Orchha, a living medieval town
Just outside the fort entrance, looming over the skyline on a high stone platform, is the Chaturbhuj Temple, an imposing structure with stark interiors as no deity was ever worshipped inside. The god Rama, for whom the temple was built, chose instead to reside in a part of the Raja Mahal, appearing to the queen in a dream where he refused to move to his grand, newly built accommodation. Thus a section of the palace was converted into the Ram Raja Temple, which continues to be a lively and bustling venue packed with worshippers who come to pay respects to “King Ram” who rules the town. A 10-minute auto-rickshaw ride from Chaturbhuj is the smaller Laxmi Narayan Temple, which is a unique mix of temple and fort architecture – one curious feature being the canon slots on its roof. There is no statue of the deity here since the last one was stolen some decades ago, but you can see barn owls flying around, which are coincidentally the mount of Laxmi, the goddess of wealth.
As you walk down to the river banks from the temple you may catch a glimpse of local life at its colourful best. On auspicious days, villagers throng here to pray, while vendors sell vermillion powder, sweets, beads and bangles and folk musicians strike up their instruments to accompany bhajans (hymns) sung soulfully by wandering mendicants. Just steps away, huddled together on the banks of the river are the grim but imposing chhatris (cenotaphs) of the medieval rulers who left their mark on this place. There are 14 dark and mossy stone chhatris, each with a square platform and stairs leading to the domed ceilings. Vultures roost above, adding to the funereal atmosphere. Come at early morning or sunset to see the chhatris bathed in a beautiful golden glow.