Khajuraho (& Orchha): Oh… thoooose temples

November 10, 2015
Currently: Antsy, as I’m in THE city home to the Taj Mahal. Dream realized! Oh yeah, and it’s Diwali. So add a lot of sugary treats and fireworks to that antsiness.

Let’s add a little spice to this blog, shall we? I need to forewarn everyone and say these images are definitely not suitable for all ages and leave it at that. I highly recommend really investing some time into studying the pictures I post today. Some will be subtle. Others will not.

Khajuraho is the ancient capital of the Chandela dynasty, who liked to spend their time constructing beautifully articulate Hindu and Jain temples. Because of these temples’ remote location, they were lost to the world until some Brit discovered them in the early 1800s. The temples are considered one of the seven wonders of India and are even more impressive on arrival. Case and point:

But what’s really unique about these temples is their honest depiction of life in the 10th century through the sculptures. Our tour guide was the humble translator of these temples. He turned facial expressions, symbols, body language, dress, really anything you can think of into a story of everyday life. What I found interesting is that historians judge the freedom and quality of life within certain time periods by focusing on how women are portrayed. Hindu women have had varying levels of freedom throughout Indian history, oftentimes dependent on the influence of Islam in the region. Clues about education, literacy, and status are hidden in these sculptures. For this era, they tell a story of a modern woman; one that wears trousers, smiles, dances, even writes love letters. Chandelas knew how to treat their women!

Okay, enough boring history stuff already. I know why you’re really reading this post. The real treat of these temples is the highly imaginative erotic carvings. No way to avoid them really. Those Chandelas did have a sense of humor about it too. Let me give you an example, so you know what I mean. Imagine two rows of four beautifully carved elephants facing each other. A closer look confirms that one elephant is looking off to the side with an amused expression on his face, clearly distracted. What, pray tell, caught his attention? You tell me.

Naughty elephant. Well here’s a few more pictures of the temple, because I did end up becoming entranced by the temples’ beauty, took way too many pictures, and I’m feeling indecisive. No need to read into the number of pictures I took…

just a little beastiality thrown in for good measure
Our crew then made the decision to head out of Khajuraho a day early to explore the amazing palaces of Orchha. This place is a little palace happy. We ended up exploring just the main Orchha fort complex, specifically the Jahangir Mahal and the Raja Mahal. The Jahangir Mahal is considered one of the finest examples of Mughal architecture. And, I got it at sunset!
Raja Mahal
Another palace outside the complex
 Jahangir Mahal
Just wanted to add a comment on a little something I experienced in both Khajuraho and Orchha called Indian hospitality. I met two Indians: Arman, a twenty-two year old math student, currently studying in Dehli but back in Khajuraho to celebrate Diwali with his family; and an nameless stranger, twenty-eight, who owns a little shop of trinkets and bought me a cup of chai tea in exchange for some conversation in the back of his friend’s sweet stall. The conversation topics ranged from personal life stories to politics to favorite festival traditions. I know I’ve said this before, but I wanted to emphasize that these are the moments that are unforeseen joys of traveling. A small cup of chai and curiosity are all you really need for a meaningful and rich conversation.
I also got to dip my toes into a true overlanding experience by signing up to be a part of the cook group. Normally when you overland, you camp. A lot. India is a bit different for Dragoman since we stay in hotels the entire time with some camping interruptions. However, for our night in Orchha, we all cozied up together in a hotel’s backyard and decided to make use of Daisy’s cooking facilities to make dinner for ourselves. Rachel, Kerry, Elaine, and I all volunteered to get the ingredients. With the help of some young locals, we went around Khajuraho to grab fresh ingredients or a dinner and breakfast for eleven people. It was so much fun running around town and pulling everything together!
After our day in Orchha, the cook group got together to clean, chop, boil, and season our ingredients into a delicious meal of veggie pasta. The ensuing conversation sitting around enjoying our meal was by far the best part of the evening though. A few drinks encouraged the rowdy conversations and bouts of laughter that surely kept our neighbors up all night. We learned a lot about each other. Like for example, you should never let Rachel read your texts out loud. Just ask Emma. The morning meal consisted of Kerry’s delicious eggy toast, bread and jam, pineapple, and watermelon. Overlanding is an experience and I’m glad we had that opportunity to experience it more authentically. I’ve already decided I need to give overlanding another try to get the full experience. Now…where to go…
Lots of love,
Lena

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