I’ve encountered another innovative Indian idea — a palace Walkman tour! When you are ready to go on the tour, you head up to the Sheesh Mahal Palace and chat with the nice people at the front desk. They give you a Walkman and a series of cassette tapes. It’s recommended that you bring your own ear phones, but if you don’t have any you can purchase a pair from the front desk.
Once you are at the tour starting point you listen to the first tape and follow the arrows along the ground through the palace and surrounding sites. As you progress the tape recites snippets of history, various stories from the 1500s, folk legends, and even sound effects and music to help create the mood. Not only do you get a brilliant snapshot of the history of the palace as you are walking through it, you also have the opportunity to move around at your own pace.
The tour starting point is the Raj Mahal Palace. From here we entered the first courtyard and the voice on the tape described what it was like to live in the 1500s. From here we walked into the council chambers where the king addressed his people.
Next we proceeded into the women’s courtyard and were shown the chambers in which the women lived. On the surrounding walls were many detailed paintings depicting what it was like to live a palace life. This combined with music and sound effects helped you envision what it was like to live here.
My part of the tour (in a weird way) was the chamber where the “prince meets his queen.” On the walls were hunting scenes and masculine deities; imagery that’s conductive to producing children!
In one chamber there were excellent gold paintings of women displaying their friendship and one of an elephant made entirely out of people. Another picture showed a very strong man shaking people out of a tree. Each painting was incredible in it’s detail and colour; I could have easily looked for hours.
We moved on to the auditorium where we listened to more history and a musical performance.
After a Pepsi and a break we headed out to the Princess’ Palace (Rai Parveen Mahal). The Princess Rai Parveen was a gifted poet and musician who caught the attention of Akbar. Upon his request she was sent to Delhi to serve in her court. While at court Akbar asked her to compose and perform a special song for him. She did and it was a song about how much she missed her home and her Prince Raja Indramani. Akbar was so moved by the performance and her love for Prince Raja that he sent her back to Orchha. Surrounding the Rai Parveen Mahal are beautiful gardens, bath houses, and the camel stables.
The Walkman tour is worth it. After I feel like I understand what it was like to live in the 1500s in India and it added a whole new perspective to my later wanderings around temples and the village, though most temples are very hard to get to and involve a lot of walking through fields and acrobatic maneuvers over thorn fences.