18 May 2014

Dilli and Khajuraho (Madhya Pradesh)

Casual conversation over drinks and dinner…loads of destinations discussed which I thought would be forgotten by morning...I didn’t really expect these travels to materialize so was surprised to see an email the next morn – “Getting the the hell out”. Some emails exchanged, some recce done, some silence...but then the poke from S. We finally did get out…to a destination that was never really considered initially. No regrets there though…it was a wonderful choice.

Madhya Pradesh, the heart of Incredible India. Really??? If I look at the map, it seems more like the stomach :-). Return tickets booked before the itinerary is finalized…awesome way to get us all committed to the trip.

Parantha wali gali key paranthas Considerable reworking of the itinerary …nowhere close to what was suggested at the first instance and Day 1 we are on Delhi Metro for a gastronomic adventure in the Parantha wali gali of Chandni Chowk. Delhi sure welcomed us…what beautiful weather so, so unlike Delhi. Shop after shop selling the famous deep fried paranthas…we finally select one with some empty tables and am amazed at the variety – from the usual gobhi, dal, mooli, matar, paneer, pudina parantha to the very unusual papad, banana, cashew nut, rabdi , Kurchan and nimbu paranthas. My favorite – the Khurchan /karela parantha.

Unfortunately, the famous Ghantewala Jalebi Shop was closed and we had to make do with chat and jalebi from haldirams. After the experience of changing lines at the Central Secretariat station on the Metro, where there was no need to walk…one was just swept away by the crowd, we decided to just take autos to a nice hotel and chill there till our night train to Khajuraho.

Sculpture of a woman wringing her hair dry         Whattaay train it was…at night I kept wondering, so many stations…morning I realized it was one of those polite trains…giving way to all the other trains.

The one thing that started in Khajuraho and stayed with us all along was the hospitality of the people of MP. Always ready to help.

After a quick freshen up, we are ready to explore Khajuraho on that hot, hot day. A UNESCO world heritage site Khajuraho is believed to have had over 75 temples of which about 22 remain today. The sculptured temples are dedicated to Shiva, Vishnu and Jain deities but are more famous or rather world renowned for the sexually explicit carvings both inside and outside the temples because of which they are sometime also called as the Kamasutra temples.

Chaturbhuj Temple         nine feet long statue of a four-handed Vishnu
According to their location, the temples are divided into three sections or zones - western, eastern and southern. We decide to start with the Eastern and Southern Group of Temples first and then post lunch move to the Western group. After a bit of a joy ride we reached the 1st of the temples, the Chaturbhuj temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Standing lonely on a high platform, this is the only temple that faces west. We are also told that this is the ONLY temple in Khajuraho devoid of any erotic carvings or sculptures and gets its name from the exquisite nine feet long statue of a four-handed Vishnu (Chatur – four and bhuja or bhujay – arms).
Vamana Temple Jain Temples
Vamana Temple IMG_8822
Next was the Vamana temple – with a really chubby statue of the Vamana/dwarf incarnation of Vishnu followed by the Javari temple, named so after the millet crop growing in the surrounding fields. While the main statue in the Javeri temple was headless, the entrance had a beautiful arch with Makaras. At the entrance gate were sculptures depicting Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva and the nava-grahas. Finally we visited the Jain temples outside which local vendors tried to sell interesting key chains to our group. It was Khajuraho so I guess I don’t need to spell out what the key chains must have been like…but the killer was –yeh lock bhi ho jate hain ;-)

Lunch and some rest and we move to the Western group of temples. Here we got a good guide- quite knowledgeable and quite an entertainer –the way he would relate some of the stuff to the current lifestyle was quite humorous. And of course all those sexist jokes which one could expect as we looked around at the sculptures around each temple depicting couples in courtship, marriage, meditation, sex etc.

 Kandariya Mahadev Temple Varaha Mandap
The Western group was more organized with a boundary wall surrounding the temples within a large rectangular complex - starting with the Varaha Mandap we move on to the Lakshmana Temple - unique for its four subsidiary shrines at the four corners of a rectangular platform. Each of these shrines is like a mini temple. And finally the Kandariya Mahadev Temple – the largest and most magnificent temple in Khajuraho

As we finish the tour of the temples, we see parakeets coming from all corners - we hang around and watch as there are these 2 particular trees where all converge for the night…in an hours’ time the trees are full and one cannot see even a bit of empty space …

A light and sound show in the temple complex which left much to be desired – the highlight of the show was the drizzle and the lovely weather :-) . At the end of it we are ready for dinner and to call it a day as we have an early morning start to Panna Wildlife Sanctuary the next day.

IMG_8834 IMG_8840

A day very well spent and its really impossible not to be amazed at the craftsmanship and intricate architecture of these temples built as early as 950 A.D.