Today, the 25 temples that survived not only the invaders but the ravages of erosion are scattered around the quiet village of Khajuraho. Entrance to the 16-hectare archaeological park, where most of the elaborately carved sandstone temples are found, costs $10. All the temples feature friezes of intricately detailed aspects of daily life. Warriors prepare for battle, musicians tune their instruments and a dancer plucks a thorn from her foot. But it's the sex that put the temples on the tourist maps. Buxom apsaras, or celestial maidens, coyly cavort around the corners of each temple, flaunting their haunches, while meter-tall couples demonstrate their sexual prowess.
Few archaeologists understand the significance of this Kama Sutra in stone, but Anoop Jain, a temple guide, has his own theory. "People were becoming too holy," he explains as he directs a beam of sunlight with a heart-shaped hand mirror toward a pair of stone lovers engaged in a passionate kiss. "They were going to the forest to meditate, and no one was getting married." So the King, suggests Jain, commissioned the carving of erotic scenes into temple walls for "inspiration." It will never be known if the King's pro-family program proved fruitful. Though mighty warriors, the Chandelas were decimated by the Moguls. But the region's new rulers never bothered to investigate the desolate corners of their conquered land—and to discover what they were missing.