Khajuraho and Varanasi: Exotic Temples and a Holy River (November 2-7)

Our first stop after saying goodbye to our driver was the little village of Khajuraho, where we would spend 3 wonderful days relaxing and taking in the sights.  We arrived in the morning after riding our first overnight train from Agra.  The station was quiet, and it was easy to find a rickshaw to drive us into town.  It was shocking to drive through the countryside into town.  Our first observations were quietness, no pollution, and very little traffic.  This was a welcomed surprise and after finding a nice room, we were set for a few days of relaxation and temple sightseeing.

After a hot shower and an excellent rooftop lunch, we spent the remainder of the afternoon vegging in our room surfing the internet and reading.  I have come to realize that every 10 days or so we need a day to just relax in order to keep us healthy and appreciate the new sights.  It can be quite tiring sightseeing, learning a new culture, and constantly figuring out how to get around.  Plus, I am really enjoying having so much time to read!

Our hotel offered rooftop yoga classes in the evening, so Mike and I signed up to take one our first night.  I was super excited to practice yoga in India.  We were the only students, and the yoga instructor was an elderly gentlemen.  The class was started by chanting our Oms in front of a picture of the Indian god of yoga which was neat.  Then we were lead through a series of different types of yoga – breathing exercises, hatha yoga poses, laughing exercises and then some jumping jacks.  All this was going on while he was telling us that if we practice yoga every morning, we won’t have gas which means we will have a good body and good mind.  It felt a little like yoga for senior citizens!  We weren’t even that surprised when he ended class by trying to sell us everything he had recommended for our health, but it was still a fun experience!

The next day was Mike’s 34th birthday!  We spent the day exploring the temples for which the town is famous.  The temples were built between 900 and 1100 and are in excellent condition because Khajuraho is so remote that they were never pilfered and were also protected from modern day pollution.  The temples were rediscovered by the British in 1838.  We splurged and got the audioguide which was a great decision, as it provided background on both Hinduism and the significance of the temples.  There were 7 temples in total connected together by a perfectly manicured lawn and garden.  It was nice to see that the temples and the grounds were well cared for.  Each temple was made of sandstone, every square inch of the exterior was covered with sculptures, and the whole thing was held together by gravity!  Some of the sculptures were very small (8″ tall or so) and some were very big (6′ tall).  The sculptures depicted every day life, soldiers, animals, gods/goddesses, and erotic images.  The images were very life-like and very detailed, especially the goddesses where even the folds of their gowns were carved!  The erotic images are one of the more famous aspects of the temples, but I was shocked at some of them!  They attracted the most attention.  Some historians believe they were placed for sex education while others believe they were placed at the junctions of the temples to symbolize the perfect junction in life.  Either way, it made for interesting sightseeing!  It was a great way to spend the day.

 

 

 

For Mike’s birthday dinner, we went out for pizza and beer.  He really wanted Subway, but there was not one in our little village.  I think it turned out okay especially after the chocolate cake for dessert.

Our last day in Khajuraho was a slow day as we had to catch a 11:30pm train that evening to Varanasi.  We both went through our bags to see if we could eliminate anything.  Mike dropped his sweatshirt, and I got rid of some excess paper, but our conclusion was that we needed pretty much everything still.  Ugh, such big packs!  After checking out we went out to buy some postcards and found a small park to write them out.  Then off to the post office where we used camel glue to adhere the stamps to the cards! 

The rest of the afternoon was spent at our hotel making plans for Nepal.  We made friends with a guy from Victoria, British Columbia – Sailor.  He had just arrived in India from Nepal and had completed the Annapurna circuit.  We became friends and shared helpful advice on India, and he shared about Nepal.  He has been traveling for a few months and showed us some amazing pictures of his time in Bali!  Sailor was also catching the 11:30 train, so we shared a rickshaw to the station and made plans to meet up when we arrived in Varanasi. 

Luckily when we arrived in the station, our train was waiting for us as we were the first stop, so we got right on board and found our sleeping compartment.  We were traveling in 3rd class, so there were 6 bunks per compartment and linens were provided!  We shared our space with a family from Spain and their Indian friend.  They were friendly and fun to share our space with.  I slept great and woke up feeling rested.  The train was supposed to arrive at 10:30 AM, but it was running very late, and we didn’t get in until 2pm!  I didn’t have anything to eat on the train, so I was ready to get settled and get lunch!  We shared a rickshaw with Sailor to our hotel and walked to lunch.  At this point, I was feeling faint, so I quickly ordered a Coke for the sugar.  However, when the carbonation hit my stomach, I got sick!  Luckily, there was a small sink in the dinning room that I was able to use, and there was no one else in the dinning room.  Both Sailor and Mike were helpful and eventually I was able to keep down some sugar spiked ginger tea while they had their lunch.  Ugh, lesson learned to always have snacks with us!!

After lunch, we went for a boat ride on the Ganges river.  The boat was a big row boat, and the rower was a young kid who also gave us a tour.  The first ghat (steps to the river) was the burning ghat.  It is a high honor for Hindus to be cremated here and their ashes spread in the Ganges.  There were many cremations going on as we passed in the boat, and our guide told us they are held 24 hours a day and 365 days a year.  The other highlight of our evening boat ride was watching a puja (Blessing ceremony).  There were 7 priests performing it in unison.  They sprinkled water and oil, waved incense, and rang bells to wake the gods.  It was neat to watch and the river looked pretty with many burning candles floating.

The next morning, we woke up early for another boat ride.  This time we witnessed the local morning rituals including fully immersing themselves in the river.  The burning ghat was still burning.  We also saw the laundry ghat where the morning wash was getting a beating and then laid out to dry.  The guy beating the clothes clean sure gets a workout as he really whacks the dirt out! 

It was a neat experience watching the town come to life and see the morning rituals.  The town itself is quite dirty, and we really didn’t enjoy walking around the very narrow alleyways passing sick looking cows and dogs.  So we spent the remainder of the day enjoying a nice meal and chatting with Sailor and another couple from Switzerland.  They had also completed the Annapurna circuit so it was fun to hear about their experience too.  They are also traveling for a long time so we all swapped stories:)

That evening, we caught a train to Gorakhpur where we spent the night in the dirtiest room to date.  I used my sleeping sheet and sleeping mat!  Then, on November 7th we caught a bus to the border of Nepal and another to Pokhara.  It was almost 24 hours of traveling, but we were happy to arrive in Nepal as we were looking forward to our trek!

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1 Response to Khajuraho and Varanasi: Exotic Temples and a Holy River (November 2-7)

  1. Mary says:

    I think the Amazing Race was in this area a few seasons ago, I remember them traveling down a river, past a famous cremation site. Interesting!

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