Sunday, November 8, 2009

Khajuraho Is Famous

For the erotic sculptures which ornament its city of stupas.  The sculptures rise in tiers up the faces of the stupas which sit in parklike grounds.  Khajuraho is located in a remote farming region and the stupas were "forgotten" for a very long time until British scholars came to know of them and put them on the art history map.

They were not all constructed at the same time.  In fact they represent successive periods in history and so styles.

They blend Far East Asian Buddhist traditions with Hindu traditions in terms of subject matter, styles of ornament and representation of figures.

And of course there is the anthropomorphism of Hindu iconography

Here is lovely Ganesh, the God of prosperity and luck doing what I think of as the "hippy-hippy shake" (missing some body parts)

and in a more lordly pose

You've probably seen this one on the sides of incense packets.

There is not as much ornamentation inside the stupas but the ceilings are usually representations of heaven.

There are also Jain temples in Khajuraho.  This faith depicts Buddha as a very much younger figure with a more boyish physique and I think that is a stylized Bodhi tree above his head.

Khajuraho is not really a town and the actual "old village" is quite small.  It can be visited in about 20 minutes.  When I visited, the people were still quite innocent country folk.  Although you will be shocked when your guide tells you that he specializes in Japanese as well as English.  And that the New Zealand and Australian accent is impossible for him to understand although his English is almost perfect.  The world comes to them and not vice versa.  Since it is a farming community it is very vulnerable to vicissitudes of climate.  You will not find aggressive begging and touting here as you will in the big cities.  The people of Khajuraho are very proud.  But you will be encouraged to spend money in their very good and clean restaurants, hotels and shops.  Khajuraho was our third stop after Delhi and Varanasi and we made a big mistake there.  We visited the beautiful waterfalls in a magnificent setting outside of town.  We attended a folk dancing performance whose musical accompanists were world class.  But we did not BUY ANYTHING in Khajuraho.  We had a long couple of weeks ahead of us and we did not want to load our suitcases up right away with stuff.  And that was the wrong thing to do.  In India there is poverty everywhere and everyone wants you to share what they perceive to be your great-riches-from-the-world-outside with them.  And how do you weigh the poverty and need that you see in Delhi or Mumbai against the want and the fear of the countryside where all the riches are in the soil or in the clouds in the sky and any help must come from miles away when Mother Nature lets the farmers down?  When you tell your guides (the sons of farmers) in Khajuraho that you are saving your shopping sprees for Mumbai, you might as well put a knife in their hearts.  And I'm sorry to say that that is what I did.  I didn't realize it then.  But I do now.

So if you find yourself in Khajuraho, can I suggest that like the Buddha and the Jain devotees in later life you........renounce your rupees of the moment.  And attach yourself to a little wood carving.  Or a trinket made of metal.  Or a stone lotus.  Or a lovely piece of cloth or jewelry.  You won't regret it.


  1. hello! thanks for the comment on my blog. i am living in india right now (new delhi) -i am not indian- and enjoying your posts on india and your commentaries. oh! and of course the lovely pictures. thank you for sharing. kenza.

  2. BEautiful pictures!! The shapes of those structures are amazing.