July 06, 2020
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Rocks Rolled

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Rocks Rolled
Jeez, honey, look!" A common enough reaction to Khajuraho, although ours would be worded differently and for different reasons from that of the blushing matron from Ohio. Not since one saw an entire hillside sculpted out of stone at Ellora has one felt such wonder and awe as at this wonderful marriage of sculpture and architecture, now declared a world heritage site by unesco. Lucky there was no Asha Parekh around then and that a British soldier called Burt stumbled on the temples beneath a lot of shrubbery in the late 19th century, reported it to Cunningham of the Archaeological Survey so that it was at least recorded. A Maharaja of Chhatarpur, in whose territory there was this tiny village called Khajuraho and a pond, did try some restoration work, but amateurishly. Then, in 1953, when President Rajendra Prasad was touring Madhya Pradesh, a circuit house was built and he visited the temples. Officialdom woke up at last and Khajuraho was finally on the archaeological map, good and proper. Then along came Shyam Poddar, a pioneer in tourism, who saw its possibilities as a tourist centre and built in the '60s what is still the only five-star deluxe hotel there of international standards. He employed local labour for constructing the hotel and then recruited 90 per cent of its staff from among the locals and trained them to match international standards. He then pressed for an airport until it was built. His son Kanti and daughter-in-law Pramilla pursued the project by actually living in the village for over 10 years, with periodic visits to Delhi, until it found its feet as a tourist centre.

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