Kharjuraho, Varanasi, Ajanta

My overnight train from Agra to Satna was quite a fun experience: apart from worrying that I would sleep through my stop and making a fool of myself each time I got onto my top-bunk (I’ve now perfected the technique), I think the whole of Europe should be covered with sleeper trains, as it would beat EasyJet/Ryanair any day!

From Satna, I was aiming to get to the village of Kharjuraho, a village full of one thousand year old “erotic temples”. Unfortunately Kharjuraho was 4 hours away by bus from Satna, and an old lady insisted on occupying my seat on the bus. I was able to get another seat at the back of the bus, but sitting over the rear wheels, I’ve discovered, makes the whole experience more rollercoaster-like.

On arrival near Kharjuraho, I was met by an accomodation tout, who asked me if I wanted to stay at his hotel. I was a little wary of touts (particularly after Agra), but I liked his attitude and decided to go along to his hotel, as he helped me find my way into town and he offered a good deal.

Mukesh, as he was called, told me everything I needed to know once I arrived at the hotel and he even offered to invite me to his family’s home for dinner that night! So I’ve come to believe that the attitude of people is certainly a lot more friendly outside of the cities.

Of course the main reason I came to the village was to see these “erotic” temples. In fact, most of it was pretty tame, but one of the more saucy friezes is shown below:
Erotic carvings at Kharjuraho Temples

Dinner with Mukesh’s family was a wonderful experience. I even got asked to come along to a festival at a nearby (40km away) village in two days, and was encouraged to delay my onward train ticket by one day to allow me to attend. I couldn’t entirely work out what the festival was celebrating, but the closest hint I was given was that it was a “festival of women”!

In preparation for the “festival of women”, I had a haircut in the village – rather scary as it was 20 minutes of constant Edward Scissorhands sounds.

The festival itself was great fun. Although it was a “festival of women” it essentially involved all of the women giving the men lots of food for lunch. Being the only westerner there, the kids got very excited and the women gave me lots of food, because I’m “so big”
Alex at Katta festival in Gathora

After another exhausting four hour bus journey back to Satna, I had to wait for an hour or so at the train station. The most amusing thing I noticed was that all train announcements were preceeded by the Microsoft Windows 98 log off sound.

Varanasi the next day was really interesting and atmospheric. Funeral pyres burn by the side of the River Ganges and further down people bathe in the river waters (the chemical discharges from upstream factories apparently being more dangerous than any unburnt body parts in the water). There’s not actually much to do except sit by the river for hours and soak up the atmosphere. However on the way back to my hostel, I was convinced to have a massage, which was a little painful at times, but amusing as well. The group of middle-aged Germans on a charter holiday found my experience far more amusing though.

The next moring I got on an early morning river cruise organised by my hostel for free (yes, some things are free!). Unfortunately I was sharing with a group of eight post-military service Israelis who seemed more interested in getting stoned, but I did convince one to take a picture:
Alex on the River Ganges in Varanasi

Jalgaon, my next port-of-call, was 25 hours away from Varanasi by train, and unfortunately I had to share my berth for most of the way, as I had booked my ticket quite late. After the long and arduous journey, I happily checked into an extremely cheap and clean hotel for an early night.

The Ajanta buddist caves are about 45km away from Jalgaon along a nice flat road, so it was quite a pleasant journey getting there. The caves themselves date from between the 2nd century BC and the 6th century AD, and have all been cut out of the rock on the side of a ridge. Some of the more recent caves also some beautiful paintings on the interior that have managed to survive quite well considering how old they are. All very impressive of course, but soon it was time to get back to Jalgaon to catch my next train to Bombay.

Inside an Ajanta cave
The inside of one of the Ajanta caves

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4 Responses to “Kharjuraho, Varanasi, Ajanta”

  1. Leo Says:

    Oh my 500 gods, you seem to be doing everything!! I’m off to Japan this weekend so I might not be able to see your travel diary for a while. Tell me about it when you get back though. Have fun…

  2. cora feng Says:

    “oh, dear lord” its what i said when i got your postcard.
    it was such a nice, lovely surprise! Dank u wel!Alex. MUA MUA MUA(3 kisses).
    The temple you went to was actually the one of things i wanna see also. i saw them on TV when i was 19 or smth, and i found it really cool. because Budisium is the only religion in the world which actually highly value sex and extremely worship female body. that’s why they have temples like that. so thank you very much for the pic. i love them.
    and talking about pic, you still look fine (really cute) even in the India (^o^). i can imagine its tiring and exciting there.
    I am busy with all the exams these days(ja, still have them), including Dutch Elementary II.
    and i am going to Prague to meet friends and skiing.
    before that maybe go to Dusseldof for shopping with Helen.
    ik ben nederlands leren and het gaat goed
    en heb ik een examen op volgende maandag.
    soms kan ik een beetje nederlands praten, maar niet altijd goed…
    hehe
    Succes en Geniet!
    groenten
    cora

  3. Chiharu Says:

    Hi Alex,
    It’s very fun to read your adventure stories, amazing to hear (read) you had a haircut in village and attend local festival ! Not so many tourists experience like you. I agree travelling in India by train is fun, but not more than 12 hours. Looking forward to reading next stories.

  4. Ann Dixon Says:

    Much better than adult chatlines, no? xxAnn

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