Chanderi

Travelling in India has been an adventure whatever form of transport. Our journey from Orccha to Chanderi was mainly by public bus. So first of all, let’s set the scene. We arrive into a bus station chock-a-block with bus, people and people with carts selling their wares- masses of bananas, fruit and bottles of water. We were the first to arrive on our bus so had the pick of seats.  As it started to get busier, a few men congregated at the door, not bothering to sit down  –  fair enough it probably is much more fun to cling on leaning out of the wide open door of a bus.

As we drove, we saw people sitting at the side of the road and the bus would stop at no obviously visible bus stop but the bus driver and the people knew somehow. After being on the bus for a few hours,we were all feeling tired, probably a little hungover and very hungry. My friend Aaron sitting nearby rummaged around in his bag and pulled out a bag of sweeties/ lollies (Aaron is Australian). The smiles on peoples faces were massive. It had been a real lull in the mood until the sweeties arrived. After that point every nice thing was compared to the bus lollies. Not sure anything topped them!

As our sugar high was wearing off, we stopped at the side of the road, and the milk men got on the bus. How did we know?! They were carrying large milk churns and the bus proceeded to stop at required shops for the milk to be deposited – even after sitting on our hot bus for about an hour… not quite what we are used to. It made me think, how resourceful Indian people are, but kind of glad our milk is stored and kept cooler.

So that was bus number one.

Bus number two was much busier and Alex and I found ourselves detached from the group and sitting near the back. We bounced along a dirt road that a tractor in the UK would have struggled with but an Indian bus has ‘no’ bother. So mid way though this bumpy journey the man across the aisle from me stands up and bends to gather his processions from under his seat. Well – the bend got lower and lower until he was sitting on my knee!! I didn’t know what to do, I was in shock, speechless even, all I could do was laugh. We bounced down the road, him sitting on my knee and me speechless. He did get up and get off the bus just shortly after but he didn’t look to see what he had been sitting on or seem to acknowledge that he had even done it. Only in India.

We arrived into a much quieter ‘bus station’ and transferred our stuff to 4x4s and were dropped off at our hotel. We checked- in and then we were off for a picnic by a river and to explore rock carvings and paintings. Intrepid Travel, I am told, is the only tour company and Unforgettable India is the only tour that visits this beautiful Chanderi. Part of me wants to keep it this way because the people were so friendly and didn’t badger you into buying anything. They just smiled, said hello and went about their daily business or totally ignored you, also refreshing in India. But also I think everyone should go because I loved it!

Picnic by the river. Not sandwiches, oh no, in India, you have curry. We had papaya curry which was lovely and lots of other interesting things.

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After lunch and a wander around the little museum by the lake we bundled into the 4x4s to see some Jain rock carvings. Jain is a religion which says no violence to all living beings. A minority religion in India with only 4.2 million followers. The Jain architecture looks like a mix between Islamic and Hindi. I think it is very beautiful. Not so much these rock carvings which were lovely but I wouldn’t build my house with them. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jainism

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The rock face has been carved with many statues like this one, however this is the biggest. The area is sacred so we walked in bare feet. Trying to avoid the bee pee… I was talking and a bee pee-ed in my mouth, yuck, it’s a yellowie green powdery looking thing. I hope I am not being gullible and that was actually what is was.

Then we drove to a river to see the rock paintings. We drove through some small towns where children ran after the cars, smiling, waving and shouting ‘ta ta’. It makes you feel like a celebrity. They seems to get such a rush out of us saying hello/ ta ta to them. Apparently Ta-Ta is an Indian make of car and tour groups had gone through in these branded cars so the children read ‘Ta-Ta’  and shouted that so tourists repeat.

One hamlet was surrounded by a wall and the driver had to get out to open the gate, our guide invited us to get out and meet some locals. They stared at us, we felt a little uncomfortable, we were in the centre and all the houses faced in, like stepping into someone’s living room uninvited. Back in the cars we drove off road to a river. Tea time, sitting by the river looking at crocodiles, drinking freshly made masala chai…. ahhh I love India.

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Walking down to the rock carvings keeping an eye on the crocodile to be sure he didn’t move, like a spider, fine if I can see him, not so happy if he swims across to sit on the other bank, my bank.

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These rock carvings are very very old. Our lovely guide is working really hard to get funding from the government to build a fence/ barrier to protect the carvings as the shepherds are coming along and writing their names and damaging the carvings.

Driving back through the hamlet we’d visited before lots of the children had changed and dressed up for us. I guess they must have been embarrassed  not  be in their best clothes.

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That evening we were invited to our guide’s house for dinner. It was the best Indian meal I’ve ever had. This lady is a wonderful cook. Chanderi (80) Chanderi (67)

This is our guide, Kalle Bhai, he is the most genuine and enthusiastic person you will ever meet. His nieces, nephew and children greeted us.

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This picture is taken in the courtyard, 4 families living here. Dinner was served on a roof terrace under the stars.  Kalle’s daughter offered to give us henna and my goodness, it was gorgeous, such detail and she did it so quickly, a real talent.

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Bright and early the next morning we had a guided walk through Chanderi. Chanderi material is very famous in India. It used to be the case in India that only the rich and royality could buy Chanderi material but the British, maybe one good thing we have done, made it more accessible to everyone and helped people buy looms so they could weave and start their own businesses and more cloth was available and more affordable. So this time in the Sari shop I did fall in love with some material but of course me and my expensive taste it was especially for a MP’s wife so not allowed to be sold to me. Not that I could afford it anyway but it was stunning.

Chanderi was my second favourite place next to Varanasi. I loved walking around, just looking and watching. While in the market Kalle’s favourite tea shop was closed so he phoned the guy and after a few minutes tea was served, as we sat in front of market stalls.

Chanderi (183) Chai, Chai, Chai, Tea with Alex, Lucy and Pam

We even met the last living descendants from the Chanderi Royal Family. (The man front right)

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Some of the town

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Without the badgering and other tourists this place felt like real India. I am so glad that I was lucky enough to be one of the few tourists who get to visit.

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