Khajuraho, the Tantric temple town
Khajuraho, the Tantric temple town
I was totally amazed when I visited Khajuraho, the Tantric temple town in Madhya Pradesh in central India.
Khajuraho is amazingly beautiful and ugly at the same time. The complex, covering perhaps four hectares, was built by the Chandela Dynasty between 950AD and 1050AD. The Tantric statues covering every wall of every temple depicting every position of heterosexual coupling are amazing, as it is to contemplate the society that built and sustained them over the thousand years of their existence, a society whose attitude towards sex was set in stark contrast to the repressed nature of sex in modern, post-British Raj India.
The pornographic trinkets and souvenirs that the Indians sell are, unsurprisingly, quite ugly and indicative of the sexually repressed, modern Indian mind.
It seems that for many men in India there will never be a girlfriend, let alone a wife, and unless they can afford a prostitute there is little likelihood of ever having sex with a woman either, so often the hawkers and rickshaw drivers all over India are totally sex-obsessed. This sex obsession arising from repression is generally rife through Indian society.
Prior to the British arriving and imposing their societal, including sexual, norms and mores, the exploration of sex in a Tantric sense, where sex is honoured as a tool to find god, liberation and freedom and not just about procreation or confused with romance and Western ideas of possessiveness, was big in India. Of course many aspects of this were often extremely chauvinistic and the priests exploited their positions in ways that the #metoo movement would have for breakfast!
Often girls were given to the temples by their parents to become trained by the priests in the Tantric arts who then forced them into prostitution, and they were often known as temple prostitutes. The scope for abuse was very broad in those times but the underlying Tantric teachings were preserved, hidden from the Moghul conquerors and passed down and has now become extremely popular in the West as it has mutated into as many versions as there are practitioners.
The temple complex here is massive, covering about four hectares, with perhaps 20 large and 30 small temples all covered with Tantric statues. Predating the Mogul conquest, it has somehow survived the centuries, largely because the residents abandoned the town and the temples to the jungle in order to not attract the attention of the Muslim invaders. From the 13th to 18th century the temple complex remained hidden by the expanding forest cover until it was rediscovered by the British.
The accommodations in Khajuraho when I was there were fairly basic — stained sheets on lumpy cotton mattresses in dirty rooms with shared disgusting bathroom facilities. However, there were some passable restaurants due to the large numbers of Western tourists that were already coming. By now no doubt it has become a prosperous and modern min city with clean, hygienic restaurants and accommodation. We spent two full days exploring the temples, overwhelmed by the sheer scale and intensity of the sexual imagery on display, and felt saturated by the time we left.
Khajuraho, the Tantric temple town is taken from Busted in India, a story of an Indian hash bust, available as an ebook from Amazon.
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