The erotic and other carvings that swathe Khajuraho’s three groups of World Heritage–listed temples are among the finest temple art in the world. The Western Group of temples, in particular, contains some stunning sculptures.

Legend has it that Khajuraho was founded by Chardravarman, the son of the moon god Chandra, who descended on a beautiful maiden as she bathed in a stream. The Chandela dynasty built the temples, many of which originally rose from a lake, and survived for five centuries before falling to the Mughal onslaught. Most of the 85 temples – of which some 25 remain – were built during a century-long burst of creative genius from AD 950 to 1050.

Almost as intriguing as the temples’ size and beauty is the question of why they were built here. How did the Chandelas manage to turn their exhilarating dreams into stone? Building so many temples of such monumental size in just 100 years would have required a huge amount of labour. Whatever the answers, Khajuraho’s isolation helped preserve it from the desecration invaders inflicted on ‘idolatrous’ temples elsewhere.

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