About as far off the tourist trail as most foreigners are prepared to go, leafy Orachha is a gorgeous laid back slice of Rajput paradise. In many ways this is real India. A small town reached easily from Jhansi at just 250INR for the 16km journey in a rickshaw.
Orachha is almost perfect.
Typically Indian, the town itself is unremarkable, except suddenly, rather than encountering a shake down at every corner, you are waved at, welcomed and requested for selfies. Friendliness abides. It is difficult to avoid the imposing temples around the place, and once you cross the bridge to Raj Mahal you notice behind the stunning Jehangir Mahal. What makes this enclave different is that it is among natural beauty.
Think bushy trees with monkeys, a roaring river, ruins, temples and a paradise lost begging to be explored. Scenically it is spectacular, particularly with a low mist licking the tree tops. Some guide tried telling me Harry Potter was filmed here, a quick search dispelled that myth but it would not have surprised me one bit that such a magical movie was filmed on location in an equally magical place.
Sadly, that is where it ends. And it is with genuine regret that perhaps one of the countries most picturesque places is ruined the second you step inside any of the number of buildings/palaces/shrines/temples. The usual 250INR foreigner shakedown applies with kids aged 15 years and under free. If the ticket is bought at the Raj Mahal ticket office this allows you entrance to every place of interest within Orachha which is a fantastic deal. Undoubtedly the first place you will end up is Jehangir Mahal and it is as imposing as it is beautiful from the outside.
Take one foot over the threshold and the realisation of a run down, badly managed, poorly guarded reality springs to life. Graffiti adorns centuries old walls, names are scratched into any surface possible, spit marks everywhere, broken footsteps and vandalised walls. This building has survived centuries yet recent generations have begun to destroy it from the inside out.
Guards lay sleeping, careless of the irreparable damage being done.
Around the palace area is scope to explore. A path winds past ruins, through forests and down to the river, which supposedly is one of the cleanest in the country, which doesn’t say much as most Indian rivers are sceptic. But there really is opportunity to explore unfettered, an opportunity we didn’t take.
Perhaps the most beautiful of the temples jutting into the skyline is Chaturbhuj Temple next to the white and orange Ram Raja temple. Chaturbhuj has suffered the same recent demise of vandalism and graffiti. Bird faeces is everywhere making the place absolutely stink and adding a real dirty feeling to the place. Views over the city are great, especially looking back over to Raj Mahal.
Having travelled India extensively, Oraccha is a typical town filled with cows, goats and dogs. During our time there I was walking down the road with my kids as usual. My youngest was slightly ahead of me and headed towards a large cow with big horns. I saw the cow look like it was going to attack my son, so I pushed him out of the way and stood between him and the cow.
The cow started to ram me, I grabbed its horns to stop it jabbing me and the kids, it swung its head and threw me off. I hit the ground and as I began to get back up, shouting my kids to run, the cow trampled over me. As I lay on the floor I was trying to grab its legs to stop it trampling me and it kept attacking me with its horns. Locals come out of their homes and shops and started to hit the cow with sticks, they were throwing bottles at it and trying to get it off me. It did stop and then ran off away from me.
Picking myself up from the ground I looked for my kids, they had been taken in by a local and were watching in horror as their dad lay getting trampled by a cow.
I was wounded all down the left side of my body, cut and grazed. Thankfully nothing was broken and I was able to walk away. I would just like to thank the local people that came and helped. I know how deadly attacks from cows can be, and how very differently this incident could have ended. If you go to Orachha be careful, but be aware, you are amongst great people who beyond anything else are just hard working men and women that are grateful that you cared enough to visit their amazing little town and spectacular history.