40 Cities, 17 States, 65 Days: Follow the entire My Way On Highway road trip here.
An otherwise sleepy hamlet, Khajuraho woke up to instant stardom owing to the exquisite Hindu and Jain granite and sandstone temples, dating back to 1050 AD, with sculptural work like no other. Day 63 of the My Way On Highway Road Trip was spent in easily the most famous Indian city of ruins that draws admirers and connoisseurs of fine art from every corner of the world. We too are smitten by the bounteous beauty of Khajuraho.
An Ode to Beauty
Now a World Heritage Site, Khajuraho flourished in its time under the rule of the Chandela dynasty. During this time there was an extraordinary manifestation of Indian aesthetics in a series of temples, offering reverence to Hindu gods and the erotic art of the Kama Sutra. Only 22 temples remain in the present day from the original 80 that were built. But one inspires more awe and amazement than the other against the brilliantly blue sky and the Vindhya Range of mountains.
Surprisingly, the Archaeological Survey of India has done a neat job maintaining the place, offering Multilingual Audio Guides, a Light and Sound Show and now an official Smartphone App. You do see the ASI signature ‘renovation’ pipes here marring the beauty of the monument but as a tourist in India, you learn to live with it. We decided to explore without the aid of a guide and had a good time uncovering the marvels of the khajur (date) city Khajuraho at our own pace.
Western Group of Temples
The temple remains in Khajuraho are classified into three categories – Western Group, Eastern Group and Southern Group. The first one being the largest and most beautiful in form and structure! A leisurely walk got us acquainted with carvings on stone so meticulous and rare that we had to rub our eyes to be sure.
The statue of the varaha (wild boar) avatar of Lord Vishnu at the Varaha Temple is covered in art from head to toe, literally! But it was the Kandariya Mahadeo Temple that took the cake in being the loftiest celebration of divinity and human life. You will be in a daze staring up and down the high walls of this spectacular structure whose golden beauty just gets brighter under the noon day sun. Be prepared for that musty bat smell inside the temple as the mammals like to reside here in herds. Offering contrast to that are the delightful hummingbirds singing their tune in the sprightly gardens.
Eastern Group of Temples
A short drive away from its Western sister, the Eastern Group of Temples is the name given to an ethereal group of Jain temples that also offers a dharamshala (guesthouse) for stay at a nominal rate. The Parsvanath Temple is the most prominent of the set courtesy the baroque detailing on its length and breadth. A strong stamp of Hindu, Muslim and Buddhist influences can be seen in its three roofs.
Although there are shops outside the Western Group of Temples too but I found the ones here to have an interesting bunch of things to take back as gifts for friends. There are the usual kitschy clothes but the artefacts in metal will surely get your attention. Believe it or not but a vendor was selling Kama Sutra keychains!
Southern Group of Temples
By the time we reached the Southern aggregation we were very tired but kept up the spirit and decided to explore some more. Here we witnessed the less-imposing but extremely gorgeous style of architecture of the Dulhadev Temple.
We continued on the same road for another kilometre and a half to reach the recently excavated Beejamandal Temple that is still in ruins. The guard told us that the ASI has paused the work for now but one look at the stone reminders of the past and you can only imagine the grandeur that must have been.
Here we bumped in to another enthusiast of history, Gaurav from Kanpur. On the way back we spotted the Chattarbhuj Temple and a certain ‘blue bird’.
No holiday is complete without that perfect hotel to call home! For us it is the Ramada Khajuraho where we checked in last night, thanks to MakeMyTrip. The enchanting heritage property has everything you need to have a great time. Plush rooms, multi-cuisine restaurant, bar, discotheque, swimming pool, spa, fitness club, lawn tennis, badminton, table tennis, sprawling lawns, curio shop…and I have still not covered all of it. We would need two uninterrupted days to fully enjoy every single facility of this pleasing property, handled by a staff that is both prompt and courteous. We took several meals at Gautam, the in-house restaurant and our top favourite was the Bundelkhandi thali that earned it a Trip Stop recommendation from us. Sad to leave tomorrow!
Day 64 will get us to Agra. More when we get there. Ciao!
(Photo Credit: Tariq Khan)