Orchha and Datia
Orchha is the perfect north-central indian small town one would want to visit, very traitional and old world, yet free of all the hassles,crowd and dust. You have a main road(which is like a gully), plenty of shops, eating places(aloo tikki, lassiwala,fruit juice), a famous temple, all the activity outside it(shops,eateries again,a few pilgrims) and then you have big old,medieval structures, a fort, then a clean river with “ghats”. What else could complete an indian town? And all of this area is walkable without any dirt or any big crowds.
Orchha was founded in the 15th century by the Bundela Rajputs, it remained prominent till the 17th century when it was dumped. You get to see a slightly different architecture style here, mughal architecture combined with the local Bundela (Rajput) architecture. The temples, palaces and the Chhatris(royal cenotaphs) are like really huge. Life in Orchha revolves around the Ram Raja Temple which has an impressive courtyard. The adjacent Chaturbhuj Temple was built for idols in the Ramraja temples, but it seems the idols refused to be moved!! Nevertheless, the Chaturbhuj Temple remains star attraction in Orchha, it’s really big and beautiful. I got an opportunity to go to the terrace of the temple too(with a small tip to the caretaker), wow,what a view, of the Orchha Palace, of the cenotaphs and of the surrounding countryside. Saw a brilliant sunset from here. The rear part of the Chaturbhuj temple is worth having a look at, you get to see the huge,tall,spire of temple, and see it before sunset when it takes on beautiful colors.
The area around the Ram Raja Temple was interesting, there were shops selling aloo tikki(just ask them not to fry the onions they add into the tikki), there were “sadhus”,breakfast places offering pudi-subzi for just Rs.20 ..very atmospheric, but no hassles and pushing. The fort was very beautiful, huge coutyards, beautiful jharokhas(balcony), excellent domes and “jali-work”, this one too needs to be seen in the late afternoon-evening. The silhouette of all the domes and minars looks beautiful at sunset. And from the top you see how many temples Orchha has,and big they are.
Orchha has a beautiful river, it is very,very clean, and the water has good flow. The tiny bridge is very picturesque. The water was very inviting, I actually had a bath in the river twice, and wow, it was quite an experience. So different from having dip in the ocean or in a pool. The riverflow rejuvenates you. Another interesting part of Orchha was the chhatri complex, or the royal cenotaph complex. And they look amazing when seen from the other side of the river, even better at sunset. The Light and sound show too was good. Well lighted, good sound and music.
I did a day trip to Datia and Sonagir from Orchha. Datia is again a Rajput town like Orchha. It too is pretty much behind in time. So that’s how you see some really awesome old time palaces. The Palace (Birsingh Deo Palace, or just “mahal”) is quite a complex structure. It’s huge, there are several courtyards, and no one visits it,hardly I mean. So you have the whole place to yourself!! It’s almost like you own the place. And once you’re at the top, you see many many such structures around the entire town. And there were so many mansions lying abandoned. Sadly, this is a very neglected place(though the palace is well maintained). Sonagir is a jain pilgrim place close to Datia, it’s like a mini Palitana. Hundreds of white temples on top of a hill, some of them of the typical jain style, some even looks like mosques,some even have onion domes like Russian churches!!
So ended my 3 days trip to Orchha, walking through brilliant palaces and their courtyards, getting refresing dips in the river, eating at dhabas and on the street..a good introduction to a different kind of lifestyle in India.
How to get to Orchha: I took a train to Jhansi,and then got a shared autorickshaw(Rs.10) to Orchha. I went to Datia and Sonagir by taking an autorickshaw from Jhansi. Wasn’t a very good idea, because autos have to go through small village roads, which weren’t very good. So you’re better off getting a car/taxi from Jhansi or Orchha. There are buses from Jhansi to Datia,but they aren’t very frequent, but still worth trying. You could get an auto to Sonagir from Datia. Khajuraho is just a few hours away, so you could club ORchha with Khajuraho.
When to go? The general rule, October to March, I went in October but the water could be too cold to swim in the river in the winter.
Where to Stay? Tere are plenty of guesthouses, cheap accommodation. I stayed at Hotel Ganpati(09425342502), a fairly good hotel with nice views. They are renovating parts of their hotel,so it would be a good idea to stay here after their renovation is done. However, the view from their terrace was amazing. If you want fancier accommodation, you could stay at the Palace, it looked really good.
Where to eat? Ram raja bhojanalaya: good food, moderately priced and spiced. Sheesh mahal restaurant: very good food,not very expensive,but slow service. Tikki wallah: loved them, but I preferred mine with less salt and without the onions fried with the tikkis. Try lassi infront of the tikki wallah at the sweetshops. There’s also a bhojanalaya below the Shri mahant GH,net to the tikki wallah, the food was pretty good and cheap.