Travel Khajuraho between Art, Eroticism and Temples
It is a new morning. The first thing we do, is breakfast to get strength, to face this new adventure. We take suitcases and check out. As we finished, a guy from the agency was waiting for us to accompany us to the train station. Due to the cancellation of the flight, we will move to Khajuraho by train and car.
We set course for the Benares train station. In the city, there are two train stations. One is Vanarasi Junction in the heart of the city, which in this case will be ours and Mughal Sarai Junction about 15 km east of the city. Ours is quite large and is located about four kilometers from the ghats of the old city, between the neighborhoods of Cantonment, Jaitpura and Lahurabir.
Once we arrived and entered with every step we take, it overwhelms me. First we have to go pulling the bags, climbing a network of stairs to be able to pass to our platform. Underneath we see an endless number of the oldest trains that we can imagine. I saw those trains came full of people, completely crowded, standing as they could, with small windows, and three horizontal bars.
At that moment, I see that a train stops on one of the platforms. Suddenly, a tide of people rushes uncontrollably and without order to the door still open. My face suddenly blanched completely. Thousands of thoughts crossed my mind of how I was going to deal with this situation. But luckily the guide reassured me at once.
It is fascinating to see the wonderful color that my eyes saw, the women each more beautiful and elegant. On the other hand the men, wear their best clothes, that look new and bright shoes, all of them very neat. Although due to the crowd and the tremendous heat the smell was quite strong, I can not stop taking pictures.
It's almost 10:15 in the morning and our train is here. The guide accompanies us to our seats. The guide tells us that the journey takes about 6 hours. We have to be vigilant when we get to the Satna stop to get off. There will be another guide, who will wait for us to take us to Khajuraho by car.
In each seat they leave a blanket, a sheet, and a small pillow. There is air conditioning and a small fan in the middle of the two bunk beds. We put the two large suitcases under the bed. The train starts its way. We decided to see the photos of the camera and begin to erase those that are not worth.
The hours begin to pass, the families that are at our side, begin to remove from a bag a variety of all kinds of foods and thermos with fresh drinks. That's when we realized the big mistake. No one told us that on the train, there is nowhere to buy anything to drink or eat.
In some of the stations where it stopped, there were some guys who carried behind their backs, in a kind of huge net baskets, a variety of bags of chips and cookies. The problem is that it is for a very short time and we are afraid that we do not have time to go back up. Suddenly, at one of the stops, a boy climbed up with a big basket. At that moment the eyes jump with joy, as we could buy some food.
Until that moment, our supplies were two bottles of water and a kind of candy, which I had bought at the airport in Nepal. We bought small packs of various chips and a packet of cookies. It served to make the trip more enjoyable and kill the bug a bit. After 6 hours of walking, the ticket checker comes to tell us that we are arriving at Satna.
We prepare our bags and once it stop we get off the train. The station was completely full of people everywhere. This one is much dirtier than Benares. Here there are also cows wandering. Immediately we saw our guide who was already waiting for us. He tells us to leave the station. We got out of the station and as we left the chaos is overwhelming. We see our van, load all our things and we set course for Khajuraho.
Once the car is in motion we ask our guide the possibility of stopping to buy something to drink and eat because we have 3 hours to get to our destination. Then he tells us that there is no problem. We're going to make a stop at a restaurant so we can eat. It is a restaurant, at the foot of the road, which also has a hotel. We ordered a sandwich.
Again we set course for our next destination. We are separated by only 110 km, but the road if we can call it that, is quite bad. There are many sections of earth with stones, large holes. The animals in the middle of the road mean that the speed cannot be very high. Even so, I have to admit that I loved the trip. From the front of the van the views are incredible, as we see India in all its purest state.
We cross small towns where we see, the real life of these people. We see children in the schoolyard doing gymnastics, women in the markets doing their shopping. There are merchants with their stalls, appliance businesses, clothing stores with all their samples in sight. The colors invade us completely.
The sun begins to fall, dyeing everything in a golden color. The houses we see are quite simple, small and even look old. Even so, in many of them, large antennas emerge, something that also draws my attention enormously. The guide explains that they are people who are well-off financially.
The route turns out to be the most varied. Besides going through different towns, we went through a natural park that really looks very good. Some animals come to the road to greet us. We see some monkeys, some peacocks and even got to see a deer. As we are passing through an area of the park, the van stops, as before us passes a small tornado to which the whirlpool is perfectly visible.
The sun keeps accompanying us at all times and I cannot stop taking pictures. It has me completely hypnotized. The driver realizes that with such a bump it is quite complicated to take pictures. To my surprise he stops the car and looks at me as if telling me to take more photos. I take a couple of photos and continue on our way. It's already night, when suddenly we pass by the Khajuraho airport and yes, it is completely closed.
We finally reach our destination, when our guide offers us the possibility of going to get a Ayurvedic massage. So before going to the hotel we stopped at a massage center. They explain to us the different types of massages that there are and we opted for the one hour of full body.
The first thing they give us before we start is a kind of wide strip with two thin strips to tie. I cannot avoid that I have a fit of laughter, as it is tiny. They begin the massage for the head including the hair, throwing oil, flowers and plants. They continue on the face and then the whole body and use different oils and spices.
They all smell amazingly good. There comes a time, I have to confess that I fall asleep. After 1 hour, the guy tells me that it is over and with gestures he invites me to follow him so I can take a shower and remove all the remains of oil and others. Once finished and already dry and dressed they even offer a hair dryer.
We go to our hotel. The hotel is not very big, but it has all the services, including outdoor swimming pool. It is nice and cozy. The room is super spacious with a huge bed, a small sofa with a small table and the bathroom with a great shower. We leave things and go to dinner at the restaurant. It is already very late but they still prepare us dinner.
We ordered rice and butter chicken. In the dining room, we meet with a small group of very nice and smiling men. It's time to go to bed and rest. Tomorrow we'll have one of the most complete days.
As always we wake up extremely early. The first thing we do is have breakfast to gather strength to enjoy this new day that awaits us and that will be quite varied. Once our guide finish breakfast he already awaits us at the reception. We head for the erotic temples that are about 10 minutes by car from the hotel. As always we do not have to worry about buying tickets that are included in the price of the circuit.
We enter and what amazes us most is how well preserved they are. They have been declared a World Heritage Site since 1986. The builders were the rulers of the Chandela dynasty. They have great influence of Tantrism, a doctrine in which the erotic becomes a philosophical theme whose goal is the sublimation of sexual relations or Maithuna.
The women are seen as the reincarnation of divine energy or Shatkti. It is also possible that the sculptures have influence of the Kamasutra, the famous treatise on erotic art written by Vatsyayana in the times of the Gupta dynasty. At first there were a total of 80 temples but now 22 remain well preserved. They were forgotten by the vegetation until in 1838 the British discovered them again.
The materials used for its construction are from the Panna area and are blocks of granite and arsenic stone. They are built on platforms, which due to their width, give the feeling of being a terrace that facilitated the rituals of prayer that the faithful should do before entering them. The towers, are Sikhara type, with cone-shaped termination, with a stone structure called Amalaka. In each one there are small, highly ornamented floors.
In the ornamentation there are images of animals, daily life including those of the court, images of gods. There are images of flowers and geometric shapes and couples in love position. The temples are divided into two groups is east and west group. The first ones we are going to visit are those on the west side.
The ground is closed and there are many trees and a lawn of a green color that illuminates everything. There is an absolute silence. It gives us a feeling of peace and absolute harmony that only the infinite number of birds that meet there with their harmonic songs break. So we approach the first temple, and a wonderful surprise awaits us.
In a temple that is outside the enclosure, but that can be seen from within, a group of three women goes down the stairs. They have their heads covered with a handkerchief. On one of their arms they carry small plastic baskets of cheerful colors, in which they carry containers with water.
In the other hand they carry a kind of earthenware vessel with which they drop threads of water in their path. The guide explains that they are doing a prayer and offering ritual. I love seeing them. I cannot stop photographing them. They smile at me as if giving me their consent, I thank them. Once they finish we continue with the visit.
The first is the Lakshmana Temple. It is believed that it was built by King Lakshavarman who reigned between 925 and 950, making it one of the oldest temples. Built on a platform three meters wide, the temple is accessed by a finely decorated staircase. There are also some small temples in each corner of the platform. The sculptures on the exterior walls depict scenes of daily life, warriors and erotic scenes. It is dedicated to the Vishnu.
The next one is the Varaha Temple. It is located opposite the Lakshmana and is small in size. It contains a statue of the Varaha, incarnation of Vishnu in the form of a boar. The image of the boar as soon as we see it gives us the feeling that it is made of bronze or metal but it is actually made of stone. It is completely carved, with nothing less than 672 images of gods and at its base has a snake under it.
The following is the Matangesvara Temple dedicated to the god Shiva. At present it is still a place of worship. It is located on a quite high platform which is accessed by a very decorated staircase. We continue with the Vishvanatha Temple. It was built by King Dhangadeva who reigned between 950 and 1002. Its ceilings are richly decorated with floral designs.
The interior rooms contain some of the best preserved sculptures in the entire complex. We marvel at each temple we see. The amount of details in the images are incredible, their clothes with their folds, the facial features and the body especially of women. Originally the temple had an emerald linga. It is also worthy to admire the elephant and the lion that line the stairs of rise
We continue with the Nandi Temple that share platform with the Vishvanatha. Its roof is pyramidal. Inside there is a statue of Nandi, the bull that serves as saddle for the god Shiva. Next with the Kandariya Mahadev Temple. It is the most spectacular of all the temples of Khayurajo besides being the largest. It is also dedicated to Shiva and was built on a platform 3 meters high.
Built in the middle of the 11th century, its tower measures 30 meters. Its decoration consists of 872 different statues. It draws a lot of attention to its tower with a height of 31 meters on which 84 replicas are smaller. On the platform there is a large sculpture of Ganesha without a head with a rat between his legs.
There are many figures of animals, gods, images of battles, but the most abundant are erotic. We must untangle the complexity of their positions, as our guide says is almost impossible. We continue with the Devi Jagadambi Temple. It is smaller and dedicated to Kali, its decoration contains sculptures of women performing daily actions. This is dedicated to Parvati. In it are the figures that are better carved.
Finally we go to Chitragupta Temple. Inside there is a statue of Surya, the sun god, riding in his car pulled by seven horses. The complex they are in is really wonderful. There are some squirrels and lots of birds. I am lucky to be able to photograph some. For the time of the year in which we are, we are the only tourists to be able to enjoy the place without crowds or queues.
An important fact when we visit the temples, is that throughout the site one cannot smoke and to enter each of them we will have to do barefoot. We leave to be able to visit the temples of the east group. For this we got on the van. The distance is not much but the heat is already starting to tighten. This group is of Jain temples.
Our guide explains to us the philosophy. There are two groups, one in which they wear white tunic and are called Sostengra and the other are nudists and receives the name of Divangra. They do not have gods but a kind of prophets that are called Yinas.
We begin with the Parshvanatha Temple, which contains very few sculptures of lovers and many of women playing various musical instruments or performing actions such as makeup or bathing. It also has a sculpture of the Shiva and Parvati. It is dedicated to the remaining 23 prophets. Here there are not so many erotic images.
The images that stand out most are the woman who pampers a child, those of Vishnu and Laksmi and the woman who writes a letter. We continue through the Adinath Temple that only has one tower and it is small. This is dedicated to a single prophet who gives his name. Again we can enjoy this time in total exclusivity. But I have to confess that we like more those of the other group.
We go to the hotel to pick up our luggage when we take the opportunity to have a refreshing snack. We go back to the van to set course for our Orchha visit.