Khajuraho, India

December 8-9, 2006

 

 

 
The intricately carved sandstone temples at Khajuraho were built between 950 and 1050 AD by the Chandela dynasty. Gods, goddesses, warriors, musicians, mythological animals, apsaras (heavenly nypmphs), and mithuna (erotic figures, a Kamasutra in stone), swirl around the temples in continuous bands of animated figures.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our short stay in Khajuraho began with a visit to a Shiva temple just down the road from our hotel. After leaving our shoes near the entrance, our guide led us up the massive stone stairs. We entered through a narrow opening into a circular room with a domed ceiling made from concentric circles of carved rock. A large circular platform with a 2.5 meter high cylinder (lingam) of smooth polished sandstone projecting from the center almost filled the room. We were led around the interior of the room and up the stairs onto the platform filled with worshippers, where we all stood in a circle around the lingam. Soon the electric lights were extinguished and the room was lit only by the warm glow of oil lamps held by the participants and placed around the lingam's base. Then the full sonic nature of the domed rock room was revealed as the leaders of the ceremony started banging on assorted bells and drums. It was not unlike my first Jimi Hendrix concert, with the deafening noise overwhelming all my senses.

Suddenly, I had the impression that we had just been transported to another planet and were witnessing a strange ritual that existed just beyond our limits of comprehension -- we were surrounded by massive thousand year old temples covered in detailed erotic stone carvings, worshipping a towering phallus, with devotees waving flames, touching their foreheads to the lingam and stroking the polished rock. In the darkness, little kids tried to ask us questions, hand us strange things to eat, and clamored to see the digital pictures we were taking.

After about twenty minutes the ceremony ended, the sound of resonating bells echoed away, and we made our way outside and down the stone stairway into the cooling night air, our ears still ringing from the wall of sound. Our guide asked if we had any questions, but we were speechless. We bid farewell, and wandered back to our hotel...

 

 

 

 

Varanasi (plane) ► Khajuraho