Today has been at a much more sedate pace. We didn’t meet untill 10am which was pure heaven, no rushed breakfast and plenty of time to bimble about and prepare for the day.
Today we discovered more of Orchha (meaning hidden place) the small town where we are staying, which is on the river Betwa (my room has a river view), the perfect place to unwind after the madness of the last week.
We started the day at the Raj Mahal (mahal meaning palace) a huge old palace, but its crowning glory was a frieze, in what was once the queen’s bedroom, depicting the many incarnations of Vishnu. Remarkably well preserved after 500 years. The guide told us these incarnations could be interpreted as depicting evolution – Vishnu was first reincarnated as a fish, then turtle, pig and so on until he became human.
Next Orchha’s grandest palace Jahangir Mahal with its impressive domes and multi-story construction offering panoramic views over Orchha and the nearby river. This was a fantastic place to explore the many rooms and corridors.
Our final organised stop of the day was at a paper factory. This government run project was set up to provide the women in the countryside with somewhere to work. Traditionally these women, especially in conservative areas, don’t work so this was an opportunity for them to bring in some income. The factory makes paper from recycled cotton and old paper. The totally additive free process sees a machine shred the materials before they are added to water then pressed into sheets of paper by hand. This paper is then flatted by being placed between metal sheets and put through a roller then hung up to dry before being sorted into its different colours – again by hand. Apparently all Indian degree certificates are printed on paper made in this way.
En-route back into town we stopped at a level crossing for a train to come past. Beside us were workers rebuilding some of the track. Men filled large metal bowls with rocks, placed them on their heads and carried them to where they were needed before repeating the process. Anil (our tour leader) explained that the Indian government run railways are the largest employer in the world. They deliberately use labour instead of machinery to give the unskilled workers in society work, hoping this will help the next generation be better educated – an admirable plan.
The afternoon was spent looking around the Chhatris, huge stone cenotaphs for former rulers from the area. Unfortunately swarms of huge wasps prevented us going inside, but from the outside the structures are impressive, made even more so by the vultures nesting atop.
The afternoon was spent wandering around the small town shopping riverside town. We attempted to visit an old Hindu temple beside the new temple we had visited for evening prayers the previous evening, but hassle from locals made the process tiresome so after a brief wander we were back to shopping!