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Khajuraho is a group of monuments in India. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and has been since 1986. Khajuraho consists of a number of structures from both Hindu and Jain traditions, and the outsides of the buildings depict a number of erotic scenes, helping to make them one of the most popular tourist attractions in the region.
The various structures at Khajuraho were built in the 10th and 11th centuries, under the rule of the Chandella Dynasty. There were originally some 85 distinct temples, but over the years many were destroyed or decayed, so that only 22 remain.
The temples are generally dedicated to Hindu gods, particularly Shiva, Vishnu, and Brahma, but a number are also dedicated to the deities of the Jain pantheon. The carvings and statues on Khajuraho actually cover a wide range of topics, although the sexual icons are the most well known. In fact, none of the inner temples contain any erotic sculpture or carvings, instead focusing on the deities themselves.
The seeming contradiction of sexual art covering temples devoted to spiritual practice has led to a number of different theories as to what their purpose actually was. Some have said that the point is to show that in order to pursue spiritual matters, as represented by the insides of the temples and their commitment to the divinities, one must leave behind the concerns of the material flesh. Others have said that the outsides were meant to act as a sort of Kama Sutra in three-dimensional form, helping to educate the young men at the temples in the art of love. Still others believe that the seeming contradiction is simply a result of our own perception of the two being separate, and that to those who made the carvings sexuality was simply a part of everyday life.
Whatever the original intent, the erotic art of Khajuraho has made it a popular destination and subject of photography. Although only about one in ten of the carvings are sexual in nature, Khajuraho is without fail represented by one of these erotic portraits. The explicit statues range from simply showing the development of the human body through sexual maturity, to full sexual acts, demonstrated in intricate detail, with exaggerated proportions to make the acts more apparent and decipherable.
The village of Khajuraho is worth visiting in its own right, offering a nice view into Indian village life. Nearby the complex is also the astounding Raneh Falls, and the Panna National Park, which is a tiger reserve and offers some of the best opportunity for viewing these creatures in India.
Although the village of Khajuraho is fairly small and quite isolated, it nonetheless contains a full-fledged international airport. This makes visiting the monuments relatively easy, and has helped it become one of the premiere tourist destinations in India.
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