Saturday, January 14, 2012

It's Pronounced Kazhyoorao, Not Kuzyou'reaho or, Mommy, What are They Doing?!?

We spent two full days in Khajuraho. Khajuuraho is a small town which is known for its World Heritage listed temples dating back to the 10th century. They represent some of the finest carving in all of India and are famous for the subject matter depicted in many of the scenes on the temple walls. Sex. Purported to be scenes from the Kama Sutra, in and amongst the usual dancing apsaras and devas, are people gettin' busy, in all sorts of permutations and combinations. The temples are divided into an eastern and a western complex, with the western complex being the more elaborate of the two.

On our first day, we made our way through the old village of Khajuraho, trying our best to dodge the touts, guides, and “schoolteachers” (who aren't really teachers, they just get a cut of whatever donation you make to the school when they take you to meet and be charmed by the darling pupils), and visited the Vimana and Javari Temples in the eastern complex. The style of these temples was different from what we've seen elsewhere in India. The towering roofs were intricately carved with repeating geometric designs, and the lower portions of the temples were covered in scenes of gods and goddesses, battles, and floral medallions. They were beautiful but missing the promised subject matter. We then went to the Jain temples in the complex. Jainism is a religion of asceticism and nonviolence dating to the same era as Buddhism, and both originated in response to the caste system of Hinduism. The Jain temples were much more restrained in their decoration than their Hindu neighbors (and also lacked the prurient images- the ascetic Jains probably didn't find as much pleasure in doin' the nasty as their Hindu neighbors, ), but still were finely carved. This was enough culture for one day, so we headed back to the hotel with the intention of washing some of the filth off the bikes.
Filthy piggy needs a bath!
While I started moving the bikes around, Re went to the room to run a bucket of hot water and get a rag. The manager of the hotel saw me moving the bikes and asked if I wanted them washed. Oh really? I asked how much that might cost. He replied, “fifty rupees per bike.” Hmmm, so for 2 USD, neither of us has to get muddy, wet, or cold. Sold! While the most junior hotel employee got to work on the bikes, Re and I sat in the sun, and she worked on some blog posts and pointed at spots he missed. All too soon, the sun started to set and we headed back inside, leaving our mostly mud-free bikes to air dry. We asked at the hotel for a restaurant recommendation, and they pointed us to a small restaurant further away from town. When we arrived at the restaurant, we were pleased to see almost all the tables filled with locals. We had a delicious and inexpensive thali dinner and some excellent chai. After a quick stop at the liquor store, we went back to the room to do laundry and have nightcap.

One of Vishnu's many incarnations
The next morning we got up and stopped out for breakfast on our way to the temples. After breakfast we made our way to the western group of temples, which are the crowning jewels of the temples. Here we toured the Varaha Temple, dedicated to the boar incarnation of Vishnu. It is a highly polished sandstone statue of a boar covered in relief carvings of people (or gods?).
We also saw the Lakshmana Temple, where we discovered that even a thousand years ago, good things come in threes (and sometimes, fours), and a good time was being had by all parties involved (except for one carved female who was covering her eyes in the background of one scene. She was shy, you know). In addition to the erotic carvings, the temple is also covered with battalions of soldiers. Apparently the Chandelas were lovers and fighters. We next visited the Kandariya-Mahadev Temple, which at ninety feet long, is the largest in town. The temple is covered with 872 statues, most of which are nearly three feet tall. Several of these statues depict what you and three of your good friends can do if one of you is standing on your head. After a quick stop at the Mahadeva Temple, we viewed the Devi Jagadamba and the Chitragupta Temples, which were similarly decorated.

The humorous highlight of the day came as we admired a carving of a woman and two of her male friends, when an Indian woman walked up, pointed at the image we were viewing, and said what sounded like, “horse.” Re and I kind of skeptically looked at each other and then smiled and nodded as she repeated it again. After she walked off, Re and I giggled and tried to figure out whether she said, “horse” or “whores.” Our final stops were at the Vishvanath Temple and adjacent Nandi shrine. The Vishvanath Temple was another amazing work of stone carving, again completely covered in intricate sculptures. After once again walking around in amazement, Re decided to seek Nandi's further help by repeating her ball polishing method of worship (they're just too hard to resist- all shiny and roundish and jutting out right at hand level. Plus I need all the luck I can get here). Completely templed out, we went to lunch. After a very late lunch of vegetable momos and tempura, we walked back to the guesthouse to finish up the most recent round of ride reports and blog posts. Since we loved our dinner last night, we decided to repeat it tonight.

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