History of Orchha

The Bundelas trace their descent from the Gaharwar Rajputs of Benaras. The Gaharwars are invariably connected with the rule of Benaras. The Bundela Rajputs an offshoot of Gaharwar Rajputs came to Bundelkhand in 1048 A.D. when Muslim armies evicted the Rajputs from the Ganga Valley.

Etching of the Ram Raja Temple by Louis Rousseslet in 1857

  • Raja Rudrapratap. In 1501 A.D. he shifted the capital to Orchha and thus began the history of Orchha
  • His son Raja Madhukar Shah - I was religiously inclined and converted his palace into a temple. In this temple Lord Rama is worshipped as the eternal king and is known as Ram Raja Temple

  • Maharaja Bir Singh Deo I (1605- 1627) - was a contemporary of Mughal Emperor Jahangir. He was rewarded for killing Abul Fazal, the Prime Minister of Jahangir's father Akbar and was made Raja of Orchha in 1605. As ruler he built the Twin forts of Orchha and Datia. He completed the Chaturbhuj temple and built Jahangir Mahal in the fort at Orchha. This is what Emperor Jahangir said in his entry in the Jahangirnama dated March 12th 1623 A.D. 'I honored Raja Bir Singh Deo, than whom there is no greater Amir among the Rajputs with the title of Maharaja and I promoted his son Jograj to the rank of 2000/1000'.

  • However the next generation Raja Jujhar Singh and his son Vikramajit were beheaded by Khan Dawran on the orders of Emperor Shahjahan. The Padshahnama manuscript from The Royal Library Windsor Castle has two pictures pertaining to Orchha.

  • Raja Jujhar Singhs brother Raja Pahar Singh, 1641-1653 served with the Mughal Forces in the Deccan and is reputed to have built Sunehri Mahal in Aurangabad. It now houses the museum in Aurangabad.


Miniature from Windsor Library Padshahnama

Miniature from Windsor Library Padshahnama

Decline of the Empire

The decline of the Bundela House of Orchha started with the coming of the Marathas to North India. The Peshwa Balaji Baji Rao on his Bengal campaign in December 1741 came to Orchha and desired a fort in Bundelkhand. The Marathas were far away from their base in Satara and Pune. They were looking for a fort and Cantonment, from where in easy marches they could go to Agra and Delhi and Kalpi and Kanpur and Banda and Allahabad. The Fort of Jhansi built by Maharaja Bir Singh Deo fitted their

Etching of the Chaturbhuj Temple by Louis Rousseslet in 1857
requirement and they took it away from Orchha. The State of Jhansi was created between the States of Datia and Orchha by taking territories from both those States. The State of Orchha lost half its territories in the Northern part of the State to the Maratha state of Jhansi. The parganas of Karera Dinara Jhansi, Bawra Sagar and Mau Ranipur were taken away from Orchha and included in the state of Jhansi. The State of Jhansi existed between 1750 and 1857. In the beginning Naro-Shankar was the Maratha Vice Roy of Bundelkhand, later on Govindpant became the heriditary Kamavisdar of the state. Rani Laxmi Bai, who faught the British in 1857, was his great grand daughter-in-law.

Pen & Ink by Prof. Kambo

As the Bundela Rajas of Orchha could not resist the vast forces of the Maratha Empire, they tactically made a move south to Tikamgarh. The first move away from Orchha to Ladhaura was made as early as 1780 and it was around 1820s that the final move to Tikamgarh took place.

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