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first_imgDescriptions of magnificence and splendor don’t begin to capture the stunning beauty of the temples of Khajuraho.A visit to the town of Khajuraho, which has an airport of its own and is well connected by road from Gwalior and Varanasi, is an intriguing experience. The local economy is set to welcome the tourists. Everyone, starting with the the rickshaw-wallahs and the cab drivers who takes you to the hotel, sizes you up. Among other things, they are curious why you would come to see the temples famous worldwide for their erotic images. In this age of pictorial pornography and widely available images of the temple structures themselves, what prods you to spend all that money to visit an arid town, with almost no other attraction to see the temples? If you are a couple, with the airs of being newly married, and there are a few of them, then it titillates them. It must be some feat to start your married life with the education of sculptures that are immensely erotic and suggestive. If you are a Westerner, the locals are not amused. They know that it does not take much for goras to be thrilled by anything that is exotic – the erotic simply adds to the excitement. Visitors from Japan, Hong Kong and the East, for whom the temples seem to hold intense attraction, appear strange, but elicit sympathy for their wanton hunger for things erotic. If you are a single male, you invite knowing stares. The locals are quite amused by your attraction to the sculptures, which you seem to consume all by yourself. Either you are an eccentric scholar who is going to hang out there for a while or a pretty desolate traveler in the land of love and lust.Then there is that NRI crowd. A rickshaw-wallah surmised that the returning Indians come to Khajuraho to test the power of their earnings. What they could not see earlier, and what they are embarrassed not to have seen before, they come to see with their means. For them the taxi, van or rickshaw fares are higher and most importantly, these people, he said, do not want to share rides with others. They want to ride alone. Of course, no generalizations are fair, but it is always a good starting point to read the landscape of a place you are visiting. Somewhere in books or tourist literature you learn that only ten percent of the sculptures in Khajuraho are erotic. This might dampen your enthusiasm a little, as the erotic is what gives these temples their notoriety. Men, women, animal-like figures, and gods all join in a feast of erotic poses, in breathtakingly beautiful sculptures, opening up several sex manuals on how to realize physical intimacy in a variety of unions. If you want to read the impressions on the faces of visitors, I suggest you turn your back against the sculptures, pretending to tie your shoes or taking pictures of the other temple across from you. You will see visitors facing the sculptures, dropping their jaws at the explosive sexuality of coital positions between men and women, with several formulations of singular and plural possible between them. These stunned and admiring faces say a lot about how advanced the reality of those who built them from the 9th through the 14th century was compared to our imagination.The temple guards, all males and employees of the Archeological Survey of India, are happy to share their tales of visitors. There are two kinds of visitors: those interested in detailed and patient studies of each sculpture, who take copious notes and stick around for few days (at least) to take photographs. They are the studious types, not quite charmed by what is going on around them. They are only a few, but they come too. The rest move through the temples, of which only one is used today for active worship, quickly. They are the typical visitors. The guides to the site tell you that it takes under four hours to see the 14 Western temples. These visitors are mainly interested in erotic sculptures, as that is why they have come. Some are intensely busy taking photographs while some move with efficient speed having pretended that they have absorbed all that there is. The other two groups of temples, for which there is no entrance fee and which require auto rides, are on the Southern and Eastern sides of the town.The guards are self-taught experts in these sculptures. This is one government job they did not know they would get. To make the most of it, they have little mirrors in their hands. With plenty of sunshine to help them, they will point you toward poses in sculptures that are explicitly titillating. While they are guiding you to what they think you are interested in, they will tell you in wonderful Madhya Pradesh Hindi or in broken English that those are “Kama Sutra” poses. They are perpetuating a stereotype, but that is what most need and they have to earn a living too. The guards are amused and amusing features of these temples. In their painful boredom of being alone in the arid land, they are entertained by the strange, alien creatures that seem to visit continuously from all corners of the world. In return, they offer you quick courses in erotica, almost reading your minds or tell you stories of other visitors, historical tid-bits which may just not be true. Once you have seen the temples, there isn’t much to do in town. The much publicized light show, which is strewn together by the voice of Amitabh Bachhan, occurs next to the Western temples. Using the backdrop of the temples as a stage, it offers a quick history of the building of the temples and their discovery by a British hunter in 1838. It is an attractive feature of the place, and even if you have done your homework, it does offer a way to grasp what one can in a place now considered a tourist destination.All temples should be seen at the crack of dawn. The Western temples simply look spectacular in the sunlight of central India. The sculptures on the outside are waking up as the light caresses them. And you don’t quite notice the sexuality of the sights you behold. Instead, the whole world is opening up to you in its sensual essence.The temples are intensely sensuous. Aren’t they all in India. But here, in the Chandela tradition, each square foot is sculpted. There are levels of sculptures and multitude of layers of details. There are gods and goddesses, both within and throughout the temples, tempering the spirits as our eyes rest on them. It is clear that those who built the temples and those who hold them dear in their worship, were devotees of Shiva. No wonder, the gods here are forcefully passionate and tender at once. Goddesses move within the spectrum of malevolence, only containing energy in restraint until the moment it is required and benevolence that seeks justice in generosity. One never forgets that these are places of worship and that makes the rest of the experience even more meaningful. All we have to imagine is large groups of sculptors, some seasoned and apprentices, gathering together at sun rise, beginning their craft with a prayer and then dedicating themselves to actualizing what they imagined. These are products of human imagination as much as the erotic sculptures are. One does not think of divinity in seeing these gods. It is pure admiration and sensuality. A culture once made gods playful, sensuous and then embodied all that in carnal forms. There is no guilt here. As the sculptors made their art, they must have stepped back to examine the flaws to correct them and features they admired. Once that art took form, they stepped back and worshipped them even more, except now that worship was displaced from the admiration of their own work to the divinity of spirits that made the work possible. So when we are worshipping gods, we are really admiring the artists who gave shape to our imagination.The life surrounding these artists and their patrons who commissioned them had a prominent place for animals. A life so integral to animals and not dependent, as some apologetics would have you believe, placed great emphasis on their depiction. So we have gods that are like animals and animals with the powers we could have attributed to gods. Elephants, horses and monkeys figure distinctly among these sculptures. All of them seem equal to the human form, participating in everything with pure joy. There isn’t one animal figure that seems as if it is dragged into something, or tired, or weighted down by burden. Monkeys are playing with those who are intertwined in sex. There are varahas, Shiva’s nandi adoring activities of war, everyday life and worship and other mystical beings, synthesized as spirits from the imagination of sculptors. They are engaged in war, combat and also in unions with women. The sculptures are puzzling and to the newcomer, the befuddlement requires serious unlocking of studied knowledge.The 80 temples, of which 22 survive, were built over four centuries by Chandela warriors. They depict everyday life, of which worship, sexuality and sensuality are a part. The temples are laced with graceful depictions of war and everyday life. The images of dance, music and marches all appear to be of joyous people. That brings you to the realization that the period in which the temples were built and the people who built them must have been happy people indeed. It is unlikely that this was a representation meant to sugarcoat everyday suffering. With hundreds of workers and sculptors required to put these buildings together, their own lives had to be reflected in what they did. The female form is dominant to the sight in the sculptures of all temples. Apsaras and sarsundaries turn grace into unlimited seductiveness. As they dance, adorn themselves, paint and present postures that are inviting as they are contemplative, these women truly seem as if they come from celestial abodes to bless our carnal yet mortal existence. There is no way to turn your eyes away from them. What strikes you most is the incredibly respectful world they open up. None of them appears to be “consenting” in the way that the Western idiom of the gaze reduced the female figure. They are inviting but hardly objectified. If you are an expatriate returning to your early world or a foreigner witnessing these grace-defining beings for the first time, you cannot but notice their distinct claim to respect and admiration. They bring to you a world very difference from women in Western paintings who struggle to present themselves from the commodities they have become in the privatized gaze that falls on them.And that is perhaps the greatest characteristic of these temples. The nudity in them is public. For a temple where worship is most important, it is intriguing for any Westerner to see this nudity in public. For the uninformed, it is a cultural jolt. It draws stark contrast with a culture that developed forms of seeing that promoted illicitness, guilt and above all, dehumanizing objectification. Seeing nudity in public in the West is damaging to one’s moral standing and yet, all technologies of seeing, from photography and painting to film, promote and then condemn such acts of seeing. That is precisely why the West is still struggling in practice and philosophy with the erotic. This culture, in the temples of Khajuraho, understood what nudity is, a form to which we all belong and therefore, well within our desires of public celebration. That is where the jaw dropping experience at these temples comes from.There are sculptures of sex between men and women in positions that have since become a matter of popular lore. It is still a disputed claim that these sculptures are depictions of Kama Sutra, that luscious attraction of the rest of the world. Countless sex “manuals” derived from Kama Sutra, the photographic and video forms of which promotethe athletic aspects of sex, shamelessly copy or directly use the sculptures of Khajuraho. The film Kama Sutra by Mira Nair, which was filmed on site at the temples, simply exaggerated those claims, adding to the stereotyping about the Kama Sutra and India. Very few of us venture to read the Kama Sutra itself, which even in its translation by Richard Burton, is a biased and misunderstood text. Above all, it is without visuals. The mythology of eroticism and the sexuality of Khajuraho moves in to make up the void. Eroticism in Indian temples is not uncommon at all. Konarak in Orissa stands as another example, but images of fornication, foreplay and polyphonic sexuality are to be found in places of worship all over India. The Shri Padmanabhaswamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum), which requires that you strip your clothes and wear a single cloth for worship, contains a multitude of erotic images in the most common and yet unassuming places. It is a place of celebrated devotion. The Nilakantha temple near Baroda and the Adiniitha and Chowmukhi temples at Ranakpur near Udaipur are other examples of temples with erotic images. As Sudhir Kakar points out, there is nothing embarrassing by such temples and reason to believe that they are a product of a “degenerate” era. Indeed, these temples are testimony to a culture that is mature in recognizing and respecting an area of our lives that is essential, in romance and in worship. Sexuality is a form of worship. If a visitor does not come away with that feeling, it is difficult to locate the difficulties one may have in understanding that.The utmost value in staring at these sculptures, which challenge your imagination and sink you into depths of profound admiration, is in their carnal beauty and grace. As you stare at the sculptures and begin to let your eyes travel through their contours, the sculptured figures return their gaze on you. They ask you to see everything in its sensuality, including the objects around. The space between objects adorns the objects and gives them their distinct existence. They look at you, examining the gaze that looks at them. You wonder if you have the preparation to really appreciate what they speak of and what they show you.Sex and sexuality are taboo and the morality of the Western culture is so ridden with guilt over what ate entirely simple issues. Even those who prohibit others to have sex have it themselves. It is an orientation of the mind, they say. Here at Khajuraho, we hold the lessons that sex is well beyond the mind, well beyond the coded desires of the bodies and certainly far beyond the boundaries set by our technologies. It is something to be cherished, something to be understood.These sculptures at times seem to scream that sexuality is not contained in anything. All our existence is sensual and sexuality is only a part of it. Genital pleasures confine, not define our sexuality. These global temples of erotica inform us that sex is only a small, if not insignificant, part of our lives.   Related Itemslast_img read more

first_imgBag a billionaire; Skyscanner shows you where to visit the world’s super-richWe ain’t saying you’re a gold digger, but if you are, flight comparison site Skyscanner.net maps out where to find the world’s richest people.Forbes has just released its latest Top 100 Billionaires’ list and despite the worldwide recession, the super-rich are still getting richer with the number of billionaires increasing by 17% to 1,210.America has by far the biggest number of billionaires with one in three (413) of the world’s wealthiest living in the US, including seven ‘tech-geek’ billionaires from social networking site Facebook.Star of Oscar-nominated movie The Social Network, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerbergnow has an estimated wealth of $13.5billion and is joined in the list by Facebook colleagues including the world’s youngest billionaire Dustin Moskovitz, aged 26.For the first time since the 1990s, Asia has more billionaires than Europe, with 332 compared to a European total of 300, while Moscow is home to 79 billionaires, more than any other city on earth. And while the world’s richest man, telecoms magnate Carlos Slim Helu, who is worth an estimated $74billion, is Mexican, outside of the USA only 76 other people from the Americas made the list. RelatedEssential guide to 10 of the best Caribbean islandsConsidering a holiday to the paradise islands of the Caribbean? Planning a Caribbean cruise and trying to decide which beaches to hit? Whether you’re booking a family holiday, searching for a dream honeymoon or just wanting sand, sea and rum cocktails, here’s an essential guide to 10 of the best…Literary London: 9 great walks to do in London to pay homage to your favourite literary heroesApril marks Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary, and many people will be paying homage to the world’s favourite bard with a visit to Stratford-upon-Avon or Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. On this milestone, take a stroll and celebrate your favourite writers in London.The 10 most popular beaches in the worldWant a deserted beach all to yourself? You’ll not love these beautiful but busy beaches! Join the gold rush!Sugar daddies (or mummies) are all very well, but if it’s real gold you’re after, go gold digging for real and visit one of these Golden destinations!1. Wat Traimit, Temple of the Golden Buddha, Bangkok, ThailandIt’s official, Buddhism is all about the bling. The Buddha in Wat Traimit claims the prestigious title of not just being the world’s biggest solid gold Buddha – but the world’s biggest solid gold statue. Weighing nearly five and a half tons and sitting at three meters in height, the statue spent two centuries encased in plaster to disguise its value when the Burmese invaded. Now visitors enjoy it in all its golden glory in one of the most visited temples in Bangkok.2. Kinkaku-ji, Temple of the Golden Pavilion, Kyoto, JapanAll that glitters is not gold. But Kinkaku-ji most certainly is. As one of Japan’s most prized temples, you’d think they might take better care of it; not so, Kinkaku-ji has burned down twice (once by a mad monk) and hence the present structure is actually fairly recent, only dating from 1955. However, this three storey Japanese temple that is covered in glittering gold leaf is one of Japan’s must sees.3. Kromdraai Gold Mine, Johannesburg, South AfricaFor over 100 years, South Africa claimed the title of largest gold producer in the world (although China recently stolen the title). Even though they are now only in second place, the country is still well known for its gold mining. Take a tour to the Kromdraai Gold Mine just outside of Johannesburg and go deep into the heart of the mountain to learn about the traditional methods of mining gold ore.Notes to editors: Please credit www.skyscanner.net with any use of this image. Data taken from Forbes.com.ReturnOne wayMulti-cityFromAdd nearby airports ToAdd nearby airportsDepart14/08/2019Return21/08/2019Cabin Class & Travellers1 adult, EconomyDirect flights onlySearch flights Maplast_img read more