Mike visited:

» Thailand
» Myanmar (Burma)
» Laos
» Cambodia
» Vietnam
» India
» Nepal
» Egypt
» Jordan
» Uganda
» Tanzania
» Malawi
» Mozambique
» Swaziland
» South Africa

View a map of his route.

 press/awards earned a few nice mentions in the press, including's vote as best travel blog on the Web. Read about it on the Press/Awards page.

Hangin' With the Sadhus in Orchha, India

temple, village, mote
In the small places, it's easy to make the leap from observer to participant. Small towns and villages are where I've really connected with local people: where I've been invited into their lives, where I've learned the most about customs and culture, and where I've felt most at home.

This was especially true in Orchha, India. Once a great capital city, Orchha is now just a simple village with a stunning backdrop of temples and palaces built in the early 1600's. The village itself can be seen during a half hour stroll. The temples and palaces can be experienced in a single day. But Orchha invites visitors to linger, look closer, and take part.

History You Can Climb
There are three spectacular palaces in Orchha that are situated on a fortified island. In various states of preservation, these huge stone structures sprawl across the center of the island for miles. Inside their cool interiors are labyrinths of winding corridors and spiral stairways. The palace rooftops offer magnificent views of the village, the temples beyond, and the ancient city wall that surrounds it all. Elsewhere on the island are
palace stairway
crumbling remains of camel stables and ruined stone structures, which offer insight into how the ancient city must have looked before it was rediscovered.

Orchha's gothic and commanding temples date back to the 1500's and are still in use today. They are towering stone structures with high vaulted ceilings and magnificent Hindu murals. Thousands of devotees visit the temples regularly to worship or just to climb to the roof and gaze out across the city.

Visitors are allowed to roam freely within/around the historical sites in Orchha. Nothing is roped off. Nobody tells you where you can and can't go. Nowhere is off limits.

Hangin' With the Sadhus
The main town square in Orchha is a hotbed of activity: fruit sellers line the main walkway; chai vendors operate stalls in the background; ladies gather in shady areas to picnic and chat; children fly kites; sadhus (holy men) sit under trees and conduct ceremonies, smoke bidis, and hold lively debates.

a big fan of Sony digital
The sadhus seemed like a friendly bunch, so one afternoon I drifted past the group with an inviting look on my face and, sure enough, was invited to join them. Without many words in common, we managed to interact extremely well. We shared food, drank chai, participated in a holy ceremony, laughed a lot, and filled my camera's memory card (one sadhu liked the camera so much that he offered to buy it – and kept pulling rupee notes out of obscure hiding places to convince me to sell). When it was time for me to leave, they even offered a chillum full of ganja to tempt me into staying.

India vs. Pakistan
India is crazy about the game of cricket, and the nation is gushing with excitement over the World Cup games that are currently taking place. When I arrived in Orchha, India's most important game was about to take place: India vs. Pakistan. "For Indians," a young man explained to me, "beating Pakistan is more important than winning the cup."

The town shut down on the night of the game, and every television commanded a huge audience of shouting fans. Pakistan got off to a good start, but India shut them out and won the match. And the town went crazy – for about an hour (even a major cricket win can't keep this sleepy town up past 10pm).

man dressed as Shiva
Shiva's Birthday/Marriage Celebration
On another afternoon, as I was walking to a remote temple, I ran into a parade of wildly-dressed people who were celebrating the birthday/marriage-day of Shiva, the Hindu destroyer/creator god. Young men and boys wore long black wigs and plastic Dracula fangs; an Elvira-esque girl rode atop a bejeweled horse; men and boys threw colored powder at each other and passersby; a sound system on a donkey cart blared modern Indian dance music. After watching the parade for just a moment, I was pulled into the mix by a costumed fellow and was soon covered in colored powder, dancing like mad, and doing my best to freak out the onlookers in town.

Occurrences like this seldom happen in big metropolises or capital cities. But they seem to happen all the time in the smaller places.


Posted on March 19, 2003 01:30 AM


Comments (post your own below)

The birds are on the roof.

Posted by: C on March 19, 2003 03:32 PM

The powder (gulal) bit was probably part of yesterdays's Holi, an annual celebration described on my Blog.

Posted by: YardBoy on March 19, 2003 05:14 PM

The Shiva birthday/marriage event was a couple weeks ago. The powder was part of that celebration. Although I know what you're saying about Holi, and I enjoyed "playing Holi" quite a bit.

Posted by: mike on March 19, 2003 10:25 PM

Its a pity that you will be missing the southern parts of India as there are a lot of towering and "commanding temples" there.

Posted by: (\/)ystic on March 20, 2003 08:51 PM

woah! India vs. Pakistan match!!! that was one event. In Pakistan the same excitement went on that day. But then India outmatched our "good start".
Mike! Yankees and Super Bowl do they have as fanatical following as India or Pakistan has for cricket? and would you care to visit Pakistan?

Posted by: Emad on March 21, 2003 05:11 PM

Big Mike,

Remember the "bird is on the roof"?

Posted by: Danny Bahrs on March 22, 2003 08:40 PM

I just found your site a week ago and am so excited for you. Your trip sounds facinating! I am completely jealous. Good luck and I hope to keep reading more about your journey.

Posted by: Alison on March 23, 2003 06:20 PM


I hope you busted out your best break dancin' moves for the birthday celebration.

Suitable moves would include: The Re-Run Stomp, The Corn Chip Slide and One-legged Swipes.

Posted by: MJ on March 24, 2003 01:16 PM

Yeah. I just remembered mike telling me about the 'Bird is on the roof' thing one day.

Posted by: C on March 24, 2003 04:53 PM

Comments closed.


home | travelogue | gallery | about


 favorite videos

 favorite photos

 latest travelogue entries

» travelogue archive