The flight from Varanasi to Khajuraho takes barely an hour and it was shortly before 2pm that we emerged from the airport with our bags packed in the back of the car by our regular driver Mr Singh, and were met by our new guide, Sachun. Sachun was a younger man, ambitious, well-fed; but without the usual carefree attitude that would normally accompany his age. He took excellent care of us, but sometimes you wondered precisely how accurate some of his facts were.
Khajuraho is a strange place. An entire resort has grown up, with airport, shops, and a large number of hotels, just because of this extraordinary complex of temples that have stayed remarkably intact over a thousand years. Hidden in dense forest for 700 years or more, they were rediscovered by Captain T S Burt of the Bengal Engineers in 1838, and were awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 1986. 25 temples have been brought back to life; but local tradition has it that originally there were 85 temples, so ongoing excavations continue in the hope of finding more and more.
There was no point checking in to the hotel, we drove straight to the main sight – the Kandariya Mahadev Temple. When you first see it, it takes your breath away, as it’s so huge, so intricate and so perfect. Visitors flock to Khajuraho to see the amazing sculpture work on the walls of the temples and when you finally get to see them, they do not disappoint. It may be the erotic sculptures that are the most famous – and when you look at them you realise quite how uninhibited life must have been in India a thousand years ago – but they all tell a story, make you laugh, bring wonderment, cause admiration. If you had the time, and weren’t concerned about getting sunstroke, you could stand outside these buildings for days just admiring the carvings.
Take a look at these photographs, they explain what you can see here much better than words can. Observe the clothing which depicts people of higher standing, or the voluminous breasts of some of the women; the musicians, the warriors, the lovers, the animals, the servants, the gods. There are a few instances where men get so carried away with their sexual prowess that they get it on with animals – look away if you don’t want to see a horse surprised from behind. There’s a brilliant carving that depicts that – and an onlooker has to hide their eyes through embarrassment (or horror).
As the sun starts to fall a little lower in the sky, the golden rays make the outside surface of the temples even more beautiful. There’s a true richness to the warmth of the colour that really creates a stunning effect. The temples certainly have a different look about them at different times of the day. The majority of the main sights are in the Western group of temples but we were also taken to the Eastern group, where the Jain Parsvanatha Temple is considered one of the most remarkable.
Time defeated us, and we didn’t get a chance to see the Southern group of temples. Instead we drove to our hotel, the Lalit Temple View. It’s a beautiful, elegant, smart but friendly place, with a very attractive bar – the Mahua – and an excellent restaurant, with superb service. Our room was a Luxury Suite; it had a comfortable living room, a lovely bedroom and a really fantastic bathroom. We were made to feel welcome, and special, and it’s a hotel I’d go back to in an instant. The perfect place to while away a relaxing evening and to remember the extraordinary sights of the day.