19th January 2016 – Journey to Orccha

We left Chanderi at 9am. I was sad to leave. We did have a fascinating three hour journey to Orccha. We went through so many villages. Eye opening and humbling.

On the way, passing through villages, I’m beginning to realise that our wealth makes us dissatisfied. I’m seeing extreme poverty. People have absolutely nothing, but appear happy. There is a freedom here.

En route we stopped off at a couple of places. One stop was on a track where there was a motorcycle shop and a chai seller (Chaiwala). We stopped off for masala chai and got chatting to the Chaiwala who knew just about everything there is to know about cricket.

On we go, later dropped off at an NGO paper factory where they make university certificates from recycled fabric and paste. India gets blamed for a lot of greenhouse gasses (rightly so) but all I’ve seen so far is non-electrical equipment. Perhaps since Delhi at least. The place was very cold and the people working there, rinsing and pressing paper in cold water, must have been frozen. On the way out Pradeep made us all taste a leaf from a tree. We all did, and it was disgusting. We got back in the bus, with Pradeep giggling away.

Driving down a steep hill and across a narrow roadway cutting through a river, we arrived at our camp. We are in large white tents, with a bedroom, dressing room and bathroom. Outside is a table and two wooden / canvas chairs. I feel like I’ve gone back in time. It’s warm and luxurious and the view of the ancient cenotaphs next to us is quite something in the evening haze.

Meeting at Pradeep’s Orccha office (a café) We had a walk around and saw the cenotaphs and a massive palace. We made our way down to the river, dodging some pretty territorial monkeys. It’s very blue, even in today’s slightly duller weather. It was nice to sit on the rocks and have some peace and quiet.

After sunset, we went to a Hindu temple of Rama. Walking past the hermit who lives at the end of the track, we walked up towards the temple (along with the cows). Full of market stalls, the walkway was vibrant with flower petals, pretty cakes and marigolds for sale as offerings for Lord Rama. It was very colourful. At the entrance to the temple, we removed our shoes and went on in. Pradeep rang an iron bell to signal our entrance. The courtyard was open and full of people. Many waiting at the front ready to hand over their offerings. Paintings of manifestations of Gods were on the walls, in alcoves surrounding the courtyard. Eventually everyone began chanting and the doors opened to reveal a chamber with Lord Rama’s statue. Holy water was tossed onto the crowds as the chanting continued. Some rituals felt familiar, a bit like communion. I found it all very touching. Very powerful. It got to me a bit, in a nice way. As we left, I struggled to hold back tears.

Came back and slept. A few of us are coming down with colds. Poor Tim is getting hassled by the over-zealous shop keeper in the hotel next to camp.

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