Khajuraho: A small town with international fame.
"The world is getting more connected through technology and travel. Cuisines are evolving. Some people are scared of globalization, but I think people will always take pride in cultural heritage."
Do you know a town which did not has a railway station till 2008, or a proper mall even today with a handful of known brands but has hotels like Ramada, The Lalit, and Radisson? Is it even possible? Yes, it is. I'm talking about Khajuraho. A small town in Chhatarpur district of Madhya Pradesh, widely known for its erotic sculpture throughout the world. But this town offers much more with the temple walls engraved with passionate lovers.
Located in the Vindhya Mountain range, Khajuraho is a peaceful town without rush and traffic noises. Only greenery and a few huge hotel banners. You will easily find autos and cabs which could take you to different locations.
The temples are one of the UNESCO World Heritage Site and are divided into 3 groups, the Eastern, the Western and the Northern. Temples are dedicated to Hindu and Jain deities. The Laxmana temple is the biggest among them. They are built between 950 and 1050 by the Chandel dynasty, made of sandstone, with a granite foundation. The builders didn't use mortar, the stones were put together with mortise and tenon joints and were held together by gravity. This form of construction requires very precise joints.
The 10% of the temple walls are covered with erotic carvings, which is the most known fact about these temples. Several historians have given different reasons for such engravings. The one that I find most plausible is that the art on walls depicts various aspects of everyday life.
Intimacy is one of them hence made its way on these magnificent temples. You can also see women dancing, doing makeup, potters, farmers and other folks in these carvings. Surrounded by lush green gardens, these old monuments provides a mesmerizing view for the eye. Families spend hours in these gardens for a small picnic. Clean washrooms are available in all corners of the giant park.
Until the 12th century, Khajuraho was under Hindu kings and flourishing with 85 temples. In the 13th century under Muslim rule, many temples were destroyed and left neglected. Since all the idols are fragments during the attack, only the Matangeshwar temple, adorned with huge Shiva Ling is used for the worship.
Entry fee is only charged at the Wester group of temples, which is between Rs. 60 to 100. The government authorized guides, who are fluent in many languages cost around Rs. 1600. A local guide will be much cheaper. He can take you to different temples but are not allowed to enter the premise, hence could not educate you with details.
Around a kilometer from the western group of temples, in an open hall, a small 45 minutes cultural show is put forward by local young kids. They introduce you with various dance forms of Bundelkhand and perform live for the guests. Different colors of Bundelkhand will unfold with the Rai Dance, the Diwali Dance, the Badhai Dance and much more. Charge: Rs. 250 per person.
Khajuraho yearly organizes a week-long dance festival (Khajuraho Dance Festival) on the onset of spring, to celebrate the myriad form of classical dances from all over the country. Entry for the festival is free. Some of the most colorful and brilliant dance performers participate here and multiplies the beauty of the city by 100 folds. Visit Khajuraho Dance Festival for more details about the show. It is a paradise for classical dance lovers. Khatak, Bharatnatyam, Khatak-kali, Kuchipudi, one can enjoy all.
Light and Sound show:
Like all other government preserved forts and monuments, Khajuraho also organizes its light and sound show every evening (except Monday) after sunset, in English, and in Hindi. It narrates the 40 minutes story of splendid Khajuraho temples in the voice of Shri Amitabh Bachchan. It takes you on the glorifying journey of Chandels, how these temples came into existence and how they survived the centuries-long chaos. Charge: Rs. 250 per person.
As I mentioned, Khajuraho doesn't have malls of branded stores but one can find many local shops and market for ethnic clothes with intricate work and designs, souvenirs, beautiful brass and silver artifacts at very reasonable prices (if you know how to bargain), sandstone miniatures, bamboo fiber work and much more. Gole Market is a tourist attraction, but if you don't have time, there are good shops near the temples. In the market, you will find small stalls for snacks. Do try the delicious local chat.
How to reach:
The easiest way is by train from Delhi (Train no. 22448), which starts from Hazrat Nizamuddin and ends at Khajuraho. The train takes 10 hours and is an overnight journey. A caution about this train, this is 2 trains combined in 1, (UP Samparkranti) + (NZM-KURJ Express), so be careful and hop onto the right coach. Direct flight is only available from Banaras. So flights from Mumbai and Delhi will halt at Banaras. Also, the prices are very unreasonable. By road, there are buses from Delhi to Chhatarpur, and then 45 KMs to Khajuraho can be traveled by local taxi, bus.
February during spring will be the best, as one can also relish the spectacular Khajuraho Dance Festival. Winter offers the most tourist crowd from all over the world.
Options to Stay:
Try any online portal, MakeMyTrip, Yatra, Goibibo, you will find multiple options to stay in Khajuraho. Starting from budget hotels to luxurious 5 stars, it has is all. If you don't want to book online, one can easily find room to stay with help if local autowala.
Other places to visit nearby:
Near Khajuraho, there are other options to visit nearby:
1) Panna: The city and the National Tiger Reserve.
2) Dhubela: The hometown of famous Mastani from Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Bajirao Mastani.
3) Raneh Fall: A deep canyon made of pure crystalline granite in varying shares, is a beautiful sight to visit during monsoon.
Please plan a trip of complete Madhya Pradesh and make sure to add Khajuraho in your list. If you only wish to visit Khajuraho, 2 days are sufficient if planned well.