Barefoot Traveller




“The best room”, I had told our guide the day before, when we realized that we would probably arrive in Orchha the next day and we were discussing the probable paucity of accommodations in the small, out of the way medieval town in central India.

And sure enough, that night we found ourselves in a large, high corner suite in the maharajah’s own palace. In fact, it was the maharajah’s own suite, although it’s not used by him these days, in this small town off the main highway in central India between Udaipur and Varanasi, known over the centuries as a cool summer retreat for surrounding royalty.

We travelers spent these several days with our own royal views of the countryside, enjoying the spires of a multitude of palaces and temples below through the thick-walled turrets. Actually, the best view was while sitting on the toilet.

The suite itself was, I must confess, just a bit seedy. The bed sagged and the ceiling was illuminated with low blue lighting. But the fans worked, the furniture was aged and luxurious, the bathtub huge and the private outside dining area a lovely spot in which to enjoy a privately served lunch.

Today Orchha slumbers on the Betwa River in the state of Madha Predesh as a medieval remnant, nearly frozen in time and in the stone of its structures. Within the fort complex, built by its Bundela rulers in the 16th and 17th centuries and easily visited by travelers, three palaces are set in an open quadrangle bordering an outlet of the river below, where the rapids rush over slippery rocks and the town’s women gather in the mornings to do the laundry.

All of Orchha’s centuries-old buildings are open to the public. Strolling through them, reading their poignant histories filled with gods and mythic love affairs and poets is truly a poignant, distinctive piece of India.