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The “Kama Sutra Temples” of Khajuraho, India

In a country with no less than seven recognized religions, there are literally thousands of temples to explore whilst visiting India. Arguably the most spectacular is the magnificent group of Hindu temples in Khajuraho, which are famed for their Kama Sutra decorations. Located in the central state of Madhya Pradesh, these temples are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and were built between the 9th and 10th centuries by the Chandela dynasty which dominated Central India at that time. Their remote location saved them from the ravages of Islamic raiders, but also led to their abandonment after the Chandela’s decline in the 13th century. The temples were rediscovered in 1838 by the British, after being hidden in thick forest for hundreds of years. The British found their eroticism shocking at the time, with one officer stating “all the sculptures are highly indecent, and most of them disgustingly obscene”. Although most well known for their erotic carvings, the temples depict a great deal more than just sex. The famous sandstone sculptures are truly exquisite, executed with a joy, fluidity and lack of inhibition that is now rarely found in modern India. The complex’s 25 temples illustrate the brilliant burst of artistic flowering that took place under the Chandela rulers. According to local legend, there were originally 85 temples. The remaining 25 are placed in three groups; Western, Eastern and Southern. The Western Group boasts the most important temples, with the Eastern containing a number of exquisitely carved Jain temples. The last phase of temple building in Khajuraho is seen in the Southern Group, which features only two temples. Widely regarded as the most impressive temple in the group, the Kandariya Mahadev boasts exquisite sculptural embellishment, grand dimensions and complex yet perfectly harmonious composition. More than 800 sculptures cover the temple, portraying beasts and warriors, gods and goddesses, musicians, dancers and, of course, the erotic scenes for which the Khajuraho temples are famous. Almost every facet of the temple’s exterior is covered in provocative carvings. The erotic panels are widely believed to celebrate the marriage of Lord Shiva, serve as a love manual or simply express an energetic celebration of life and creation. One of Khajuraho’s most iconic carvings is a panel depicting a couple locked in intercourse, with a maiden assisting on each side. It appears to defy gravity, with the male figure suspended upside down on his head. The ideal time to visit the temples is at sunrise or sunset, to catch them in their best light. However, don’t forget to see the Sound and Light Show that is held every evening. Khajuraho is easily reached via domestic flight from Delhi, Varanasi or Agra.   Where to Stay in Khajuraho The 5* Lalit Temple View is located just half a kilometre from the Western Group of temples, and so it affords magnificent views from the gardens, swimming pool and several rooms. The Lalit is a modern and luxurious hotel, spacious and light, with stylish rooms. The hotel has a tranquil atmosphere, complemented by a nice swimming pool and spa. The Lalit Temple View is the most luxurious choice in Khajuraho, and would ensure an enjoyable stay. I am currently travelling with limited internet access. Images, links, etc. to follow shortly – Paul

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