Our five and a half hour road journey back to Khajuraho from Bandhavgarh wild life park, went very smoothly. We were still talking about the two tigers that we had seen. We had an excellent driver whom we trusted and that is not the case with many Indian drivers and we thoroughly enjoyed the Indian countryside, once again. Seeing the many villages, towns, farms and industry was really interesting. Khajuraho, now a UNESCO world heritage site, is a very busy tourist destination and our hotel was full of large groups of Americans, Chinese, French and Israelis. It was not really our sort of hotel but a few focused complaints seemed to go a long way, plus we were presented with a nice bottle of Chablis for our efforts!
After breakfast, we headed off for a half day sightseeing of Khajuraho. We were met by our familiar driver and local guide and headed off to see the ancient temples. We were once more surprised and delighted. Firstly, we visited the main western group of temples, many of which were over a thousand years old and had become lost to the jungle until they were rediscovered by a British officer in colonial times. The temples are now set in a well-preserved park and it is both peaceful and beautiful to see. The first temple that we explored was Lakshmana Temple – it is one of the earliest and also one of the best preserved temples with fine sculptures of Celestial maidens, scenes of the battles, hunting & the processions. These temples are World famous for their one thousand-year old sculptures of erotic art. The second temple that we explored in detail was the 32 meters high, Kandariya Mahadev Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva – this is recognized as the best example of Chandela architecture, also with the most erotic and exotic sculptures imaginable for that period and they cover the temple exterior from top to bottom and front to back. Most of the temples were built of sand stone but we also visited Chausat Yogini Temple, the oldest of the surviving temples of Khajuraho and the only temple built in granite – this temple dedicated to Goddess Kali and has some of the finest sculptures including processions, dancing-girls, elephant fights and hunting scenes.
After a couple of hours in the western temples, we went by car to view the eastern group of mainly Jain temples. Our guide told us that the Supreme Court had recently confirmed that Jainism is a sect of Hinduism, and not a separate religion. We learned that Jainism was created over three thousand years ago and predated Buddhism which also originated in India, circa two and a half thousand years ago. We visited the Parsvanath Temple, the largest and finest of the Jain shrines at Khajuraho – it depicts sensitive art. These days Jains are probably the wealthiest group in India. One of the reasons that Jainism flourished is that it rejected the caste system of the Hindus, which rigidly classified society into:
- Brahmin (priests, scholars and teachers)
- Kshatriyas (warriors, administrators and law enforcers)
- Vaishyas (agriculturists, cattle raisers and traders)
- Shudras (service providers and artisans)
- Dalits (untouchables)
India is the largest democracy in the World and when it became independent in 1948, the constitution offered equality of sex, race and social background, so the caste system became illegal. However, on our journey, we realized that the caste system was still very much practiced, just beneath the surface. For example, arranged marriages are generally to the same class and, of course, most marriages are still arranged.
In the afternoon, we relaxed and had an Ayurveda massage – this massage is from the South of India in Kerala using natural medical essential oils and we both felt relaxed after the treatment. In the early evening, we saw an excellent sound and light show which described very colorfully the proud history of Khajuraho. Later we had dinner at our hotel, enjoying the bottle of fine wine, courtesy of the general manager of the hotel.
Khajuraho will always be remembered as a very special place! Even if the curry wasn’t great the wine certainly was!