Travelling slightly faster through Orccha and Khajuharo


Mid-March and it’s getting hotter in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, enough that the hours between 10 and 4 see the streets empty out and the locals sitting quietly in the shade.

We’ve just spent five days in Orccha, a small tourist town that’s grown up around the ruins of very fine mughal palaces and hindu temples. It’s got a good reputation amongst the travelers we’ve met as being a relaxed place to visit but that was not the reason we stayed the extra two days.  SG and I got sick again although this time, my illness only lasted 24 hours and was over without the need for antibiotics. Maybe my immunity is catching up or at least that’s my hope.

I am writing this in Khajuharo, another tourist town that is famous for its temple carvings, some of which have scenes from the kama-sutra. The temples are a world heritage site and the intricate carvings and design are breath-taking enough at dawn but they left me cold. It could be that by now, I’ve seen too many statues done in a very similar style but I think it is more that the style and subject matter (mainly focusing on the two F’s: fighting and procreating), no matter that it is so masterfully composed and executed, lacked emotional depth and complexity, in some cases coming close to caricature.

I also wondered about the design of the temples and how it seemed to be a succession of chambers within chambers with the inner sanctum containing the god-image so deeply buried and fiercely guarded by architecture that is seemed almost prison-like. The message is clear – only the initiated may enter and only through the proper priestly channels.

I found the tribal museum in town which contained a large collection of Adivart objects  made from terracotta and brass much more engaging. Looking at the simple votive terracotta horses and elephants, metal figures of men and women, I remembered the first time I saw a picasso painting, the first time I encountered abstract art, and how I was amazed by this completely new way of viewing the world that captured nothing but expressed everything.

It was a harrowing 4 hour bus journey to Khajuharo. We were squeezed on a local bus that contained twice the number of people it could safely carry with me standing for the first two hours. I got off the bus and my first  sight of the temples left me wondering if it was worth coming into town. It wasnt really until I went to the Adivart musuem that I was glad that I had made the journey.

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