India's Ancient Sex Manual -- Khajuraho's shops are filled with an endless variety of versions of the Kama Sutra, an ancient precursor of modern-day do-it-yourself sex manuals. With information about everything from "increasing the size of the male organ" to the benefits of "slaps and screams" and "bites and scratches," the ancient treatise on sensory pleasures -- recorded by the scribe Vatsyayana from oral accounts sometime between the 1st and 6th century A.D. -- remains the most famous Indian text in the world. The first English translation was published in 1883 by the Victorian adventurer Richard Burton, who adapted the text in order to dodge charges of obscenity; among other confusing details, he used the Sanskrit words lingam and yoni to denote the sexual organs. Meanwhile, the debate around the purpose of the erotic temple carvings continues: The most likely theory, and one accepted by many scholars, is that worshippers were meant to leave all sexual desires at the door. The temple is a representation of the life of an ordinary man; the erotics are concentrated on the lower levels of sculptures, and as you go higher, they turn from sexual to sensual and ultimately to sublime in a spiritual sense, in effect symbolizing man's walk towards the divine. Another interpretation is that the images are "manifestations of tantric practices," which is why these temples were known as Yogini temples, where images of exotic sexual positions possessed the power to ward off the evil eye. Yet another theory -- this one considered total hokum by those in the know, and best discarded (along with the guide who might pander it) with contempt -- suggests that the erotica served to educate young men who as boys lived in hermitages, obeying the Hindu law of being "brahmacharis" until they attained manhood when studying the sculptures -- and the earthly passions they depicted -- prepared them for the worldly role of husband.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.