A Part by Part Account of Orchha History
Under the British Raj, the Indian Subcontinent was divided into several Vassal states which were also called as Princely States. Although these states had their own native rulers or kings, they were under the subsidiary alliance with the British Raj. Orchha State was one such princely state under the Bundelkhand Agency of the British Raj situated in present-day Madhya Pradesh. It was surrounded by Jhansi District, Saugor District, the States of Bijawar, Panna, Charkhari and by the Garrauli jagir. Let’s take a brief look at Orchha princely state history today.
The Bundela chief, Rudra Pratap Singh established the Orchha State in 1501and reigned as the first king until 1531. He built the fort at Orchha and shifted the capital from Garhkundar to Orchha. Bharatichand was enthroned as the next king but he died without anyone to continue his kingship. Madhukar Shah was his younger brother who succeeded the throne.
Conflicts and battles
Orchha princely state history witnessed a lot of battles and conflicts during the reign of Bharatichand and Madhukar Shah. The Afghan Islam Shah Suri and the Mughal emperor Akbar constantly attacked the state. As per Akbarnama, Madhukar also surrendered lands to Akbar in 1577 and 1588. Some historians believe that Madhukar allowed Orchha to become a tributary state of the Mughal Empire while other historians have stated that he was a rebel in 1583.
Vir Singh was a vassal of Mughal Empire during the reign of Jahangir. He is known for killing Abu Fazl and his reign which ended in 1626. His son Jhujhar Singh became the next king but was defeated by the Mughals and Orchha was conquered by Mughals from 1635 to 1641. His brother was installed as the King by the Mughals. The state never came completely under the Marathas in the 18th century.
The Queen of Orchha built the Chaturbhuj Temple during Akbar’s reign. Madhukar Shah built Raj Mandir during his reign. Vir Singh built temples in Mathura and Vrindaban. He also built Phool Bagh garden, and the Lakshmi temple. The beautiful palaces like Jahangir Mahal and Sawan Bhadon Mahal were also built during Vir Singh’s reign.
Hamir Singh ruled from 1848 to 1874 and became the Maharaja in 1865. Orchha and Datia attacked Jhansi in 1857 but they were defeated by Rani Lakshmibai’s army and her allies in August 1857. Maharaja Pratap Singh who was enthroned as the king in 1874, worked dedicatedly towards the development of the state. He also designed many engineering and irrigation projects that were implemented during his reign.
In 1811, the state became a part of Bundelkhand Agency. It was also the oldest and the highest in rank out of the entire Bundela State. Spread over an area of 2,080 square miles, the state received a 15 gun salute by the British authority. Its maharajas also got the esteemed title «First of the Prince of Bundelkhand».
Postage stamps and coins
Copper and silver coins known as Gaja Shahi were produced in history of Orchha state. These coins featured an image of a mace on the reverse. Datia State also copied the same symbol on their coinage. Separate postage stamps were also issued by the state in 1897, 1913, 1914 and 1939. They carried denominations from half-annas to 10 rupees and some of them featured the maharaja’s portrait. These stamps were discontinued after the state became a part of the Union of India in April 1950.
The state became a part of the Union of India on 1st January 1950. It first became a part of Vindhya Pradesh state and later became a part of Madhya Pradesh in 1956.