The temples of Khajuraho in India’s Madhya Pradesh province are unusual in that they are both beautiful and entertaining. This group of 1,000-year-old Hindu temples float in a wide garden; golden structures covered with the most vibrant carvings of gods and goddesses, nymphs and humans in all sorts of erotic poses – from the sexually explicit to the just damn sexy.
We arrived for both the famous Khajuraho festival of classical dancing and also the religious festival of Shivrati (free entry to the temples yay). All the people from miles around were in the village in their ‘Sunday best’ – viewing the temples (groups of teenage boys and girls giggling at the carvings) and worshipping at the temple.
Shivrati was quite a sight, with hundreds of men stripping to their pants, washing and surging up the temple stair like a river of human flesh, carrying their offerings and emerging triumphant from the exit door. And in the evening, wonder of wonders, a wedding procession to beat all wedding processions – the marriage of Shiva and Parvati. Two brass bands and extra drummers create an incredible cacophony.
Okay so I have to include at least a few photos of the carvings and sculptures Khajuraho is famous for…
There seem to be differing opinions on why the temples are decorated in this way. Some interpret them as a pathway to reach the gods, or an effort to renew Hinduism; some think they represent the decadent lifestyles of the ancient kingdom.
Regardless of the real reason, they are both beautiful and fascinating.
As well as the sexually explicit scenes Khajuraho is known for, there are also many, many exquisite carvings of everyday life. From sewing circles to parades and parties with dancers and musicians. It’s a wonderful picture of a civilisation.
The Khajuraho classical dance event is set against the backdrop of these wonderful monuments and although I didn’t understand much about the art form, I admired the passion of the performer, she was impressive in both speech and skill.
Khajuraho is a Unesco World Heritage Site and considered to be one of the “seven wonders” of India.
By Natasha von Geldern
Have you visited Khajuraho?
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