The resplendent Hindu temples of KHAJURAHO, immaculately restored after almost a millennium of abandonment and neglect, and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are an essential stop on any itinerary of India’s historic monuments. Famed for the delicate sensuality – and forthright eroticism – of their sculpture, they were built between the tenth and twelfth centuries AD and remain the greatest architectural achievement of the Chandella dynasty.
Waves of Afghan invaders soon hastened the decline of the Chandellas, however, who abandoned the temples for more secure ground shortly after they were built. The temples gradually fell out of use and by the sixteenth century had been swallowed by the surrounding jungle. It took “rediscovery” by the British in 1838 before these masterpieces were fully appreciated in India, let alone internationally. It is still not known exactly why the temples were built and there are a number of competing theories (see The erotic art of Khajuraho); some say they are a “how to” guide for brahmin boys while others claim they symbolize the wedding party of Shiva and Parvati.