Whenever I think of Khajuraho, it is Dr. Devangana Desai that I first remember. I am transported back to the end of October 2015, when I listened, spellbound, to Dr. Desai, as she spoke about the Religious Imagery of Khajuraho, as part of the Indian Aesthetics course I was pursuing, at Jnanapravaha Mumbai. By the end of the lecture, I was so fascinated by the temples and their iconography, that the first thing I did when I got back home, was to check trains to Khajuraho! When I finally stood at the Kandariya Mahadev Temple two months later, craning my neck up to see as much as I could of the 84 mini- Shikaras, seeing the resemblance to the cave at Kailasa, the sense of awe was only heightened. Yet, there was an odd sense of fulfillment, seeing the same sense of awe in the eyes of my 12 year old son who accompanied me.
I have written 10 posts so far on Khajuraho, based on my experiences. While my posts are mainly meant to share my experiences with all of you, these posts have also been a sort of personal quest, through which I tried to better understand the temples, in the context of their religious imagery. I have only succeeded partly, because writing these posts only raised more questions in my mind! However, this final post is one I am writing for you, based on questions I have received from readers and friends, asking for help in planning a trip to Khajuraho.
Taking a leaf from Sudha’s blog, I am writing this post in a Q&A format, which is a new concept for me. I hope it will help you plan your own trip.
How many days should I spend at Khajuraho?
This has been the question I have been asked most often in the past year. The most honest answer I can give is – It depends on you.
However, I know that doesn’t help. So let me elaborate.
You can complete all the temples in just one day. Most visitors to Khajuraho do, and you can see quite a bit if you have the stamina, and are observant enough.
However, to really see the temples, and enjoy the experience, you need to spend time at each temple, without having to rush from one temple to another.
Ideally, you should only see one group of temples in one day. Thus, one day for the Western Group, one day for the Eastern group, and one day for the Southern group. This leaves out the Chausath Yogini and Matangeshwara temples, which are near the Western Group, but not within the complex. However, it is a small town, and you can easily visit these on one of the other days.
Thus, I would recommend at least three days at Khajuraho, and more if you plan to explore the natural heritage of the region.
Of course, if you have all the time in the world, and like to travel slow, go right ahead and stay for a week, or more. Believe me, there is enough to see, both, in the temples, and outside!
Can you recommend a good place to stay at, in Khajuraho?
Before I make any recommendations, let me tell you about where I stayed.
I chose to stay not in a hotel, but at a homestay. The Friends in Khajuraho homestay is right in the village, opposite the Brahma Temple. Vijay and Vio are gracious hosts, and Vijay’s mother’s food had us licking our fingers. We most enjoyed the conversations - listening to Vio’s story told in her own way, the long discussions with Vijay and his brother Ravi about the temples of Khajuraho and the tourist scene here.
As for the house, it is simple, and is exactly what it appears to be, at first glance – a village house, expanded to accommodate a few guests. The arrangements are basic, but it is clean and comfortable. However, the highlight here is not the stay, but the experience.
I would certainly recommend the homestay, especially for budget and long term travellers. However, if material comforts take higher priority, I would recommend any of the MP Tourism Hotels here. There are 3 properties maintained by MP Tourism, and each has its own USP. One caters to budget travellers, another is very close to the temples, and the third is more of a resort, situated outside the town. You can book online based on your requirements, and though I haven’t stayed at any of their properties here, I can recommend them based on past experiences from other cities.
And of course, there are a number of resorts as well as five star hotels, which cater to the luxury traveller.
Where should we eat?
Honestly, this is a question which stumps me every time. I am in no way a foodie, and all I need is some chapatti and dal or some curd rice, so I hardly pay attention to meals. However, as my son grows, I am learning to look out for places he would like to eat at, which means we find more Pizza and Pasta joints than anything else!
However, coming back to Khajuraho, the best meals, as I have already mentioned, were the ones aunty cooked for us at her home. Her Alu Parathas were absolutely wonderful, and Samhith even now reminds me that mine aren’t as good as hers!
Apart from this, Khajuraho has enough cafés to cater to the foreign tourists, and we tried out quite a few of them in the four days that we were there! Samhith recommends Raja Café, and the pizza there J
We didn’t try any of the restaurants in the town, so sorry, no recommendations.
On the other hand, the street food was fun, and we tried them during our jaunt outside the town, when we visited the Pandav and Raneh Falls.
|A row of Mishtan Bhandars, or sweet shops, which also sell savory snacks. They sustained us during our day out!|
Are all the temples worth visiting?
Should we visit all the temples?
My answer to that is an emphatic YES. Every single temple is unique, despite whatever the guides might tell you.
Yes, some temples are grander than the others, and some temples are more important than the others. However, every temple here is a masterpiece, and should be visited.
Just to give you an example, the Jain temples are so unlike our preconceived notions, that they open our eyes to the tradition of the time, so they are certainly worth a visit, even if you aren’t a Jain.
Is there anything to see and do at Khajuraho apart from the temples?
This is my favourite question, since I can go all out and rave about all there is to see at Khajuraho…. Without a single temple on the list!
Within Khajuraho, apart from the temples, there are…
- Museums : There are four museums at Khajuraho.
- The old ASI Museum, which is right outside the Western Group of Temples. This museum is a treasure trove of sculptures, found all over the region. Sadly, there isn’t much explanation given along with the sculptures, but it is still worth a visit.
- The New ASI Museum is located on the outskirts of the town. It is a bright, new building complex, with rooms and rooms of sculptures, but hardly anyone to see them. Even the staff are barely visible. While the sculptures aren’t as impressive as those in the old museum, the plan is to shift all of them here… someday. Meanwhile, do visit this museum just for the maps of the region, the history, the information on the Chandelas, as well as other information about ASI museums in general.
- Website: http://museumkhajurahoasi.nic.in/
- The Jain Museum is located near the Jain temples in the Eastern Group. Once again, there are some beautiful sculptures here, but no information at all. However, do visit the museum if you visit the Eastern Group.
- The Tribal and Folk Art Museum is located near the New ASI museum. It contains tribal artefacts which are quite interesting – paintings, embroideries, toys, and a whole lot of other interesting things. Ask the caretaker to take you around. He explains things well and brings the pieces to life. Plus, while here, also ask him for prints of the tribal paintings. They are available as posters as well as postcards.
|One section of the Tribal and Folk Art Museum|
- The Sound and Light Show at Khajuraho is beautifully narrated. The lighting isn’t all that great, since it is spread all over the Western Group of Temples, but it helps put the temples in perspective.
- Timing: 6:30 PM: English, 7:40 PM: Hindi
- The Folk Dance show at the Cultural centre is another excellent initiative. Honestly, I didn’t have very high expectations, but I came back impressed.
- Timing: 6:30 PM, every day.
If you wish to step out of Khajuraho, you have even more options:
- The Lost Gardens are located all around Khajuraho, and are still in the process of being developed as centres of agro-tourism. Check out their website and go spend a day in the fields!
- Panna National Park (46 Km) is certainly the most inviting attraction for those interested in wildlife or nature. Plan well ahead and book safaris, or plan to stay somewhere nearer for a day.
- Pandav Falls (34 Km) are best seen just after the monsoon, that is, post September. This is also within the Panna National Park and makes for a wonderful journey.
- Raneh Falls (20 Km) are best seen in any season. In the rains you have the spectacular falls which have been compared to the Niagara. When the water is low, you can see the gorgeous rocks which are the natural, geological feature of this landscape. Either way, this is certainly worth a visit.
- The Ken Gharial Sanctuary (40 Km) is only open after the monsoon. You can go on a safari within the sanctuary, and if the water level permits, go on a boat ride which will improve your chances of seeing the Gharials. Otherwise, you can content yourselves with Nilgai, Spotted Deer, Wild Boars, Peacocks, and a variety of other birds!
- Kalinjar Fort (100 Km) is spectacular, and if you have energy after walking through temple after temple, this fort is a must visit. The magnificent sculptures atop the fort have to be seen to be believed.
- Dhubela Museum (50 Km) has an excellent collection of sculptures, and is worth a visit. There are also two broken down 11th century temples nearby.
- Ajaygarh (80 Km) is built on a high plateau and was one of the strongholds of the Chandelas. The fort has temples built in the 12th and 13th centuries. This one involves quite a climb.
Now that I am through with answering the questions, here are a few suggestions.
- Read up on Khajuraho before you go. The temples are too magnificent for words, and deserve more than just a quick look. If you understand the concepts behind the temples and the sculptures, the place will truly come to life for you.
- If you want reading suggestions, I would recommend...
- Khajuraho, Dr. Devangana Desai, Oxford India Paperbacks. Available online.
- Khajuraho, the World Heritage Series, Archaeological Survey of India. Available at ASI Counters.
Both books are inexpensive, and easily available. Besides, they are easy to read. So do read at least one before you go to the temples.
- Try your luck with the Audio Guides at the ticket counter of the Western Group. They have a ridiculously small number of audio guides of any language, and only a few manage to get hold of them. Despite reaching quite early, we were unable to, and had to opt for a guide instead.
- If you hire a guide, strike a deal with him, based on the number of days you are there, and your schedule. See if the hotel you are staying at can arrange one for you.
And finally, here is the full list of my posts on Khajuraho.
- Khajuraho - The Unexpected
- The Magnificent Temples of Khajuraho - Looking beyond the erotic
- Khajuraho - The Temple as Cosmos
- Khajuraho - Forms of Vishnu
- Khajuraho - Forms of Shiva
- Khajuraho - Forms of Devi
- The Power of 8 - the Ashta Dikpalas and Ashta Vasus at Khajuraho
- Khajuraho - More Sculptures and some thoughts as well
- Khajuraho - A break from Temples and a Tryst with Nature
- Khajuraho - The Other Heritage
That’s all I have for now. Hope this will help you plan your own trip. If you have any more questions, do let me know, and I shall try to address it.