Khajuraho, India. A short flight from Agra got us to Khajuraho this afternoon, a relatively small town with a very new airport that – in this season – supports three flights a week. They are definitely planning for the future.
And tourism will fuel that future. Over a thousand years ago, this was a very busy and very religious place. Between 950 and 1050, the Chandela dynasty had begun to build 85 temples, completed by the 12th century.
About 25 have survived, spread over 6 square kilometers. We will have a lot to see.
The temples were built together but were dedicated to two religions, Hinduism and Jainism, suggesting a tradition of acceptance and respect for diverse religious views. After much political change, when Muslim dynasties were in charge from the 13th to the 18th centuries, some of the temples were destroyed. But they were very remote from other populated areas, mostly neglected and completely overgrown until the 1830’s, when local Hindus guided a British surveyor, T.S. Burt, to the temples and their secret existence ended. Sounds rather like the Ajanta Caves story, right?
No pictures? Not yet. Just wanted to get the background out of the way, before we start off tomorrow. When we arrived at 2:30 this afternoon, it was 105°. That did not tempt us out to sight-see, especially with a stunning pool outside our window – even with temples (those cone-shaped things) beckoning in the background.
Tomorrow!!!! We will start early and try to beat some of the worst heat.
Don’s Food Corner
While I had ambitions to go strolling around some temples this afternoon, the blazing sun kept us indoors with ferocious air conditioning. The restaurant at the hotel had a “multinational” menu. Jo sampled pizza with feta, caramelized onion, sun-dried tomatoes and rocket.
I asked which of the Indian offerings were most characteristic of the region. I was directed to a chicken dish called matka murgh. This dish featured boneless chicken in a light yogurt-based curry gravy that had been baked in a clay pot. The entire clay pot was dramatically brought to the table. It had been sealed with some type of dough.
What was most striking about the dish was its smokey taste. It was explained that first the chicken is roasted (or smoked) in a special clay oven and then finished off in this clay presentation pot. I never tasted anything like this before. I looked up recipes for it on the internet and couldn’t find anything that included a step that “smoked” the meat first. Perhaps this is something that can’t be replicated at home or even in a restaurant without the proper smoking apparatus. Maybe that’s why it hasn’t traveled outside this region.
Speaking of regional specialties, I’ve noticed that one of the famed specialties of Goa, namely the vinegar-flavored vindaloo, is never seen on menus outside the region. While we are used to finding vindaloo on almost every Indian restaurant menu in the U.S. and the U.K., apparently that’s not the case in India. I was told by a Goan native who now lives in Jaipur that vindaloo and other Goan dishes have not caught on elsewhere in India. (“They wouldn’t know how to make it right anyway.”) There are a lot of restaurants in the north featuring South Indian food, but not Goan. It seems, also, that there is a particular affection for the delights of Kerala along the southwest coast of India among Indians everywhere. Whenever we mention that we had been to Kerala, we get sighs of delight, encompassing both the beauty of the tropical landscape and the food. As I recall, the people in the south were not very enthusiastic about the food of the north.
Funny how that works.