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Aug 31 '20 | By Shilpkaari | Views: 909 | Comments: 0

In the temple town of Khajuraho, the writer looks beyond the erotica

Nothing I had read, or heard had prepared me for Khajuraho.

It is not hard to imagine a temple town in India: take a few ancient sandstone temples, fill them up with religious crowds, add a handful of foreign tourists; line its streets with cheap hotels, dot its squares with beggars and touts; finish off with piles of garbage and a few stray animals. This is the picture in my mind when my train arrives at the Khajuraho junction on a crisp, cold morning.

Standing tall in a sprawling lawn against a sparkling blue sky, the seven main temples of Khajuraho together constitute the western group and are a part of the UNESCO world heritage list. More than a thousand years old (the earliest are supposed to have been built around 900 AD), the temples lie scattered, some at an arms distance from the gate, others at the far end of the compound.

The temples in Khajuraho share both design and layout. They are built on a high plinth, with multiple ascending spires, which are believed to be inspired by the peaks of the Himalayas. The larger temples, like the Lakshmana, Vishvanatha and Kandariya Mahadeva, are accompanied by smaller temples; the not so large ones stand alone. Their interior and exterior — and sometimes the platforms too — are adorned with figures of gods, goddesses, nymphs, humans and animals. It is among these depictions of life that the famous — or infamous — erotic sculptures can also be spotted.

Although erotica forms less than 10 per cent of Khajuraho’s rich sculpture heritage, it remains the most popular aspect of the temples. Whether it is the guide who promises to show you the ‘important points’, or the souvenir shops in and around the complex that sell ‘kamasutra’ as books, cards, magnets, or even pens, everyone wants to cash in on the sexual element of the temples. Guides can be seen highlighting the poses and postures to their awestruck clients; tourists, in turn, ensure they have every sculpture – and pose – safely captured on their cameras.


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