Kama Sutra Temples
The Kama Sutra Temples were on our list of places we had to visit in India. We have had our fair share of temple tours all over the world, however this temple complex it unique. It's packed with obscene and very old sculptures of nudity and sex. Lots of sex. I guess censorship hasn't touched the ancient Jian people who built many of these temples. We hear many of the Jian will still walk naked around India.
Khajuraho Train Station
Gotta Catch That Train!
After de-mystifying the Great Indian Railway System and were feeling better after some apparent food poisoning. We left at what we thought was plenty of time to get to the Varanasi Railway station. We hailed a tuk-tuk and were on the way to the railway station when we hit some heavy evening traffic. Our tuk-tuk driver did his best to get us to the station and allow our racing pulses to drop after the mad-cabbie ride we just experienced. We thought we had plenty of time to make our train and leisurely made our way to the platform. The cab ride to the station was enough to make us want to smoke! We sucked down a cigarette and boogied down to the platform thinking we had plenty of time to spare.
The Train - First Train Ride in India
Indian Railway stations are a bit crazy. 1.3 billion people in India at some point or another have taken the train. It's a vast network of rails and stations with a mind-bending number of train combinations and destinations. People are everywhere and there was a lot of confusion in the station on where to go to get to your platform. We were already a bit worried about our first train ride. It was going to be an 8-10 hour overnight train and I was worried about our baggage which would be in our berth with possibly 4 other people. How would I get any sleep knowing that at any point, someone could be rifling through our bags?
Should Have Booked a 2AC
We booked a 3AC train which is a semi-private/ 6 bunks to a "room". A/C and a fan above center of the berth cools you down significantly. There are other cars such as 2AC which is 4 beds and a curtain separating you from the aisle way. 1st class has 4 beds to a room with a sliding door. There are also some local Indian, yet significantly cheaper options, of a general sleeper class and general class which is two benches and about 5 Indians per bench. No thank you! So essentially, our first train ride was going to be baptism by fire in 3AC and at night. All this right after we were just sick for two days and might have to use the incredibly disgusting train squatty-potty-toilet often on a rocky train. Lovely!
Frazzled Arrival on the Platform
We got to the train and realized how long the train was and wondered how we would find our car. Searching for the numbers on the sides of the car without finding our car was frustrating. We finally asked a conductor where our car was and he pointed to the other end of the 100 car train. Within a few minutes to spare before the scheduled departure, we had to hustle to find our car and get to our berth. We made it just in time and a bit frazzled. The berth consists of 3 bunks on each side that can fold down to bench seats and one upper bed if no one else was in your berth. The beds/seats consist of red vinyl 2 inch padded cushions that are about 3 feet wide by about 6 feet long.
Not as Bad as we had Thought!
The overnight train was GREAT! We felt comfortable and were able to put our bags under us and I slept with my backpack at my head. We comfortably rocked back and forth and got some quality sleep on the train. There was another person in our berth, and he got out before us at around 4:00am. We arrived in Khajuraho at around 7am. No issues on the trains and we think we have found a cheap way to get around India. The train cost us around 1000 rupees which translates to about 15 dollars each. Some real advantages of train travel is that you can get up and walk around, lay flat, no baggage check-ins, bring your own food and water, they have outlets, lights, blankets and pillows, and the safety record in trains is insane.
Khajuraho Country Side
The Kama Sutra Temples
The Kama Sutra Temple Complex was amazing. The buildings were built from around 950 AD to 1050 AD in the western complex and about 100 years later in the eastern complex. There used to be around 80 temples. Muslim Invaders around the 12th century AD brought them down to only about 20 today. The main draw of this UNESCO World Heritage site is the "Kama Sutra" like sculptures that adorn the temples. Some of the poses of the sculptures are sexual in nature and include some bestiality (apparently OK back in those days) and graphic orgy style poses. The main temple complexes in town are the Western and Eastern Temple Complexes. There is a Southern Temple Complex, however it's much smaller and outside of town.
Khajuraho Western Complex
The Kama Sutra Temples
The Kama Sutra Temple Complex was amazing. The buildings were built from around 950 AD to 1050 AD in the western complex and about 100 years later in the eastern complex. There used to be around 80 temples. Muslim Invaders around the 12th century AD brought them down to only about 20 today. The main draw of this UNESCO World Heritage site is the "Kama Sutra" like sculptures that adorn the temples. Some of the poses of the sculptures are sexual in nature and include some bestiality (apparently OK back in those days) and graphic orgy style poses.
We spent the day walking around the Western (main) Complex. The grounds were immaculately manicured and the buildings are in incredible shape. You can walk around and inside all the buildings. There are three main components of the temples that were evident in nearly all of them. The vastu, purusha, and mandala. The architecture of a Hindu temple is symmetrical, concentrically layered, and self-repeating around the core of the temple called Garbhagriha, where the Purusha and the primary deity of the temple dwell. The architecture is symbolic of the Hindu belief system through these three parts and how they work together and rely on each other for structure.
Khajuraho Eastern Complex
Not Really Kama Sutra
The sex poses were actually far and few in-between we found. We had assumed that most of the sculptures were sexual in nature and that the temples actually had something to do with Karma Sutra, which they don't. The temples themselves were an amazing architectural marvel. Very well-preserved and redundant in nature, however the beauty of the Kama Sutra Temples over-shadows this redundancy. It's still a mystery exactly why they built the "Kama Sutra Temples". There are many theories without explanation why the sexual poses are mixed up with religious and daily life sculptures. It was around 100 degrees the two days we went to the temples. The first day we did the Western Hindu Temple block and the second day we rented some bicycles and rode out to the Eastern Jain Temple block.
The Jain Temple Complex
The Jain (Eastern) Complex is much smaller than the Western. However they were free and spread out a little more. We saw much of the same style temples as the ones in the western complex, but possibly in a little better shape. Some of them were bigger too. We really enjoyed riding the bikes all over town finding the temples and exploring. It was a great two days of temple gazing, and we were impressed with the temples and art they contained.
The Fair Next Door
The Carnival Next Door
Khajuraho still has its scams and people trying to usher you into their shop, but the general feel was more relaxed and small town feel. There was also a carnival-style fair going on a block from our hotel that we visited our second night in town. The fair had two ferris wheels, a scrambler, a Materhorn-like ride and a few others. We walked through it and realized after seeing the large ferris wheel was being run by a loud popping engine that spewed black oil as far as 10 feet, that we were not going to be riding any rides at the fair that night. It was nice to walk around, interact with the locals and get stared at constantly. We didn't mind, we were the only westerners at the carnival from what I could see and I guess we are an oddity of sorts.
Change In Perspective
We loved our time in Khajuraho, whether it was sitting in a cafe drinking coffee shakes, biking around town or simply just relaxing a little from the absolute chaos of the bigger cities, we made the best of our two days in town and pretty much did all there was to do. Khajuraho is a growing small city with a new airport and we are sad to see such a nice place get bigger in the future.
Maybe we are perverts or deviants for liking this temple complex so much. Actually, I think we can just appreciate the openness of the site. It's rare to see something so ancient with such graphic depictions of sexual nature. It makes us wonder what they were for. They really don't know why the statues and carvings had this theme which just adds to the mystique. We're not perverts or deviants. We can appreciate the art in it. Many times we let our personal views of what is acceptable or not, interfere with what the reality is. The reality is, the "Kama Sutra Temples" are simply a wonderful example of ancient architecture and art.