It was a picture of a beautiful sandstone sculpture of an Indian dancer with seductive eyes  and the stories of the temples that prompted me to fly all the way to India in search of Khajuraho.  Although this was my first trip to India, I felt very much at home the moment I stepped out of the airport, as though I’ve been there before, and the smells also seemed familiar.  I was in high spirit as the taxi, with loud Bollywood music blaring ( so loud I couldn’t hear myself  ), took us to the city centre of New Delhi.

From New Delhi, my travelling companion and I travelled by train and connect by bus to get to Khajuraho. From there we hired a rickshaw to take us around the temples. There are easier ways to get to Khajuraho, but well,  the joy of travelling is as much in the journey, being able to interact with the locals, enjoy their hospitality and get an insight into their culture, as in the destination. 

 
Temples of Khajuraho
 

These temples, built between 900 and 1050 AD, are designated by UNESCO as a world heritage site and currently only about 20 of these remain intact.  They consist of Hindu  as well as Jain temples. The exterior walls of these temples are similarly covered by intricate sculptures and carvings of beautiful dancers, mythical animals, warriors, musicians, deities and scenes of daily activities of the time like hunting, cooking, merry-making and explicit love scenes.

We only covered 5 of the bigger and more well preserved temples.  My personal favourite  are the western group of Hindu temples.  They are one of  the bigger and most well preserved temple complex of the lot.  It was love at first sight when I saw these beautiful sculpture-covered sandstone temples.  The sculptures and carvings were painstakingly hewn from blocks of sandstones which were then used to build the temple’s exterior walls.  They cover the base of the temple’s exterior walls and stretches right up to its spires, covering every nook and corner with sculptures big and small. 

 
  

The western group of  temples

 
Love scenes set alongside deities and
daily activities
.
 
  Apsara dancers, mythical animals and amorous couple
adorn the temple walls.
 
Although these temples are close to 1000 years old, details such as jewellery,  patterns and beadings on the saris can still be seen clearly.  Sculptures of bosomy woman, with seductive eyes applying make-up, combing their hair, painting her feet, embracing a lover, explicit love scenes  are set alongside scenes of daily activities, deities and mythical animals. Just as you thought that you have seen all the sculptures on the walls, a sculpture of an amorous couple making love in the most acrobatic of positions, an apsara dancer or a beautiful woman removing a thorn from her feet, tucked away in some corners which you haven’t discovered, will catch your eyes.  Then you will want to start inspecting the sculptures all over again!  It is addictive.
 

Left : Vishnu & his consort Lakshmi    Center : A woman applying
kohl to her eyes
    Between:  Vishnu and the woman : Mythical beast-Shardul

 
    
           Musicians at work

  A woman removing a thorn
from her feet
One of the many erotic scenes
 

Most temples in India and Nepal have some erotic carvings or drawings, but those in Khajuraho are the most extensive.

I spent 3 days at the western group of temples and still could not get enough of it.  I could just sit there in the cool December air and be completely mesmerized by the exquisite sandstone artwork.  It was fortunate too that we were in Khajuraho in December, the winter month.  Winter here is pretty mild and we could spend an entire day out at the temple.  It would have been impossible to do so during the scorching summer.  So every morning, as soon as the sun is up our rickshaw rider, Nathan, would be waiting for us at the compound of the inn at which we were staying.  He would drop us at the western temples and then come by to fetch us in the evening when the sun was beginning to set.

On the last day of our visit, to our surprise, Nathan invited us to his home for lunch. We were hesitant to accept but he insisted and took us there in his rickshaw.  Home to Nathan is a tent where he live with his wife and 4 children.  They seldom have rice as it is a luxury but that afternoon his wife served us rice and they never asked for anything in return.
This tent is home to 2 adults and 4 children