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.
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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