-e-Khas, or the Durbar Hall, is situated on the first floor of the palace and is surrounded by high battlement walls. It is well fortified, and right above it are a number of musket holes through which the enemy was shot at.
The Diwan-i-Am is an assembly hall where the king often held meetings with his council of ministers.
The hall has three platforms, and from the highest one, the king held forth on affairs of the state. The Diwan-i-Am has massive columns and the ceiling has been decorated with paintings belonging to the Mughal and the Bundela schools of art. The exterior of the palace is decorated with elephant and lotus-shaped brackets. The entire architecture of the Raja Mahal is exquisite and speaks loftily of the stone carvers who sculpted it.
The intricately carved Jahangir Mahal has an aura of grandeur and opulence. Built on the lines of Emperor Akbar's Hamam Saras in Agra, it is nevertheless representative of the Bundela school of architecture. The palace is five-storeyed and houses as many as eight pavilions. The third floor has a court where the rulers of Orchha met with their subjects.
The court is raised over superimposed arcades with a wide gallery overlooking it. A long line of elephant brackets flanks the entrance to the monument, and a reddish-brown cornice runs along the periphery of the court. The fašade of the Jahangir Mahal is decorated with a plethora of geometric patterns, and paintings of peacocks and flowers.
The History Behind The Construction of The Jahangir Mahal
As the very name of the monument suggests, it was built in honour of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir, by the Orchha ruler, Vir Singh. The friendship between the two went back a long way, much before either of them became monarchs.
Before he became Maharaja, Vir Singh owned the fief of Badoni, situated midway between Orchha and Gwalior. Meanwhile, in the Mughal Court, the relationship between Emperor Akbar and his eldest son, Salim (later to be known as Jahangir), was always a tempestuous one. Prince Salim was a bit too susceptible to affairs of the heart, and his dalliance with Anarkali had riled the emperor no end.
Abul Fazl, one of the Navratnas, or Nine Jewels, in Akbar's court thrived on the rift and persuaded Akbar to forfeit Salim's heirship to the Mughal throne. Inevitably, Salim revolted against this, and Akbar deputed none other than the Machiavellian Abul Fazl to quell the rebellion.
Jahangir Mahal Palace
Fazl began a march to Agra to meet Salim's army in battle, but first he had to travel through Badoni, which was en route. At this crucial juncture, Vir Singh decided to help his friend Salim in his hour of trial by attacking Fazl's army and vanquishing it. Not content with that, he chopped off Fazl's head and presented it to Salim.
This was in 1602, and three years later when Akbar died and Jahangir replaced him as the emperor, it was time for him to repay the favour to his old friend.
Accordingly, he bestowed the whole of Bundelkhand to Vir Singh and even attended his coronation in 1606. It was on this occasion that Vir had the Jahangir Mahal built to receive Emperor Jahangir when he visited Orchha. The palace today stands as a memorial to the great friendship between the two erstwhile rulers.
Rai Praveen Mahal
Built in circa 1618 by Maharaja Indrajit Singh, the three-storeyed palace is also variously known as the Anand Mandal Bagh and the Rai Praveen Manika Bhavan.
A lush garden, with shrubs and flowerbeds pruned in very many artistic shapes, surrounds the palace.
Quite obviously, the art of topiary has been in existence in Orchha for centuries. The Mahal was built in honour of the 'Nightingale of Orchha', Rai Praveen, and the second floor is resplendent with scenes of Nritya Mudra, the poses and postures of Indian dance.
The Glorious Beauty of Rai Praveen
Rai Praveen was as well known for her enchanting beauty as for her poetry and music. The paramour of Indrajit Singh, in whose court she performed, her fame inevitably spread far and wide and finally reached the Imperial Court of Akbar. The Mughal emperor was smitten by her, and he arrogantly summoned her to his durbar. Indrajit Singh, Rai Parveen's paramour, was too weak-kneed a ruler to defy the Imperial summons.
Emperor Akbar Moved By Charms of Poetess
So, Rai Praveen went to Akbar's court, where, accompanied by her tutor, Keshava Dasa, she regaled the court with her singing and dancing skills. A bewitched Akbar asked her to jilt the contemptible Indrajit (who had abandoned her to her fate in any case) and take up residence with him in his harem.
He enticed her with the fabulous riches of the Mughal court, which, he told her, were more suitable for a lady of her accomplishments. However, Rai Parveen refused.
Akbar, finding all his inducements falling on deaf ears and touched by her loyalty, decided to restore her to Orchha. Rai Praveen returned to Orchha with both her dignity and that of her kingdom intact. The palace is a fitting memorial to this lady.
The fort also houses a Tope Khana (canon foundry) which kept a vigil round the clock, guarding against any external threat from the enemies of Orchha