Temples of Khajuraho – Chhatarpur, India - Atlas Obscura

Temples of Khajuraho

Chhatarpur, India

Temples adorned with intricate, erotic sculptures make up one of the "seven wonders" of India. 


Nestled in the jungles of Madhya Pradesh is a grouping of impressive and very intricately carved temples famous for their depictions of erotic scenes on the outer walls, thus gaining the nickname the Kamasutra Temples.

Most of the temples were built by the Chandela dynasty between 950 and 1050 CE. They once covered an area of just over seven miles with 85 temples, but now only 25 spread out over four miles remain. The temples were in active use through the end of 12th century, but that came to an end in the 13th century when the Chandela kingdom was seized by the army of Delhi Sultanate. The area where the temples resided remained in Muslim control through the 18th century. During this time period the temples were subject to abuse, destruction and neglect. Over the centuries, due to Khajuraho’s remoteness, the jungle reclaimed the area and the temples were mostly forgotten. In the 1830s the temples were rediscovered by British surveyor T.S. Burt with the help of locals.

The temples are most well known for their erotically carved sculptures, but upon arrival it becomes more of a Where’s Waldo activity to find these salacious scenes. Less than 10% of the sculptures are erotic in nature and they are known as Kama scenes. Kama literally means “desire, wish, longing” and is one of the four goals of human life in Hindu traditions; it is considered an essential human pursuit in balance with the other three goals: Dharma, Artha and Moksha. All goals of human life are represented at the Khajuraho Temples along with scenes of day to day life of medieval India, such as farming, playing music, and making pottery. It’s possible that the Kama scenes are tantric in nature but more likely it’s an homage to human life and actively.

Whether one comes to peek at the adult content, admire the incredible art and engineering, or stroll around the lush grounds, it’s well worth the time to make the journey.

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October 7, 2011

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