dinsdag 3 december 2013

Khajuraho: Perverse... Almost Religious

When you're arriving in a town after a hellish twelve hour trip, there's really only one though that's on your mind the next morning: this better be worth it.

And it was. It really was.

The town itself is one of the least interesting I've seen so far, with a new part that's totally geared towards tourist with all kinds of shops, hotels and restaurants, and an old impoverished part where the 'ordinary' people of Khajuraho live. Both parts are not particularly fun to roam around, as the steady flow of tourists has changed the people's mindset with regards to foreigners. Can't really blame them, but it does get on your nerves.

In the new part you have all kind of youngsters coming up to you, striking up a casual conversation (always including all-important 'where are you from?'), which always would end in them trying to get you on a tour or to sell you drugs/souvenirs/other stuff. After a number of these useless conversations - I wasn't going to encourage this practice by accepting one of their offers, whatever it was - it seemed better to just ignore these guys instead of wasting my breath. However, they were not giving up so easily and became even more annoying and even in some cases agitated because they were 'offended' by this apparent rudeness. Yeah right. Who knows, maybe some were genuine interested, but the majority was not here to 'practice their English', 'make new friends' or 'just talk, no business'. Guess the fact that this was a small town with little else to do and an economy almost solely based on tourism, meant that it attracted this kind of touts.

On the other hand, the old part of town was not much better, as conversations there didn't pass the 'Money sir? Sir? Money?' point. The Lonely Planet thinks it still has some charm, but its writers are sometimes so open-minded they'll think the trash is a colorful addition to dull green of the grass.

But didn't I say that it was worth the hellish trip to get here? Yes and that has to do with the reason this town is so messed up and touristy in the first place: the famous 'erotic' temples at Khajuraho. Though they are also referred to as the 'Kama Sutra' temples, the eroticism of these temples is rather overstated in order to lure more tourists. Yes, it's very remarkable that there are explicit sexual carvings (even with animals) on a holy building, but that's not the only reason why these temples are worth the while. It's the sheer number, the incredible detail of and the endless variations between all the different sculptures that make these temples truly amazing. Neither anything I'll write here nor any of the pictures on this blog or elsewhere are a substitute for seeing those 1000 year old temples in real life. You can just keep going round these architectural sandstone beauties and discover something new each time you shift your eyes from one place to the next. And excellent audio tour helps you to find to hidden gems and provide the necessary background information on these temples and the people that designed, built and worshiped in them.

It's no Taj Mahal, but Khajuraho is definitely along the most interesting sights in North India.

While it was nowhere near the effort it took me to get here, I had a little 'Rishikesh moment' before I left this two faced town. Again there was a very stubborn hotel manager who had his own ideas about at what time I should arrive at the station, instead of just following some simple instructions. I asked him whether he could have a riksha ready at 08:15. He said he could. And then it started.
'But sir, I think you better leave eight thirty, enough time.'
'No, no. Not eight thirty. Eight fifteen. Riksha at eight fifteen.'
'Yes sir, eight thirty.'
'Nooooo. Eight fifteen.'
'Yes sir, eight fifteen.'
Then the manager walked away and just added two words to a conversation that had already ended,  that just showed how hard he had tried not to listen: 'Eight thirty'
Really...? After another try, it finally dawned on him that it was not going to be eight thirty, but eight fifteen. Finally.

And lo and behold, there actually was a riksha at the hotel at eight fifteen. It turned out to be a good omen for my trip to Gwalior.

The pictures from my Canon will be a lot better, but here's just a little preview..

The Western Group of temples.

The middle panels show why these temples are referred to as the Kama Sutra temples.

Even the inner shrines were beautifully decorated.

Eastern group of temples

Jain temples, first pictures show the typically Jain architecture.

After seeing these statues I knew where the cover for Hypocrisy's 'The Arrival' came from... 

 Below are some other Jain temples, more similar to the Hindu ones in the Western group, but even more detailed sculptures

Being a typically Indian lizard, this one was just asking to have its picture taken...

Title credits to Moonspell's "Perverse... Almost Religious"  from the 'Irreligious' album.

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