No road trip is complete without the ‘stumble-upon’ experience. I had mine when I entered Orchha. Situated on Khajuraho – Gwalior Highway this little town has some of the best Indo – Islamic architectures to date. From the lush vegetation to rugged forts, this quaint town is a paradise for travelers who love exploring.
If anyone had said ‘go’ for me to kick-start my bevy of complaints against the ASI for its shoddy maintenance of the monuments, I would have been on a roll. However, with reality wearing down on me, I hurried towards the Jahangir Mahal (Palace). It’s common belief that the Mahal was constructed for Jahangir’s reception by Veer Singh Deo. The Mahal is a majestic square structure with four bastions at each corner which end in a ribbed dome at the top and have four kiosks at the corners of the base of the dome. The palace is supposed to be decorated with rich paintings, but all I could see were a few faded leftovers.
The Palace was sparsely crowded so I enjoyed the lazy stroll, enjoying the view from the top. My friends, after a long journey, left me to do all the exploring.
Braving an assault from an army of my evolutionary cousins, I quickly held on to a broken piece of window pane using it as a shield against the invading forces. My daunting offensive stand took the invaders by surprise and they backed off to the nearest exit. Ceasing my chance, I threw projectiles at varying velocity which stuck fear among the invaders as they ran for cover. Having won the organized invasion I marched proudly with my head held high (Yes, a mishap with monkeys is highly overrated). The Palace irrespective of its splendor remains poorly maintained. As I gazed out, scattered ruins caught my attention. I decided to leave behind my palace (Yes, it’s mine, I defended my palace) and go to the ruins.
And tadaa! There was a road block. There was huge wall that separated me from the path to the ruins. As any sane man would do, I jumped over the wall only to hear the sound of clothe tearing. Yes. The cloth in question was my pants. With a large gaping hole on the wrong side of the pants, I marched on cautiously. It was only matter of time before I got lost. From the corner of my eye, I saw a little girl prancing her way towards me. I blocked her path and asked her if she knew where I could get some water to drink.
A beautiful smile came over her face as she grabbed my hands and dragged me through a field to the ruins I was hoping to reach. For some strange reason she let go of my hand and ran inside a ruined temple. No sooner than I decided to follow her, a little boy came running from the temple and started talking to me in broken English. I answered back in English only to learn that the little girl had informed her brother that an Englishman had come knocking on their doors.
After clearing their doubts of my supposed foreign nationality, I was offered Lassi (Butter Milk). Sensing my interest in these ruins, the young lad offered to be my guide. Following my little guide was me and his two sisters. I could sense that they have played around the ruins a lot and knew every little pathway though the ruins. I admit I had a great time with these kids up until the point they turned adults. Suddenly, out of the blue the three children started pestering me for money. I had all the intention of paying them big bucks for their effort, but this premature assault (harsh word, but needed in the context when someone tries to put their hand in my pocket to take out the wallet) left me cold. I was quite disgusted at their behavior. I paid them some money and got out that place as quickly as possible.
A relaxing evening walk with my friends to a group of Cenotaphs was refreshing. There was a fishing competition held among the local youths which was fun, but a group of Vultures fighting on the roof of one of the Cenotaphs caught my attention. Stepping outside the barriers of time, I let my train of thought run free. The train screeched to a halt when my friend threw a little stone at me pointing to his watch. It was too late, we had over stayed and were locked inside.
We had no intention of staying the night in the Cenotaphs, not with those vultures around. It will the second time in the day I would have to jump over the wall. This time the fabric of my “Levis” held on. Strolling around the neighborhood after a sumptuous dinner, I decided to talk to locals about local legends. Funnily, there was none associated with this region.
As I lay on my bed remembering the highlights of the day and making a mental note to write my blog, I felt a strange sense of belonging. I probably never would be able to understand that feeling. But a sense of déjà vu befell me. In the dark I grabbed my notepad and wrote in bold letters “IWBB” (I Will Be Back).
Additional Pics From Orchha: