The Flower Raj - People & Places in the land of the Gods - India revisited. Ganj & Orchha Madhya Pradesh.
home-stay in a village called Ganj, a kilometre outside Orchha, march 2012.

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In London before leaving for six months in India I was searching for a place to stay in Orchha, my intended first stop of a pilgrimage round the cultural & spiritual centres of Madhya Pradesh; and I found the web site of Friends of Orchha ("The Orchha Home-stay, experience life in an ordinary Indian family...").

I booked a three day home-stay by email & duly arrived on 5th March, considered early summer, with daytime temperatures in the mid thirties and rising every day. So I found myself living in a village called Ganj, a kilometre outside Orchha & on a slight rise, overlooking the crumbling towers, bustling bazaar & Ram Raja Temple of Orchha. The Betwa River flowed quietly below.
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"My" family, with whom I ended up staying for 25 days, was a young couple, Suren (Surendra) & Kiran (aka Kranti) Yadav and their two daughters, Mini (8) and Khushi (5); their house is centred round a small courtyard in which lives their cow and her young calf, who was two days old when I arrived. The Yadav family lives in two rooms, a kitchen/eating room & a sleeping/private room.

There is also a family lodging with them, in a single room, Vinod & his wife Rajini, with their two boys, Vijay (5) and Shevam (3). Since they have no kitchen, Rajini cooks in the courtyard on a traditional clay fire; the cow's cowpats are used for cooking, together with wood collected locally; Suren also has a single-burner gas bottle cooker. Water comes from a well-bore hand pump 100 metres up the village road and is carried into the house in buckets.

Amongst the many sweet memories of my stay...
Crazy motorcycle rides (three up) to a wedding feast in Baminah for the food & the next night to the bride's village for the actual wedding; getting totally lost in the pitch dark and wobbling along on ever narrower roads that became paths through fields. A Sunday outing with the Yadav family to Jhansi city for film and food and shopping.

The childrens play, "The Tiger, the Brahmin & the Jackal" performed by children of Gunj who had never even dressed up before, let alone acted. The kindness of the people, their open devotion & the strength of their traditional family & religious values.

Going with Suren at 4am to the early morning Aarthi (ritual) in the main Orchha temple, the Ram Raja Mandir; having to bathe first in cold water & scurrying down the hill so as not to be late (it was crowded with pilgrims even at that early hour).

Having a meal with Erika & Asha, two of the nicest ladies you could ever meet, specially cooked by Suren and the food provided also for the whole family. Swimming in the placid Betwa river early in the morning. Walking around the crumbling, weathered yet impressive ruins of the Bundelkand Maharajas in Orchha. The fields of golden wheat with mustard showing green over the wheat tops.

Here is my Ganj Village Photo Essay the story of twentyfive days living in a poor village; moving through the photos, I remember the India I knew as a young man & rediscovered on this inspiring Madhya Pradesh journey. Page through this photographic trip & get the feel for yourself.

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