Orchha literally means ‘a hidden gem’. For the most part until the last decade, Orchha remained pretty much hidden from the rest of the world, apart from the handful of loyal visitors who would keep going back time and again. The monuments and palaces of Orchha date back to the 15th and 16th centuries, adorned by the cenotaph or chattri architecture. At about 500 kilometres from Delhi, Orchha is already on the tentative list of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites and was also awarded the best heritage city by the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India.
In an effort to preserve and sustain the local, while exposing it to the global, the Madhya Pradesh Tourism has announced a three day festival called Namaste Orchha, that seeks to trace the natural and cultural landscape of this quaint town. Yasmin Kidwai, Festival Director and Curator of Namaste Orchha says, “It is not an end in itself, it is a means to an end. When you visit (the festival), you will know that our priority is the revival of the space, to focus on rural employment, to uplift the economy which is in a really bad state, and also make people proud of their history, maybe.”
On the evening of March 6, there will be an inaugural programme with cultural performances, along with a 3D projection mapping at the Jahangir Mahal, a part of the Orchha Fort Complex (housing the Jahangir, Raja and Sheesh Mahals). The town of Orchha, owing to its location on the banks of the Betwa river, lends itself to a number of nature trails, surrounded by a wildlife sanctuary as well. The activities will also include rafting, along with workshops on local handicrafts and art forms, offered by the communities in Orchha. For the evening, there will be a Maha Arti, similar to the one performed on the banks of the Ganga in Varanasi, followed by a cultural evening by a beautiful Baobab tree or Kalpavriksh.
Through the three days, there will also be a food and crafts bazar, displaying cuisines, arts and crafts of the whole of Madhya Pradesh. The last day will display the organic farming offerings and potentials of Orchha and its surrounding areas.
“More than a festival, it is an ongoing story, an effort to connect with the syncretic culture and the warmth of the Bundelkhand region. As a part of this festival we have already started working with the locals on skill development and language, etc. It will also give a chance to the local musicians and artistes to share the stage with the artistes we would be bringing in. It is for the locals, they need to feel ownership of the festival,” says Yasmin.
The music and dance shows will be held on the first day at the Jahangir Fort. The fort is a subtle reminder of its secular history; the grandiose monument was built by Maharaja Bir Singh Deo in honour of a visit by the Mughal Emperor Jahangir. Also a part of the Orchha Fort Complex is the iconic Ram Raja Temple, built in honour of Lord Ram as this is the only place where he is worshipped as a god and as a king. The local artistes will perform in collaboration with national and international artistes, including artistes like Shubha Mudgal and the band Indian Ocean. Designer Anupamaa Dayal and renowned sculptor and nail art painter Wajid Khan are some of the other artistes roped in for the festival. Without divulging the details, Yasmin said the music, dance and theatre shows will showcase some of the best in the country.
Namaste Orchha will be held in Orchha from the 6th to the 8th of March, 2020