Tuesday, 6 May 2014

... Crouch With Tigers, Hide With Dragons: Bringing Sexy Back

The drive to Alipura took about 3 hours, of which I slept about an hour. Once awake, the scenery changed a little and became a little more green looking, although there's still the usual polluted looking waterways and trash everywhere. I have been told India is getting better at educating people about the environment, starting with recycling and putting stuff in the trash rather than throwing it out of the front of your door and not really caring where it lands. But obviously there's still quite a bit of work to do. I also added a couple of peacocks and some dogs eating a dead cow to my viewing "pleasure". Lovely. Peacocks roam wild here and are not allowed to be kept as pets nor harmed in any way because the are India's national bird.

Alipura was a princely state in what is today the Chhatarpur District in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. The area around Alipura are filled with architectural delights - forts, palaces, temples with fascinating stories of kings fighting wars, cults, curses etc. Lots of people use Alipura as a base so that they can take day trips to the surrounding area. Alipura itself is a quaint and friendly village, filled with old-world houses and a palace in the middle.

The palace is a 300 year old heritage mansion built by the ancestors of the Rajput king Manvendra Singh, whose family still resides there. One wing of the palace is said to be 150 years old. It is simple looking from the outside, not quite Buckingham Palace by any means, yet once inside you travel back to British India. Trophies, trinkets, souvenirs, lithographs, Persian rugs and antique furniture. And I was staying here! My room was huge with a balcony and gorgeous furniture, white walls and lots of light.

Today saw a 2hr drive to Khajuraho, one of the most popular tourist destinations in India. Khajuraho was once the religious capital of the Chandela Rajputs, a Hindu dynasty that ruled this part of India from the 10th to the 12th centuries.

It is also is home to India's largest group of medieval Hindu temples with intricate carvings. The temples were built over a span of a hundred years, from 950 to 1050, with the whole area enclosed by a wall with eight gates, each flanked by two golden palm trees. There were originally over 80 Hindu temples, of which only 22 now stand in a reasonable state of preservation, scattered over an area of about 8 square miles. The western group have the most striking and best preserved temples.

Two elements feature repeatedly in these carvings - voluptuous females and.... sex. Lots of it. That may be somewhat surprising when you consider how reserved India is known to be. Apparently when the Chandelas weren't depicting battalions of soldiers going to war they had other things on their minds. Want to see a highly gymnastic nine-person orgy carved in stone? A man getting very friendly with a horse? Sensuous surasundaris (nymphs) draped in wet saris? These temples are famous for their erotic sculptures depicting scenes from the Kama Sutra.

Lakshmana temple has some of the raunchiest stonework followed by Kandaruya-Mahadev where you might find yourself wondering how on earth a handstand could produce what you see. Many of the statues here are almost 1m high. The most impressive thing about this temple though are the amazingly high temple rooftops.


Only discovered in the 20th century after being reclaimed by jungle, these exquisite temples are now protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and definitely worth a visit. 

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