Photos by Madeline Titus (American University) Student Correspondent UW in India: Varanasi, 2017-2018 Academic Year
February and March have consisted of traveling in Central and South India. We started off with our traveling seminar in the state of Madhya Pradesh. We visited two cities, the first, Orchha. We visited Orchha Chattris, which is a complex with a particular architecture style of high dome pavilions, which are multi-purposed, but the chattris we visited used to be used for cremations. The architecture was beautiful and had an amazing view of the Betwa River. The Chattris are now perserved as a heritage site, are not used anymore in daily life.
In the evening, we visited the palace in Orchha, Jahangir Mahal, which was built for Mughal Emperor Jahangir, the son of the famous Mughal Emperor Akbar. The place was beautiful, and most spaces were open, so we were able to go from ground floor, hallways and explore all the way to the roof.
Next we took a taxi to Khajuraho, about 3 and a half hours south west of Orchha. Khajuraho is very famous for the Hindu and Jain temple complexes. The temples are one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The temple design is unique to the area in the depiction of daily life and erotic sculptures on the outside as well as inside of the temples. As a class, we discussed the different gender politics and narratives that these temples depict and how that has changed throughout history. We also discussed the relationship between the similar architecture of the Hindu Temples and Jain temples, and the influence both religions have had on one another.
We ended the traveling seminar in Delhi and from there we had a week of personal travel/spring break. Five of us traveled south to the state of Kerala and spent a few days relaxing on the beach and eating fresh seafood.
Kerala was absolutely beautiful but only stayed a few days and then headed back to Varanasi for the celebration of Holi. I celebrated with my family which consisted of wearing old clothes and having a color water fight in the morning then eating a ton of food and finally changing into new clothes and celebrating holi with a dry powder.
Holi broadly celebrates renewal, seasonal transition as well as the importance of relationships with friends and family. I celebrated with my family in the morning, with a few of the other guest staying with my family. My host sister and I were primary through color on each other, and other family members, but in the end, it was host mom, who was the main target for everyone to throw water at. In the evening headed to my friend, Karissa’s house where I celebrated with her host family. Karissa’s family was fun to play with, especially her 7 year-old host sister.
Now, we are all back in Varanasi and enjoying our last 2 months in India (even as the temperature increases to 90s and 100s).