Orchha is still not a major tourist destination and it should be. This is our fourth visit and we’re still fascinated by its antiquity. It’ s development began in the mid-1500s but was soon conquered by the Mogul Emperor Akbar. A Rajput ruler who was aligned with the Moguls was installed and further development continued. In the early1800s the city reached its peak and then fell into decline after Indian Independence, losing its city-state status.
What is equally interesting is why relatively few tourists come here. Tour groups arrive here not even for the day and are hustled through the palace, shunted back on the bus, gone before the dust settles. A handful of travelers, like ourselves, come for an extended stay, savoring this unique environment.
The fort/palace is in amazingly good condition, despite the Mogul conquest. The Laxmi Temple, which dates from 1650,
has remarkable murals that have been tastefully restored.
In the past we’ve seen such heavy-handed restoration; not the case here.
Another reason we enjoy stopping here is that after three weeks in Varanasi, Orchha is such a change of pace. Even though the temperature hits 95F/36C the air is clean and the humidity low. After early breakfast, we go for a walk to one of the many sights and try to get back to the hotel before the heat of the day. Hiding out in our room underneath the ceiling fan, until late afternoon when we reemerge.
In the past four years, the most noticeable change is the increase in traffic, buses, motorbikes, tractors, water buffalo, Brahma bulls – not to mention wedding processions – all vying for space. We’ve yet to figure out where they’re all going!
The town sits on the River Betwa, a surprisingly fast moving river for this time of year.
From the hillside, the river creates a green ribbon through the countryside that is otherwise burnt to a crisp, patiently waiting for the monsoon. But there are many flowering gardens dotted throughout the town.
Still not feeling well, the combination of slow space and compromised health has made it easier for me to just be in the present and enjoy this unusual place. Gerard doesn’t need illness to ‘just be’!