The Khajuraho Group of Monuments located in the Chattarpur district of Madhya Pradesh (India) is one of the most spectacular archaeological sites which India has to offer to her visitors. The Hindu and the Jain temples located here display an array of exquisite erotic sculptures along with a detailed depiction of everyday life. Between AD 950 and AD 1150, these temples were built under the kind patronage of the Chandela rulers. Based on the Tantrik cult which was in vogue at that time, the impeccability and perfection of the sculptures are awe-inspiring. The name ‘Khajuraho’ has been derived from the Sanskrit words ‘khajura‘ meaning date palm and ‘bahaka‘ meaning thecarrier.It is one of the heritage sites of India as declared by the UNESCO. Stretched along a vast area the temples are broadly divided into three groups, western, eastern and southern. There were about 85 temples of which only 25 ( or 22) have survived the test of time and from the invasion of foreign rulers.
The outer walls of the temples contain erotic art and sculpture which have no involvement with the Gods and deities. It’s a common mistake that the erotica involves sacred heavenly figures, rather, the depictions are created featuring the ‘apsaras’ or nymphs and their male counterparts. Even there are figures which can be recognized as kings and queens. Though the sexual carvings often made people think these temples as the stone interpretation of Vātsyāyana‘s ‘Kamasoutra’ but there is hardly any link. This burst of creativity, The Khajuraho, is a splendor in itself.
It’s really a wonder how these temples had been sculptured so intricately and accurately! I was literally stunned by the marvel which Khajuraho offers. Mostly sandstone was used to build the temples. The remarkable architecture has truly made it one of the seven wonders of India. There are temples of the Chausath Yogini, Brahma, Shiva, Varaha, Surya, Vamana, and Vishnu. The technology and architecture used for building these temples were much ahead of the time.
We asked a local guide about the existence of such erotic figurines on the outer walls of ‘temples’, considered to be a holy and sanctified place. He said , ” bade bade log hazar baatein kehte hain, mujhe to yehi samajh mein aata hain ki ye tasviren kehte hain ke bhagwan ke mandir mein jaane se pehle sab basna aur kamna bahar chodke Jana chahiye”. (Though historians have opined in a hundred different ways , but I think those figures depicted on the outside walls instruct us to leave behind all the hedonistic pleasures before entering the main temple, or the sanctum sanctorum). I actually contemplated on his theory and wonder how simply he showed such hermetic profoundness!
According to another Hindu legend, the Khajuraho temples were built for Hemvati, a beautiful young woman whose beauty mesmerized the Moon God. To know more about the legend of Hemvati, you can go Here. Nowadays, The Khajuraho temple complex offers a sonne de lumiere (light and sound) show every evening with a narration by the Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan. Besides, every year the Khajuraho Dance Festival is organized at the temple complex. Khajuraho is a place where everything is told by the stone sculptures. It’s a place where the stones speak.
Khajuraho is well connected with almost all big cities of India. It is connected to Delhi & Agra with regular flights. There are regular bus services from Mahoba, Harpalpur, Satna, Jhansi, Agra and Bhopal. However, we took the rail route and hired a car from Satna (117 km). The nearest rail-head at present is Mahoba (64 km). Though Khajuraho has its own rail-head but only a few trains have a stoppage at that point.
This trip was originally published on Scattered Thoughts.