It may come as a complete shock, but I have visited Khajuraho – its beautiful temples and monuments, several times, as a kid. My home town is very close to Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh and it was a common thing to visit Khajuraho while visiting my hometown. Though we hail from a small town called Mahoba in Uttar Pradesh, my father’s sisters are married off in a town Chhatarpur which is very close to Khajuraho – in the state of Madhya Pradesh. The temples are about 175 kilometers south east of Jhansi which used to be our disembarking station when we took the train to our hometown. So a visit to my aunt’s place was mandatory, which also meant a visit to the exotic and erotic temples was in store too. Also, Khajuraho is about 55 kilometers to the south of Mahoba, so it was forever very close to us – at heart and in distance too. It was always a fun trip, especially because I thought we were being really good Samaritans, the ones who are very religious and ensure their timely and frequent temple visits. Little did I know then why those sculptures there were such a rage! If you ask me what I felt then, they were simply beautiful I’d say.Exotic & Erotic: The Mesmerizing Temples of #Khajuraho! #IncredibleIndia #TravelwithArchie… Click To Tweet
I don’t remember the last time I went to Khajuraho. I was in school, perhaps class 4 or 5 at the most. But I definitely don’t remember well. That time one didn’t travel around with cameras. The norm was to observe experience and take in the beauty of the place and the surroundings. And in this case savor the gorgeousness of the temples, the magnificent sculptures, the artistic creativity and the spectacular architectural work, built with so much love and vigor by the Chandel dynasty of Madhya Pradesh. What is most amazing is the depiction of deriving spiritual peace through eroticism via the depictions on the sculptures all around the temples. The work is baroque and the temples so ornate, that Khajuraho easily joins the list of the most popular heritage sites of Central India. Coincidentally, the Khajuraho group of monuments are also a UNESCO World Heritage Site in India and proudly so.
The state of Madhya Pradesh is truly a land of great antiquity true home to many a relics which represent various periods of the Indian history, the Khajuraho temples being the crowning glory! The Khajuraho group of monuments is a group of Hindu and Jain temples, which are very popular for their nagara-style architectural symbolism and their erotic sculptures (now this one I’ve beaten to death already, but that’s what people remember it so distinctly for!). They are undoubtedly among the most beautiful medieval monuments in the country, built by the Chandel rulers between AD 900 and 1130. Coincidentally it was the golden period for the Chandel rulers. Apparently as history unfolds, it has been said that temple building was a tradition of the Chandel rulers and that’s why the construction period of the temples ranges from 900 to 1130 AD. It is presumed that every Chandel ruler has built atleast one temple in his lifetime. Hence all the temples that we see in Khajuraho today have not been built by just one single ruler. The dynasty tradition was followed by almost all the rulers and that makes these temples even more special.
My memories of the Khajuraho Temples
Memories made there along with my family are really special, though I do admit that I do not remember much as far as the temples are concerned. While I did admire the sculptures even then, they did not mean much to me. But there are a few things that I remember so distinctly even today. Khajuraho was always flanked by the foreign tourist population since those days. My father and I would love to say hello to them and make small talk about where they came from, what India meant to them, what Khajuraho meant to them and what their travel plans were in India. That used to be so exciting. I had never seen so many foreigners ever before, so conversing with them was fun.
After we had our fill of having fun with the tourists, we would go Ashoka-picking. The Ashoka tree is one of the most legendary and sacred trees of India. It is popularly known as the sorrow-less tree as Ashoka is a Sanskrit word that means ‘without grief’. It is a very lovely, small, erect evergreen tree, with deep green foliage and very fragrant, bright orange-yellow flowers, which later turn red. It is one of the most fascinating flowers in the Indian range of flower essences. Another significance of this tree is that Lord Buddha was born under the Ashoka tree. But what was Ashoka-picking? The tree gives out a bead kind of fruit (not supposed to be eaten), perhaps I could call it a seed. Dad and I used to collect those seeds, dry them off and make small holes through each one and then string them together – 108 beads. We used to use these for chanting during prayers.
But my third and most precious memory of Khajuraho was the Shiv temple. The Kandariya Mahadeva Temple built by King Vidhyadhara of Chandel dynasty. While you can read about the Shiv temple in the wiki link I have given, I’ll talk about what I loved about the temple and the story that we heard every time we visited. The temple is massive with very intricate carvings just like the others. But there is very little light inside the temple which gives it almost a cave-like atmosphere. My favorite place there was the central sanctum where the Shiva Linga – the phallic emblem of Shiva is deified. It is huge! Atleast that’s how it was the last time I visited. Legend says that the Shiv Linga increases in length by one rice unit. This could be completely a fairy tale recounted by the wise old folks there, but it is something I remember so distinctly, that for me it defines the Khajuraho temples and the stories associated with it. There was one time when we did go during Mahashivratri (the Hindu festival celebrated annually in reverence of Lord Shiva, also known as ‘the Great Night of Shiva’). The temple was so crowded, it was almost difficult to get a chance to go in and understandably so. But standing in that serpentine queue is my last ever beautiful memory of the Shiv temple there.
The unfortunate part about the Khajuraho temples is that they suffered destruction and disfigurement by Muslim invaders in that area. It also forced a lot of local people to leave Khajuraho. As muslim invaders had a ruling policy of intolerance for worship places of other religions so all the citizens of Khajuraho left the town with a hope that its solitude will not attract attention of Muslim invaders into the temple area and that way both, temple and they themselves will remain unhurt. Thus, from about 13th century through the 18th century, the Khajuraho temples remain in forest cover, away from popularity till they were re-discovered by the British engineer T. S. Burt. Oh well! It took the Brits to discover such an exquisite part of our national heritage!
The beautiful portrayal of women in ancient society through Khajurajo Temples
I found this amazing video on Khajuraho, which is a must watch! It talks about the dominant role of the feminine in ancient Indian society, and portrays women as much more than just a mere means of expressing love. What I love most is the depiction of how women were treated as the finest creation of God even during those ancient eras. And unfortunately, it saddens me to see how women suffer in these modern times. Nevertheless, I will not make this a rant now. Enjoy the video.
Travel Tip to Khajuraho Temples
The Khajuraho group of monuments are located in a small town called Khajuraho – which is part of the Chhatarpur district in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. Chhatarpur is about 620 kilometers (385 miles) southeast of New Delhi. Khajuraho has a small airport which is basically an air force base, but commercial flights fly into Khajuraho from Delhi, Agra, Varanasi and Mumbai. The town is also serviced by the Indian Railways, with the railway station located approximately six kilometers from the entrance to the monuments. If you prefer taking a road trip, the monuments are about 10 kilometers off the east-west National Highway 75, and about 50 kilometers from the city of Chhatarpur, that is connected to Bhopal (capital of the state of Madhya Pradesh) by the SW-NE running National Highway 86. There are many hotels including 5 star properties which now service this small town.
A visit to Khajuraho is a complete must. The next time I visit, I promise to present a lot of pictures and videos, especially of all my favorite places there. Until then, have a great time reading this post and making plans to visit this exotic place in India. And as always, I love ending with one picture for the road.
Featured Image: Flickr
One who is born with wings has many stories to tell. I was a born wayfaring story-teller! But then, how does a chirpy story-teller who also has wings on her back and wheels on her feet find a colossal audience to recount those sometimes awe-inspiring, sometimes eccentric encounters. I realised there was no other way I could narrate my tales to the world unless i started penning them down in black and white. That's how TravelwithArchie was born. I love calling myself a vagabond! One who dreams about places and then travels there to see how they look in the real world. Come, borrow my wings for a while and see the world with my lens!