I found it extremely difficult to write about Khajuraho, India’s famous sex temples without mentioning anything graphic or explicit. It is impossible to tone down the highly sexual content, which is most often pornographic, but it does not end there. Khajuraho is just not about sex, but about a very powerful and important civilization, it’s beliefs, achievements and finely embedded symbolic Tantric (primal nearly occult) practices. So here I am trying to go deeper into Khajuraho’s titillating historical art and unfold the mystical layers that lie beneath.
I came to Khajuraho,one early morning and immediately got accosted by hustlers. A typical touristy town it was teeming with hotels, restaurants, high priced shops and way too many touts. Everything was on offer from tuk tuks (auto rickshaws),”nice” hotels. Italian wood fire pizzas, yoga classes, male company (as a solo woman traveler I was always presumed to be lonely) and I ran inside the Hotel Surya, where I had booked a room online. Although not the cheapest one available, for 1200 INR (20 USD) it offered simple, clean and comfortable garden facing rooms, wholesome tasty food and was an oasis of peace and quiet. It was still very early in the morning and there was hardly any tourist on the streets or near the temple site. I decided to make use of the morning tranquility and explore the temples in solitude because after my days at Ken, I was in no mood to dive headlong into commercial din and bustle.
I took a quick shower and ventured out in the golden sun for breakfast. It was a beautiful morning with a delicious nip in the air, golden tendrils of sun pouring in through huge banyan trees and rural sounds of a temple town waking up filled the air. Bells tolled sweetly at a shrine nearby and a small procession of brightly clad ladies sang as they carried baskets of flowers, sweets and incense to the nearby Shiv Sagar Lake. They were celebrating a seasonal Thanksgiving festival (for bountiful harvest) and their sweet lilting Bundelkhandi voices added an unforgettable charm to that Khajuraho morning. I finished my breakfast of coffee and croissant and walked towards the Western temple complex with the voices of the singing ladies still ringing in a distance.
TRAVEL TIP – Khajuraho is divided into 3 parts – Western (the largest with most erotic carvings), Eastern (equally stunning but more sedate) and Southern (nearly obscure and often avoided by most tourists). The Western temple complex is situated in the town and it makes sense to dedicate an entire day to it.
I bought an entrance and camera ticket, armed myself with an audio guide and ventured inside one of world’s most visited archaeological site. Although I had trawled the web extensively before arriving at Khajuraho, nothing had prepared me for the overwhelming presence of these magnificent edifices. They towered proudly in the sun-ethereal, timeless and larger than life. I felt like a naughty voyeur and soon my sublime day turned tumultuous and highly erotic. Sun felt too warm suddenly and as I explored deeper and deeper into the temple complex, it got very uncomfortable in my clothes. It was very strange how characters frozen in time could affect anybody like that, but I was definitely not the only one to feel so.
A vast complex, the Western group of temples comprises of Varaha temple, Laxmana temple, Kandariya Mahadev temple, Devi Jagdamba temple, Chitragupta temple, Chousanth Yogini temple etc and all except the Mahadev and Chousanth Yogini temples (which are made of granite), fine grained sandstone was used to construct these magnificent monuments. They glowed a soft golden or blushed deep pink as the sun teased them into a playful game of hide and seek.
Khajuraho can be enjoyed best as a voyeur and it is this feeling of being privy to not only the erotica, but the emotions that seep out of the people frozen in time that heightens its pleasure. Apart from nonchalant couples engaged in acrobatic sexual positions, there were glimpses of lovers tangled into each others souls staring into each others eyes for eternity. The intensity of their gaze or the passion which throbbed in their kisses took my breath away and I actually had to take breaks from staring at them, so as to settle my beating heart. These massive structures were but a phantasmagoria of laughing, teasing, taunting souls busily caught in their web of time. Fantastically they seemed real and we, the living world were just a part of some grotesque graceless movie reel they were hardly paying attention to. They held secrets of tantra and symbols within themselves, offering us mortal fools only tiny titillating glimpses of their medieval lives. I bowed down to the grand architects, the sculptors who formed these fantasies, because they seemed beyond the capacity of mortal creativity. They were magicians and these temples were fit for descendants of the Moon himself.
Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Khajuraho is derived from the ancient word “kharjuvahaka” which literally means one who carries the date palm. It was one of world’s best kept secrets until the late 19th century, when the British engineer T.S.Burt and General Alexander Cunningham discovered the marvelous ruins among the dense jungle that claimed them and put Khajuraho on the world map. Built by the powerful Chandelas between 950 and 1150 A.D, these temples are one of the finest specimens of temple art. Initially subordinates of the Pratihara rulers, Chandelas are mythological descendants of the Moon who were great patrons of art,tantra and ruled the Bundelkhand region for 100 years.
The story of the origin of Chandelas is as captivating as the temples they created. According to the legends, one night the moon god Chandra spotted the beautiful maiden Hemvati bathing in a lake and fell in love with her. She was the daughter of a local priest and was so exquisite that he descended from his celestial abode, took form of a handsome prince and seduced her. After a passionate night of love making, at the break of dawn,Chandra reluctantly left to take his position in the sky. Before leaving he reassured her that a son would be born out of their union and he would be a great king, who would establish the powerful Chandela dynasty. It is said that Hemvati’s son Chandravarman built 85 temples at Khajuraho to atone his mother’s illegitimate love affair and thus started the passionate love story etched in stone.
Powerful, explicit and layered – Presenting the story of dates, sex and secrets of Khajuraho..each day as it went for Maverickbird.
RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE