In Madhya Pradesh, in the Bundelkhand region, lies a charming town centred around exotic temples that are more than a 1000 years old
BY NATASCHA SHAH
I was in Khajuraho last month, to attend the annual cultural event- The Khajuraho Dance Festival, which took place inside the Western Group of Temples complex after many years of having taken place outside. Picture mesmerising dance performances with the magnanimous Kandariya Mahadev and Devi Jagdambi temples and the twinkling stars in the night sky, as the backdrop. Tourists, locals and patrons of art attended the festival in large numbers and enjoyed the wonderful offerings which extended to handicrafts and local cuisine. I picked up some beautiful stoles and showpieces made by the local artisans and also had the chance to try some of the local dishes like Moong Dal fritters called Mangodi and Bottle Gourd halwa or Lauki Ka Halwa- which was so good!
The next morning I set out to explore the Western Group of Temples and was awestruck by the sculptural wealth at display. From an animated array of Gods and Goddesses to mythical creatures, lions and snakes, women with the most delicate features, ostentatious outfits and smart accessories (one of them was carrying a purse identical to the one I carry now, more than 10 centuries later!), to erotic sculptures, the walls of the temples are alive with animated stories.
The Chandelas built 85 temples between 950 AD and 1050 AD, marking the culmination of the Nagara style of architecture. Only 25 exist now and have been preserved by the archeological survey of India and UNESCO. They were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986. Based on their physical location, they have been organised into three groups- Western, Eastern and Southern.
These temples are an ode to nature, to its beautiful creations and to bodily pleasures as a means of opening the chakras (energy points). The Chandelas stressed upon family life and didn't want people to leave everything and take to worshiping Gods. Hence the temples were adorned with reminders of the pleasures of married life.
My guide informed me that each sculpture was built in a day! The attention to detail can be seen in the curves and lines on the female body and the expressions and nuances of anatomy in various positions and moods depicted in these art forms.
The Western Group is the main set of temples and is open from 10 am to late evening. A light and sound show happens after sunset, in both Hindi and English.
As soon as I walked out of the temple complex to head to my favourite place for a coffee in Khajuraho- Raja Cafe, I saw the latest addition to the plethora of things one can do here- A Segway tour! K Segway, founded by Ranvir Singh and Akhilesh Mishra, offers Segway tours of the town. It surely is a fun way to enjoy the beauty and history and adds an element of adventure to your trip! I tried it. After overcoming the initial fear of falling flat on my face, there was no slowing down! It is a lot of fun and I highly recommend it.
The best way to end the day is by grabbing a bite at one of the many cafes and taking a stroll of the market. I would advice shopping from government run, Mrignayani Emporium.
The Lalit Temple View Khajurhao. Click here to know more
Bundela Resort Khajuraho. Click here to know more