Epic Temples of Breathtaking Beauty

One can use any number of adjectives for this cluster of monuments in Madhya Pradesh. The first to come to my mind was Spectacular! After all neither I’d seen something as out-of-this-world before, nor many structures in the world can boast of this level of painful perfection in art…

My travel holiday to Khajuraho was all about learning and gaining knowledge. Traversing the length and breadth of the temple complexes was an overwhelming experience, as if they were screaming – The Exotic East. And the fact that I am petrified of routine, this trip very well interrupted it!

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An apsara or celestial beauty. Observe the other ones on the right

History puts these structures somewhere between 10th and 11th centuries. The Temples of Khajuraho, commissioned by Chandela Kings, come under UNESCO World Heritage tag; and boy, are they a fine specimen of advanced architecture! A keen eye would notice the spires (shikaras) of temples, that were made to resemble the rising peaks of Himalayas.

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I laughed hard looking at this one: An elephant looks engagingly at a copulating figure

Khajuraho’s erotic carvings would definitely make some of us feel bashful and almost embarrassed. But when the audio guide told me that they formed only 10 per cent of the carvings, then it dawned on me that how false hullabaloo made these temples more famous for the erotica more than anything else… definitely there’s more deeper things to understand and appreciate here

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Varaha Temple on the left enshrines a huge monolithic sculpture of Varaha, the boar incarnation of Lord Vishnu

What most visitors don’t know about these carvings is that in entirety these are quite philosophical and take a visitor through the whole life-cycle, from birth to death and everything in between – wars, conjugal life, spirituality, cultural elements of dance  and music, feasting, etc. Set in stone for eternity, the men and women are shown getting intimate, which is not considered a taboo but one of the most fundamental realities to be  celebrated.

Other major theme of the carvings is about Indian god and goddesses, nature, animals and hunting. Both mortal and immortal are part of the carvings. Common nartaki (dancer) to celestial apsara (beautiful-maiden). Female form was always considered auspicious in Hindu mythology, and over subsequent eras, they have assumed different interpretations.

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Showing celebration of human form and beauty

The temple formations made from sandstone or rocks, are divided into three groups – eastern, western and southern. Out of this Western Group is most popular having Lakshman, Kandariya Mahadev, Chaunsath Yogini temples.

Sometimes I felt so overpowered by the sheer brilliance of the intricate carvings and got so lost in the explanation of the same, playing on my audio guide, that it took me a lot of time to cover the whole western complex.

The Eastern group has Jain temples, and their name only leave a regret in my memory as I couldn’t visit these.

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Lord Ganesha

Chandelas built 85 temples out of which only 22 survived, and very intriguingly rest got buried under and eventually were damaged. It was a British army engineer, Captain T.S. Burt, who discovered these structures in 1838!

Constructing something of this stature and grandeur was possible since the kingdom was rich, and it was a common thing in India to depict the legacy of their culture on walls of temples and monuments.

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A mythical figure of an animal carrying the structure on its shoulders

My advice to anyone who plans to visit this destination thick with antiquity, spare a minimum of 2 days just for the temples. Rest of Khajuraho will take another 2 days, including Panna, waterfalls, Ken river and museums.

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You can’t miss the mind-blowing intricate carvings on Lakshman Temple
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