After Jaipur, we visited Orccha, a small town that used to be the capital of the Bundela rajas and so has quite a few palaces.
Some of the palace gates were protected by spikes to discourage war elephants from ramming them.
The morning of the day we arrived, the government had demolished half of Orccha’s main street. The locals had been fighting a dispute with the government for years over illegally building shopfronts that extended too far into the street. The government had plans to widen the streets to cater for increased tourism and so they bulldozed the shop fronts.
We visited some cenotaphs where the rajas had been cremated. It was supposed to close at 5.00 in the evening. We tried to leave at 4.45, but the caretaker had gone home early and locked us in. Some locals came by to see what was going on.
Fortunately they went and got the caretaker, who let us out.
After Orccha, we took a night train. As it was India, there was of course a cow waiting on the platform as well.
We then spent a day sailing down the Ganges, India’s holy river. Our boat men were quite happy to drink the river water, even though at one point, we spotted a dead body floating in the river.
We camped overnight on the banks. Of course, there were cows at the camp site.
We also got visited by wild dogs. During the night they surrounded the camp site and howled. Well, at least that’s what the rest of the people in the group told me. I slept through the howling dogs.
We then arrived at Varanasi, one of the world’s oldest cities and is the holiest of all Hindu cities. According to Hinduism, if you die in Varanasi you are exempt from the cycle of reincarnation and go straight to heaven. It should then come as no surprise that the city is quite crowded.
The city is also known for its ghats – stairs leading down to the river. This is where people go to bathe in the sacred river. There are also ghats where bodies are cremated.
Perhaps the world’s most optimistic sign.
Varanasi school bus.
Cows are sacred animals in India, so you don’t see beef on the menu at restaurant. But they must be good for something. Varanasi milk deliveries.