Got up early(ish) to head over to the UNESCO World Heritage-listed temples of Khajuraho. There are three groups of temples in the town, famous for the Kama Sutra carvings, and we started at the western group of temples – about a 1 minute walk from our hostel. Most of the 85 temples – of which only 25 remain – were built during a century long burst from AD 950 to 1050. The area and temples became abandoned and got covered in jungle after the Chandelas people moved to an new capital. It is presumed that the isolation of the site preserved it from desecration of Muslim invaders who mutilated ‘idolatrous’ temples everywhere. The site was rediscovered by a British officer in 1838, who was carried to the ruins by palanquin bearers (a seat carried on poles on four men’s shoulders). The temples themselves are stunning. The architecture is incredible and around the outside of the temples are bands of exceedingly artistic stonework showing a storyboard of life a millennium ago – gods, goddesses, warriors, musicians and real & mythological animals. Two themes appear repeatedly – women and sex. On the Lakshmana temple in the western complex, there is a highly gymnastic orgy, including one man giving a horse ‘a good time’, whilst a shocked figure peeks out behind her hands. There are also several men and women depicted in erotic poses as well as washerwomen with wet saris clinging to their bodies, threesomes and foursomes. Some of the sculptures were so graphic that I almost felt guilty taking photos of them! However, the erotic content of some of the sculptures did not distract from the great craftsmanship required to make the temples. There were carvings of battalions of soldiers here too – apparently the Chandelas were generally at war when they weren’t inventing new sexual poses! We spent time wandering around the temple complex, admiring the different sculptures and how the sun reflecting at different angles changed the colour of the sandstone and granite. The largest temple in the town, Kandariya-Mahadev, has the most representations of women and sex, all crammed into three central bands. There are 872 statues, most nearly 1m high. After three hours of walking around, we went and got some breakfast before visiting the eastern groups which includes three Hindu temples and four Jain temples. While not competing in size and erotica with the western temples, they were still beautifully decorated with sculptures. It was at one of the Jain temples that we found the cutest puppy ever – Jayne really wanted to sneak off with him and I was so tempted too!! Headed back to the hostel for a breather from the tiring persistence of touts and got to have a hilarious FaceTime chat with Tracey – both of us needed a good giggle at that point. Went to a nearby restaurant for dinner where we walked across a rickety wooden platform to eat in a one-table tree house overlooking the western temples. Got there in time to see the light and sound show for free (which cost £5 per person inside the complex!). Headed back to the hostel around 9.30pm, enjoying the quiet and nearly empty streets!
Wednesday 9th December 2015.