Khajuraho can be a pilgrimage where divinity and sensuality merge. After a visit to the temple city, Sneha Gusain finds her idea of spirituality redefined
As the first rays of the sun fall on the Khajuraho temples, the clanging of metal bells ring the air. It is a call to the rushing Vaishnavas to pay their daily respect to Shiva at the Matangesvara Temple. Meanwhile, a flock of birds chirp away forming rings in the sky. A strong cup of steaming tea adds to the atmosphere making it just right to kick start your day.
Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh transports you to another world far away from the hustle and bustle of urban India. With its rich flora and fauna and expanding biodiversity, it is a perfect place for holidaying.
To begin with, you could ride on a bicycle around the town. Or sit under the shade of numerous trees. Maybe, you might feel like writing a poem. Or you could ponder over life’s great mysteries. Many just choose to sit under the shade of a temple, looking at other sun kissed temples admiring its grandeur.
Legend has it that Chandra, the moon God, once seduced a beautiful woman who was bathing in a stream. Chandravarman was soon born to her. After he grew up, Chandravarman built the first temple of Khajuraho. He named it Laxmana and dedicated it to Lord Vishnu hoping that it would redeem his mother’s adultery.
The Khajuraho temples built under the reign of the mighty Chandella kings, the 1,000 year old architectural masterpieces are among the most popular tourist destinations in India. Included in UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites, these temples were built over a span of 200 years, from 950 to 1150. Among the 85 Hindu temples, only 25 now remain in a state of conservation.
The temples of Khajuraho are split into three groups: Eastern, Western and Southern. Among them, the Western Group is most popular as it has some of the finest architecture like the Jagdambi Temple, Kandhariya Mahadev and Lakshmana Temple.
Interplaying passion and devotion, the temples are rare pieces of beauty where the earthy, divine and sensual come together.
Kharjuravahaka, the ancient name of Khajuraho, itself includes this rare confluence of beauty. According to Prof. Devangna Desai, the name is not only related to date palm trees but also to lord Shiva (Hindu god of destruction) and the Chausat Yoginis (celestial damsels).
Each temple is embellished with intricate carvings of gods, goddesses, warriors, musicians, real and mythical animals and of course, the celestial damsels. These characters are not far away from their reality. Instead, each character comes alive, vibrating with a rare exuberance of human warmth as they artistically turn and bend to narrate the epic saga of the forgotten age.
The Tribhanga form of architecture is effectively used by the Master Sculptor as he shows things like money, politics, power, marriage, dance, music, prayer, rituals and so on that reflects the true sense of life as we know it.
Khajuraho, the land of the Kamasutra, seems to indicate about clandestine practises of Tantra and its parallel peaceful existence with Hinduism and Jainism.
More often than not, this cultural centre of Bundelkhand, is recognized with nudity, alternate sexual practises and other kinds of extreme debauchery. A visit to this exquisite land makes you realise that portrayal of physical gratification in their carvings just contributes to one tenth of the true picture.
According to Desai, sexual postures were an eminent part of the architecture of the temples. The historian speaks of marriage and procreation as a primary motive of their life, and therefore sexual images becoming a good luck charm. Also, yoga and sex was seen as one of the ways of attaining a communion with the almighty.
Such secular beliefs and their thriving co-existence with other sects will make you think about the post-modernist crisis of a peaceful community living.
The best season for visiting is from October to May. One person can effortlessly enjoy with 4000 rupees for four days.
Bus, trains and flights are available in Khajuraho.
It is advisable to stay in mid range hotels for a beautiful night view of the temples. Recommended hotels are as follows: Medium ranges Casa De William and Yadav lodge which can cost you upto 700 per day. Above that will be Hotel Surya and Hotel Zen which can cost you upto 1200 per day. Posh hotels like The Radisson and The Lalit Temple View are also available.
Shops near the Western group of temples sell stone and bronze sculptures, handicrafts and gems. Crude plaster of Paris and clay replicas of Khajuraho are available everywhere. Mrignayani, Madhya Pradesh government shops, are an easy bet for the authentic gift items.
The city also offers its travellers a chance to engage with spirituality that comes with Yoga. Also available are Ayurogyama that include ayurvedic oil massages.
Cycles can be hired from Belal Bikes.
Shahrukh Internet Cafe will keep you connected. Prices are economical.
Shilpgram, Kandaria Art and Culture and Archaeological Museum are a few entertainment options available for you. The Light and Sound show organised in the evening, is the only chance to see temples well lit at night. During the months of February and March, the western group of temples provide a backdrop to the annual Khajuraho Dance Festival.
Avoid touts. They are everywhere and will sell anything to you.
Most of the locals understand at least two foreign languages. It can be a boon and a bane.
Know the price of everything on sale. You could be cheated for something as simple as tea and bread.
You can bargain everywhere, but don’t try it at restaurants.
Avoid staying out alone after 9 pm as the city sleeps early.
For help, policemen are stationed at regular intervals. The Madhya Pradesh Tourism Centre is near the western group of temples.
Where to eat and where to eat
1. Raja’s Cafe: Continental, desserts, etc.(Avoid Indian or Chinese). Price (for two): INR 500
2. Mediterrano: Italian and Mexican. Price (for two): INR 400
3. Madras Coffee House: Authentic south Indian food. Price (for two): INR 200
4. Singh’s: Snacks (Cheese Omelette is a must try). Price (for two): INR 70
1. Comfortable clothes
2. Sunglass and cap
3. Slippersand joggers
4. Lonely Planet travel book
5. Mosquito repellent cream