Close on the heels of the Taj and the piousness of Varanasi; the enigma of Khajuraho, unfolds with the tinkling of temple bells and the graceful movement, of myriad forms, poised in dance and movement, with the beauty of the timeless sculptures. Once used to guard the city gates, Khajuraho, alludes to the imagery of the tall date palms.
While the gates have ceased to exist, the willowy date palms continue to grace this temple town. The temples are a fabulous example of Indo-Aryan architecture, an elegant combination of intricacy and simplicity.
Now a quaint cluster of commerce, set against the backdrop of the magnificent temples, the city comes alive every year, during its Annual Dance Festival, when the maestros of classical dance, perform against the dramatic temple backdrop.
Khajuraho, the temple city of central India, is famous throughout the world for its exquisitely carved temples in stones. Thousands of visitors and tourists from all over the world flock together to envisage this immortal saga of Hindu art and culture engraved in stone by shilpies (stone craftsmen) a millenia ago.
Today, apart from the temples, Khajuraho is a small village but a thousand years ago it was a large city of the Chandelas, medieval Rajput kings who ruled over Central India. Khajuraho is 595 km (370 miles) south-east of Delhi and can be visited by air, rail or road. An overnight train journey from Delhi takes the visitor to Jhansi, from where another morning train takes him to Harpalpur 85 km (53 miles) to the east.
The visitor to Khajuraho cannot but be attracted to the vivid erotic sculptures on the temples walls. The sculptures are mithunas i.e. couple in various erotic poses. There have been many interpretations of their existence and some have criticized them severely. According to one authority, a man and woman in erotic embrace typify the ultimate union of the soul such erotic figures save the temple from beings struck by the lightening. The reason given for this is that Indra, Lord of rainand thunder bolt who himself is a great connoisseur of Kama, will not damage anything pertaining to that.
There are others who attribute to the desire of the sculptor to show life in its naked reality. Some say that it is related to the fertility cult. But a more plausible explanation could be that as the life in totality has been depicted on the temples, sex, which plays a major roe in the life of a grahast should not be left out. The subject of erotic and its philosophical and religious interpretations is not new in the oriental world. They are deeply rooted the social life of the people. In a country where the Linga cult is the source of religious belief and its manifestations sculptures are but a continuation of that tradition which accepts procreation as a major function of life.
The presence of erotic sculptures show that there were no taboos or inhibitions against sex as we have now. The people of that time took a healthy view of things and gave sex its requisite place in its life. Kama or pursuit of pleasure was deemed to be one of the four purusharthas or legitimate aims of life offer a Grahast and was regarded as a stepping stone to moksha, or deliverance. Thereforere, these erotic scenes were not regarded as abnormal or unnatural.