A Kama Sutra in stone
Trip Start Sep 17, 2007
273Trip End Oct 08, 2008
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We had such a laid back afternoon after our arrival in Khajuraho that we ended up not seeing the main event at all that day. But we did enjoy some tasty chicken and mashed potatoes.
Once we were fed and watered, we wandered through the town to the Jain temples. Jain temples are always known for being exquisitely carved, but these were in very good condition and have two famous carvings
Anyway, I hope you look at the photos and see what excellent and detailed carvings we admired. At the Jain temples there were lots of kissing or embracing couples, but there was only one carving of explicit sex. I guess they didn't need to release themselves from earthly concerns (like sensuality, for example) before embracing the concerns of spirituality and finally approaching the inner sanctum like the Hindus over in the Western Group did.
Around dinner time we had a power outage, and since the sun sets so early it was pretty much pitch black, so we had a nap. When we woke we ran to the restaurant next door and ended up closing up the place. But you gotta love those mashed potatoes and that fried chicken.
The next day we finally went to the Western Group. I got an audio guide and spent the next two hours chasing after Travis and dragging him back to points of interest that he'd not so much known about
You're meant to walk around the temples with your right shoulder facing the building (as in clockwise) because the right side is considered divine. The guide took me through the proceedings as if I were a devotee about to go to temple, which was quite edifying. Because the first temple was quite large, it had a lot of circles to walk in before you approached the deity enshrined inside the inner sanctum. First we walked around the bottom wall of the temple and admired not only the giant orgy stringing along one relief panel, but also the man having the sex with a horse while a woman looks on with her eyes covered and another guy preps himself because his turn is next. Like I said, explicit. But after this there are mostly war scenes, which, as everyone says, reminds us all that the Chandelas (the kingdom that built the temples) were at war more often than not. There are a bunch of nifty elephants. Toward the end of our first circle of the temple we saw the hermaphroditic Shiva who is thought to have inspired the sexual nature of the carvings. Before we finished the bottom circle we found the image of the sculptor who carved himself into the temple. He's working on an elephant. Check out the photo.
Next we started the spiritual circle, starting with the dancing Ganesh (he brings good fortune and wisdom, you see). During this circuit we saw all of the curvaceous women for which Khajuraho is famous. We also got to see still more erotic carvings. Apparently for some things you need special leg holding people. Who knew? The carving were also much more detailed than the panels we had seen on the lower level. Didn't leave much to the imagination, actually
All of the temples in the complex are different, and though most are dedicated to Shiva, other gods are also honored. But really they're so similar that I won't go on and on about each of them. Outside of or adjacent to the larger temples were small shrine-monuments. One notable one contained Shiva's bull, in case he wanted to go for a ride (Ganesh rides a rat, while we're at it, and it's always depicted as a very small creature, so we couldn't figure out how he managed that). Another, more individual one honored Vishnu's boar incarnation. The story behind this is that an evil dude (who does have a name and is a deity) declared himself to all animals and quoted the whole list of them. But he forgot the boar (this is key). He then sunk he world under water, so Vishnu (who is very good) became incarnated as a boar (which can dive so very deep). As such, he swum down after the earth and defeated the evil dude and made the earth float again. Pretty nifty, huh? The boar statue is carved from one piece of sandstone and covered with gods, all of whom are totally different. If you look at the photos you'll see that he's very smooth and shiny. This is from being touched by thousands of hands, not from any special polish. So always wash your hands.
Another interesting thing about these temples is that two are dedicated to Shiva in his lingum form
All of the temples also had at least one statue of a man fighting a lion. This goes back to the origins of the Chandelas. Their first king went out into the wilderness unarmed and was attacked by a lion. He killed it with his bare hands, thereby showing his manliness. I guess this also meant that he was fit to rule. The Chandelas were a mighty power in the area for a few generations before the inevitable weak monarch arrived and the capital moved to a more fortified area. After this the temples were largely neglected and became overgrown until they were discovered by a British officer who was mapping the region. Regarding the carvings he commented that some of them were "rather warmer than was absolutely necessary." Talk about British understatement.
Regarding the statues themselves, there are several theories as to why they were carved in the first place. The most popular one is that they are Tantric, which holds that gratification of physical needs can lead to a higher plane of enlightenment (when combined with mental effort as well...don't get any ideas). Or it means that you've overcome your desperate physical needs and are already at that plane. You hear it both ways. This is evidenced by the serene countenances of the statues locked in creative embraces.
Now you know. Hope I didn't scandalize you.