Coronavirus, but not in Orchha

Our original plan was to stay in Orchha only a week and then move on the southern Rajasthan. But the state government of Rajasthan has gone crazy about coronavirus so we’re staying put until we go to the mountains. Not a hardship, it’s an easy place to be at this time of the year, the weather is perfect cool nights and warm days and pollution is relatively low. German friends, Marion and Jorgen, have arrived from Gokarna and we’re enjoying showing them around for the first time.

The historic town of Orchha and surrounding countryside has barely changed since we first visited in 2010. Each year we are surprised at the lack in growth of tourists. Tour groups still arrive here not even for the day and are hustled through the main palace, shunted back on the bus, and gone before the dust settles. This year, there are less but still a few.

Sitting on the banks of river Betwa, Orchha was once the capital of the Bundela Rajput kingdom, one of the largest and most powerful in Central India.

Outside the main complex, the landscape is scattered with crumbling remains of residences, gardens, and chhatris (elaborate tombs for the dynasty). Many are in amazingly good condition, in part because Orchha seldom witnessed ferocious battles. The town reached its peak in the early 1880s and then fell into decline after Indian independence when it lost its city-state status.

However, change is in the air. Namaste Orchha, a three day conference/festival aimed at stimulating tourism, was winding up the day we arrived. More significantly, there’s a clean up campaign – similar to Varanasi. The open sewers running each side of the street are being closed up. The main road through town widened and resurfaced meaning the traffic just goes faster. The fronts of buildings beside the road that extended too far have been demolished and the exposed remaining interior of the vacated building is painted cream white! They’re continually upgrading in and around the palace, the major sites are illuminated at night and the fountain in front of the temple is spouting water for the first time.

Until now we’ve not mentioned Coronavirus to avoid feeding the media-driven paranoia. There are so many viruses in India that a reminder to wash your hands and not touch your face is good common sense. Western tourists are at an all time low, and, each day, India Times provides a news update on the spread of the virus. In a place as large and disorganized as India, you question the degree to which any estimate can be accurate. When we step out on the street, life is as normal in Orchha and we forget about the virus – or we almost do. Fortunately, we are in a small town with only a small tourist influx on a normal basis. But now that is changing. Everyone is talking about it and some are booking flights home early. India has become caught up in the global wave of hysteria.

Friends, Premgit and Sandhya, wrote with a horror story of arriving in a town in the Punjab where the Sikh festival of Urs was being celebrated. First, the hotel told them their reservation was canceled; they finally managed to get a room and settled in. The next morning, six fierce Sikh policemen barged into their room and told them they had to get out. There was no discussion – they had to go the train station and wait for twelve hours for a train to Delhi, where they booked a new flight back to the UK a couple of weeks earlier than planned. The tourist areas of Rajasthan are also in high alert. Tourists are being stopped at train stations and told to go to a local hospital and get a medical certificate before they’re allowed to stay. India Times published a photo of a hospital in Jaipur showed a long line of tourists waiting to to be certified. And just today, we read that India is in lockdown as regards flights in and out of the country. We have now canceled our next destination, Bundi, in Rajasthan, and are staying longer here in Orchha. We do not anticipate a problem in being in HP in the mountains where we plan to spend the month of April. First we must return to Delhi first to pick up our warm clothes from the family and catch the bus to Rewalsar.

We’re making a concerted effort not to get caught up in this over reaction. We can and firmly believe that whatever happens is supposed to happen. Both of us feel perfectly healthy. In this bizarre time, we wish everybody all the very best.

8 thoughts on “Coronavirus, but not in Orchha

  1. Nice post.. Safe travels. All well here auroville. No dead in the streets. Stay present in the beauty. What will be will be.. Love peter

    On Sun, Mar 15, 2020, 8:53 AM A Small Case Across India wrote:

    > Roberta & Gerard Wiggins posted: ” Our original plan was to stay in Orchha > only a week and then move on the southern Rajasthan. But the state > government of Rajasthan has gone crazy about coronavirus so we’re staying > put until we go to the mountains. Not a hardship, it’s an easy place to” >


  2. Nice post and great pictures. Think I’ll add Orchha to my itinerary. Stay safe and well. You’re lucky to be in lovely India right now. Carry on.


    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh I’m relieved to hear from you. The image of the 6 strapping Sikh police arriving at your friends door sounds horrible! It’s sooo weird now! People are sick and the way it spreads is alarming. I’m bummed because my trip to Florida is canceled. You sent the post at the right time. I am glad you’ll be in the mountains and stay put while life comes back to normal. I’m sending our love ❤️ and we are sooo grateful to hear from you 🙏💗💝👍🏽💕✌🏽


    • Thank you. We hope we didn’t minimize the threat. We are well aware of how contagious the virus. And how dangerous for the vulnerable and elderly. We don’t know how it will turn out here. It changes daily. So sorry about your Florida trip. As Gerard reminds me. Man proposes God disposes.


  4. first warm greetings to marion and jurgen…i am still firm in my plan to get them to nyc maybe not this year!
    the hysteria is abundant and seems as always to feed on itself!
    lewis is happily staying home except to move his car..i insist that we go have lunch with his mother this week as well.
    i am just back from 8 day iyengar class at kripalu in the berkshires as of friday the 13th kripalu closed for six weeks.
    my bigest concern is that tourisrm in italy it going to be wiped off the face of the earth and that the rest of the world will eventually calm down and we wont remember what a wonderful country itatly is to visit. thats especiialy true since i have just finished the second of the Neapolitan books by elena ferrante and will start the third today. I want to go to Naples.
    This too shall pass.
    thank you for the pictures and the report of yet another place in India that not only havnt i seen but didnt know existed.
    Stay well


  5. I am sorry to hear you are on a long flight back to US. So much history and beauty in so many places in India. At least you had this much time there.


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