India is a pot pourri of cultures and traditions. Travel from West to East and the landscape as well as people and cultures change dramatically. It is the same when you travel from North to South of India. If the present day India strikes you as colorful and vibrantly alive, well preserved monuments point to an even more glorious and dynamic culture. The best way to get to know India is to visit choicest places that give you a glimpse into the past and a taste of the present.
For anyone visiting India, a visit to the Taj Mahal in Agra, is indispensable. Agra and its neighboring Fatehpur Sikri are where Emperor Akbar left indelible footprints in the sands of time. The Taj Mahal, one of the most superb monuments to love, is also one of the most beautiful of mughal style architecture. Wonder at the richness of Shah Jahan, said to be the wealthiest man of his period, who spared no expense to create this splendor. Centuries later, it still stands tall. The visit done, walk through the streets of Agra to know quintessential fusion of the brotherhood of Muslims and Hindus. Explore the Muslim section and you will come upon treats in street food, shops selling a variety of handicrafts and people. Should you ever make friends, you will find them warm hearted.
From here to Jaipur is a short hop but it is transformational. This is entirely Rajput Hindu in its flavor and colors. The old Amber Fort and the more recent Palace look imposing enough from the outside but the inside Museums exhibit a wealth of material pointing to the typical Rajasthani royal lifestyles. Walk out into the streets and you will find Jaipur dusty, compelling, noisy and engrossing. If there are youngsters going about in jeans and tees you will also find “old style” folk in typical paghdis, a kind of headgear, and dhotis, proud and defiant mustached men, relics of a royal era.
Orchcha is where you arrive the next day, a forgotten place in Madhya Pradesh, a palace and a fortress that time and people seemed to have forgotten and rediscovered only now. The insides of the Fort and the Palace give hints of past grandeur. For those interested, Jahangir Mahal here was home to Jodhabai, wife of Emperor Jehangir. Jodhabai was a Rajput royal, married to a Mughal Muslim Emperor. There is history in each stone and to say this would not be an exaggeration. The people, however, as you encounter them in the small town, are simple folk, conservative and orthodox.
It was not always so, as you will find when you visit Khajuraho. The erotic spiritual sculptures at Khajuraho leave people astounded as to the advanced culture and open minded thinking that used to prevail at one time. Before the Mughals and before the British and their corseted ways of thinking, India was a free spirit. Discover what it was like back then and what it is like now by joining Time and Again’s Historical Saga & the Sacred tour of North India. You will love it. It is an eye opener.