Sunday, 13 December 2015

Jabalpur Diaries- Part 4

After the excitement of our morning trip, we were famished. And there, in the dusty under belly of Central India, was The Indian Coffee house, nestled comfortably near the Tiger Reserve. ICH is staffed by a dozen malayalees. Proof that malayalees will find their way to any corner of the world.
After a delicious brunch we were off exploring again in the same jeep with Uttam. Our first stop was the Pandav Falls. Legend has it that the caves under the water fall were used by the Pandavas when they were exiled. 
From Pandava falls we made our way to Khajuraho, which was about 40 kms away. Khajuraho is home to an ancient temple complex renowned for its intricate stone sculptures. Since Uttam was a local, he took us through tiny villages instead of the main highway. We passed wheat fields, an old man crouched over heaps of cow dung patting them into cakes, another man just watching people go by. My favourite part was driving through Basatta, a village full of children. The school was just let off, I think, and as we drove by kids stopped on their tracks, screamed and waved "HELLOOOOO BYE BYYEEEEE . Some of them chased our car, one naughty kid even called out DARLING on seeing Fathima! One girl stopped cycling to wave at us, when I I turned back I saw her waving till we were out of her sight. 
In an hour we were in the city of Khajuraho. The streets got narrower and more crowded. The pavements had no place to walk on as roadside vendors flaunted their wares there- glass bangles in all colours, flowers for the pooja, temple bells, charms and bracelets that promised brighter futures. A couple of old men in ochre played folk songs on stringed instruments. 
The temple complex is now a UNESCO world heritage landmark. I did not expect it to be this well maintained. Out of the 85 original temples built between 950-1050 CE only 20 survive. The temples are surrounded by well kept lawns where art students and architects sit and sketch. Around the temple you hear all kinds of languages and dialects. Groups of people walk in and around the temples, following their local guides.
We hired a guide to show us around. Our guide was very keen to explain the history and symbolism of the temple architecture and sculptures. The sculptures depict different things- war, marriage, sex...yes that. Khajuraho is most famous for its erotic imagery which depict things that will now make every sanskaari Indian blush. Seriously, the moral police need to come here and see the "Indian culture" they want to protect.
The temples are covered with these sculptures carved on stone. These were carved somewhere else and transported to the site by elephants and stacked on each other. 156 elephants were carved on the base to symbolise them supporting the structure. An interlock system makes the whole structure stand sturdy. It's incredible how the craftsmen and architects pulled this off a thousand years back, without any of the modern day contraptions to help them.
As we were walking out, the temple was bathed in the last rays of sun. Snatches of the Maghreb adhaan from a nearby mosque reaches us, surrounded by temples. This is my India.
But my India is also amusing in all her other contradictions. As we stepped outside we were surrounded by hawkers pushing trinkets onto our face. From miniature Gandhis to metal pots with Kamasutra positions engraved on them. Some wanted to sell us Kamasutra guides. No thank you. The most outrageous ones were the sexy bottle openers... you get the idea..
We bought some non-A-rated knick knacks and were soon on our way back to our accommodation. As we left the confines of the city, the sky was emboldened and showed us her stars. It was beautiful to just look up and enjoy the ride. A perfect end to a perfect day.

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