Sitting by the side of the intricately sculpted, ancient temples of Khajuraho, I watched entranced, as a throng of people in bright, elaborate saris chattered excitedly as they made their way, in their droves, to the only temple still in use.
They were carrying flowers and little silver pots, the air was filled with the sound of bells chiming, chanting, chatter and laughter as hundreds of Hindus entered the temple.
Khajuraho is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is best known for the explicit erotic sculptures that adorn the ancient temples, but actually, the famous erotic figures account for only 10% of the numerous sculptures and there is much more to see in this village that gave me a fascinating glimpse into rural Indian life.
Most of the temples at Khajuraho are no longer in use but the commotion of people visiting the temple in the distance gave me a feel for what it would have been like in the temples heyday. They still rise up majestically into the blue skies, every inch covered in amazingly detailed and intricate sculpture.
There are several groups of temples in Khajuraho, including Jain temples also. They are spread throughout the countryside, the western group of temples are the best preserved, most interesting and the only ones you have to pay for.
The temples were built in the 10th century by the Chandelas, one of the ruling dynasties that were prevalent throughout India in that time and often fought violent wars against each other or against invading parties.
The Khajuraho temples are amazingly, stunningly intricate in architecture, style and detail and freezes of detailed sculptures run all along and around the temples and up the flamboyant spires.
While some theories connect the erotic carvings with the Karma Sutra these have mostly been discredited. One of the beliefs is that the erotic sculptures were considered auspicious and protective. They were placed mainly in the most vulnerable area of the temple maybe to appease and ward off malevolent spirits.
The majority of the Khajuraho sculptures depict every day medieval life with scenes depicting gods and goddesses, war, villagers, farming, journeys, elephants and other real or mystical creatures. The level of detail and skill that you can see if you look close up is amazing, especially considering the age and weathering the sandstone sculptures have undergone.
The sculptures also seem to have a fluid quality and it is easy to imagine the movement of the parade of elephants or the swish of the wet sari over the goddesses bottom.
There is so much grandeur and intricate detail to take in on the Khajuraho temples that our necks hurt as we gazed up at the temples to take in all the little details. But in contrast, inside the temple, at the centre of the shrine the statue that represents the deity Shiva (the shivaling) is very plain looking.
To top off a beautiful day, we had a beer on the rooftop of a restaurant across the road. I saw my first, eagerly awaited, sandy coloured camel wearing a bright orange cloth with yellow tassels as its turban clad owner lead it past the lake whilst hearing the squeals of baby boars rummaging around in the bushes and rubbish below.
While we sipped we watched Indian tourists explore the temples in their bright orange, pink and yellow saris. Strands of the last of the sunlight gave a yellow hue to the Khajuraho temples as we watched the sun go down behind them before topping of the day with the highlight of all my experiences in India - attending an amazing celebration of a wedding anniversary in a family home.
by Anna Phipps