It was a cold, foggy morning and I started my day early as I just had one day in Orchha and had loads of places to cover. Because of my tight schedule, I was not sure how many places I would be able to see, so I started with the big one – Orchha palace. My initial thought was to see it all by myself. I read the history and had the book with me, so guide was not of any extra value. But I changed my mind when I reached the backside balcony of Orchha palace. I looked at the horizon and there were few monuments in middle of the jungle which were not mentioned in the map.
For people who are hearing the name Orchha for the first time – it is a historic city located 175 KM from Khajuraho. It is less known in Indian tourist community however visited by hundreds of foreign nationals every year. One of the reasons is surely the vicinity to Khajuraho but otherwise also the place has loads of things to offer – a cool river, a giant palace with history in every corner of it and plenty of old monuments scattered everywhere. But this article is not about them – they are known in history or at least can be found in wiki. This article is about those old monuments which history is forgotten about.
I decided to reach them. The guide discouraged me saying that they are all ruined and there is no direct path that I can take. I have to walk a long distance through the fields and jungle to reach there. Well, that was all fine for me. The hotel manager offered me his bike for cost of 1 liter of petrol. What else I could ask for?
The bike was horrible and the way was even worse. But all that felt nothing when I reached the first temple in the jungle. It is a Shiv temple. Once upon a time, this temple had an idol that used to be worshipped by local villagers. It is also heard that the main priest of the Ramraja temple used to come all the way to offer his pray here. Over a period of time, with the change of dynasties, gradually villagers shifted to other places and this temple has been abandoned. The idol had been shifted to the Ramraja temple and is worshipped even today. Archeological survey of India has put a board depicting the history of it – but that is also blurred due to lack of attention and regular cleaning. Alas – my country!
I went 100-200 meters further in and found the next temple. It is known as Pankhoi temple or alternatively, Pankhori temple. It is completely abandoned and inhabited by few monkeys and snakes now. We found some of them on the way. The color of the temple has completely faded away. But the designs are still intact – a combination of Hindu and Muslim architectural styles. You find Hindu apexes and Muslim like domes.
You go further in and there is the biggest monument and probably the most beautiful one – Radhabihari temple. This has beautiful carvings and designs all around. Some of the places have its old colors left which will give you a glimpse of what it has been in its golden days. The sun was going down in the Betwa river and the temple was looking awesome in the twilight. My tiny camera cannot show you what it looked like – you will need to go there to see it. This temple is now being used by some refugees. Is it their home – the first temple they live in. The next one is being used for goats. I found all possible household things such as mirror, comb, bags, utensils – even a bike!! Outside you have 4 buffaloes tied. They are not that poor as they seem to be. The only poor something that I could find there is my country which could not protect its history.
On the right hand side, you have another old monument “SIddhababa ki Gufa”. I don’t have any information on it except for its name. The building is surrounded by fields by all sides and reaching the entry gate is an exercise by itself. But even from outside, you can see how beautiful it is. On the way back, 100 meters left you have the mausoleum for the maids. During the reign of Bundela kings, these monuments were made in the memory of 5 maids who served the queen. Two of them have fallen down and only some remains are left. The remaining three are still standing – neglected, abandoned, ignored.
I missed my planned trip to Jhansi this time. But I have no regret – I could see those treasures which people do not see. After I came back home, I searched all sources – old books, wiki, internet – none of them talks about it. So, I decided to give them the first light. There are many other temples like this in the main city of Orchha and I explored them too – but that is topic of a different column.