Celebrating Life and Erotica in Khajuraho Without Viagra
According to an audio guide, only a tenth of Khajuraho’s sculptures are explicit in nature.&nbsp;(Photo: iStock/Altered by <b>The Quint</b>)
According to an audio guide, only a tenth of Khajuraho’s sculptures are explicit in nature. (Photo: iStock/Altered by The Quint)

Celebrating Life and Erotica in Khajuraho Without Viagra

For those who want to get away briefly from our country’s testosterone-ic political discourse, may I suggest Khajuraho as a detox destination? I was there at the beginning of February, taking a break from the quotidian. It was not just for depictions of making out in medieval India, which are more advertised than real. According to the audio guide I was using, only a tenth of the sculptures are explicit in nature.

But they are quite a draw and amuse latter-day visitors just as certainly as they did their creators. In one, a sculpted elephant is stealing a glance at the calisthenics in its neighbourhood, unlike its mates in the panel, whose gaze is resolutely straight. In another, a maid is shown with a small purse slung from the shoulder with a long strap. Quite hip.

Well Maintained Temples

A Lord Shiva temple. (Photo: Vivian Fernandes)
A Lord Shiva temple. (Photo: Vivian Fernandes)
An elephant amused at antics in its vicinity. (Photo: Vivian Fernandes)
An elephant amused at antics in its vicinity. (Photo: Vivian Fernandes)

The western temple cluster, which I visited, is very well maintained, for a change, by the Archaeological Society. With an audio guide, you can do the temples at a leisurely pace, in three hours. The commentary is informative, unlike that of the sound and light show, which needlessly urges you to marvel.

Its verbal flourishes and gratuitous use of words like sublime, glorious, great, wonderful, poetry and paean are a cover-up for poor research. The show is a visual experience; not an educative one. It makes some awful slips too. Khajuraho in decline is described as a ‘widow without ornaments.’

Workers maintaining the temple. (Photo: Vivian Fernandes)
Workers maintaining the temple. (Photo: Vivian Fernandes)

Mahmud of Ghazni is not invading the Chandela kingdom but ‘Hindustan.’ Did such an entity exist in the 11th century? And there are frequent references to the royal concern for the pleasure of Brahmins, which, without caveats, grate on republican ears.

Zostel for the Tight Budget

(Photo: Vivian Fernandes)
(Photo: Vivian Fernandes)

I recommend Zostel for those on a lean budget. It is a hostel with a twist. A chain of fourteen hotels primarily for backpackers, it is an IIM start-up. Private rooms (just four) are available for Rs 1,800 each (I got a discount). The rest (six) are dormitories, with beds priced at Rs 400 a day. Inexpensive, however, does not mean cheap behaviour is permitted. Guests are expected to be considerate. Some of them leave an impression on the walls, literally.

The Zostel in Khajuraho has been taken on franchise by three youngsters, two of whom have trained in engineering and one is a journalist. Pushkar Dwivedi, 24, says they are children of government servants and do not have a legacy of entrepreneurship.

Pushkar Dwivedi of Zostel, Khajuraho. (Photo: Vivian Fernandes)
Pushkar Dwivedi of Zostel, Khajuraho. (Photo: Vivian Fernandes)

I quite like the way he handled my complaint about stepping into the shower expecting hot water and being subject to a jet of goose bumps. For a small fee, he personally deposits guests in his Ford car at the railway station. You cannot get more personal than that.

No Plastic, Please

(Photo: Vivian Fernandes)
(Photo: Vivian Fernandes)

Plastic is banned in the town. That’s a relief. It has some nice restaurants like Raja Cafe, set up by a Swiss national, now deceased. It serves a variety of cuisines. Mediterraneo is another. It was established by Rajasthani businessman Ram Niwas Kachhar, who is settled in Rome.

He calls daily and visits frequently, says Raja Babu Singh, who has been serving guests since the mid-1990s. The relationship is mutually rewarding. He invests in trust by not stinting on medical emergencies, occasional holidays, or their children’s schooling and they do not short change him. This is how restaurants (and businesses) should be run. You cannot have satisfied guests with disgruntled employees.

An overnight train from Delhi makes Khajuraho a quick get-away. Europe’s economic travails have stemmed the flow of visitors. Business is down. That’s levitating for your wallet.

(The writer is editor of www.smartindianagriculture.in)

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