14 Dec - 19 Dec 2014 Orchha

Medieval Legacy in Stone… 
Matt: Taking in Orchha's provocative skyline of magnificent but frozen-in-time fortifications, palaces and temples, ticking off this tumbledown 16th-century CE monuments while snatching glimpses of everyday village life and sipping countless unsweetened masala chais with relaxed-looking Indian locals and harassed-looking Western travellers.

“We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.” 

Matt: Being dazzled by the size and grandeur of the Bundela dynasty's architectural legacy and travelling back in time to the Bundelkhand region of the early 16th century CE when Orchha was founded by the Bundela chieftain Raja Rudra Pratap Singh, who became the first king of Orchha (r. 1501 - 1531 CE, until he was killed trying to wrestle a cow from the clutches of a tiger, but no surviving eyewitnesses). 

Matt: Wandering around the desolate ruins of Orchha, once the capital of one of the largest and most powerful kingdoms of Central India, and exploring (i) the badly neglected 17th century CE royal palace, or Raj Mahal, with its once opulent royal quarters, raised balconies and interlocking walkways which rise in symmetrical tiers on all four sides, crowned by domed pavilions and turrets (admission: INR 250.- or US$ 3.90 per person for non-Indian nationals - a racist rip-off, INR 10.- or US$ 0.20 per person for Indians), (ii) the 17th century CE Jahangir Mahal, Orchha's most admired ruin and once a monumental welcome present for the Mughal emperor Jehangir when he paid a state visit here, and (iii) the decrepit Lakshmi Narayan Mandir, an interesting synthesis of fort and temple with fine views and once vibrant 17th-and-18th-century CE murals.
It seems, in fact, that the more advanced a society is, the greater will be its interest in ruined things, for it will see in them a redemptively sobering reminder of the fragility of its own achievements. Ruins pose a direct challenge to our concern with power and rank, with bustle and fame. They puncture the inflated folly of our exhaustive and frenetic pursuit of wealth.

Matt: Enjoying the peaceful atmosphere of Orchha, at heart a tiny farming town dotted with crumbling historical sites, and listening to amiable sadhus and friendly temple musicians in the vicinity of the Ram Raja Mandir, a popular Hindu pilgrimage site and the centre around which all life of Orchha revolves.

Matt: Taking a local bus from Orchha, the atmospheric ruined capital of the Bundela rajas, to Jhansi (20 km, ½ hour, INR 20.- per tourist) and hereafter one of those dirt-cheap but bone-breaking Indian government buses, over-used and under-maintained, from Jhansi straight to my next hotel, the barely recommendable Hotel D.M. +917512342083 at Gwalior (110 km, 3 ¼ hours, INR 100.- per person), a rather untouristy city which boasts one of India's most magnificent hilltop forts.

“I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”
For Raoni, Tien and Ronja:
Ueberall auf der Welt gibt es interessante Bauruinen aus laengst vergangenen Zeiten: von trutzigen Burgen in Deutschland, von ehemals hochfeinen Schloessern in Frankreich, von geheimnisvollen Palaesten in China, von hoelzernen Forts in Kanada, von duesteren Tempeln in Indien, von schaurigen Grabmalen in Aegypten, von verrosteten Fabriken in Amerika…
Mir macht es viel Spass, allein und ganz langsam durch diese Ruinen und manchmal baufaelligen Gemaeuer zu streifen und mir gedanklich vorzustellen, dass sie noch benutzt werden oder bewohnt sind. Dann sehe ich die Koenige, dann hoere ich die Bauern reden, dann fuehle ich die Aufregungen nach einer verlorenen Schlacht, dann rieche ich den Weihrauch und dann und wann schmecke ich sogar noch den alten Wein. Am besten ist es, nachts solche Ruinen zu erkunden, weil dann die Fantasie am wenigstens abgelenkt wird: Die "gesehenen" Farben werden noch kraeftiger, die "gehoerten" Stimmen viel deutlicher, die Gefuehle staerker und alles schmeckt und riecht ganz besonders intensiv. - Wann besucht Ihr zum naechsten Mal einen historischen Ort in Eurer Umgebung?
From India, with Love!

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