Khajuraho has been promoted as the ‘land of the Kamasutra’ since times immemorial. And there is little doubt that this strategy has worked well in promoting it as a prominent tourist destination, both within India and globally. In addition to large swarms of domestic tourists every year, Khajuraho also receives a significant number of international tourists, who visit the temple town to get a glimpse or experience their bit of ‘oriental eroticism’.
Like every other individual, I too harboured a similar perception about Khajuraho and wanted to witness first-hand the uniqueness of the place. However, my four day trip to the town not just changed my perception about the place, but also made me realise that the city has been promoted in a completely different context than what it actually is.
Of course, the external walls of some of the famous temples and historical monuments in the city feature erotic sculptures but their numbers probably constitute less than 20%. I have personally witnessed similar sculptures in Sun Temple in Konark and Lingaraja Temple in Bhubaneshwar. In fact, there are several other temple complexes in India that feature similar sculptures from the ancient Indian sexual text – Kamasutra. However, for some reason, none of those destinations or templeshave been promoted in the way as Khajuraho has been.
Sex Sells – Almost Everything!
So what is it that makes Khajuraho synonymous with eroticism? I assume it has to more to do with the perception created by various stakeholders – from tourism bodies to travel operators. In their quest to promote Khajuraho as a favoured tourist destination they devised a clever strategy to market it as a ‘land of love, eroticism’ etc. And since, sex has an ability to sell almost everything (recall the various product TV commercials), they decided to focus on this aspect of the town rather than its cultural heritage, architecture etc..
However, for travellers it is would be really helpful to know about the various facets of Khajuraho, and in this blog I will try to cover the various highlights of this mystic town, which will give you more reasons to include it in your travel list.
Khajuraho – Places of tourist interest
Western Group of Temples – A UNESCO world heritage site, the Western Group of Temples is the most famous set of temples located at a single site in Khajuraho. The highlight of these temples is their unique architecture and erotic figurines on their walls. The famed Kandariya Mahadev temple is a part of this complex. It is a must-visit during a trip to Khajuraho.
Eastern Group of Temples – Unlike the Western Group, the Eastern Group of temples is not enclosed within a defined boundary. They are located across a wide area, and as such, the ideal way to explore them is hire a local taxi, auto or bicycle to explore them one by one. We hired a local auto for INR 500 that showed us around, while the driver also doubled up as a guide.
Sound and Light Show – The Western Group of temples hosts one of the best sound and light shows in India. Trust my words on this as I have seen several such shows across various historical monuments in India. So, don’t miss it for anything!
Ken Ghariyal Sanctuary – The distance between Khajuraho and the Ken Ghariyal (crocodile) sanctuary is 25 kilometers and its takes approximately an hour to reach there. We hired a local auto to visit the place that charged us INR 500 – to and fro – and also waited for us while we explored it. The highlight of this sanctuary is the remote nature of the place, the crystal clear waters of the Ken River that flows through it, and the red granite rocks that encompass the river on both sides. While we did not spot any crocodile, we did come across several deer and nilgais (Indian antelope/blue bull). The forest guards are quite friendly and are happy to guide you around the place.
Raneh Falls and Canyon – The Raneh falls is more popularly known as the ‘grand canyon of India’. It is located within the Ken Ghariyal wildlife sanctuary and offers breathtaking views of granite rocks that have been cut beautifully by years of being washed by the Ken river. It is a must visit place that will leave you mesmerised by its raw beauty.
Pandav Caves and Falls – The Pandav caves and falls is an interesting mythological destination located near Khajuraho. It is believed that the Pandavas spent a portion of their exile period in these caves. A trip to these caves can easily be combined with Raneh Falls and Ken Ghariyal Sanctuary.
Panna National Park – For wildlife enthusiasts, Panna National Park located near Khajuraho can be a good break. While we did not visit it during our trip due to scarcity of time, it can easily be packed in with an additional day or two.