Monday, September 8, 2008

Timeless Sculptures at Khajuraho

If sculptures could speak, Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh would reverberate with the sound of love and music. The land of temples is home to some of the most exotic stone sculptures that date back at least a 1,000 years. Today only 22 of the 85 original temples, built during the reign of the Chandela dynasty have survived the test of time.

The architectural style of the Khajuraho temples stands out as compared to the other temples of that period. Each structure is pointed vertically upwards and stands on a high platform, like the peaks of a mountain range giving an effect of grace and lightness. The temples revolve around the theme of love and its many moods and attract tourists from all over the world. Added to this is the Khajuraho Festival of Dances which draws some of the country's best classical dancers who perform against the spectacular backdrop of the floodlit temples every year in February/March.

Getting there
Khajuraho is accessible by air, rail and road. A daily Boeing 737 service links Khajuraho with Delhi, Agra, Varanasi and Kathmandu. The nearest railheads are Mahoba (64 km) and Harpalpur (94 km). Jhansi (175 km) and Satna (117 km) are convenient railheads for visitors from Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta, Chennai, Agra & Varanasi. A regular bus service makes it travelers to commute by bus from Mahoba, Harpalpur, Satna, Jhansi, Gwalior, Agra, Jabalpur & Bhopal.

What to see
The temples of Khajuraho
Temples: The temples of Khajuraho are spread over three geographical groups: Western, Eastern and Southern. The largest temple, the Kandariya Mahadev, belongs to the Western group which is why it is also the best known. Exquisite carvings of celestial beings and lovers in different poses stand as if frozen in eternity yet have managed to retain a lifelike quality about them. Also in the western group is the only granite temple in the Khajuraho stable - the Chaunsat Yogini. Then there is the Chitragupta temple, dedicated to Surya, the sun-god. The Lakshmana and Matangeswara temple complete the western circuit.

The temples of Khajuraho
The temples on the eastern side are mostly Hindu and Jain temples and include the Parswanath, Brahma, Vamana and Javari temples. These again provide stunning visual imagery and depict the richness of human life. The Chaturbhuj and Duladeo temples are towards the southern part of Khajuraho.

Shilpgram: Located in the heart of Khajuraho, in this 10-acre complex you will find artisans from various parts of India weaving a magic spell. These ethnic handicrafts are a big hit with tourists.

Museums and Art Galleries: The archaeological museum houses a beautiful collection of statues and remains of the ancient temples. There is also a huge statue of Buddha.

Khajuraho has both MP-tourism run hotels, lodges and guest houses as well as privately run hotels. However, you would be advised to make your bookings in advance especially during the dance festival.

Getting Around
If you've had your fill of temples, then take a break and see some other fascinating sights in and around Khajuraho. These include:

The Raneh Falls: An ideal picnic spot, located 9 km from Khajuraho on the Ken river are a series of seasonal waterfalls surrounded by thick forests.

Ken Gharial Sanctuary: About 20 km from the temples, this sanctuary is the natural habitat of the crocodile.

Benisagar Lake and Ranguan Lake: Both are ideal picnic spot suitable for boating and angling.

Best time to go :This temple city is best visited between September to March, the latter being more popular because of the rare cultural extravaganza that Khajuraho is home to. The Dancing festival kicks off in this temple town in March and attracts lovers of dance and music from all over the world. Renowned Indian artists such as Chitra Vishweshwaran, Guru Jairam Rao, Pratima Jena and Vijaylakshmi (Mohiniattam) will display their talents in the backdrop of the floodlit temples. If you are interested, contact the MP Tourism Development Corporation offices in Delhi and Khajuraho or the Kala Parishad at Bhopal.

So pack your bags if you want to be a part of this spectacular annual dance festival set against Khajuraho's timeless sculptures.

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