Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The splendors of Khajuraho and Orcha

6 and 7 November 2010 Khajuraho and Orcha, Saturday and Sunday

Our Friday visit to the temple, getting blessed by the priest and given Prasad was the real thing – of present-day Khajuraho.  Saturday, then, was the real thing of Khajuraho past – the Chandelas and their architecture.  Then on to Orcha on our bus for 5 hours – and the real thing of Orcha past – the Bundelas and their architecture. And of course our group, the 10 of us.

Off after breakfast to the main temple site – and our guide who was both very knowledgeable and patient.  He gave us a full background on the Chandela rulers, their ideas of Hindu architecture, the levels of grounded in earth, common human beings, the erotic between earth and the gods, sometimes striving to bliss, sometimes grounded in lust.  He showed us all sorts of panels, what they depicted and meant – humorous some, soldiers young unafraid as they marched to war, older men anxious, or fearful, or even turning back and away from war.  The 5 stages of the lower to upper spire and inner sanctuary.  Women in various poses. And on.  And then he let us loose after about 1.5 hours to look at the similar other temples, not as intact as the first, but with similar styles, depictions and meanings.  All very impressive, huge buildings, put together without mortar or glue of any kind.

Then we were off to the smaller number of Western temples, Hindu temples which had been taken over and reconfigured somewhat for Jain purposes and Jain temples.  A nice long explanation of the rise of Jainism and its great popularity, and even continuing today in Gujarat, home of Gandhi and his Jain mother, and Karnataka, home of the Outsources, The wealthy Jains of Indian, harming no living creature and involved with money and investments, etc. Our guide showed us more unique sculptures, of the three body curved pose, and the woman putting on mascara – just the thing for Jeanie. We sat outside one of the temples as others of our group took off both shoes and socks (harm no living thing) and went in for a few minutes. And we saw the 5 colored Jain flag. 

Back to our hotel Ramada for lunch, Robert and I sharing a pulau, dal, rice, and naan. Others were trying Western meat dishes.  A rest period – I rested for a few minutes – but went to sleep, mainly from about 3 to 4:30 pm when the cleaning crew knocked on the door and I grabbed my stuff and left.

The Ramada was a very nice modern place – huge reception hall, nice large dining room with a good menu, not too over prices.  Sometimes difficult to find our rooms through long corridors twisting every 10 rooms or so, but we soon learned to follow some of the Warli large paintings, and the ping pong table.  The staff was most accommodating, even chamber men speaking good English intoned greetings  (where did they learn and practice that?).  The one bad time, irritating was Sunday morning very early, someone’s kid running around the hall way yelling, laughter and waking all of us. The other irritant, new Internet until the very last minutes before we left.

I had taken a bicycle rickshaw in the early morning to try to connect to the Internet at Shiva’s near the temples, across from the lake, but got there too late to do anything, plus he had no wifi or way to connect my computer. So, I waited for the bus to pick me up on the way to the temples, but our guide Pravan arrived on his motor bike, so I jumped on his back seat and went to the parking bus.  Another type of transportation besides car, train, airplane, rickshaws.  At 4:45 pm I hired the same bicycle rickshaw driver to take me to Shiva’s but there were Divali barriers and activities, so I stopped, before getting to Shivas, at the advertised WiFi, and connected on the cafĂ©’s second story roof overlooking the lake and I did my Internet while drinking a coke. Was able to speak to Deej briefly at the end of my hour there as she had just gotten up Sat morning in Charlottesville.  Then quickly back to the Hotel on the rickshaw, on a ride much easier (for the driver coasting) downhill and through the darkening sky, cooling air, and quieting Divali crowds. 
The bus took us about 5 blocks from the Sound and Light show, which was to start at 6:30 pm – and we walked in waiting a few minutes for our on chairs – the show of voices, sounds, music boomed from 4 or 5 locations as spotlights showed freezes or the Khajuraho temples – the narration about the origin of the Candela dynasty, their architects speaking, the British discovery of it after 7 or so centuries, etc.

Back through the gate at 7:30 pm, and joining Warren outside.  Robert wasn’t feeling well so stayed back in the Hotel and we all decided on the bus to limit our time with Warren and his Indian family if possible.   We apologized for Robert’s absence as wall as asking that the visit to the house be kept short.  He agreed and we walked allies for several blocks to his friends family’s house.  We talked to other family members and passed around the youngest to hold him for a few minutes.  The daughter prepared glasses of water for us, but Warren said we should not drink it  - rather prepare tea.  More talking with the family, how old kids, how long been in Khajuraho, education system, daughter wanting to get married? Etc.  The tea came and was fine. The youngest baby was passed around with glee. We were able to go into all the rooms of the first floor.  And see some into the life of an urban family.  We walked back to the bus and bade farewell to Warren and Sapna.  Everyone felt the visit went well – Pravan said – bus will pick you up at 9.  I told Robert and he said fine.

We had supper and went off to bed.

Sunday was a travel day from Khajuraho to Orcha and Orcha sightseeing. We grabbed the bus after breakfast around 9 and went the 90 or so miles mostly on pretty good roads – some four lane, most wide tar roads, with only one place narrow one lane when each direction of traffic had to negotiated who would get off the road more than the next – generally the heavily loaded trucks ruled, and tuk-tuks and motor bikes had to find their way.  The area had low scrub and lots of fields, mostly looking barren without crops yet, though recently plowed.  It was a sort of West Texas area with lots of cows, buffalo, goat herds, and even some lambs – an amazing large number of pasture animals for the area. 

Halfway we stopped at a Hotel in the middle of nowhere – we sat and had chai, after some of the group bought different Indian wares.  Off again for the second half of the journey, with a 20 minute stop at the Orcha railway crossing as a passenger train went through.  Then the chaos and slow traffic as cars, buses, tuk-tuks, etc confronted each other filling up all the lanes going in both directions, butting heads. Went through the town and on to the very modern Orcha Resort, with a flutist playing for us and a black uniformed Rajasthan security guard saluting all of us as we entered.

The rooms were back through a winding corridor. Robert and my room was 124, and located after making 12 right, left, right, left turns.  We freshened up a bit, and then lunch at 2, off on the bus to the Palaces and Forts of Orcha around 3:15 pm.  Got of the parked bus and walked through the town and across the street.  Our guide, David Williams, paid for our entrances, while I paid Rs 50 for two still cameras.  Up to the Jahangir Mahal, the largest and highest overlooking Orcha and surrounding wall and out buildings.  Guide David gave the usual stories and history, as well as describing how this architecture was Indo-Muslim, with plants and birds (Hindu) and geometric designs.  Must about the Mughals coming in, and eventually moving the Bundela capital even further south away from Mughal armies. Gates, blue tiles, domed rooms, multi-stories. Explaining the Diwan-I Khas (vip audience) and the Diwan-I Am (common people’s audience) and showing where they were and where the ladies sat.  Then the frescos on the ceilings in the Mahal down below, depicting scenes for the Hindu epics. Finally the spikes in the tall door of the fort’s entrance – put there against elephants butting their heads to break down the door. Also a purposeful sharp turn into the gate, preventing a runway for charging elephants. 

Took photos of a mendicant on the bridge and gave him Rs 10.  Others looked at brass items as I bought water and cokes.  On to the shops for 20 minutes, Anne finding her perfect 4 pairs of shoes at competing shoe shops, each for around Rs. 500, compared to the Khajuraho pair for Rs. 1100. Robert bought some beautiful elephant hangings.  I tried to bargain for a beautiful turquoise hanging from 750 to 350, but with no success, and then went in to find a plain shoulder bag, but none to be had.  So finally settled on a bright orange one, selling for Rs 425, I asked 250, and got it for Rs 325.  And put it on Facebook that night and Deej wrote back almost immediately – get one just like it for me – which, of course, I was unable to do. Then the ride back.

We rested and got ready for our 8 pm supper or did Internet stuff with the lobby’s wifi.  But there was music 
 at the pool, so rushed out and Kathy was already there, joined soon by Alice and Claudia.  A young (13/14 year old) girl sang coarsely and loudly in provocative way, as 3 male musicians played behind her – one with a cymbals clapper, one with drums, and the other with a harmonium.  The sang out to her and she often repeated their verses while dancing back and forth across the stage, or gyrating, or spinning and spinning.  Into their third song, she came down the steps and tried to invite all of us up there, and the women pushed me up and I grabbed Kathy to join me, went on stage and did some sort of line dancing with the girl – while Claudia and Alice laughed and giggled at us, meanwhile clicking their cameras away.  A nice Bundela dance.  The musicians bowed and thanked us as we went off to supper.  With no audience, we heard no more music.

Super and getting ready for bed and off to bed.  

What a day – the drive through the north Madhya Pradesh rural country side, the Bundela palaces, shopping and dancing.

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