Paragliding Paradise in India!

Winter has already knocked in! Bright sun is peeping through my window, spreading its warmth. Melodious Rabindra Sangeet by Shaan is playing, making everything in room to sway with it. And I’m earnestly eager to share my experience from my last trip. Though demonetization affected it a little but as they say “where there is a will, there is a way”, we managed it with all smiles. 🙂

Umm, the new adventure is about being a bird under the open sky. Yeah, you read it right, a bird. Befuddled? Well, let me clear myself. It’s about paragliding in mountains at the world’s popular paragliding site, Bir. And it makes one feel like a bird. 🙂 As usual, the journey started on Friday night. But before I start my blog I would like to mention about a

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With Dragan! 🙂

day prior to our departure. It is about meeting a Serbian cyclist, Dragan Sibalic, few months ago in Himalayas who was on his North India cycle tour and we made acquaintance with each other. He inspired me big time not only with his audacity of riding in dangerous Himalayas but also with his kind and humble nature. After few months, we again met in Delhi on one summer evening, promising to meet again when he will be in Delhi after his 8500 km of travel covering North India and Nepal. Keeping our promise, we met again. This time I was his host to show him my city – Delhi. The day was well spent in his company showing him few of the beautiful monuments of Delhi that stands testimony to imperial bygone era. And just before our departure for Bir, I bade him goodbye, with a promise of meeting him again but this time unsure of our meeting as he was leaving for his home next day. I will cherish all the moments spent with him throughout my life. 🙂

So, finally five girls all excited about their two days trip to Himalayas and being a bird, boarded bus from ISBT. To our astonishment, we had five last seats of Volvo. Thanks to the person who did this blunder while booking tickets. I was forgiven with their laughter :). Before even the bus started, two girls gulped in the Avomine tablet in order to not feel giddy of sitting on last seat. Keeping in mind all the adversities and awkwardness of the back seat, we adjusted to our best ability; singing, talking, and making fun to start our trip on a happy note. At around 2:00 am, after being scolded by a lady for singing loud, I managed to doze off only to wake up at a sudden jerk and seeing a friend of mine slipping from her seat, I held her though but imagining her lying on the bus floor made me laugh. And she is definitely going to beat me after reading this. Bus stopped twice, one for dinner break and second for a tea break. It was colder than Delhi and holding hot cup of tea in hand was more soothing than sipping it with a loud slurp. We reached Bir with the first light of the day. Morning and air in mountains make me high, makes me smile without any reason. I’m happiest under the mountain sun! Bir does not have a proper bus stop and in fact there are not many direct buses. Instead you need to take bus till Baijnath and take a taxi from there to reach Bir. We were lucky enough to get direct bus. Our hotel was in a small hamlet called Chougan which was a small trek down the road that hosted beautiful monasteries of Bir on one side and fluttering colorful prayer flags on the other side. The sight of it had a calming effect on mind and soul, and I knew that we are going to have a great time. After few calls and asking for directions from the locals, we finally reached hotel and got our keys. Infused with enthusiasm, we forgot the last night’s back seat journey, and planned to get ready and head for breakfast. I was told by a friend that one of her friend will be joining us for breakfast. He was really very handsome  and to my disappointment he was only 9 years younger to me so I stopped my mind from wandering in wrong direction and concentrated on food rather. At breakfast, Mr Chandan Bhatia Sir also joined us. Mr Chandan was an acquaintance to us through “Himalayan Club” on facebook. And he is absolutely one gem of a person who not only took care of us but also booked paragliding for us at a very nominal price. We can’t thank him enough for what he has done for us.

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Friends!

After having breakfast, we left for Billing (launching site) which is 14 km from Bir, in Chandan sir’s car. Road to Billing is really steep and oxygen level is also low thus making one feel like nauseating but going up and watching parachutes against azure blue sky took us in its awe.  We were given time to acclimatize to the weather before we could take a flight. We utilized time in clicking pictures, soaking mountain sun and making memories. We cheered fellow people who were ready to take their flight, bucking up ourselves to take the flight. I’m scared of heights but my father has always taught me to face fears with all my strength; it is his belief and my faith that gives me courage to take anything that comes my way. Here is a small poem that I wrote while preparing myself for the trip, shooing away all the negative thoughts and imbibing all the positive energy inside me.

Sitting on edge, with eyes full of dreams,
All set to para-glide, shout and scream
To fly under the open sky,
Above the mountains so high.
Ticking one more from bucket list,
Taking with audacity the air twists.

Finally, it was our turn to fly. With tensed face I wished good luck to all my friends and started chanting God’s name to keep me safe. I was the last one to fly. I took a flight in second attempt. I fell on stones in my first attempt and this reason was enough to terrify me. After few seconds of running and taking a flight, I was in air under the blue sky. It was ecstatic! After few minutes in the sky I was comfortable and talking to my glider but as I looked down it scared me again so I decided not to look towards ground, closed my eyes and let cool breeze touch my face and I got drowned in its howling sound remembering my grandma, brother and his wife, missing them and praying for them. I also felt the presence of my faith, rising behind the mountains and telling me to calm and enjoy the moment. I was in the air for around 30 minutes and after landing on the ground, my friends came running to me, one of them saying – “Gur, we did it. We all are alive!” I was so much elated to hear this that gust of tears came rolling down like a ferocious waterfall. We then celebrated this little achievement by feeding our empty stomachs with some food and watched the sun that changed the hues of the horizon as an artist fills his empty canvas with strokes of beautiful colors, before setting behind the Dhauldhar range. After dropping us all near our hotel, we said goodbye to Chandan Sir who was heading home which was a 2 hours drive from Bir. Bir is a very small town that has very limited options of restaurants which closes maximum by 8:00 pm. Hence, we were left with the option of having food at our own hotel which was decent enough to satiate our hunger. We then took a stroll on the narrow hilly roads under the moon which was supposed to be the largest and closest to earth. At last we came back to our rooms and dozed off to get up early next day and watch the rising sun.

Next day started as early as 5:00 am, we got ready and strolled on the unknown streets in the wee hours when we were joined by four dogs wagging their tales whom we gave names as – Tiger, Snowy, Brownie, and Kallu (all according to their colors. I thought ourselves as being racist but could not think of better names than these 😛 🙂 ) Tiger being the most quiet and innocent, stroked a immediate connection with me. They joined as soon as we started our walk and remained with us till the end. In just two hours, we got attached to them. We got to see the sunrise from somebody else’s home which we first entered to click the picture of rising sun and eventually took permission to enter their courtyard and spend some time. We walked laughed, clicked pictures and experienced many wow moments together. While on our way back to hotel, I found a secluded place where colorful prayer flags were hung around trees, sun was coming up from east, and mountains were at the backdrop; I decided to stay back and meet friends after some time at hotel. I was accompanied by friend’s friend, the same hot guy who was nine years younger to me. We talked so much about ourselves that when we returned from that place, we were in a relationship. A relationship of being elder sister and younger brother! After having our breakfast, we hired a cab to visit the largest monastery – Sherabling , around Bir. The monastery is grand and beautiful. It stirred that corner in all of us which was holding some pain and it came out in form of tears. We were also lucky to visit a school there and meet little monks. Ohh! They were damn cute. I wish I could have adopted one. We also were lucky to see mask dance at another monastery near our hotel. We had a bus back to Delhi at 5:45 pm so we couldn’t see more around Bir. There are so many places – trekking points and monasteries that were left; and I will cover them in my next trip to Bir.

The trip ended witnessing a beautiful red sun setting behind Himalayas and lots of cherish able memories. Here goes the photo blog:

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Moon Lake, Galaxy and Photography!

Before I embark my steps towards another journey to hills, here’s a very quick sneak peek to my memorable trip to the moon lake of India. Chandratal it is! Though it has been a month since I’ve come back and I believe it’s never the late to write (experiences). So here it goes –

Okay! So a trip to Chandratal was planned for few reasons, one that I was short on leaves, two it was first trip organized by my friend’s own venture, I was travelling after a major mishap that happened with my brother and his wife, it was an Astro photography tour, and finally I wanted to dedicate my first astro picture to my brother who was also an avid traveller and always inspired me to travel. After much doubt, ifs and buts, I finally said yes to join the trip.

I didn’t inquire much about the people I was travelling with as I believe that meeting people on start of the journey itself is a good start to the journey. So, I boarded bus to Manali from Delhi along with ten other enthusiastic photographers. One more was supposed to join the group in Manali. Even after much travelling, I’ve still not overcome to handle butterflies in stomach before the start of the trip. And I think this is what makes me a seeker for knowledge and experience. I was trying to find a seat for myself when I was asked by one of the fellow traveller, Arpita Bose, to sit by her side. Well! Thanks to her as I’m very bad at striking conversations and even bad at talking. Anyhow, so we started talking and I think I took a quick escape from all the conversations and soon dozed off. But when I woke up in the morning, we were no more strangers and were friends now.

On reaching Manali, the twelfth photographer, Prabhjit Veerji, joined us and after getting ready we went out for fun and food. Eleven of us were out whereas; Nimit (one of the organizers) was sleeping in hotel. I’ve met Nimit earlier on few photo walks and he is a good human being who is always ready to help people around him (as much as I’ve observed him). The rest of us strolled together on the streets of Manali, talked, laughed, ate, shopped, and most of all made friends with each other. In the evening when we came back to hotel, Nimit was still sleeping, and when we went out for dinner, he was still sleeping. He slept like a polar bear that sleeps in the day light and prepares himself for his prey seal that is most active at night. Well! Nimit prepares himself for astro photography. 😛

Next day our journey started to Losar. Losar is a small village in Lahaul and Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh. Losar is relatively remote and hence unexplored. There are very few houses and even lesser accommodation and food options. It is situated at an altitude of 13,400 feet above sea level and therefore the weather here is usually very windy and chilling. To reach Losar, we had to cross Kunzum pass which is considered to be one of the most treacherous passes in the world. I was more excited to cross Kunzum than reaching Losar because it has been one such place which I’ve wanted to visit since 2-3 years. Travellers crossing pass take a round around a small monastery built at pass and seek blessings.  We reached Kunzum on 4th July, on this day every year, prayers and rituals are conducted at the monastery here. We were really lucky to experience it. The aura of being at Kunzum is inexpressible in words. With every bell that rang there, I missed my brother and his wife and tears rolled down from my eyes. Anyways, we left Kunzum with good memories and proceeded towards Losar. The view leading to Losar is picturesque and breathtaking with mountains of different shades of brown and clouds and sun playing the game of light and shadow with them. If you are nature lover, sit by the window side and enjoy the view, else sleep and prepare yourself for low oxygen problems. 🙂

It was still afternoon when we reached Losar, with not many faces around, I was little disappointed but at the same time I was in awe of the serenity that Losar offered. After having a quick meal and deciding on the further plans, I took my tripod and camera and went deeper in the valley where there were few houses. Here, I was guided by an old shepherd when I couldn’t find the way to the village.  I love these small incidents that happen while travelling and make your belief firm in humanity. 🙂 As I went down, I saw a cute little girl wearing red sweater and was immediately driven to her innocence. I humbly requested her mother to take picture of her and to my surprise I was granted the permission with much excitement. I took little Tenzin (name of the little girl) in my arms and walked down towards a small field that was few meters away from the house. Four of her siblings followed me to that field. And I didn’t miss a chance to click a picture with them. I clicked a tripod selfie with them! It was great fun. 🙂 We all were smiling and smiling faces look gorgeous. At night we tried our hands at astro photography. We all were shivering with cold but determined to take our best shots. I couldn’t take a good shot that day but was in a hope to click a good galaxy shot next day at Chandratal.

The gang!

The gang!

Next day we headed to our main destination, Chandratal. As we started in the wee hours of the day, most of us were in slumber. On the way, one of the tyres got punctured and busted. We were saved because of the slow speed on the rocky road of mountains. We didn’t miss the opportunity to click pictures here while driver, Vijay Deenanath Chauhan (named by Sabby), fixed Tyre. We reached Chandratal at around 8:00 am in the morning. Immediately on reaching, we unloaded our stuff from the vehicle and went to the last motor able point before the lake. There’s a small 15-20 (timing depends upon your speed and stamina) min trek to the lake. Many of us were exhausted till we reached the lake because of less oxygen at higher altitude. Chandratal is the beauty! The view left me totally flabbergasted. The sky, the water, the clouds, the mountains, the flags, the flowers, the green hilltop and the calmness of the moment filled me with rapture. We all took out our guns (cameras), pointed at the lake and shot beautiful reflections of sky and clouds on the lake. Apart from offering mesmerizing view, Chandratal also offers peace and serenity. We then went back to our tents and rested for some time to rejuvenate ourselves for the night’s activity. The wind here was so fast that I couldn’t stop myself from saying – “Fuck! The wind is so fast yaar. :P”. In the evening we had a little music and chatting session with Old monk (savior on hills and in winters). At night, we took our positions to shoot and Voila! I was able to get a descent astro shot if not good. Thanks to Sabby from bottom of my heart. I hope he reads it. He helped me so much that day. Without him I would not have been able to take a good shot. And of course how can I forget little Subro (boy from Assam) who was with us all the time while we were shooting. He too got some good shots. Hardik, Arpita, and Aditi laughed so much while clicking, unaware that they were making memories for the rest of the group too. 🙂 I never wanted that night to pass, I wanted to seize the time and stay there under the stars forever. It was yet another beautiful night under stars in mountains.

Next day, with heavy heart we bade goodbye to the place to return back to our daily chores of life, get frustrated and run for another escape to mountains. Everybody in the trip was hash tagged with a name given on the trip. The names that remind us of the awesome time spent together. I got to learn so many things in this trip and most of all made friends with awesome people.

Ohh! I forgot to mention about the famous chacha chachi shop at Batal on the way to Losar. A husband and wife run this small eatery and they are known for their kindness among travellers. Also, we met a Serbian cyclist who was riding from past 23 days and had plans to cover most part of India on cycle by November. This is why we need to get out, meet people, be inspired, and stay inspired.

Thanks to all the fellow travellers and wishing them good luck in their lives. Thank you all the readers for reading till here. Love for all!

I’ve managed to collect pictures of few fellow travelers along with my pictures and here it goes. Enjoy!

P is definitely for Portraits!

PToday’s alphabet is ‘P’. And the word for P cannot be any other than “Portraits”. Buying a camera, traveling, as well as this blog happened because I like to click people. I like to capture moments. I somewhere read people don’t enjoy moments while capturing it. I say I enjoy the moments more when I see the photographs.

Here are few Portraits which I have managed to click over time.

Beautiful eyes!

Beautiful eyes!

Innocence!!

Innocence!!

Naughty Monk!

Naughty Monk!

Dancing with faith

Dancing with faith

Bengali eyes!

Bengali eyes!

 

F is for Fernweh!!

Today’s word is “F” and here is a short story for today’s A-Z challenge.

FShe took out two shirts from her wardrobe – a red shirt with sequence and a white plain top to team up with her navy blue jeans. Confused what to wear, she calls out her mother. Ma! (Hindi version for mother). Why are you shouting Zafirah?, says her mother. Ma! I’ve to go to meet Kabir today and I’m confused about what to wear. Please help me choose from these two shirts. Her mother picks up her white shirt and says, I’m fed up with your behavior Zafirah! Ignoring the scolding of her mother, she goes to get ready.

It’s not that Zafirah will be meeting Kabir for the first time. She knows Kabir from 5 years. They first met at her previous working place and have become good friends with time. But she gets excited whenever she is suppose to meet Kabir. It’s because of the freshness of exploring the world together. This brings newness in every meeting.

Anyways, she reaches the decided meeting point on time. Kabir was waiting for her. As they walked inside the restaurant, they started looking for a window seat. Zafirah loves to sit near the window, and look at the outside world while having a peaceful time on the other side of the window. (Handing over the menu) So what will you like to have?, asks Kabir. You order today, says Zafirah. Ohh!! I don’t like doing that, you decide and order, says Kabir. This was the start of conversation every time they met. So what’s up?, she asks, as she places the order. And the conversation went on.

Zafirah had a soul of a traveler and she always dreamt of far off places. She was bitten by a travel bug. Kabir knew of her dreams and accompanied her in almost all of her trips. They both had common interest of exploring things around them. They both loved to listen to each other. Though Kabir was an introvert, but he had opened up with her with time. She found a great companion for traveling and exploring in him, and he had found someone to share his loneliness.

You remind me of “Fernweh“, says Kabir, as he pays the bill for food. Fernweh!! sounds good, but what’s that, asks Zafirah. Find out yourself, says Kabir. Please tell me na, she insisted like a child, but Kabir was adamant. They hugged and said goodbye for the day.

Courtesy - Google

Courtesy – Google

Zafirah boarded an auto to her place, hurriedly opened Google to check the meaning. The net wasn’t working. She grew more impatient. Bhaiya jaldi chalo (Drive fast) please, she says to the auto driver. As she reaches home, she rushes to her room to access laptop, before she forgets the word. She types Fernweh, she is happy to see its meaning. Fernweh is a German word which means ” a crave for travel; to feel homesick for a distant place you’ve never been”. Kabir knows me so well, she thinks and smiles.

*Zafirah is an arabic name which means victory.

Rambling in the blue city!

Here I am, with yet another travelogue. This time writing about a quick escape to have a peek into the rich heritage of the royal family of Jodhpur. Jodhpur is the second largest city in Rajasthan after Jaipur. It is also called the blue city because of the houses in the city painted in indigo. Earlier, only Brahmins were allowed to paint their houses with indigo color that depicted their high class. As of now, not many houses are in blue color(as shown in the pictures on Google) but anyone can paint their house with indigo, shunning off the social barriers.

There are direct trains from Delhi to Jodhpur and takes around 10 hours to reach Jodhpur. It is also well connected to major cities like Jaipur via roads.Belonging to a class of  working professionals and always getting less leaves than required (story of every working person. Sigh!!), we prefer to travel during night so that we get whole day for wandering and exploring the city.

The journey started on Friday night on Mandore Express at 9:15 pm from old Delhi railway station. As per IST (Indian Standard Time), train ran late and we got little late to reach our destination. Finally, after around ten and a half hours of journey, we breathed into the city which greeted us with a unique scent. Crossing the narrow alleys of the city in auto (which the hotel owner had sent for pick up), we reached our hotel. Hem Heritage is a simple hotel with basic amenities. The streets around the city are not clean. After getting fresh and satisfying our empty tummy, we were ready for rambling around the city.

 

#Jawsant Thada
Jaswant thada is a mausoleum built by Maharaja Sardar Singh in his memory. It is made up of very finely carved sheets of white marble. The intricate jali work on the windows shows the prolific work done by sculptors. As per the locals, such a fine marble is used to build up this cenotaph that it glows when sun rays fall on it.

Jaswant Thada

Jaswant Thada

 

There is a also a a beautiful pond with lotus floating in it, surrounded by lush green garden.

Just outside it there was a man playing a long instrument. As of a curious nature, I went to him and asked about the instrument. It was Ravanhatha, “Ravan” used to play this instrument while worshiping. It was like Indian version of violin. We tried our hands on it and the music that came out was as bad as it can be. To all those who are reading this,  I would request that if ever anywhere you come across such musicians, acknowledge their talent by giving them some money. It won’t pinch our pocket but will be of some help to them.

 

#Mehrangarh Fort
It’s one of the largest forts in India built by Rao Jodha. It is built few meters above the city and is enclosed by thick walls. There are many palaces in it which are carved beautifully. On climbing the narrow stairs that lead to the top floor, one can see the view of city along with the huge cannons on display. Yes! you can get a picture clicked with cannons and boast about it on a social networking site 😛 :D. We spent few hours clicking pictures here and of course getting ourselves clicked :).  It’s a huge fort and you can surely get tired. But don’t worry!  there is a restaurant in the fort area, you can quickly grab a bite of Rajasthani delicacies and re energize yourselves. The fort also have treasures like armory, guns, swords, palanquins, musical instruments  from that era.10631148_10152394480213471_600199889968817592_o

Though it was only 5 in the evening, we decided to go back to Jaswant Thada and spend our time there. It’s at lesser height than Mehrangarh Fort but height is good enough to have a view of city. We relaxed, talked, danced, sang and desperately waited for sunset. Just after the sunset, the cool breeze started blowing and city was immersed in lights. The view was mesmerizing. We tried light trails and took some really nice shots and left the place with happy hearts.

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We then headed to gypsy restaurant for a Rajasthani Thali. They have a fixed price and menu for thali that serves unlimited food. The food was good enough to satiate hungry evil in us. We then walked towards our hotel singing some really cheesy Bollywood numbers. We were drunk without even drinking ;). After hatching a plan for next day, we went to catch some Z’s.

The day started early for me and one of my friend, as we wanted to witness the sunrise. Walking on the steep road, huffed and puffed, we managed to reach Mehrangarh Fort. The cool breeze,  fort lit under moon light, moon playing hide and seek with clouds, the stars, the view was majestic and is unforgettable.

Sunrise View

Sunrise View

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Ready for Zip Lining

It took me to a different world. The feeling is unexplainable. It is something that can only be felt. Anyways, as the sun rose, we heard roaster crowing, we saw people waking up from their sleep on their terrace and getting busy with their day’s activities. One thing we noticed was that almost every terrace had a design made by marble on the floor. I don’t know whether it carries some significance or it is just for decoration, we just noticed it. In some time, day started getting hot and we headed back towards our hotel where other friends were getting ready for zip-lining to get an adrenaline rush. Absorbed in the aura of sunrise, two of us decided to unlax.

We then went for breakfast to Jhankar restaurant. Food was awesomely bad but we had great time in consoling ourselves about the greatness and richness of food. Not satisfied with the food, we finally headed towards our last stoppage – Umaid Bhawan.

#Umaid Bhawan

Umaid Bhawan is a private property maintained by royal family of Jodhpur. It was built by Maharaja Umaid Singh to give employment to the people of Mewar. Only a very small area of it is open for public in which there are treasures on display that marks the testimony for richness of the royal family. The glassware from Belgium, the old fashioned clocks from Italy, Greece, Paris and paintings of His Highness will surely woo you. And if that is not enough! the vintage car collection which includes the car used in “Mard” movie of Amitabh Bachan will surely make you go gaga over the rich heritage of the royal family. It was now time for lunch and after having a heart breaking food in the morning we wanted to have something awesomely good to gratify gastronome in us. We headed towards the restaurant in Hanwant Mahal for experiencing the royalty. It was a really splendiferous meal

We then reached our hotel, packed our bags and started journey back to Delhi making plans for our next trip 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unforgettable Memories of Havelock!!

Since I have started this blog to share my travel stories, here is one from my archives…

 

Sunset at Havelock

Sunset is the opening music of the night.

Of all the very few places which I have visited till now, Havelock   Island remains closest to my heart! It  is a beautiful island within the Andaman group of Islands. The only way to reach there  from Port Blair is by a steamer or a ship. It takes around 2 hours on ship to reach Havelock from Port Blair.  On reaching Havelock Island, you will be greeted through its green alleys.

 Even the travel sites and agents have some great deals for the place. Few of my friends have just been there for their honeymoon. (Yes! the place is also famous among newly the weds.)

I have some very fond memories of this place. The sunset at Havelock stirred a connection in me for  the mystic natural beauty of the place.

Andaman being closer to Chennai from one side and Kolkata from the other, so it happens to have dwellers from both Tamil Nadu and Bengal region.  I remember learning my very first Bengali word “Bhalo” from a little Bengali girl aboard the ship. She only spoke Bengali and while I was trying to understand what she meant,  her mother intervened to explain the meaning of the word. The incident would be remembered by me through out my life. This was the day when I felt in love with my surroundings. The fiery red colour of sky stirred all sorts of romantic emotions in me. Being there was bliss indeed!

Sunset at Havelock

Sunset is a wonderful opportunity for us to appreciate all the great things the sun gives us!

Sunset at Havelock

In silence I looked at the sunset and thought about God.

Sunset at Havelock

I long to get lost, inside the evening-twilight.

I meet “me” in the time between sunset and darkness.

I meet “me” in the time between sunset and darkness.

Orchha – A Hidden Gem!!

Orchha is an idyllic town on the banks of Betwa river in the Tikamgarh District of Madhya Pradesh. Orchha means “hidden”. It is aptly named, as for many years it remained hidden in the dense forest. Until 15th century, when Bundela Chieftain Maharaja Rudra Pratap Singh founded this place and decided to build his kingdom here. The construction work of Orchha fort was started under his rule but was completed by one of the strongest successors and rulers of Bundela kingdom – Raja Madhukar Shah. It is written in the pages of history that Raja Rudra Pratap Singh died while saving a Cow from a Lion. Orchha is a quaint village dotted with magnificent palaces, temples and cenotaphs. The palaces depicts the emaculate work of artisans on Hindu and Islamic architecture.

The journey started from Delhi by Bhopal Shatabdi. Jhansi is the nearest railway station to Orchha. It is 20k.m from Jhansi. By the time we reached Orchha half a day was already passed. And we were suggested by locals to start our sightseeing to Orchha from next day as there is a single pass valid for a day to visit all the palaces, temples and cenotaphs in Orchha. So we decided to explore the town on bicycles which were available from our homestay on rent. Surpassing the alleys of Orchha, we reached on a bridge built over a river that connects town from one end to a Nature Reservoir on the other end. The picturesque rocky shores and river were mesmerizing. We crossed the bridge and reached Nature Reservoir.

Cenotaphs from Banks of Betwa River

Cenotaphs from Banks of Betwa River

There is a sunset point on the banks of Betwa River. The only way to reach that point is through reservoir. There is a minimal charge of Rs.15 for Indians to enter the reservoir. And it has many small sanctuaries in it. It was a rainy day so we didn’t get to see any sunset but the fizzling sound of Betwa was magical. The flowing river seemed to me as if some musician is playing a stringed instrument. It was already dark and we had to go back to our homestay. It was Shivratri and streets were full of Mobile DJ’s and people dancing to the beats of bhajans.

Day 2 started little late as we were tired because of cycling done on previous day. After having a stomachful breakfast we headed towards fort complex. An arched bridge leads to the complex. The Fort houses 3 palaces:

The gateway to Jahangir Mahal

The gateway to Jahangir Mahal

1) Jahangir Mahal: It is the most princely palace of the complex. It was built by Raja Vir Singh Bundela for his friend Saleem, then the Emperor of India, to welcome him on his visit to Orchha. The gateway to the palace is splendid. A large door is haunched by two elephants and above it are windows and balconies. There is a large courtyard in the centre of the palace. And one can see stairs leading to the balconies of the three storeys palace. The jharokhas, domes, balconies, rooms, chhatris  clearly depicts the fecund imagination of Raja Vir Singh  and the influence of Mughal architecture on him. Some of the rooms in the palace have murals of Gods and Goddesses on the walls.

Courtyard of Jahangir Mahal

Courtyard of Jahangir Mahal

2) Raja Mahal: It was started by Maharaja Rudra Pratap Singh in 15th Century and was completed by Raja Madhukar Shah in 17th century.  In the centre of the Mahal is a huge stage to hold the prformaces of the artists of that time. It is not as fascinating as Jahangir Mahal.

3) Rai Praveen Mahal: Raja Indrajeet Singh (brother of Raja Vir Singh) had many dancers and poetess in his courtyard. But the most beautiful and intelligent in the reign was Rai Praveen. Even Emperor Akbar was enchanted by her beauty and asked for her to be sent to Delhi. On reaching Delhi, Rai Praveen impressed the Emperor with her love for Raja Indrajeet Singh and she was sent back to Orchha. This palace was built by Raja Indrajeet Singh for her.

After exploring palaces, it was time for a tea break. I strongly believe that we Indians tend to drink tea not only to energize ourselves but to sit and share our experiences. After having sumptuous  pakodas with finger-licking green chutney, we headed towards river to explore the cenotaphs or chatris built at the banks of the river. It is very unusual to see cenotaphs built for Hindu Kings as tombs are  associated with  Mughal Rulers. Entry to some of the Chattris is open but we didn’t go inside as the closing time for Cenotaphs is 5:00 pm and only 10 minutes were left. One can see vultures sitting on the top of the domes.

Day 3 started early as we wanted to see the Betwa river in the morning. The ghats were buzzing with activities. People were bathing and washing clothes. We again went to the sunset point from the reservoir (not to see the sunset in the morning 🙂 but because that was a clean and a silent place). I will not forget to mention a special member we met at the river side “Gaddu – a crab”. We gave him that name  and played with him:)

Top View of Laxmi Narayan Mandir

Top View of Laxmi Narayan Mandir

It was a day to visit temples of Orchha and we started with Lakshmi Narayan Temple as this was the first temple on the way. A large slope leads to the temple. The temple looks like as if it has a triangular shape but it is rectangular in shape. It was built by Raja Vir Singh Bundela. It combines the feature of temple and fort. The unique temple is not abided by its traditional definition and features as it lacks the presence of any idol. More surprisingly, it even allows the visitors to step in with their footwear. Some rooms of the temples have beautiful murals showcasing the scenes from Ramayana, Mahabharta, hunting scenes and even paintings of Britishers having a drink.

Mural inside Lakshmi Narayan Temple

Mural inside Lakshmi Narayan Temple

The next was Raja Ram Temple. It was actually a palace which has been converted to a temple. History says that Raja Madhukar Shah was a devotee of Lord Krishna but his wife Queen Ganeshi was a devotee of Lord Rama.  One day Madhukar insisted his Queen to accompany him on a pilgrimage to Vrindavan. But Qeen was adamant and wanted to go to Ayodhya. Angry Madhukar Shah left the room and said to his Queen you can go to Ayodhya if you want to but you can return to Orchha only when Lord Rama comes with you. It is said that Lord Rama in his childhood avatar accompanied Queen to Orchha but ordained that – “The place where I sit first shall become my temple and I shall not be removed from that place.”. The Chaturbhuj temple was built for Lord Rama. But when Queen reached Orchha, it was already night, so she placed Lord Rama in her bedroom. In the morning, she was not able to move Rama’s statue  according to Rama’s ordain and therefore, the palace was converted to a temple. The popular hymn for Lord Rama by locals is –

“जग व्यापक राजा राम के दो निवास हैं खास| सुबह ओरच्छा में प्रकट, रात अयोध्या वास|”

A dome at the top of the Chaturbhuj Temple

A dome at the top of the Chaturbhuj Temple

Then  was Chaturbhuj Temple. This was the temple built by Madhukar Shah to house the idol of Lord Rama. But since the idol could not be shifted to this temple. It was dedicated to four armed – Vishnu, hence named Chaturbhuj Temple. It is surmounted by four conical shikaras on the four corners.

The day ended by seeing Light and Sound Show at Fort Complex which was entertaining and informative both. Thanks to the show, I have been able to write about Orchha.

The visit to Orchha was small and simple. It is a calm town bearing testimony to the grandeur of Bundela Kingdom.