Not so long ago I spend a few days in one of my new favourite places in India, during a month long India trip!
I have been travelling to India many times now and have always loved getting away from the big, busy cities for some respite in a more rural idyll. The cities in India are vibrant and fascinating, but the hassle levels and general stress of city life do wear you down after a while. So after Delhi, Agra and Jaipur it was great to arrive in Orchha and get some real down time during my India travel adventure.
Orchha’s name actually translates to ‘hidden place’ which suits it well. Geographically and in Indian terms it is not far from Agra to Orchha, but it feels worlds away.
The train took me from Agra to Jansi station. It was then a short drive on to Orchha. The traffic decreased as we left the train station behind and suddenly there was peace all around with just the occasional car and bullock cart on the road.
My driver took me along roughly sealed roads and through town, past some simple but well maintained homes, in lovely Indian shades of aqua blue and parrot green. There were cows, goats and children wandering by, the occasional tractor, cyclist and sadhu. Life had definitely slowed down to a more languid and relaxed pace. Interesting and ancient ruins were strewn about the region and cropped up at the roadside at intervals.
I checked into my lovely hotel. It had the feel and style of a rambling old palace with courtyards, manicured gardens and very spacious rooms with traditional hand painted detail trimming the ceilings and around the light fittings. It had bags of character and personality and the staff were obviously happy and well looked after. I was only pestered by the ‘massage man’ who even came to the door of my room to offer his services for the 3rdtime! This was the extent of the hassle in Orchha as a lone female traveller other than the young man who wanted me to join him in his shop after dark! I declined, but bought some of his Khajuraho ‘dirty’ playing cards which inflamed his interest further before I departed. It was a joy to just to wander freely through quiet streets from the grounds of the hotel down to the banks of the river Betwa past vultures nesting in the ruined chhatris – a rare peaceful travel experience in India!
When I got to the riverside there was lots of activity; laundry drying on the boulders, a sadhu perched atop the highest boulder, people bathing and a narrow stone bridge across the river carrying a few vehicles, water buffalo and motorcyclists. It was a little tricky trying to get safely to the other side with an overloaded bus coming at you as there is no barrier between you and the water. The view back across the water in the late afternoon light was worth it – a real highlight of my India trip.
Orchha can get busy at times with Hindu pilgrims coming to worship at the temples mixed in with a few tourists on route from the Khajuraho temples or Varanasi. There is a relatively lively main square in the centre of town next to the brightly painted Ram Raja temple which used to be a palace. This is still a working temple, but there are nearby abandoned structures that you can enter for a small fee and climb up to get a great view across town and the surrounding landscape.
So, after a very enjoyable couple of days in Orchha I was suitably refreshed and ready to hit the busy streets and ghats of Varanasi as I continued on my India travel plan.