Tag Archives: Rani

Orchha – A Hidden Heritage Site

Just because you’re stuck at home doesn’t mean you can’t add another place to your travel list.

Orchha in Madhya Pradesh, India is a ‘hidden’ gem. It’s historical monuments adjacent to pristine nature narrate a story.

I happened to be in Orchha, Madhya Pradesh, on the occasion of ‘Namaste Orchha’ festival, whose director Yasmin Kidwai said that, “Madhya Pradesh is a very underrated destination. While its wildlife is acknowledged, the state’s vast historical and architectural heritage is not. The state represents what best India has to offer. Orchha is a part of these untold and undiscovered destinations in the state.” 

A small town in Bundelkhand region may have just emerged as the key to unleashing the rich potential of tourism in Madhya Pradesh, but it is a treasure trove of forts, rivers, forests, and cultures. 

So, to explore its historical and architectural heritage, I had decided to roam around the nooks and corners of the small town with a glorious past. 

Colors of Architecture 

Chatturbhuj Mandir

Founded in the 18th century by Rudra Pratap Singh, Orchha became the capital of the Bundela Rajput dynasty. Planned along the river Betwa, the complex of forts, palaces, and cenotaphs surprise the visitors with the unexpected. While exploring them, legends come alive and you are lost in a labyrinth inducing curiosity.

Yes, this is Orchha. A vast canvas with all the colors of architecture and each color tells a unique and vibrant story. It is the only place in India where Lord Ram is worshipped as a King. The grand temples stand majestically against the landscape, merging the stories of valor of the Rajput Kings with those of the Gods. 

Chhatris – Memorials of Rulers 

Chhatris along the river.

Fourteen chhatris or cenotaphs line the Kanchan Ghat of the river Betwa. Built in the 17th and 18th centuries, chhatris are memorials spaces for the rulers of Orchha. Like the pyramids of Egypt, they were constructed to respect the dead, but no treasure can be found here. While watching the flowing river, walking through the green fields, you can marvel at their intricate beauty. While passing through the square shape cenotaph of Vir Singh Deo, I felt as though I could spend hours admiring the structure. 

Splendid Palaces 

Orchha, which means ‘hidden’, has a paradise of forts that need to be explored and admired for its blend of Mughal and Bundela architecture. To understand the grandeur of the past, one must visit the fort complex where Orchha’s rulers used to live. It is a delightful experience to watch the sunset from the jharokas built on the fort’s exteriors. From the top, you can see the entire town and three main structures of the fort – Raja Mahal, Jehangir Mahal, and Rai Praveen Mahal. 

Raja Mahal includes the Sheesh Mahal and every evening you can enjoy a light and sound show which narrates the story of the Bundelas. It is one of the most historic monuments in the fort.

Situated to the right of the quadrangle, is a palace built by Madhukar Shah. The plain exteriors crowned by chhatris, give way to interiors with exquisite murals, bold colors, and a variety of religious themes.

Jehangir Mahal has intricate carvings and large verandahs at every step. Passing through several dungeon-like staircases and maze-like rooms will leave you in awe. Invited by the Bundela King, Jehangir came and ended up staying for a long time; this was constructed to honor him. The Jahangir Mahal is multi-story and offers spectacular views from its balconies.

Rai Praveen Mahal was constructed for the poetess and singer of the royal court at Orchha during the time of Raja Indramani. When Emperor Akbar heard about her beauty, he ordered to send her to Delhi. But, her commitment and love for Indramani forced Akbar to send her back to Orchha. The palace built for her is a low two-storied brick structure, designed to match the height of the trees in the surroundings. Now it is left with stories of the glorious past in its ruins.

Temple Tales 

Raja Ram Temple is the main temple for the people of Orchha, where Ram is worshipped as king, not as a God. This complex was originally the palace of then-ruler, Madhukar Shah Judev, a devotee of Lord Krishna. His wife, Queen Ganesh Kunwari, worshipped Lord Rama and wanted to place his idol in the palace. At odds, the Queen set out to Ayodhaya. Pleased by her prayers alongside river Sarayu, Lord Ram appeared in the form of a baby and agreed to go with her on the condition that he will be the king of Orchha and the first place she seats him will be his final place of stay. On returning, the queen placed him in the palace for the night. Next morning, when she tried to take the idol to the Chaturbhuj Temple, which was constructed for it, Lord Ram did not move; hence the palace became the Raja Ram temple. 

The Chaturbhuj Temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and constructed on a stone platform and is a rectangular building only reached by climbing a long flight of stairs. The temple has brown walls and beautifully carved high ceilings; a 202-meter-high ceiling is undoubtedly a unique feature of any Hindu temple. You will not find any carvings in this temple but the beautiful blend of palace and temple architecture is impressive. Lotus emblems and other symbols of religious significances provide delicate exterior ornamentation. Within the sanctum, it is chastely plain with high, vaulted walls emphasizing its deep sanctity.

Laxminarayan Mandir

Laxminarayan Temple is also a blend of fort and temple architecture. The interior is decorated with wall paintings and ceiling murals, which are vivid compositions. Although it’s a palatial temple with ongoing construction, you can still feel the serenity and calmness soothe your mind and body. 

Homestays – An Emerging Concept

Maximum tourists are preferring to stay in homestays, which is an emerging market. Designer Anupama Dayal painted the walls of these simple but comfortable stays with the drawings of Gond art. “It is a repetitive motif albeit in completely different art styles in the frescos and the colorful Gond art. These lovely motifs symbolize the freedom and the link between earth, waters, and strong elements of Orchha,” she told. 

Suman Bajpai is a freelance writer, journalist, editor, translator, traveler, and storyteller based in Delhi. She has written more than 10 books on different subjects and translated around 130 books from English to Hindi. 

Pride in Focus – Frameline43 comes to SF

Frameline43, the forty-third San Francisco International LGBTQ+ Film Festival is slated to be held between June 20 and June 30, 2019. For eleven days, this film festival is bringing nearly 150 gay-themed movies from various countries to SF. Frameline43 also offers film-goers several opportunities to rub shoulders with attending film-makers and artists.

The platform provided by Frameline43 to the LGBTQ+ voices, showcases the spectrum that is as colorful as the rainbow that represents the community.  

The movies featured push boundaries, addressing issues such as gender identity, sexual exploration and homosexuality, amongst others. They force the viewer to go beyond the conventional approach to love and to life. They get the audiences closer to understanding and acceptance of a community that struggles to get what the majority take for granted.

Founded in 1977, Frameline’s mission is to “change the world through the power of queer cinema”.  And the non-profit organization may be doing just that, by bringing to focus the issues and discrimination faced by the LGBTQ+ community.  At the end of the day, one is left with these questions: Shouldn’t one be free to love anyone? Shouldn’t people really be objecting to hate?

A taste of some South-Asian-themed movies, which the Festival has on offer, follows. (Note: All the movies may contain nudity, language, violence or have themes of a mature nature.)

KATTUMARAM (Catamaran)

Tamil language. Running Time:  1 hour, 12 minutes

Kattumaram tells the tale of the residents of a fishing village in Tamil Nadu affected by the tsunami. The effect of the tsunami is felt years after the devastating incident, but little does Singaram, a fisherman, know that another tsunami is waiting to hit his life.  

There is a gentleness in the way that the Director Swarnavel Eswaran has threaded the stories of the residents of the remote coastal village. These residents include Singaram, who finds himself in a parental role to his niece, when his sister is swept away by the tsunami; Anandi, who is resistant to all efforts made by her protective uncle to get her married, until a new Photography teacher, Kavita, comes to town; and Philomena, their neighbor, who has to come up with a way to overcome loneliness when her husband favors the bottle over her.

A bitter-sweet tightness develops in the community that the tsunami has sacrificed; the families left in its wake form bonds, weaving comforting relationships with each other.

The musical score by P. Bharani Dharan is outstanding, with a rhythm that matches the ebb and flow of the waves, as well as the lives of the folk of the village. It is beautifully representative of the tenderness that is sometimes seen through the rough-edged residents of the small coastal community.

Written and directed by: Swarnavel Eswaran.  

(Kattumaram will be screened at The Roxy, on Sunday, June 23, at 6.45 p.m.

Expected Guests:  Director Swarnaval Eswaran, Producer Sandhya Swarnavel.)




Running Time:  12 minutes

Dogana/Chapti contains narratives from several gay Indian- and Indo-American women who share their perspectives about their identity. Nearly ten different perspectives are showcased, including that of a woman from a very orthodox Tamil Brahmin family. The documentary examines desires and the dishonesty that goes with having to hide one’s sexual identity in a conservative society. 

Among other topics, queers discuss their first crush, exploring sexuality, self-doubt, coming out, finding a home among the queer community, and the sadness of never having the simple pleasure of going out and holding hands with a partner you love.

The film gets its name from 18th century Urdu feminist poetic form, the rekhti (which looks at sexual desires between women).

Directed by:  Serena Chopra and Kasey Ferlic.

(Dogana/Chapti will be screened at The Castro, on Thursday, June 27, at 1.30 p.m.

Audiences will find it in the short film program Up Close and Personal.

Expected Guests:  Directors Serena Chopra and Kasey Ferlic.)



Running Time:  14.00 minutes

Rani is a touching story of a transgender woman in Pakistan, whose pain of being a social outcast makes her open her heart and home to another social outcast — an abandoned baby girl. Rani’s maternal instincts kick in and she bestows all her love on the baby –– a love that she herself has never been given.  However, she has a terrible choice to make when a hateful society will not let her keep the baby.

Written and directed by: Hammad Rizvi.

(Rani will be screened at The Roxie, on Monday, June 24, at 7.00 p.m.

Audiences will find it in the short film program Transtastic.)



Running Time: 12.00 minutes

Set in the United Kingdom, Home Girl is a movie about Roya, a gay Muslim woman, who struggles to accept herself and her love for another woman.  Wracked by guilt after her mother dies, Roya contemplates a traditional life in order to be a good daughter. However, after her mother’s funeral, she gets a break which points her to the road of self-acceptance and gives her the gift of freedom to love.

Directed by: Poonam Brah.

Written by: Iman Quereshi.

(Homegirl will be screened at The Roxie, on Saturday, June 29 at 4.00 p.m.

Audiences will find it in the short film program Only the Brave.)

Home Girl



Running Time:  1 hour, 9 minutes

Transfinite is directed by Neelu Mhuman and written by a collective of screenwriters who are multi-cultural, with various sexual orientations.  Animated in parts, the selection is a grouping of short stories which feature transgenders as people with special powers. The seven locally-shot science-fiction/fantasy short films are filled with symbolism, mysticism and fantasy.


For Frameline43’s calendar, please visit:

Meera Prahlad is a freelance writer, community organizer and volunteer with a wide variety of interests.  She wears several hats, but finds that the style that suits her best is one where she takes on a cause close to her heart, to make a meaningful impact on the community around her.

This article was edited by India Currents Culture and Media Editor Geetika Pathania Jain, Ph.D.