Travelogue: A journey from Jhansi to Khajuraho
Roaming the same hallways as Rani Laxmibai, the immortal queen of Jhansi once did was a feeling I cannot describe. On 13th June 2023, about a week before my birthday, I boarded the Gatimaan Express in the morning.
It had been years since I last travelled on a train but this one was quite different from the previous train rides I’ve encountered. Gatimaan Express is India’s first semi-high speed train and its only route is from Delhi to Jhansi. As the train began its journey, so did we.
The train only halts in two stops in between; Agra Cantonment and Gwalior for two minutes each. En route, I saw the Chambal Ravines, a terrain that looked like we had somehow landed on some other planet.
It reminded me of the superhit 1975 movie, Sholay and its iconic villain Gabbar Singh whose character was based upon a real-life dacoit Gabbar Singh of Chambal. They are not there and so fortunately I couldn’t see any dacoits but I definitely imagined them running around on their horses in those badlands.
After a few hours of sleep and sightseeing, I finally arrived at Jhansi which was then experiencing its peak summer season. I was welcomed by a beautiful bright day.
It took me only about 4.5 hours to reach Jhansi from Delhi and as I reached, I immediately checked into a hotel to freshen up and relax before my first big day there in Jhansi. The hotel was comfortable and I had a well-deserved, filling meal at the restaurant in the hotel before heading out to explore Jhansi.
I started my first outing in Jhansi with our visit to the office of Parmarth Samaj Sevi Sansthan, about which I had heard a lot and wanted to see their work in the Bundelkhand region. It was a lively building with like-minded people coming and working together for water conservation.
Even though I was in Jhansi only for one day and was leaving for Khajuraho the very next morning, I made sure not to miss the laser show, introduced only recently and inaugurated by the Prime Minister about Rani Laxmibai at the Jhansi Fort. I was particularly excited to visit the fort where one of the strongest Indian women used to roam.
As I reached the fort, I immediately was in awe of the beautiful view of the Fort. The Jhansi Fort is built on a hilltop at a pretty high altitude. It was a sight to remember. The fort in itself was a work of art, lit up beautifully as the sun set into the horizon.
It felt like I had entered the past. I have always been into history, monuments, museums and women empowerment so it was an astounding experience for me to be in the same place as one of the most remarkable women warriors in Indian History, Rani Laxmibai.
Our guide showed us the exact spot where Rani had famously jumped from, with her son tied to her back with her horse Badal to escape from the British. The place is now monumentalized in her memory with an image of her with her son on her royal horse carved on a rock.
I then made my way to watch the laser show. It was all projected over the walls of the Fort with beautiful lights and prominent dialogues. Moreover, it gave a clear story about Rani’s remarkable life and her sacrifices for her land. The show ended with a narration of the famous poem by Subhadra Kumari Chauhan about Rani Laxmi Bai, titled “Jhansi Ki Rani”, with the verse that every child in India knows, “Khoob ladi mardaani woh toh Jhansi wali Rani thi!”
After the show, I took a round of her palace in the old city, which was unfortunately closed to visitors at that time. It was now dinner time so I decided to end my day with dinner at Jhansi Hotel. The hotel was made by the British during their rule in Jhansi and was another major piece of history that I experienced along with the delicious food that I ate. I was satisfied with my first day’s proceedings!
I had to make our way back to my hotel soon as I had to leave early the next morning for Khajuraho. Khajuraho is a popular tourist destination in the Chhatarpur district of Madhya Pradesh. It is about a two-hour drive from Jhansi and is one of the most popular tourist places in India because it has the country’s largest groups of medieval temples built about a thousand years ago.
The night was over and I started my trip to Khajuraho but before that, took a detour and went to see some water conservation efforts in the region and also visited the Sukma Dukma Dam on the river Betwa in Jhansi. The dam was a British-era small dam that was built somewhere between the years 1905 to 1909.
En route, we saw many unique-looking hills and experienced one of the smoothest and cleanest highways in India which wasn’t even a national highway.
After about a drive of 2 hours, I finally reached my hotel for the night, Clarks, which had a completely different look from the hotel in Jhansi, which was more modern. Clarks on the other hand was more traditionally inspired and was a beautiful resort-style hotel with vast acres of space where I was informed that destination weddings take place.
I rested for some time and had sandwiches and fries before proceeding to the Khajuraho Temples.
Famously listed under the UNESCO World Heritage site, this is a group of about 20 remaining Hindu and Jain temples built around 950 to 1050 A.D. by the Chandella Dynasty.
What was so mesmerizing about the temples was how tall yet detailed they were. Each building was sculptured all the way up to its peak with astonishing symmetry which would make one wonder how they might’ve built it back in those days.
One thing to notice was how many sculptures of the Hindu deities and animals were defiled from the neck and how other body parts were damaged by the bigot Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, because of his hatred for Hinduism.
The temples are known for their depiction of how love was portrayed in the early years. Many sculptures showed how advanced civilization was back in those days with statues of women applying makeup with a mirror, a small girl wearing a modern-day purse, and the statue of the Sun God, Surya wearing modern-day American-style boots.
Not only the temples but the garden itself was kept beautifully with different flowers blooming everywhere. There was a temple that had reportedly the biggest Shivling in North India which was about 10 feets just visible but its actual height has still not been estimated.
As the sun set, my visit to the Khajuraho temples came to an end and I decided to shop a little before ending the visit. I bought some Khajuraho famous sarees which were made of bamboo threads and also a cute sling bag for myself.
After my little shopping spree, I went to a popular rooftop cafe called Raja Cafe for dinner. It was placed right in front of the temples so the view was mesmerizing and it was beautifully lit. It was a multi-cuisine cafe. I ordered myself an iced coffee and a chicken steak platter which was delicious. One of the best meals of the whole trip, I might say.
After a long day of travelling and exploring, I reached my hotel, relaxed, and went to bed looking forward to the last day of my short trip.
When I got up in the morning, the first thing I did was take a nice swim in the hotel pool which was kept clean and provided an open shower and fresh towels. I spent about an hour in the pool and freshened up. I then went down for breakfast which was again very delicious. I must say the food was definitely one of the major highlights of this trip.
I did not have enough time as our train back to Delhi was that afternoon but still I decided to visit one of the other wonders of nature which Khajuraho had to offer, a canyon made from a volcanic eruption and dried-up lava on the river Ken. A hidden gem. There was also a waterfall in the canyon called the Raneh Falls. The canyon is made up of igneous rocks rich in Granite and Dolomite. The canyon runs about 5 km long and 30 meters deep and has rocks in different colours varying from pink all the way to grey.
To visit the Raneh Falls, I had to go inside the Ken Gharial Sanctuary but because of the hot summer temperature, I wasn’t lucky enough to spot any animals.
After the visit to one of the most beautiful hidden spots in India and taking back a bunch of memories from yet another successful family trip, I had to make my way back to Jhansi and board our train back home.
It was a pre-birthday getaway to remember.