Equidistant between Agra and Varanasi in the state of Madhya Pradesh, is the small town of Khajuraho. Its remote location means it could easily slip under the radar of travellers keen to get to India’s more well-known cities, were it not for its remarkable collection of temples, famous for their erotic carvings.
Built by the Chandella dynasty between 950 and 1050, the temples were abandoned after the demise of the regime at the hands of the Delhi Sultanate. They became swallowed by the surrounding jungle and lay hidden until they were rediscovered by the British in 1883. It is thought there were originally around 85 temples but just 20 have survived.
Although predominantly representing the Hindu faith, there are a number of temples dedicated to Jainism. The complex is divided into three sections: the south, the east and the west, each with their own clusters of temples. The largest is the Kandariya Mahadevo, dedicated to Lord Shiva and boasting over 800 individual scultpures. The oldest, Chaunsath Jogini, sits on the banks of the Shivsagar Lake and is dedicated to Lord Vishnu.
There are several theories as to the reasons behind the temples’ overtly sexual carvings; some believe they were inspired by the Karma Sutra and served as a manual on love, while others consider them to be a form of entertainment for the gods. Whatever the origins, the intricacy and ornate detailing of the temples cannot fail to impress.
WHEN TO GO
The best time to visit is between October and March. September and April are considered the shoulder months when it is very hot in the middle of the day but mornings and late afternoons are lovely. From the end of December until the middle of January, mornings and evenings can be foggy and nights cold, but during the day the weather is great for sightseeing.
What to do
- Visit the magnificent temple complex of Hindu and Jain temples
- Explore Panna National Park
- Enjoy eclectic Indian cuisine