Soaring sandstone buildings set amid beautiful green lawns, giant statues of Hindu gods watching over the holy site, some of the best temple art in the world, and a finely sculpted frieze depicting intimate man-on-horse relations.
As a late addition to our India itinerary–squeezed between visits to the urban sprawls of Agra and Varanasi–Courtney and I decided to spend four days in the quiet village of Khajuraho.
The area is famed for its massive Hindu temples, built by the Chandela Dynasty in the 9th century. Eighty-five of these structures originally covered the grounds, all created in the relatively short span of 100 years. The monuments remained unknown to the outside world until the British, led by locals, “discovered” them in 1838. What they found hidden in the jungle shocked them, not because of the grand scale of the 25 remaining temples, but rather because of the detailed erotic sculptures adorning the walls.
Scholars have debated the purpose of these suggestive images, which mingle with simple scenes of daily life and carvings of the gods, but no single conclusion has been reached. Some theories state the sculptures were:
-A “how to” guide for teenage boys.
-The kamasutra positions carved into stone.
-An appeasement to the “voyeuristic” rain god Indrah, to protect the temples from lightning.
-A depiction of tantric practices–giving in to primal instincts in order to achieve enlightenment.
-A way for the worshipers to indulge their “unclean” thoughts before entering the holy buildings.
Below is a gallery from our walk and bike ride in and around these sensual/spiritual/inspirational temples.