During the start of my trip in India, I met a couple of backpackers who mentioned having been or were planning to go to Khajuraho. It was not originally part of my itinerary but since Khajuraho was located along my intended route, I might as well check the place out.
I later learned that this small rural village was home to a group of temples included in UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites. I was already 50% convinced but after seeing pictures of Khajuraho’s temples, I knew I just had to visit.
Intricately carved on temple walls at Khajuraho were row upon row of sculptures depicting orgies, bestiality, and other erotic scenes. The place seemed like a unique and must-visit attraction in India. Indeed, it was!
Khajuraho served as the capital of the Chandela Dynasty for a brief period but for the most part, it was considered as a religious center.
Three main temple groups in Khajuraho survived until today. These temples were built between 950 and 1050 A.D. and are still considered highly sacred. In fact, many of them are actively used for worshiping some of the most revered Hindu gods, various lesser Hindu deities, and Jain Tirthankaras.
I explored Khajuraho’s temples with my new friend Martin, a Varanasi local that I met on the train. We walked to the Western Temple Group, which was a stone’s throw away from our hostel, Hotel Yogi Lodge.
The western temple group was the one most known for blush-inducing erotic sculptural art. The expansive complex consisted of several towering stone-built temples spread across a beautifully landscaped park. Each temple was literally covered from the base up with intricate sculptural carvings.
The sexual art could be found outside the temple or even near the deities but never inside the holy sanctum. Actually, only 10% of the total scenes on display portrayed erotic themes. The majority depicted facets of Hindu religion, mythical creatures, or everyday life of the people of ancient Khajuraho.
That 10%, however, was notorious enough to grab attention. There were images of extraordinarily large breasted diving beings in sensual poses, sexy women and well endowed men in various sexual positions, and orgies displaying superhuman feats.
There was even one supposed image of a man penetrating a horse that I wasn’t able to find because we ran out of time and, regrettably, didn’t hire a guide.
The real reason and nature regarding the infamous erotic sculptures at Khajuraho remains a mystery. Though, many theories exist.
Many believe the sex-related roles are said to follow the holy Kama Sutra, the ancient Hindu text on sex, while others believe they are unrelated and were made to illustrate Tantric sex as an important part of human development and the attainment of the divine.
Others thought that they were constructed to lure men and women back to the family and worldly life, away from the strict practices preached by the Buddha that were gaining favor with people of that time.
In any case, I was constantly in awe while standing in front of Khajuraho’s temples and more so while scrutinizing the mesmerizing details. Just imagining the massive effort, skill, and artistry required to build these ancient monuments had me blown away.
I only got to visit the western temple group during my overnight visit in Khajuraho. Although the other temple groups were easily reached by bicycle, I didn’t have enough time to see them. I am hoping there would be a next time.
After our temple run, Martin invited me to for chai tea at the roadside while chatting about life and enjoying what was left of the twilight.