Sunday 6 January 2013

The temple where Paan is the prasad

This is perhaps the only temple in India which gives out paan as Prasada. This could also be the only temple within a huge palace. Therefore the deity is worshipped more as a King rather than as God.
Though a temple was constructed to house the deity, it could never be placed there as the deity choose the palace to reside. This is the temple of  Ram Raja in Orcha near Jhansi in Madhya Pradesh.   
The temple is situated in the premises of the Rani-Ka-Mahal. It is here that devotees are offered Paan as prasada. This is because the priests consider the place as a court of Ram and not a shrine.
The Ram was meant to be housed in the magnificent Chaturbhuj Temple that was built by the Bundela Emperors. 
The Ram here is seated on a throne and he is flanked in his Durbar by his wife Sita and his brothers, Hanuman and his courtiers.
Ram presides over his court and he gives Paan to whoever comes.
Just besides the door leading to the Durbar or sanctum is a statue of an armed guard. The guard stands vigil as Ram holds forth on maters of state.
The morning and evening poojas are a sight to see. It is during  aarti that the devotees receive a paan-a symbol of hospitality, love and affection. The deity is also given gunshot salute as he is a King.
The Rama Navami festival here are special and the Vivaha Panchami festivities during November and December herald  the nuptials of Ram and Sita. Rama arrives in a splendid palanquin  to wed Sita who is beautifully decorated.
There is a beautiful story on how Ram came into the palace, never to move out.
A King of Orcha, Madhukar Shah, was an ardent devotee of Banke Bhihari (Lord Krishna) while his wife was a devotee of Lord Ram.
The King frequently made fun of his wife and her devotion to Rama and asked her to follow Krishna. One day, the Queen  could not bear his taunts and she decided to leave the palace.
She wanted to go on foot from Orcha to Ayodhya so that she could get an idol of Ram. She left the palace without telling the King. Meanwhile, she instructed architects and builders to construct the Chaturbhuj Temple where she said she would place the idol of Ram.
The Queen reached Ayodhya. She fasted for several days and meditated on Ram who appeared before her. The Queen requested Ram to come back to Orcha with her. Ram agreed but he put forth three conditions.
His first condition was that he could come only as a child and not as a man. The second was that if he came to Orcha he would be the King. His final condition was that his consecration would have to be performed at a particular time. If that time passed, he would stay on in that place itself, irrespective of whichever that place was.
The Queen agreed to all the conditions. Ram and the Queen then set out to Orcha. Meanwhile, Madhukar Shah had a dream in which he was rebuked for trying to distinguish between Ram and Krishna. In the dream , he was told that Ram and Krishna were one and the same.
A repentant King came rushing to the Queen’s quarters. He then came to know the Queen had gone to Ayodhya and that she was returning back.
The Queen, with the baby Ram in her lap, went to her quarters and retired for the night. She wanted to consecrated Ram in the newly built Chaturbhuj temple the next day. Unfortunately, for her the time to consecrate the idol had already passed in the night and Ram transformed himself into an idol in the room. None could move the statue and the Queen decided to move out and construct a temple here itself.     
To this day, the Ram Raja Temple is in the palace and not in the Chaturbhuj which is adjacent to the palace. Ram also rules the land as he is King. Hence, the name Ram Raja Temple.
The temple is closed in the afternoon. It opens from 8 a.m., to   12-30p.m., and again from 7 p.m., to 9-30 p.m. Unlike other temples of Orcha, this palace-temple is painted in pink and cream.
The Lakshminarayana and Chaturbhuj Temples, Raja Mahal, Jahangir Mahal, Fort, Rai Parveen Mahal and the many Cenotaphs of the Bundela kings are other places of interest here.
Orcha is a historic town on the banks of the Betwa. It was founded in 1537 but was devastated by Shahajan, the Mughal Emperor. It is just 15 kms from Jhansi. Orcha is on the way from Jhansi to Khajurao.
Orcha has an excellent road and rail network.   

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