From being the descendants of Ekalavya fame to robber barons or dacoits looting and pillaging to organising themselves into a clan whose leader supported Jahangir by taking on the mighty Akbar, to becoming rulers who made their mark by building magnificent temples and palaces and reigning for two centuries before finally melting back into scrub and jungle leaving their memorials behind to be discovered centuries later. This is the rivetting story of the Bundelas of Bundelkhand who ruled from Orchha in northern Madhya Pradesh.

The legend about being Ekalavya’s descendants is not substantiated, but the Bundelas apparently do not use their thumb while releasing the arrow, in homage to their illustrious ancestor who gave up his thumb to his revered teacher Drona. But the story about their being dacoits could be plausible for in that inhospitable terrain that could have been a means of survival, just as in the Chambal Valley not far away.

It was Raja Rudra Pratap who built a wall around existing settlements of Orchha in the 16th century and commenced an orgy of building on the banks of the Betwa River.

The dynasty’s brave warrior Bir Singh Deo got involved in Mughal politics and killed one of Akbar’s ‘nine jewels’— Abul Faizal. When Jahangir came to power he rewarded Bir Singh by recalling him to Orchha and allowing him to rule.

So much for history. What remains of two centuries of Bundela rulers are magnificent edifices silhouetting their pomp and glory. The palaces are haunting. Standing in the centre of the courtyard of Raj Mahal, initiated by Raja Rudra Pratap and continued by Madhukar Shah, near a fountain which must have splashed its water onto the stones below, I could see all around the empty windows of a crumbling mansion, which hinted at the darkness that lay beyond. They looked like so many eyes, blank and mysterious. Was I influenced by the story the guide told us, about a dancing girl who was murdered in the palace? Maybe.

The queen’s chamber had murals and frescos depicting scenes from the Mahabharata and Ramayana. The colours must have glowed at one time. In the king’s chamber the guide showed us a narrow corridor which ran around it. Ostensibly it was for dancing girls who would cavort around the corridor with jingling anklets to wake the king with a musical medley. This also leads to the Sheesh Mahal which is a hotel today. Read more..

Courtesy : Deccanherald.com