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Preserving a Seventeenth-Century Cenotaph in Orchha

It seems ironic that the cenotaph (chhattri) in Orchha associated with one of the most illustrious kings of the Bundelas, Raja Veer Singh Deo, credited with building magnificent structures like the Jehangir Mahal and Laxmi Narayan Mandir in Orchha and other stupendous sites across India, has stood seemingly incomplete in architectural features and embellishments since the seventeenth century. The structure further stands isolated and starkly different from the surrounding towering Panchayatan-style group of chhattris, all unusually located downstream on the banks of the River Betwa, flowing south to north.

Veer Singh Deo’s chhattri has stood solid for more than 300 years, like an island silently bracing even the fury of the flood waters that lash it relentlessly during the monsoon months.

The “incompleteness” of the building is one of the attributes of this historic structure, an indicator of the socio-political and economic conditions of the Bundelas at the time of its construction. Protecting the authenticity of the building and its natural setting is the challenge of the conservation plan.