Monday, March 26, 2007

Travel through India in 10 days!

Well, it's not quite all of India. Jonathan Allen of NYTimes suggests a short trip through New Delhi, Agra, Gwalior and Orchha.

Did he say Orchha?

About 90 minutes south of Gwalior by train, Orchha was once the grand capital city of the powerful Bundela clan, but is now, as per the usual laws of Indian entropy, a cheerful farming village. The main 17th-century, semi-ruined palace complex sits on what amounts to an island in the Betwa, an implausibly clean and pretty river. For a little baksheesh, one of the guards will unlock a couple of the royal bedrooms leading off the main quadrangle in the Raj Mahal to reveal some well-preserved murals of hunting scenes.

A 20-minute walk south along the river bank leads to the cenotaphs of Orchha's former rulers, each a large mansion-size hunk of spire-topped stone. You can hunt around the walls for the deathly slippery stone staircases to the roofs, where you can sit among the spires enjoying the river views alongside the resident vultures.

Orchha village itself is dominated by its lively market-lined square, where bedraggled, dreadlocked and saffron-robed sadhus — ascetic Hindu holy men — wander around in a kind of daze, detached from the more pedestrian plane of reality through a precise combination of religious devotion and cannabis. Sometimes a few of them will sing very long songs.

On one side of the square stands the cavernous Chaturbhuj Mandir, looking as much like a hollowed-out European cathedral as a Hindu temple; nearby is the gaudy Ram Raja Temple, a magnet for Hindu pilgrims and wedding parties.

There's also some good temple-hopping in the opposite direction to the cenotaphs, where temple spires — sikharas — recede into the soggy horizon spanned with flooded rice paddies. The occasional child might come galloping over from three fields away in the certain knowledge you'll want her posing in your photograph, but by and large so few tourists bother to come here that the local women have taken to drying their laundry on the information boards.

I will wait for my favourite travel blog to comment on Allen's choice of places for an American to visit.


  1. Veena said...

    Abi: Ok ok, point taken. Will have to do 48 hours in India now!
    Needless to say, being a hot blooded Southie and all, am not too happy abt it.

  2. Sumathi Chandrashekaran said...

    Was browsing through, and thought I must tell you: Orchha is quite a lovely little place. Visited it this past winter (after wanting to for many years), and it's pretty, quiet, and a nice getaway. It's also a stone's throw from Khajuraho, which is its USP... so american, or indian, the place is worth a visit.