Saturday, April 01, 2006

Orchha : Still safe from touts, hippies & trance music

Ended up in Orchha sometime ago. Guide book images of its towering temples and vast ruins continued to haunt me for years before I finally made it by slieght of hand and twist of fate, but the 3 days that I spent there were perhaps the most relaxing I've ever had in a long long time.

Out there by the Betwa river, I could spend hours and hours gazing at the Chattris (cenotaphs) of the mighty Bundela kings who ruled over these lands. Cattle grazed in the lush grass by the banks and a motley bunch of boys tried to do a Louganis as they twisted, turned and dove into the quiet waters. Sunset turned this mystical land into magical. As the big ball of fire descended behind the Chattris, the whole atmosphere acquired a hue that no words can describe.

Just as I though that I could leave as darkness fell, the deep blue sky turned those awesome buildings into towering shadows holding back tales of valour, lust, intrigue and heartbreak. It took a lot of effort to move away from the narrow bridge that spans the Betwa and connects the sleepy village with the district headquarters at Tikamgarh.

A visit to the Chaturbhuj Temple is a must. Its towering spires afford grand views of the surrounding countryside and the royal citadel comprising of the Raja Mahal and the Jahangir Mahal. The Jahangir Mahal was of particular interest to me. According to history, the Bundela Chief Madhukar Shah built this enormous palace just to commemorate his friendship with the Mughal prince. The palace was built in 20 years after which Jahangir travelled down to Orchha from Agra and stayed there for all of 2 nights !! What a fuckin waste, but then that's how these turnip heads were !! Apart from the palaces, ruins and temples there is hardly anything worth doing here, atleast for the Lonely Planet traveller. But if you want a relaxing weekend doing nothing, this is the place to be.

It is one of those rare places in India which is still free of touts, beggars and ganja smoking hippies. The shops here are yet to stock Shiva Trance CDs by Prem Joshua and Foreign Exchange centers havent yet sprouted at every corner. The taxi drivers don't fleece you yet, neither do hordes of agents descend upon you selling the virtues of their hotel. But at the same time I am wondering how long would this remain? Already, the local dhabas have shops that have signs that read in French and Hebrew. A hole in the wall tea shop advertises its large menu of Korean dishes and I counted atleast 4 internet browsing centers within 50 meters of each other. The street kids have learnt a few words of English and the moment they see you, they start chanting "Hello, 20 rupees??"

Head there before it turns into another Khajuraho. Head there if you want to spend a busy weekend doing nothing. Head there because it still hasn't been found by the hippie. Head there for Jatayu - the king of birds.

For some more pics from Orchha, click here.

2 comments:

Shivangi said...

gotcha!

Mridula said...

Lovely pictures, Orcha has been on my 'to visit' list but the list just keeps growing.