Warm cozy bed, soft light and mild soothing cold; a perfect setting to make me lazy enough not to move out my bed despite being aware of an interesting village outside, that might be wide awake busy with their daily chores. Gathering all my strength, when I opened the door of my room’s balcony, I was wished a lovely morning by the hazy fog spread over the garden. The smell of the wet mud and misty air were all the more refreshing. And the fresh dewdrops made the red roses in the garden look glittery. And to fulfil the need of the background music to this fanciful scenery, Indian Magpie, sunbirds and Indian Rollers chirped in the sweetest way and reminded me of the imaginary fairyland described in some childhood stories.
Ah! I couldn’t have asked more for an escape from my city explorations in India which had made me completely exhausted. The lazy morning at Faagun Haveli, nestled among the farms of Gundrai village in Orchha was a perfect place for me.
The hot breakfast and the warm smiles of the doting staff of the Haveli filled me with some energy to go for a ramble in the village that looked like a green carpet with flourishing crops.
As I took a turn from the Haveli’s gate, I was welcomed by a typical village scene with all the animals moving off for grazing, the ladies working in their farms and a few of them cleaning the grains in a traditional way which is nowadays a rare practice.
“Photu lelo photu,” (Click our picture) the villagers seemed quite elated at the arrival of a traveller with a camera in her hand. They tried posing for me, but my camera found their candid gestures more beautiful. The kids came running wishing me morning. Probably, they were taught by their teachers, or they had just grasped it from the frequent visitors to their village, most of whom came from the Faagun Haveli.
Bonding Over the Grains
“Come, clean the wheat-grains with us,” I heard a woman calling me and it was followed by a giggle as they thought I couldn’t do that. But, there I was, my bare feet trailing towards them, stepping on the soft, dried wheat-pods and quickly I learnt the swinging method to separate the wheat from the other agricultural trash. While I was busy enjoying my new job, I could smell the burning wood and cow-dung, people kept on passing by with their cattle and the ladies of the house kept on talking to them while still doing their work. I wondered if we ever had such time and bonding with the neighbours in the cities. This scene was far more enjoyable than any get-together or kitty parties or.
The White and Blue Houses
After having bajra roti (bread) with maheri (a dish prepared by heating buttermilk), I headed to the interior part of the village. The houses looked unusually white and others stunningly blue. I am still curious and have hardly found a valid answer for the prevalence of only the white and the blue houses all over Bundelkhand.
I had to pass by a few more animals before I could click this buffalo family enjoying the feast.
The charpoys under the Neem tree, the street dogs and the kids of almost the whole village playing all around, is what a typical Indian village looks like. There were pits formed for the cows and buffalos almost outside each house and the village didn’t create any wet waste!
While clicking the pictures standing at the village square, I was invited to a house by a few kids. Obliging to their request, I quickly ran with them. While moving through their courtyard I observed the white painted squares on mud floors which I think were purposely kept for the ‘rangoli’ making custom. The walls had the paintings similar to those in the Lakshminarayan Temple of Orchha. Later would I come to know that the painting is the tradition of Bundelkhand and it is called Mandana.
Tryst with the vegetables and Plants
‘Didi look here, this side we have cauliflowers and the other side is for the eggplant,’ the kids were quite excited. I asked their names and turn by turn they all tried answering in English and had an immense confidence. They all wished to study but eventually none of them wanted to join any job and instead wished to be and work in their farms as they loved being there!
‘Baigan ka Bharta’ (a spicy dish prepared with roasted eggplants) was what running at the back of my mind while the kids were explaining me about how well ripen the eggplants were. I plucked the soft ones for myself, which were supposed to be the best ones. They happily helped me in identifying the bright deep purple coloured ones which were soft enough to taste delicious.
I also cut the fresh coriander leaves from the other farm. And the leaves smelled strong. The kind of fragrance that I was longing for had finally stimulated my olfactory senses.
The Mysterious Temple of Chhardwari
The previous night, while enjoying the tranquillity of the surrounding wilderness, in my exquisite room at Faagun Haveli, I could hear the incessant chanting of ‘Sita Ram’. Since then, my curious mind wished to know more about it. And thus, after spending almost 5-6 hours in the farms and the village, I headed further to the place that marked the end of the ancient kingdom of Orchha.
A small temple with a huge statue of Lord Hanuman, a step-well dating back to the reign of Maharaja Pahad Singh and the same unceasing chanting of ‘Sita Ram’ that continued since past 13 years; Wasn’t that an amazing example of inexplicable faith and fulfillment of an almost impossible vow of chanting the mantra (?) . Sitting beside the Pandit, I heard the interesting tales of Orchha and that of the temple, creatively put into poetic phrases. By this time, I was literally in awe of the history of Orchha that remained unaffected even during the Mughal and the British Era.
Apparently, the temple of Chhardwari was one of the four Hanuman temples in all the four directions of Orchha. And as per the historic tales, because of the blessings of Chhardwari Hanuman, the King of Orchha was able to win over the powerful kingdom of Gondwana. The king, after his victory, had built this temple under his supervision. He neither went to his palace nor did he enjoy any royal luxury till the temple was built and till now, the temple lies hidden here at Chhardwari, proudly preserving the saga of victory of the faith over the power and strength.
The Colours of Faagun – A Soulful Evening
My favourite ginger lemon tea and a balcony with the visuals of the brilliantly presented canvas of the sky, who would even want other entertainment. The Faagun Haveli, just like the other houses in Bundelkhand, looks soothing white and the extreme silence in and around it, really rejuvenates your mind that is otherwise constantly riding on the noises of varying decibel in the cities.
The bright evening and the leisure time void of any tension and entertainment made me look at nature’s activities that usually go unnoticed. The birds preparing for the falling night, the trees turning extremely still with the exceptions of a few movements created by the birds finding shelter on their branches and the woodpeckers still busy in pecking after their day-long flights; it seriously seems to be unrealistic for the city-dwellers for whom the streetlights and heavy traffic notifies the arrival of the night.
The month of ‘Faagun’ brings along the colours of different festivities enjoyed during that time, and here I was, sitting in my balcony watching all such soulful activities of nature that seemed to be painting the white building of Faagun Haveli with their lively colours.
If you ever plan to come to Orchha and stay at Faagun Haveli, do remember to enjoy the sunset from its terrace.
As the show ended and the curtain of the night fell over the stage of the earth, I went down in the courtyard enjoying the pungent aroma of my ‘Baigan Bhartha’ that I was dying to eat. And the night passed by in tranquility around the warmth of the bonfire.
I hardly expected any dreams that night, as the day itself was a series of dreams in a Bundeli Village.