Chapter 6 - The Erotic Temples of Khajuraho
The next morning, for breakfast on the balcony, a candle had been added to the table setting. The candle was lit. She explained that she always lights a candle on the morning of her traveling, symbolically to light the way. "I know its silly," she said, "but the sight of its light stays in thought. It keeps that day bright. May it is my own version of the Festival of Lights. Or maybe I do it, because a lighted candle has a long in ancient traditions that aren't as silly as one might think. The erotic temples of Khajuraho are like a light on the spiritual horizon of India. So it seems doubly appropriate to light a candle on our travel day to them. We will leave at 11:05, reservations have already been made, and arrive shortly after noon. I got you a window seat.
"Getting there is easy," said Indira. I didn't think so. Delhi is huge. It is a city of 20 million residents, polluted and gridlock. It is a city with streets teeming with millions of pedestrians and 360,000 holy cows as Indira informed me, all ambling about in every direction. To her, that was normal. We took a cab to the monumental Jamal Mashid Mosque, then the train of the super-modern Metro, and from one of the stations a bus to the Indira Gandhi International Airport. Surprisingly, we got there in less than an hour.
In the air things were quiet and delightful. Some pastry was served. Indira told me that we came at the wrong time to Khajuraho. Had we come in March we would have taken part in the famous Khajuraho Dance Festival that goes on for 10 days. She said that the festival is a high-class cultural event with renowned dancers from all over India taking part, paying tribute in dance to the Gods and goddesses enshrined in the temples. She said that the festival is a celebration of the 'opulence' of Indian classical dance. She spoke of dance styles with names that sounded as exotic as the names of the gods they were designed to honor, dance styles called Kathak, Bharathanatyam, Odissi, Kuchipudi, Manipuri and Kathakali.
Traveling with Indira quickly became a 'festival of dance' in its own right. I was sure that flying to Khajuraho with her was the shortest four-hour flight that I could remember.
Indira had promised a tour of the erotic temples. But that had to wait. Accommodation had to be found first. "What's the hurry?" she asked. Fortunately accommodation was plentiful. We has a whole slew of hotels to choose from. We rented a car and simply cruised about and picked a hotel that looked 'right' as Indira had put it. In this case, 'right' meant that it was sufficient for western expectation.
I was more fascinated with Khajuraho as a village than with the prospects of looking at temples. The village was a mixture of a quaint rural setting and the commercialism that in interwoven with rare places of a rich cultural heritage. We were tourists. This was a place for tourists with several types of eating-places to choose from, one even advertising hamburgers and fish and chips. But underneath the neon signs were thousand-year-old stone sculptures giving a foretaste of things to come.
Indira said that the temples of Khajuraho belong not only to India, but to the whole world, and are now a world heritage site. She said that only 22 of the original 85 temples had survived. Some decayed. Some were demolished. She suspected that Islam has something to do with that, whose rulers had destroyed many Hindu temples or turned them into mosques. She suspected that there were none converted in Khajuraho. She said that the temples that survived the tempest of time had been revived only in the last century and are now counted among the world's great artistic wonders. She called them a silent body of evidence to an artistic grandeur of a distant past that became almost lost out of neglect.
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from novels by Rolf A. F. Witzsche