Jan 21, 2013

Heritage- Temples of Khajuraho



One of the most popular tourist destinations of India- Khajuraho is popular for the erotic sculptures on the medieval period temple walls. The large group of Hindu and Jain temples are together declared as UNESCO World Heritage Site. It seems originally there were 80 Hindu temples, now only 25 are standing. Like any other tourist I too was very curious to visit these temples. I took a bus from Chitrakoot to Satna (77KM), another bus to Bamitha (106KM) and then a shared ride to Khajuraho (9KM). Stayed in an expensive hotel.

These temples were built by Chandela Kings in the span of 10th to 12th centuries. Built of sandstone, these temples gained popularity because of the sculptures depicting explicit tantric sexual activities. About 10% of the sculptures are based on erotism, rest depict the everyday life, divine figures, celestial beings, women dressing up and also very interestingly women picking out thorns from their feet. Wonder why?? Well, Khajuraho, the name indicates khajur (dates) being grown here. Hence, the landscape had thorns all around.


Temples are grouped based on geographical locations within the village- western, eastern and southern, most visited and popular being Western group. I started with Matangeshwara temple, the only living temple of Khajuraho. Dedicated to Lord Shiva the temple houses a magnificent 8ft high yellow limestone Shivalinga. There is no entrance fee to visit this temple.


I bought ticket to visit rest of the temples in the western group. There is a plethora of guides who offer to explain the sculptures. I didn't take one. Most of the guides did this ... here is erotic sculpture and there is another one ... come on ... I will show you more ... I consider myself to be wise to have saved Rs. 500. DON'T take my word- you decide for yourself on hiring a guide :)

Lakshmana temple, the most popular for the erotic sculptures ... I sat in one corner of the high platform of the temple ... watching tourists. That is one of my favorite things to do. One couple from Spain was posing as in the erotic sculptures for pictures just for fun. There was a huge group of seniors from Maharashtra, they had a wonderful guide. He really had info to part and very fluent in language! Unfortunately, he didn't have a keen audience. Seniors were all tired of walking from the gate to the temple and also looking at sexual sculptures was little embarrassing, leave alone explanations about them. I heard another guide telling his clients ... I was a very shy man earlier and now I am  used to it, you know? it is all part of life ... Still no guide came up with info on why these sculptures on temple walls! Later I went on examining the walls ... I love to identify the divine figures. The sculptures of celestial couples and women are all around. The temple deity is Lord Vishnu, though it is called Lakshmana Temple.

Kandriya Mahadev temple is another very ornate temple which is considered to be with perfect architectural plan. There are many other well preserved temples in this western group complex dedicated to- Jagadambi, Chitragupta, Varaha, Lakshmi, Parvati and Nandi. Eastern group has temples scattered around. I visited all of them. Near southern group there is a newly excavated temple which is still in rambles. 


Most of the temples have a sculpture of a man fighting a lion. Looked like it was an icon of Chandela architecture- Lion and the Chandela Prince. There is a lot of publicity about the erotic sculptures. But, after visiting the temples people get immersed in the beauty of art and architecture. One forgets about  curiosity and realizes that Khajuraho temples are much more than just erotic sculptures.

MP Tourism organizes some cultural programs in Khajuraho for tourists- Sound and Light show and a Cultural dance show. Both are late evening programs and have entrance fees. The dance show is mainly of the tribal culture of Madhya Pradesh. There are two museums- Tribal, which displays tribal artifacts and paintings and a Archaeology museum, displaying artifacts from the past. Both are worth a visit.

I was in Kahjuraho for two days (2D/3N). First evening went around the market, and a mela which was going on, and shopping. On second day, I visited western and eastern groups of temples and in the late evening watched sound and light show. On the third day, visited southern group of temples including the newly excavated one, both museums and Chausat Yogini temple which is a bit off these groups. In the evening watched the cultural dance program. 

People of Khajuraho are very interesting. Since the inflow of domestic and international tourists is huge over a very long period of time people here have learned to speak and sell. People here talk English in  considerably posh accent. Everyone who talks to you wants to sell something ... either services or products :) Women ask you to take pictures and then ask for money. Well, nothing comes free!! I don't want to encourage begging and hence I didn't pay anyone. With some funny memories I took a leave from that tiny yet world popular village/town with magnificent temples ... Got into a bus leaving for Jhansi ... my next destination was Orchha
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Leave a comment to share your beautiful thoughts :)

Click HERE to read more articles about Madhya Pradesh.
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This post is linked to Our World Tuesday.

If you want pictures please ask me :)
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Scrapbook- A Travel Blog by Kusum Sanu is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

36 comments:

  1. Beautiful pictures. I always had this doubt of why such pictures in a temple. But the artistic work on these sculptures speaks volume on how sex was not taboo, but a divine thing!

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    1. Very true. These sculptures evoke a sense of beauty than anything else.

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  2. I agree with Anu's comment. The people in that era were so broad minded. Today if someone goes ahead and puts up such scupltures in temples or anywhere, there would be an uproar in the country, which politicans and media all over the place!

    Having said that, indeed the place is not just about the erotic sculptures..Just 10% is not kuch at all.. and yeah about the guide thing, yes I guess those guys would portray the place in a cheap way, so me too would skip them altogether.

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    1. Jenny, yes! most of the guides don't let you enjoy the whole temple, they rush as if the whole world has come to to see only those 10%!

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  3. I did Khajuraho-Orccha - Jhansi a year back ! I loved it !
    The guides at Khajuraho just wanted to show us the erotic sculptures and did not have any in-depth knowledge about the temples per se .. disappointing !

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    1. Yes! Ruchira, I too love these places. Ahh! what I thought about those guides is true!?

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  4. It was good walking down the memory lane. Indeed it is very beautiful. We had visited Khajuraho,Orcha Jansi, Delhi, Agra and Jaipur some years back, it was the beginning of summer, and there was an offer of 50% off on all Taj Hotels, we made good use of that. But in Khajuraho we had booked the MP tourist hotel that was quite cheap and also very decent , and the staff was also very good, they would come and ask us what we would like to eat and prepare it. We engaged a taxi and he introduced us to a guide, an old fellow who was quite well read and showed and explained everything properly.
    We really had a nice time there. Probably we were lucky to have faced no problem there.
    It is nice to know you too enjoyed your trip. The pictures are really good.

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    1. Thank you Rama. Glad you had a great time and a nice trip. Yeah, getting a good guide and problem-free taxi is always luck!

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  5. I assume that in many countries these temples would have been pulled down at some time for being too explicit!

    Glad they are still there.

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

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    1. Sad :( I hope things get better and we happen to enjoy the future as well as the history!

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  6. Amazing details and architecture.

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  7. What a beautiful place, the carvings and details are amazing! Thanks for sharing.

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  8. I am amazed at the details and so much beauty! The architecture is fantastic! Thanks so much for sharing, Kusum, and for the details and information you include! Fascinating! Hope your week is off to a great start! Enjoy!

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    1. Thank you Sylvia! These memes are fantastic aren;t they? We get to see rest of the world in one page :)

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  9. Such a beauty and i love the details!
    Have a nice week and warm greetings from Holland,
    Anna

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    1. Thank you Anna! You too have a great week :)

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  10. Great tour of an interesting place. Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

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  11. Such interesting sculptures. They tell you so much about the history of the people who lived during that period.

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    1. Yeah, they are very interesting and very unique subject to talk about. Thank you for visiting!

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  12. What an impressive temple, and such incredible, detailed carvings. Excellent photos!

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  13. Magnificent photography as always ~ Amazing history ~

    (A Creative Harbor) ^_^

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  14. Lovely post... brought back memories of my visit last year. Even I had not taken any guide. Much more peaceful exploring on your own! Amazing place indeed!

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    1. Thanks Deepak :) Glad my post brings back to you good and fun memories from past!

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  15. Great virtual tour for me.
    I was there many years back.

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    1. Glad you revisited Khajurao though virtually!! :) Hope you will join for more virtual journeys :)

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  16. Exquisite carvings. Wonderful post on the same.

    www.rajniranjandas.blogspot.in

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  17. verily, khajuraho is great tourist destination which known as for heritage temples.
    Great post & wonderful picture-gallery.
    Thanks.

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  18. Nice pics and great post. These temples are worth visiting. The exquisitely carved sculptures in and around the temples of Khajuraho tell us how amazing ancient Indian architecture and craftsmanship really was. Too bad not much is done to preserve or promote this art form. Thanks for sharing :)

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