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January, 2017

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We finished our tour of three of India’s National Parks at Sarai at Toria (Panna NP), and were flying onwards from Khajuraho, a 30-minute drive from Panna.

The town has a number of immaculately restored Hindu temples but according to our Rough Guide, “among the most essential stops on any itinerary of India’s historic monuments”. Perhaps this is because of their “delicate sensuality and forthright eroticism” – we had no idea what to expect!

Our guide, was an elderly gentleman called Singh who led us to the what is known as the Western Group of temples where we found manicured grass and colourful flower beds. He walked very slowly and was full of stories about the cosmos, meditation and other uninteresting facts, which virtually sent us to sleep. There are nine temples in the complex and after going laboriously round a couple of temples, and hearing facts, we would never remember, we were left to walk around on our own.

Despite being built between the 10 and 12th centuries, the details in the carvings were still very clear despite being built from the notoriously crumbling sandstone. The carvings depicted gods, goddesses with voluptuous breasts, warriors, musicians and real and mythological animals. And yes, some of them were in very explicit poses (things that you’d now get arrested for).

We then drove a short distance to the Jain complex which were completely different and encircled by purpose built accommodation for the monks. There were two unrenovated temples and others which had been covered with a cream plaster and gold tipped spires. After a brief introduction to them, we were left to our own again but plagued by a young boy who was desperate to show us round.

On arriving at the site, a guy tried selling us a map of India for 200 rupees which Roy really wanted. Singh told us it was only worth 50 (less than £1) so we started bartering but he held out. When leaving the temple complex he tried again, and although he kept bringing his price down, I resisted. When I was in the car, he virtually threw it at her and demanded the 50 rupees.

Helen Jackson

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