Travel Khajuraho between Art, Eroticism and the Sacred Temples

by - June 15, 2017

Every village of India, where artificial lighting is reduced or non-existent, offers the spectacle of a sky full of stars. Memories of starry skies are many in summer months by sleep outdoors, on flat roofs or in the courts of a country house. But the memory of the first Indian star leads me to Khajuraho, during one of the first explorations of the masterpieces of this land.

At Khajuraho are the famous medieval temples, such temples of love and little else. At earlier times, it was a small town which by night plunged into darkness, revealing the stars. Today there are more hotels and more lighting, but on some terraces, you can still relax after a busy day of sightseeing and enjoy the spectacle of the stars that light up one by one in the sky, maybe socializing with other travelers as you are willing to chat. If you stay long enough you'll see endless stars.

Khajuraho, the capital of the Rajput kingdom of the dynasty, due to its location, has managed to retain its historic and artistic heritage that in other places more exposed to invasions was devastated. We will visit some of the many temples, among which stands out 31 meters to Kandariya Mahadev, also known for its sculptures and decorations in which are represented scenes from the Kamasutra.

It is no coincidence that the Kama Sutra, an ancient Indian text on human sexual behavior, is considered one of the most important works in the literature of love. These aphorisms on love were written by Vatsyayana on courtship, marriage, seduction, and attraction. Sexual activities occupy only a paltry number of pages than the complete works. Yet, if we were to consider only these pages, there is an Indian city that would lend itself well to depict and tell the love of India.

A complex historical and artistic, that of Khajuraho, counted among one of the most amazing examples of Indian architecture. Khajuraho has the largest number of medieval Hindu and Jain temples in India, the fact that led UNESCO to enter the village in the list of World Heritage. Temples of Khajuraho are famous for their erotic sculptures. However, they are not present inside buildings or near to the representations of the gods, but only in the outer part of the inner wall in those temples that have two circles of walls around the building.

Khajuraho is a city of only twenty thousand inhabitants of India located in Chhatarpur District, in the state of Madhya Pradesh, about 600 km south of Delhi. And one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country, because it has the largest number of medieval Hindu and Jain temples in India, which led to the title of UNESCO World Heritage.

The name Khajuraho is derived from the Hindi word landlubbers, that is the date palm. The center of Khajuraho was enclosed by walls and gates 8, the sides of which there were two golden palm trees. Originally, there were more than eighty temples here, but only 22 have survived without damage and collapse, seizures or looting. But if there's a reason why a large number of tourists are concentrated in this city, in addition to beauty and mysticism of the temples themselves, is to find decorations Sex with which they were decorated most of the buildings.

According to some, they represent the fact that to get to the front of the deity, one should leave their own desires and their own sexual impulses outside the temple. However, only about 10% have issues related to eroticism, while most of them show people engaged in everyday activities. The elements of eroticism in the sculpture are only 10-15% of the total decorations, depicting all human beings, including changes that occur in the human body and depictions of daily activities. The main complex encompasses almost 80% of all the temples in the area and the rest are scattered all around the village.

But, as it is impossible to see, sexuality here has a fundamental role in the formation of man. According to the tantric tradition, the satisfaction of earthly desires is a necessary step for the attainment of nirvana, the ultimate purpose of life, in search of freedom from pain.

A splendid combination of architecture and sculpture, the temples of Khajuraho are especially famous, but unjustly, for the erotic sculptures that adorn them. Located about 175 Km. From Jhansi, Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh is one of the most famous architectural complexes of Indian Nagara style.

Of the 85 temples built between 950 and 1050 AD, today there are about twenty. Discovered in the jungle by the British in 1840, restoration was started only in early 1900. The construction was done by the Rajput rulers of Chandela dynasty. The dynasty reached its peak with the King Dhanga (950-1008) and survived until 1202 when the first Muslim incursions undermined their power, which then waned until the annexation of the territories to the Sultanate of Delhi in 1310.

The temples of Khajuraho, mostly sandstone, scattered in an open space with no belts, are located on large platforms with four small temples often angular and are characterized by a high base with elaborate moldings that emphasize the upward thrust. Following the geographical location, the complex of Khajuraho is divided into two sectors, the most important of which is to the west, which includes temples Varaha, Lakshmana, Kandariya Mahadeva, Mahadeva, Jagadamba Devi, the Chausath Yogini, Chitragupta, Parvati, and Vishvanatha.

The most beautiful and impressive, as well as paradigmatic of the style is the Kandariya Mahadeva with its Shikhara, the tower of 31 mt, dedicated to Shiva on a cruciform plan, which originally had four other shrines in the corners of the platform and is structured as follows:

Ardha Mandapa, entrance porch Maha Mandapa, central room 4 post-Antarala, the vestibule that precedes the Garbhagriha, the cell that houses the deity and the Pradakshina Path, the ambulatory. The Torana, portal triumphal entrance to Ardha Mandapa, the ceilings of the mandapa, the columns and the door frame of Garbhagriha, which hosts a Linga marble symbol of Shiva, have a refined carving.

Decorated with 650 statues, it is considered the masterpiece of the Chandella artists. On the outside walls, the niches are delimited by architectural elements and separated horizontally by theories of friezes, where stand out the Surasundari, the beautiful celestial nymphs who were expert in erotic games.

On the same platform, you will find the remains of the temples of Mahadeva and Jagadamba Devi, which in ancient times was not like now dedicated to Kali, goddess lady of the world, one of the aspects of the consort of Shiva, Vishnu but, as indicated by the image carved on input. The shrine of Mahadeva houses a fine statuary group consisting of a Shardula, sort of Griffin, with kneeling in front of a character.

Not far away stands the temple Chitragupta, dedicated to Surya, the sun god, whose figure is still in the tabernacle, the Garbhagriha. Notable processions of elephants and horsemen, battle scenes, hunting and loves decorating the basement. With the same structure of the double transept Kandariya Mahadeva, the temple Vishvanatha is equally dedicated to Shiva. Among the most famous female figures that adorn the nymph are playing the flute turning his back to the viewer, one that pampers a child and the one with the parrot on the back.

In front of the main entrance, the pavilion of the Nandi (bull) houses one of the most beautiful and colossal figures of the vehicle-mount of Shiva. To the southwest of this is the small temple of Parvati, dedicated to the best-known form of Shiva's wife.

The temple of Lakshmana was started by Yashovarman and finished by his son Dhanga in 954 AD. Its platform is decorated with a parade of warriors and erotic scenes. The four shrines are built to house the image of Vishnu-Vaikuntha, or with three heads with the human frontal and the other with two lions and wild boar, both avatar of the god. The friezes, the pairs of lovers, groups of statues and other decorative elements are of fine workmanship. A steep staircase leads to the entrance, adorned with a Torana consisting of a festoon of Makara, the mythical sea monsters and shielded by a large sloping.

The cell, Garbhagriha, is preceded by Chandrashila, a characteristic step crescent. Nearby, the temple Varaha houses a colossal representation of varaha, wild boar, under whose remains Vishnu incarnated to recover the earth goddess holding the muddy bottom of the ocean. Built in granite and unique austere style, the temple of Chausath Yogini, 64 divine ascetics with esoteric powers that assist Devi, another of the aspects of the consort of Shiva has 64 cells austere and unadorned that make wing to the small shrine of the goddess.

Eastern group belong to various temples Vamana, Javari, Duladeo and Chaturbhuja-Vishnu, 4 arms. Further south, with significant groups of statues, the Chaturbhuja is devoid of Maha Mandapa and exhibits a pronounced verticality. The Duladeo is characterized by a harmonious Shikhara rounded the corners by shikhara minors. The walls are alive with excellent underlying plastic groups and statues. South of Khajuraho can also visit a complex of Jain temples, the most important of which is the Parshwanatha, enclosed in a wall and topped by a Shikhara of perfect proportions.

In the evening you can expect the stars with the show of light and sound inside the archaeological site so you can see the piers of the temples lit artificially artfully (18:30-19:40 in English; 19:30-20:40 in Hindi).

Khajuraho was a journey that brought us closer to a concept of spirituality that was very different from the one told in books. Through temples and monuments of great artistic value, but especially by contact and interaction with the local people, we live personally feelings and ideas that cannot be described in words.

Khajuraho Travel Tips

Direct flights connect Khajuraho with Delhi, Agra, and Varanasi and since 2008 there comes the railway. The alternative is then always the bus or private car. There are all types of accommodation, and most of the hotels is located about one km. From the Western group of temples.

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  1. Fascinating reading, how I'd love to visit.

  2. another place that's on my travel wish list..right after hampi ;(

  3. I enjoyed reading this fascinating and informative essay. Yes, the architecture is very impressive and the figures celebrate the woman.