Having finally got the ticket from Mumbai to Satna after a week of trying, it was only a short 20 hour train journey.
We got on the train at 9.30pm and we didn't arrive until after 5pm the next day! I won't be rushing to do it again. It wasn't too bad until power ran out on all our devices...
We arrived in Satna, which is apparently not a common route for foreign tourists judging from the reaction we got when we walked out of the station.
A group of tuk-tuk drivers or just random blokes...I'm not too sure...were stood shouting and asking where we wanted to go, laughing and all yelling various information on where to go etc.
No one could speak a word of the Queens and the guide books weren't any help. Some of the guys were telling us to go to the bus station to get the bus to Khajuraho, some were saying the buses are finished for the night, some were saying 50rs for a tuk-tuk to the bus station, some 10rs and laughing...
We got a tuk-tuk for 50rs to the bus station. We asked at a travel agents about the buses and they said they're finished until the day after...quite what the point in the travel agents was I'm not too sure, you couldn't book tickets there and there's no private buses anyway...
We walked across to the bus station and got asked a million times where we were headed. Turns out there was a bus just about to leave. Perfect. The guide book said the journey takes three and a half hours. The satnav said a one hour drive, the boy working on the bus (more details on his role to follow) said an hour and a half. Just before the bus set off it started raining, like proper rain too, it made Manchester rain look pathetic. Surprisingly, I still can't believe it happened. It hailed stoned briefly! HAIL STONES IN INDIA?! IN MAY?!...and some people still don't believe in global warming...
The bus didn't have windows in some of the window holes, so the boy was stood holding a scarf over the hole in an attempt to keep the rain out of the bus and off Dave, to no avail obviously. His other role was to press a horn. Horn honking is none stop in India when you're driving, this bus had two! One controlled by the driver and one by this lad at the back! The only explanation is: this is India.
Two hours passed before we conceded it'll be three hours like the guide book suggests, driving down one of the worst roads I've ever been on in my life.
When I was a kid I remember seeing cartoons etc of people jumping off their seats when the bus went over a bump...from my own experience I'd decided this wasn't possible. It is. It happens quite frequently in India. I hate buses at the best of times, having very little control over where your body goes is one of the most annoying things!
The bus was allegedly direct to Khajuraho so we were told. So whether the bus driver has a deal with the tuk-tuk drivers I'm not sure...but they made us get off at a town 11km outside Khajuraho and it took another 20 minutes (probably quicker than the bus) and another 150rs!
To be honest I didn't mind too much, I was just glad to be off the bus. We'd seen a guest house in the guide book “Hotel Zen” for 600rs per night, with WiFi and cable TV (You've got to try for the football when you can!). It was closed when we turned up at 10.30pm, but two lads came running across the street and offered us a cheap room and a free chillum! You just can't say no to an offer like that! (Google “chillum” if you're unsure).
350rs for a big double room, seemed all right for the first night. The A/C was off in the room and cost an extra 450rs, but you can just turn it back on when the hotel people leave the room and they'll never know. It was a shame that the A/C didn't even work! I swear it was blowing warm air. Maybe it's Karma?
Since we'd been told they have wifi when we took the room, for them to then tell us it won't be possible, we decided to look elsewhere the day after. We'd seen a Zostel on the way into town, so that's where we headed.
Zostel is the only backpacker hostel chain in India...I've not been to SE Asia but I'd imagine it's similar to hostels you'd find there.
They're really clean, and that's by home standards, not India standards. Their wifi is decent, and they have a range of rooms available starting with non-A/C dorms at 200rs, A/C dorms for 300rs, and double rooms for 1200rs. The double rooms are easily as good as a hotel you'd find at home.
Finally onto the temples.
The temples at Khajuraho are very unique due to the erotic karma Sutra carvings. There's only this site and two others in the world, all in India, where you'll find temples with carvings like these. The British colonial who “found” them in the jungle was said to have been outraged and offended by the carvings, claiming them to be unnecessary.
There's a lot of ideas, thoughts and opinions regarding the carvings and why they're there. Some people say they're there to protect the temples from evil spirits, some say it's because the Chandellas (the civilisation that built them) incorporated Tantra into their Hindu teachings, some say it's instructions for Brahmin (the top caste) boys ..etc the list goes on.
I don't know exactly what Tantra is, but I'm sure a google will give you the answer. Basically it's all to do with being in an almost meditative state during sex and connecting with your partner on more than just a physical and emotional level, I think.
This is the reason I think has the most credence...either that or these people fully accepted their sexuality and realised how important it is for human existence. Not only for reproduction, but also for health.
There's some incredibly adventurous poses and positions depicted. Some of which I'm not sure are even possible...not without a few extra joints anyway. Some show people having affairs with animals, some are one man and one woman, some are a group consisting of men and woman, some are groups of woman on one man. Whatever way you look at it, the ancient Indians had their heads screwed on.
It's incredibly interesting to note how liberal the ancient Hindus were when it came to sex, when compared with the conservative view we see today. Woman have to have their shoulders and knees covered, people don't talk about sex at all, people don't have sex until after marriage etc. (The exception being mostly young “city types” who are the same as at home. In cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore...)
There's no doubt that when the mughals (Muslims) came to invade India 1000-1500 years ago they suppressed this side of Hindu culture. There's some similar distinctions between what's seen in Hinduism today and Islamic culture, with regards to sex after marriage and woman covering up etc.
Hinduism is an ancient religion, like paganism, like Greek mythology, like the gods of ancient Egypt and South America. All these ancient civilisations lived by very similar codes, they worshipped the sun, the moon, the stars...they were all astronomers. They all had multiple different gods. They all taught acceptance and love of all people, no matter their religion.
Then came along these “new age” religions Christianity, Islam etc telling people there's “one god” and you HAVE to follow a set code and rules or die. (I don't know exactly how it went down. But I do know there's a lot of Hindu temples that have destroyed by Muslim armies...and it doesn't need to mentioned what's been done in the name of Christianity.)
However, I digress.
There's 22 temples in total at Khajuraho, there used to be 84 but I guess time and invading armies had their effect.
The western group, which are the main ones, are simply stunning. They're beautiful structures, all hand carved and without mortar originally. Only gravity was holding them up. The human race's building skills have declined over time if you ask me. These pathetic little glass skyscrapers you see all over the world definitely won't be standing in 1000s of years time.
The western group of temples are the ones which require a 500rs entry fee, audio guide 150rs (worth it!), and are fully intact.
There's five temples, two really amazing ones and three not quite as good. The bloke on the audio guide was really boring and spoke a lot of bollocks (That's not swearing Mum, as I'm sure you know the sex pistols proved it in court) however some of the information was really good and certainly made looking at the temples more interesting.
On the other side of town there's the Eastern group (obviously), the south group and the Jain group. We looked at getting a scooter for the day or bicycle but the price was 500rs for the day plus fuel! And it was far too hot to cycle, so we opted for a tuk-tuk tour. Normally in the season they charge 400rs for this, but as no one else is here we got it for 300rs, it took two hours, but for the same price he'll take you around for four hours.
The Eastern temples were less plentiful but were still impressive and intact. The Jain group, so called because they were gifts to a Jainism civilisation who lived with the chandellas from the King, except one were completely rebuilt structures...quite how they're claiming these to be historic monuments I’ll never know, my house is probably older. Granted there was some, very minimal, original stonework incorporated into the build. One still had the main part intact but the front entrance had been rebuilt. The rebuilt parts were so bad, they looked nothing like the original work. I can't help but feel rubble on the floor would be a more authentic experience.
The south group carried on in much the same vein as the Eastern group.
Each temple is designed in the same way, there's the tallest part at the back in a cone shape which is meant to represent a mountain reaching to the heavens. In the case of the Shiva temple it's meant to represent mount Kailas where Shiva lives, which I think is in Tibet. The biggest temples had two or three of these cone parts, the smaller only one. Around the outer walls of each temple there's deities in their various incarnations, there's a small band of carvings at the bottom which depict people going about their daily chores...with the odd sex position. At intervals along this band are elephant heads around a foot from the bottom of the trunk to the top of their heads. They've all got a menacing gaze and were put there to protect the temples. Next to one of the heads there's a carving of two people performing a pretty lewd act, the elephant has it's head turned to the act and looks as though it's laughing.
Above this band there was two or three, depending on the age of the temple and who'd built it. On these bands were most of the erotic carvings, mostly in the middle and fairly big sculptures. Each sculpture of a person was around two feet in height. This, for me, shows the importance of the erotic carvings to the chandellas.
The detail was incredible, I was truly amazed. Each figure had nipples...there was a clear definition of the vaginas...a camel toe is the most detail I’m going into. You could literally see the penis entering the vagina in the sex positions! (I feel like a science teacher using these words). It seems though, that they might have been a bit generous if the rumour about Asian men is true...and I don't recall seeing many Indian girls with a full ghetto rack and booty.
There's steps at the front of each temple, and they're facing east so the sun falls on the main deity in the temple at sunrise. The main deity is in a separate room from the main chamber, but there's no walls/doors blocking light from entering and highlighting them. In front of each deity there was a raised platform, kind of like a dance floor. The guides said this was used for dance and ceremonies. But they're just guessing. So I'm going to have a guess that these platforms, if topped with something soft, could be used to perform some of the acts the outer walls depict. I reckon the idea is backed up by a “bench” surrounding one of the deities incarnations, the bench is a little too low for a bench...but around the perfect height for leaning forwards onto....
It could just be because people weren't as tall in the past as they are now, and required a smaller bench...we'll never know.
The town/village itself was I think built for the tourism trade, and with us being here in the off season (peak season for India is October to March) there wasn't much going on. We were the only white people in the town when we arrived and we didn't increase too much in number before we left. It's a strange place to be in during the off season, and until the other western folk turned up it had an air of a horror movie. Everyone in the town had no one but us to sell things to, or try. So you can imagine the barrage of sales pitches we faced. Most of which start with a conversation about who you are, where you're from etc. Which is fine every now and then, but me and Dave hate small talk as it is! Spending three days having the same conversation gets tiring.
We're glad to be moving onto Agra and Taj, and a little step closer to the mountains.
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