Chaturbhuj Temple

Chaturbhuj temple Orchha

CHATURBHUJ TEMPLE, dedicated to Vishnu, is situated at ORCHHA in Madhya Pradesh, India.  The name CHATURBHUJ is where CHATUR (four) and BHUJ (arms), which literally translates to “one who has four arms”, and refers to Rama, an “avatar” of Vishnu.  The Temple has a complex multi—storied structural view which is a blend of temple, fort and palace architectural features.

The Temple was originally built to “deify” an image of Rama as the chief Deity, which, however, was installed in Rama Raja Temple inside the ORCHHA FORT COMPLEX.  At present, an image of RADHEYKRISHAN is worshipped in the Temple.

chaturbhuj temple

The Temple is on an island formed by the BETWA RIVER.  ORCHHA is accessible by air from Gwalior Airport, which is 119km away.  Regular flights operate from Delhi and Bhopal.  By road it is accessible from a diversion from the Jhansi – Khajuraho highway.  The nearest rail-head is Jhansi which is 16km away.

The Temple was constructed by BUNDELA RAJPUTS of the Kingdom of ORCHHA.  Its construction was started by Madhukar Shah and completed by his son Vir Singh Deo.  In the early 16th century Madhukar Shah built the Temple for his wife  RANI GANESHKUWARI.  
According to a local legend, the Temple was built following the Queen getting a “dream visitation” by lord Rama directing her to build a Temple for Him.  While Madhukar Shah was a devotee of Krishna, his wife’s dedication was to Rama.  Following the approval to build the CHATURBHUJ TEMPLE, the Queen went to AYODHYA to obtain an image of Lord Rama, and when she came back with the image of Rama, initially she kept the idol in her palace, called RANI MAHAL, as the Temple was still under construction.  She was, however, unaware of an injunction that the image to be deified in a Temple could not be kept in a palace.  Once the Temple construction was completed and the idol of the Lord had to be moved for installation at the CHATURBHUJ TEMPLE, Lord Rama’s idol refused  to be shifted from the palace.


Hence, Rama’s idol remained in the palace, whereas the CHATURBHUJ TEMPLE remained without an idol in its sanctum.  As Rama was worshipped in the palace, it was converted into the Rama Raja Temple. it is the shrine, in the country, where Rama is worshipped as a King.  The management of the Temple on a day-to-day basis is under the control of the State Archaeological Department.

Chaturbhuj temple_Orchha

The Temple is imposing with tall spires in the shape of “pine cones” built atop of a high platform of 15ft height.  The overall height of the Temple is 344ft high and its layout is compared to that of a Basilica and planned to resemble the “4 arms of Vishnu” for whom it was built.  The imposing view of the Temple is that of a multi-storied palace with arcaded openings, a very large entrance, a large central tower and fortifications.  The climb to the Temple façade involves climbing steep and narrow steps (numbering 67), each of which is about 3ft. 3ins. high, forming a winding stairway.  The interior has many halls and the main hall (MANDAPA) of the Temple is built in the shape of a Cross (cruciform) and is at right angles to the Vestibule, of identical layout on either side.

Chaturbhuj temple

The Temple’s exterior is richly ornamented with lotus symbols.  The building displays a blend of religious and secular styles taken from Temple and Fort architecture.  The Temple faces east and is located on an axis with the nearby Rama Temple which is inside ORCHHA FORT Complex.  The ceiling of the central dome, which has several kiosks, is covered with bloomed lotuses.  The exterior architectural features include “petal stone mouldings, painted floral and geometric designs, cornices supported on lotus bud brackets., jewelled stone girdles, false balcony projections”.  It is said that the towers of the Temple, when built, had been covered with gold plating which over the years have been pilfered.  The roof of the Temple is accessible from where one can see the scenic views of ORCHHA TOWN, the winding BETWA River, the SAWAN BHADON, the RAMA RAJA Temple and the imposing LAXMI NARAYAN Temple some distance away.


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