Saturday, December 1, 2012

Smile, Love, Enjoy, Khajuraho

While I was still planning this India trip, I remembered my Art History class back in college, and back when I became a teacher of the same subject. I remembered when we studied ancient Indian art. I remembered these temples with exquisite stone carvings of human figures all around the walls of these structures. There were figures of deities, of gods and goddesses, and erotic figures. While looking at where I want to go, I though I wanted to see ANCIENT art, same as what we studied in Art History, I wanted to see with my own eyes those art pictures that we and my classmates only appreciated through a projector. Then my friend lend me her various brochures of India, and as I was browsing through them, behold, I saw where I wished to go! In Khajuraho! And it's in the north, where I planned to go,  just a few hours of train ride from Delhi. I got really excited that my route planning revolved around Khajuraho. I just really gotta go there.

In my mind, Khajuraho would be my third stop. But like in any travel, things could go out of hand. I wasn't able to book my train tickets ahead of time for my trips because of some tourist-unfriendly circumstance. I was lucky though to stay in a guest house in Agra that offered train bookings, but I was sort of like a chance passenger for the train going to Khajuraho because I inquired a day before the departure. For a time, I was preparing my mind that it may not push through. But thank God, it did!

Hidden from the forests of  Khajuraho is the Kandariya Mahadeva Temple, the largest in the Western Group of Temples.

An overnight train from Agra took me to Khajuraho. I arrived in the morning and spent here two days. When I arrived, I noticed the place is cleaner, not too crowded, and has a lot of vacant lands with trees. The ambiance was generally relaxed, so it's a good in between city for me to go to, just right after being in Agra and Delhi and before Varanasi. Touts were much visible here though, sellers always asked me to go to their shops, one seller even demanded me to buy his stuff to make him happy because he hasn't sold anything yet. There was a boy who literally followed me for like five minutes while walking even though I didn't entertain him.

But despite some persistent touts, I had some interactions with locals which turned out to be generally wonderful and unforgettable too. Some happy, weird, and some funny experiences. I got to chat for two hours (which I didn't notice at first) with a seller of fine goods and drank chai tea with him and his cute little son, knowing about how to make good carpets by hand, how to saw chain stitches to create animals and flowers. A teenager guide said I love you to me which was freaky and funny at the same time, but it was because of him that we got to hitch hiked which was one of my memorable local experiences. I also accidentally met two other couch surfers in an internet shop. It turned out that their host was the owner of the shop, and when the owner found out that I was a couch surfer too, he invited me for dinner. We went at his friend's house in an old village, and they cooked fish curry for us. We helped in preparing curry in an old fashioned way, grating the garlic and ginger using a slab of stone and a makeshift roller, and cooked it with wood. Then we ate outside the house, seated on the mat (with a few mosquitoes), and just talked for hours. It was my ultimate Indian experience so far! I was really glad I said yes to this and let things flow a bit and reveal their beauty.

Crushing lots of ginger and garlic, one of the key ingredients of curry paste. On the right is our host's friend :)

Chapati making. The daughters of our host's friend kneading the flour.

On the left are more powder and spices for the curry. On the right, fish is mixed with other ingredients
cooked the old fashioned way :)
Enjoying a good hearty meal over moonlight. Yum yum!
Seller from Kashmir, showing off his fine carpets. He's the owner whom I talked to for two hours in his shop!

Khajuraho is a small town. You can go around by renting a bicycle. Poor me I don't know how to ride a bike, so I went around by walking. It was very tiring, but I preferred it because I can see more.

A baby boy and his brother among little pots made by their family.  I would have wanted to take more photos
of them, but the grandmother was asking for money. I kinda I didn't want the people to get used to asking money
in exchange for photos and probably make it a business for tourists. 
Walking along the Old City was very rewarding.

Hitch hike! My seatmates. It's very rewarding to do this! And minus a few kilometers of walking too :)

There are three groups of temples, the Western group, which is the most preserved and has the most number of temples (there are eight temples), the Eastern and Southern group. They are listed in UNESCO World Heritage Site, making them one of the most valuable and among the finest temples in the world.  Some of the temples dated to as early as 900 AD. What are notable of these temples are their original architecture and their intricate sculptures of humans and gods with themes of sacredness and profanity.

I was able to go to Southern and Western groups.

The Western Group of Temples. Patches of temples welcome you at the entrance.

Lakshmana Temple, dedicated to Vishnu. 

It is overwhelming! There were times when I would just sit at a corner and look up.

A closer look at the walls shown on the picture above.

It was funny because when I hear tourists laugh, you know what they're looking at. A lot of orgies adorn the temples, even in the Southern group.

Lots of soaring rooftops which said to represent the gods' abode.

 The steps of Kandariya Mahadeva Temple even have sculptures. On the left, I was surprised to see nuns
visit the temples of Hindu gods.

The sanctum of four-armed god Vishnu

Four-armed Vishnu

A not so boring boar. This boar made entirely of sandstone is the incarnation of Vishnu.

Repetition of figures adorn the body of the boar.

Wandering and resting.

Graceful, somewhat distorted positions of nymphs
I've seen a couple of the nymph's same somewhat distorted position, hands above her head,
 and with the S-curve body position to add grace. Even the men are in the S-curve position.  

More prominent S-curve
The position of the girl on the left is the same as the one above, a yet another famous position of a nymph.
The guard said she's getting rid of the callouses on her feet.

The god Ganesh, half human, half elephant. He is all over the temples of Khajuraho.

Lions guard a few entrances of the temples. This one with a person (with lost head) fighting with the lion.
Duladeo Temple, Southern group of temples, dedicated to god Shiva

The back of Duladeo Temple

On the left is a form of the god Shiva, and on the right is a couple praying for a child at Shiva's sanctum. Behind
the screen door is what they call a "lingam", a round stone, and Shiva is usually worshiped through this.

Chaturbhuja Temple has four-armed Vishnu statue inside. This is the only temple in Khajuraho with no
erotic figures.

I'm a fan of ancient things, so Khajuraho holds a special place in my heart. It was also here that I got some memorable experiences with locals, so this is one of the two of my favorites. I encourage everyone to include this in their plans. It's really not to be missed!


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