Khajuraho (Madhya Pradesh): Past is always accompanied by prejudices. It is more so when it comes to Hindu relics and history and Islamic sultanate, which was bent upon destroying the temples. The name Khajuraho would lead one to talk about Kama Sutra and offensive pornographic carvings. But the truth is hardly 7-10 per cent of carvings would be erotic. One noticeable fact due to the taboo has that the visitors – from two most tourism loving states West Bengal and Gujarat – seldom visit the place. The tag has hurt Khajuraho’s tourism and local economy.
Originally, there were perhaps 85 temples in the region until the 12th century. Many temples were destroyed during the 13th century. Subsequently only 25 temples are still around now. But Khajuraho offers a unique tourism atmosphere with a lot many other things in and around the place. The Konark Sun temple in Odisha also has some carvings but somehow the erotic taboo is more with Khajuraho.
Local residents in Khajuraho say, it would be absolutely a prejudiced mindset that would depict the carvings as love between deities. On the contrary, Hindu temples were also seat of learning for youngsters besides being a place to offer prayers and puja. These temples were thus a mere depiction of what happened in people’s daily lives. Sex too was natural. Nothing more than that.
The Government of India, Ministry of Tourism, in coordination with the Madhya Pradesh government organised a two-day ‘Meet in India’ conference to try to evolve a new road map to put Indian tourism on track in the post-Covid era at Khajuraho.
The ‘stakeholders’ meeting’ with Union Tourism Minister Prahlad Patel had a few important takeaways.
Patel has urged indigenous people including in Northeastern states to initiate homestays to aid experiential tourism and boost economy. The minister said that indigenous communities can opt for the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana to build pucca houses but retain their traditional huts. If necessary, these mud and bamboo built houses could be converted into homestays for both domestic and international tourists.
But much important debate could be on Khajuraho and how the taboo of erotic carvings have harmed tourism in the region.
Truth about Khajuraho:
A stone carving from ASI at the temple entrance gate says — “The Khajuraho temples mark the highest development of Indian architecture design….The erotic figures have given us the finest sculptural compositions which vibrate with a rare sensitiveness and warmth of emotion and remarkable for their sculptural quality”.
Historians would tell that the Chandela dynasty had built up the Khajuraho group of temples. Most temples were constructed around 1000 AD during the reigns of Hindu Kings Yasovarman and Dhanga.The Sound and Light show every evening is certainly a great attraction and there is wonderful narration about the times of Chandelas and legendary legacy in the voice of none other than Amitabh Bachchan.
“On a full moon night in Kashi many, many centuries ago, Hemvati, the extraordinarily beautiful daughter of the royal priest, decides to bathe in a pond full of lotuses. So enchanting is her youth that the moon, who is watching her from above, descends on earth to meet her. They fall in love and do what all lovers do. When it is time for the moon to leave, Hemvati is worried: how will she bear the burden of their love child alone? The moon tells her to go far away from Kashi, to the forests of Khajuraho, and bring up their son there. The son named Chandravarman grows up to be a valiant young man and an illustrious king. He goes on to establish the Chandela dynasty, sets up the city of Kalinjar, and lays the foundation of Khajuraho — a legacy that his descendants carry forward….,” goes the deep voice of the Bollywood icon.
Tourism officials both in the centre and Madhya Pradesh say it has been rightly decided that Khajuraho should be developed among the 19 Iconic tourist destinations. Arvind Singh, Secretary Union Tourism, admits, this move was necessitated as Khajuraho’s true potentials as a tourist hub were not exploited.
However, it is true most other adjacent tourism centres in and around Khajuraho like the Panna Tiger Reserve are not known to many.
A local shopkeeper summed up some of the tough and paradoxical questions. He says, “I believe what my elders say. Even my grand mom used to say the principal message behind the arts is that lust and passion should be left behind as one enters the temple. Devotion means saluting the sculptors for giving the pristine forms of passion”.
The 52-year-old merchant with hardly any knowledge of modern archaeology and ‘so called Left-liberal intelligentsia’ belief also says – “Khajuraho is a place which narrates the intolerance and religious bigotry of Muslim invaders. Local inhabitants for long thought the temples should be abandoned and allow them to remain intact and not grounded by Muslim rulers”.
Talking to reporters on the sidelines of the Meet, Secretary Union Tourism, Arvind Singh also said, taking Nagaland’s much popular ‘Hornbill Festival’ as a cue, the Government of India will encourage similar local tourism bonanza in all other northeastern states. “On the issue of festivals to attract tourists in northeastern states, we have a good suggestion. Like we have Hornbill Festival in Nagaland, we can encourage more such local state level festivals”.