INTRODUCTION Khajuraho is a UNESCO World Heritage site in Madhya Pradesh state of Central India. MADHYA PRADESH ORIGIN The ancient Vedas record the marriage of king Dashrath of Uttar Kosal, father of Lord Rama of the epic Ramayana, with the princess of Dakshin kosal (a part of modern Madhya Pradesh). It is believed that the Lord Rama & Sita spent a major part of their 14 years exile in Chitrakoot located in the Dandaka forest area, north of the Vindhyas. Archeological explorations & excavations provide a glimpse of the ancient period from the earliest times to about the 13th century AD. The finds speak of a developed ancient civilization & reflect the glorious & chequered history of its rulers & warriors & a rich cultural past. Historically known as Malwa, Madhya Pradesh – the second largest cenrally located state in India is called the very heart of India. TOURISM Madhya Pradesh, as its name implies, lies in the heart of India, whose topography ranges from plateau with the Vindhya & the Satpura mountain ranges, the plains in the east, meandering rivers, rocky hills & ravines to lush green forests. State offers all important pillars of Indian tourism like pilgrim tourism, wildlife tourism, heritage tourism, buddhism, adventure sports etc. The state boasts of a wide variety of attractions to suit all tourist tastes, from ancient temples to national parks & sanctuaries, stupas, forts & palaces, a host of cultural & tourist festivals to splendid venues for international conference & conventions of global standards. The best known tourism products of Madhya Pradesh in global & national tourism market are its heritage & archeological sites, wildlife territories, pilgrimage centres, leisure & business centres & the rich classical, folk & tribal culture. The principal destinations are Khajuraho, Kanha, Sanchi, Mandu, Gwalior – Shivpuri, Pachmarhi, Bandhavgarh, Satpura National Park, Pench, Amarkantak, Ujjain, Omkareshwar, Bhedaghat, Orchha & Chitrakoot & the dynamic business centres of Bhopal & Indore. Madhya Pradesh State Tourism Development Corporation Ltd. (MPSTDC), a state government organization is the nodal agency responsible for development & promotion to attract tourists to this very heart of India. KHAJURAHO FESTIVALS Khajuraho Dance Festival is a popular event organized in Western Group of Temples where dance artists from India and other countries can give their live performance. It is organized mainly in February months. Khajuraho Dance festival dates are decided by the organizing committee. PEOPLE The population of Madhya Pradesh is about 60.38 Millions (2001 census), an increase of 24.34% & the population density is 196 people per square kilometer. More than 75% of state population resides in villages whose main occupation is agriculture, while the rest of the population lives in towns. Indore district is the most populated one. Number of females per thousand male (sex ratio) in the state is 919 where as the literacy rate is 63.70%. The majority population is Hindu with Muslims making up the largest minority community. The life style, culture & customs of this community mostly resemble the Hindu religion though they still strongly believe in orthodox traditions. Gond is the best known tribe & forms the largest group in Madhya Pradesh. Bhils, the second largest tribe are largely concentrated in the area around Jhabua, Khargone, Dhar & Ratlam. Baigas believe themselves to be descendants of Dravid & this backward tribe is found in Mandla, balaghat, Shahdol & Sidhi District. Bharia tribe has major concentration in Jabalpur & Chhindwara district of Madhya Pradesh.Korku tribal community is administered by the head of a panchayat (called Sarpanch) & they are found in Hoshangabad, Betul, Chhindwara, Harda & Khandwa districts of Madhya Pradesh. Santia is a tribe of Malwawho believe themselves to be originally a martial Rajput tribe. Lesser known tribe like Dhanuk, Panika, Saur still form an important group. CLIMATE Khajuraho lies in Bundelkhand region which is comparatively hot and receives less rainfall in compare to southern & Western Madhya Pradesh. Like most of north India it has a hot dry summer(April-June) followed by monsoon rains (July-September) and a cool and relatively dry winter. The average rainfall is about 1,370 mm (53.9 in). It decreases from east to west. The south-eastern districts have the heaviest rainfall, some places receiving as much as 2,150 mm (84.6 in), while the western and north-western districts receive 1,000 mm (39.4 in) or less. HOW TO REACH By Air: Madhya Pradesh State is well linked through flight from major tourist destinations and cities of India like Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, Hyderabad, Vishakhapattnam, Bangalore, Srinagar, Ahmedabad etc. Major airports in Madhya Pradesh state are located in Bhopal, Indore, Gwalior, Jabalpur, Khajuraho. Now with the introduction of air-taxi service in Madhya Pradesh, all these airports are well inter-connected which ensures swift easy movement withing state. By Train: Madhya Pradesh State is well connected by Indian railways network. Most of the major railway tracks passes through this state due to its central location. All important cities and tourist destinations are linked with direct trains to Madhya Pradesh like: Jaipur, Agra, Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai, Kolkata, Ranthambore, Udaipur, Ahmedabad, Puri, Haridwar, Varanasi etc. Their are number of railway junctions inside Madhya Pradesh like Itarsi, Katni, Bina, Indore, Ujjain, Gwalior, Chhindwara, Dewas, Khandwa etc. Recently luxury tourist train called "Maharaja Express" has been started which passes through Madhya Pradesh station like Gwalior, Khajuraho and Umaria (Bandhavgarh). By Train: Madhya Pradesh State border touches 5 state: Gujarat, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Chattisgarh & Maharashtra. All these states are well linked from cities and towns of Madhya Pradesh by road. Some major National Highways like NH-7, NH-12A, NH-25, NH-26, NH-27, NH-69, NH-3, NH-92, NH-12 etc. passes through this state. Major tourist destinations close to Madhya Pradesh, linked by Road are: Agra, Jaipur, Varanasi, Tadoba National Park, Ranthambore, Raipur, Vishakhapattnam, Ajanta, Ellora, Ahmedabad, Udaipur, Chittorgarh, Mount Abu, Chambal Sanctuary, Lucknow etc. BEST TIME TO VISIT Being a important tourism region, Madhya Pradesh state is visited by tourist through out the year. Broadly we can divide Madhya Pradesh tourism in 3 parts. Heritage tourism is active in Northern part of state which is more rocky and destinations comes under this region are Gwalior, Shivpuri, Orchha, Khajuraho, Panna, Chanderi, Datia etc. All these destination offers major palaces, forts, temples, cenotaphs of state. Best time to visit this region is from October to April as during this time climate remain pleasant and good. Southern part, south-west region and some of the Northern region of Madhya Pradesh are rich in Wildlife which includes Tigers, Leopards, Sloth Bear, Hard-ground Barasingha, Indian Gaur, Wild Dog (Dholes) and atleast more than 250 bird species.