The Love Temples of Cajuraho
Cajuraho is a little away from India’s Golden Triangle. Except for me, of our small group of 5, no one went there. And the tour was for me alone.
The Western Group of Temples of Cajuraho
The morning I was supposed to see Cajuraho was cool and foggy.
The first thing we did was arrive at the western group of temples. I bought a ticket for 500 rupees (the ticket is valid for visiting all groups of temples), entered the fenced area, and walked around the temples for about forty minutes, accompanied by the guide, listening to his explanations.
Although Vijay the guide is a Russian speaker, the Russian language as interpreted by him is not very big and not very powerful at all. However, without his explanations I wouldn’t have understood much, and more importantly, I wouldn’t have noticed.
Then he left me alone, and I spent two more hours wandering around the temple complex, looking around with interest. There weren’t many people around: a few Europeans, a young Korean and a group of Indians.
In the morning it was foggy, but then the haze cleared and at the end the sun was even shining.
There are many impressions of the temples of Cajuraho. The shape of the temples is unusual. They look like some fantastic mushrooms. There must be more than a dozen of them in the western group. I can’t say for sure, because I haven’t counted. And I do not know how to count the buildings that stand on one foundation: one temple or several.
Before I was in Cajuraho, I had no idea how Indian temples were structured. I thought, how did the Indians make such high vaults? It turned out that the largest and tallest part of the temple, the shikhara, symbolizing the paradisiacal Mount Meru, was made entirely of stone. And the space inside is quite small.
The interior is decorated with reliefs, there are sculptures of gods and peculiarly shaped columns. And there is often a lingam that Hindus pray to.
The Indian women who visited the temples in parallel with me, entering a temple dedicated to the goddess Parvati, Shiva’s wife, fell to their knees and reverently repeated, “PArvati, PArvati. Although the temples seem to be museums and not in operation.
The temples are decorated with peculiar patterns. Many are covered with hundreds and thousands of statues, religious, military, domestic and erotic. The religious statues depict some Indian gods and goddesses unknown to me. The military ones show soldiers marching and horses galloping. Trumpets blowing and drums beating. In the domestic – women looking at themselves in the mirror, pulling out splinters, touching up their lips. The work is fine, filigree, but, in my layman’s opinion, it is inferior to Greek sculpture.
The woman on the right is wearing thin pants, like loincloths.
The guide told me that this group represents the Kama Sutra school.
But there are so many stone sculptures, it’s amazing. How much time and effort the ancient inhabitants of these places put into building these temples! The temples were built over a long period from the 8th to the 12th century under the Chandela dynasty.
For some reason, the dynasty withered away, the city and shrines were abandoned, and, as is usual in India, overgrown with jungle. Thanks to English colonial engineers, who in 1830 were hunting in these places and discovered the ruins in the forest. They were shocked by the forgotten city, and, thanks to their discovery, the temples were cleared of trees and earth and restored.Although the restoration is carried out in some places shoddy, the impression is that some “figures” have not found a place and stick anywhere.
Most of all the British were struck not by the temples and not even their size, but the erotic sculpture. Even now, in our liberal times, even after the sexual revolution, it is embarrassing. And how the English of that Puritan age were outraged! British scholars began to write about the moral decay of Indian society, which, according to some, led to the conquest of India first by the Muslims and then by the British.
The woman covered her face with her palms, ashamed, the guide explained.
Whether or not this is the case, I don’t know, but the actions depicted in the “figures” (as Vijay called them) are surprising, to say the least. Every sexual pose imaginable and unimaginable is depicted unashamedly.
Vijay explains it simply: the local rajah fought a lot, he needed soldiers. So he commanded the depiction to do these soldiers in large numbers. But then how do you explain the scene in which the woman mates with the dog (as Vijay commented, “the men have gone off to war”).
Well, and the warrior away from his wife is comforted by a horse. True, in the picture with the dog, the woman is then judged. That is to say, you can’t do that.
Anyway, the morals of ancient Indians, judging by the pictures, were, well, very free.
And all this is depicted on temples, where people went and still go to pray. And not only adults, but also children. Maybe in the absence of sanctimonious prejudice, children were raised with a correct view of the world, morality and the place of sex in life? It’s unclear.
But a fact is a fact, these images were not made in a modern pornographic magazine, but in ancient times and on the walls of sacred temples.
In general, the impression of the western group of temples is ambivalent. The temples are wonderful, the decoration is beautiful, but the content is controversial.
After visiting the museum temples my guide took me to an operating temple located nearby, behind the fence. I did not remember anything special about it.
The eastern group of temples
After visiting the western group of temples we went to the eastern group.
There are far fewer temples there. It is under the control of the Jainists, who converted the surviving temples to their needs. Or maybe these temples used to belong to that faith. The wikipedia article on Cajuraho says that 3 temples there belong to Jainists, three to Hindus. I couldn’t tell the difference.
Not much has been preserved there. It’s mostly foundations or part of the walls. The rest is new. It is seen at once, the new is specially made of light material, while the old masters made their temples of dark stone.
The walls of the old buildings are covered with figures very similar to those I had already seen in the western group. Only there were hardly any erotic images.
Only one temple was entirely ancient.
A priest escorted me inside this temple. The dark space, lit only by a lantern, left me with the impression of a magical mystery. And a rat (or some similar animal) escaped up the statues and disappeared when we arrived. A real Indian temple.
There is also a southern group of temples, but we didn’t go there.
After visiting the temples, my guide took me to a workshop where modern craftsmen make copies of temple “figures” or something similar to sell to tourists. I immediately said that I would not buy anything. But I could not avoid visiting anyway.
The sculpture of a “god” with black glasses made me happy. He reminded me of someone.
There is a canyon and a piece of jungle near Cajuraho, where we also stopped for a while.
In India I was looking primarily for authentic Indian architecture, without outside influences, and I expected it to be fascinating in an incredible way. Just as I was once fascinated by Angkor, which, although in Cambodia, is also Hindu.
And Cajuraho did not disappoint me. It was like the descriptions: monumental ancient Indian temples, erotic sculpture illustrating the Kama Sutra, and more. I was very pleased with this tour to a once lost but now world-famous place. India’s Golden Triangle and Cajuraho Tour
Khajuraho is a huge complex located in India. It gained its popularity due to its various sculptures depicting scenes from the Kamasutra.
It is one of the most famous complexes in the world. The architecture and decoration is impressive in its uniqueness and interesting forms. The towers of the temples have an irregular structure, and the walls are inlaid with jewels and decorated with carvings showing scenes from the Kamasutra. What is interesting is that there is no erotic connotation inside the structure.
Today, the Khajuraho temple complex is a World Heritage site.
All the figures are made so precisely that it seems as if they were carved from a single huge stone. In fact, all the work was done using sandstone, without any glue. The parts of one large structure were joined together thanks to a trunnion joint that required great care.
Because of the large number of tourists, the infrastructure around the temples is modern and very convenient.
When you come to these places, you can buy an excursion not only to the Kamasutra temples, but also to the national park located nearby.
History of Khajuraho.
The construction of almost all the temples took place during the Chandella dynasty, around the 10th and 11th centuries. From the beginning, Khajuraho was the cultural capital of the dynasty, but it was soon moved to the city of Mahoba. However, this did not affect the development of the town.
There is a legend connected with the temples. The founder of the Chandella dynasty once had a dream in which his mother ordered him to create a place that showed passion and carnal desire. Scholars believe it is likely that the entire dynasty adhered to Tantrism. This doctrine, involves receiving carnal pleasure to achieve nirvana.
During the construction of the temples, a stone wall with 8 gates decorated with golden palm trees was erected.
A total of 80 structures were erected, of which only 25 have survived to this day.
The area of the entire temple complex is more than 20 square kilometers.
Throughout Khajuraho there are 25 temples belonging to different religious movements. These are usually Jainism and Hinduism.
The temples of Khajuraho are part of the world heritage. The largest structure of the complex is the kandarya temple.
All temple structures were built according to the same plan. There is always a cross with several crossbars at the base. Once inside, you enter the ardhamandala hall, connected to the mandala leading to the next room, the mahamandala. It contains 4 main temple columns supporting a circular ceiling resembling a dome. Next is the room preceding the sanctuary. It has crescent shaped steps.
Around the sanctuary itself there is a gallery decorated with inscriptions and ornaments. The temple of Khajuraho is literally filled with a variety of statues and other similar decorative elements.
Here one can see gods and goddesses, warriors, lovers, and mythological animals. All this perfectly combines and harmonizes with each other.
For many years the temples remained abandoned. Over time, natural phenomena began to slowly destroy the once majestic structures. That is why not all 80 buildings have reached us, but only 25. Each structure has three rooms: an entrance hall, an assembly hall and a sanctuary.
All the temples are built of sandstone and are located in a vast, open area. All the buildings can be divided into three groups according to their location: west, east and south.
More recently, restoration work has begun to recreate the destroyed temples.
Every year in early spring a festival of national dance is held near the temples of Khajurato.
The city of Khajuraho is located in India in the state of Madhya Pradesh. Tourists come here all the time, so the infrastructure of the whole complex is very well developed. In addition to the buildings themselves, around there are parks, alleys, ponds, and quite a few hotels.
Here you can also book a tour of all the nearby attractions. It is advisable to visit the national park, located 30 kilometers from the city. It is a small park area with mountains and tiger reserve, which in addition to tigers live and other animals.
Before the trip is worth taking warm clothes, as in the morning it can be quite cold.
Going on a tour of the temples of Khajuraho with children, it is worth thinking, because most of the buildings are decorated with a variety of scenes depicting group sex and bestiality.
Next to the attraction is a street with numerous restaurants. Most of them serve Indian food, but if you look around, you can find a couple of European restaurants.
The best time to come to the city is from November to March, and the rest of the time it is very hot.