Khajuraho needs no introduction. By virtue of being a World Heritage site, it is quite well-known nationally and even internationally. The ideas propagated about it however, may not always be a cent percent true. And here I am to dispel some extremely wrong myths about this place.
Khajuraho gets it’s name from the ‘khajur’ (dates) trees growing here. The building of the world-famous temples here was started by the Chandelas, who were actually chieftains under the Pratihara rulers. They eventually of course, established their own kingdom, which started with Khajuraho.
The temples exist today in three groups – Eastern, Southern and Western. The eastern group of temples are all Jain temples today, though according to the guard roaming around there, two of the largest temples there were actually originally Shiva and Parvati temples. My tryst with Khajuraho started from this group of temples.
We next went on to the Chaturbhuj Temple, which is part of the Southern group of temples. The statue inside is kind of unique by virtue of having the head of Shiva, torso of Brahma and legs of Krishna.
The evening was devoted to watching the Son et Lumiere show at the main Western group of temples, while all the while shivering in the biting cold. But the show was worth freezing my toes off. Because the next day, when we actually visited the Western group of temples in broad daylight, we knew something and didn’t have to totally rely on the audio guide (which by the way has too much of music. Not something you can get over with quickly).
Need I say how fascinating the feeling was to be standing at a place you’ve heard of so much? A place which the whole world knows of and admires. And for good reason too!
The beautiful sculptures and carvings on the body of each temple, are breathtaking. I was constantly struck dumb by the sheer amount of work put into each temple and then the enormous thought put into each sculpture and carving. The temples feel alive, a feeling no amount of noise and distraction around you can take away.
Alright now, Khajuraho 101 : The erotica (which is supposedly what everyone comes to observe) makes up only 10% of the whole range of sculptures here. And the reasons for having these erotic pieces of art actually exist. they’re not there only for some perverted pleasure. There are three reasons which can explain their presence on temples. Firstly, without the presence of female beauty, a temple is incomplete, just as a house is incomplete without the presence of a woman. Secondly, when you follow the Hindu ritual of circumambulating the temple, these images and other scenes from daily life are present alongside figures of gods and goddesses so that we can move past these wordly pleasures and move forward towards the divine. And thirdly, these sexual depictions are seen as protectors of the temple. Another reason may have been the Tantric influence. Tantricism as a practise believed sexual satisfaction to be the means to attain spiritual salvation.
Hence it can be easily seen that the ‘erotica’ here is present not only because in the past, India celebrated female beauty, but also because every sculpture has significance. They were not made for any physical experience. It transcended all that.
Therefore, as you can guess, this trip was quite a learning experience for me. And I have been telling everybody off whenever they are inclined to mention how uncomfortable it must have been for me to go with my parents. Grow up people. People thousands of years ago were more mature and saw the beauty of a woman rather than objectifying her. *goes into furious feminist tirade*
There is a lot to see in the Western group.
Very near to Khajuraho, is the Panna Tiger Reserve. Here too, I had a great time (I just love jungle safaris). The elusive tiger? Remained elusive. But can you believe our luck? There were three safari jeeps roaming aroound the reserve at the same time. We even passed the other two groups. One of them saw a tiger. CAN YOU BELIEVE OUR LUCK??!! They took a right from a forked road where we took a left, “And that has made all the difference”. Robert Frost was so right. I was trying not to show how depressed I was that Lady Luck had tricked us into such a situation though I felt like weeping copious amounts of tears.
Moving on. Here are some of the beautiful specimens of nature we did see
We also saw a wild cat, many Nilgai, Sambhar, a couple of jackals, and a family of Wild boar (which refused to stand still for a picture). Our guide was pretty good. I started off very skeptically, listening to him say things like “Sshh…there’s definitely a Cheetah in there somewhere.” with a suppressed sigh and roll of my eyes. But the place where he said there was a Tiger around, actually was the place where that other lucky group saw Mr. Elusive. So I had new-found respect for our guide then. Which means we were definitely very close to seeing a tiger ad a cheetah too that day. Oh well. Gives me an excuse to go back for a safari again. Hee.
This was sort of the end of my vacation. We were off the next day to catch our train from Jhansi. The train was 3 hours late because of the oh-so-awesome Delhi fog. And then we reached Delhi at around 1:30 am and then came back home at around 2:15 am.
Home Sweet Home :)