World’s Only Aerial Video of the 1,000 Year Old Khajuraho Temples

Located in the middle of nowhere in Madhya Pradesh, the 1,000 year old Khajuraho temples are one of the most amazing — and overlooked — destinations in India. I spent a week here producing a film on the annual Khajuraho Dance Festival but since that was a nighttime event, I used the daytime to capture drone footage of the temples. It was this act that resulted in my arrest. Thankfully, after 12 hours in custody I was pardoned by the CM of Madhya Pradesh, released, and given my drone back. Now I have the WORLD’S ONLY aerial footage of the Khajuraho temples. Here’s how it happened.  

The world's first and only aerial video of the Khajuraho temples, one of the most impressive and overlooked #UNESCO sites in India #incredibleindia #travel #madhyapradesh #india #drone #video

Getting Arrested For Filming The Khajuraho Temples

  How Did This Happen?

When I first landed in Khajuraho, little did I know that 48 hours later I would be arrested. Why? For flying a drone over the Khajuraho temples, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986. However now I have the world’s only aerial video footage of the Western Temples in Khajuraho — something not even the Madhya Pradesh Tourism Board has been able to receive permission to film.

Prior to my arrival in Khajuraho, I had emailed MP Tourism to obtain my media pass for the Khajuraho Dance Festival and inquire about flying my drone over the temples. Needless to say, they were a bit busy with the festival and did not respond. I obtained my media pass elsewhere and decided to do a few test flights while waiting for a response.

Little did I know that my hotel and the hotel next door were fighting with each other. Why does not matter, what matters is that the owner of the hotel next door saw me launching a drone off the rooftop and decided to take action. He called the police, the ASI (Archeological Survey of India) and the reporters, who all simultaneously converged on my hotel while I was still flying high over the Western Temples.

The Khajuraho Western Group of Temples is the most well-preserved of all the Khajuraho temples.
The Khajuraho Western Group of Temples is the most well-preserved of all the Khajuraho temples.

  The police did not want to arrest me, however the ASI wanted me “arrested and made example of” — and since the reporters were already on the scene, the police had no choice but to arrest me, take me to jail and confiscate my drone.

Exploring the 25 remaining Khajuraho temples of Madhya Pradesh
Exploring the 25 remaining Khajuraho temples of Madhya Pradesh

Sitting inside the small Khajuraho jail hiding my face from the reporters and listening to all the arguing between the ASI and police was very entertaining. The only word in Hindi I could understand was chuytia every time one of the ASI people pointed at me. Unable to determine was crime to charge me with, lawyers were called in and thick books of Indian legal laws were poured over while the yelling continued.

  If you really want to know the definition of “chuytia” ask one of your Indian friends. Or better yet, if you ever get harassed or overcharged by a man in India, just call him a chuytia and that will solve everything ๐Ÿ˜‰

Exploring the 25 Khajuraho temples of Madhya Pradesh
Exploring the 25 Khajuraho temples of Madhya Pradesh

Over the last 12 years, I have literally travelled the breadth and length of India. I’ve seen the sun rise at the tip of India in Kanyakumari, I’ve watched dolphins swim in the Ganges, I’ve fallen asleep on a sand dune in Rajasthan listening to the gurgle of camels and — along with Derek — I’ve been the first person in to see the Taj Mahal in the morning. But among all the wonders that India offers the intrepid visitor, there are almost none as sublime, as beautiful, and as uplifting as the Khajuraho temples.

These ancient temples were almost lost to the onslaught of nature until they were rediscovered in the 19th century. Now, they are splendidly preserved and protected by the ASI in a small, remote village in central India. I love both the chill vibe of the town of Khajuraho and the magnificently carved temples, which are considered by many to be the best in India. It’s an inspiring place and I can well understand Derek’s interest in capturing all of this beauty on video. The world only thinks of the Taj Mahal when it thinks of India. Most people have no idea about the incalculable treasures that can be found from one end of India to the other.

So please enjoy the video, which was captured with some risk. I hope I have done my small part to make the beauty of India more accessible to the world. Thanks to everyone else, too, who helped make this story turn out well, with a happy ending. The kind we all like ๐Ÿ™‚

Quote by Mariellen Ward, a digital storyteller who publishes the award-winning travel site based on her extensive travels in India. She has a BA in Journalism, has been published in leading media outlets around the world, and splits her time between India and Canada.

Mariellen Ward exploring the Khajuraho temples
Mariellen Ward exploring the 1,000 year old Khajuraho temples, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

  Meanwhile on Twitter…

Friends, fans and supporters had already begun tweeting about the situation and reaching out to various Indian politicians. It would take to long to name everyone but you know who you are and I hope you also realize how much I appreciate your support.

Thanks again to everyone who offered their help / support!

My Release From Khajuraho Jail

After 12 hours in custody the amazing Shivraj Singh Chouhan, CM of Madhya Pradesh, sent his assistant to Khajuraho. She arrived with a military escort, walked into the jail and said “Release this man and return his drone.” Within minutes I was a free man again being given an apology and a ride back to my hotel ๐Ÿ˜€

Exploring the 25 Khajuraho temples of Madhya Pradesh
The Khajuraho temples are one the most impressive — and overlooked — UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India

  The Aftermath

After my release, I became a local celebrity in Khajuraho and was given VIP treatment the rest of my time there. Since my photo made the front page of several newspapers and I was easily recognizable, countless locals approached me asking for aerial photos of their restaurants, hotels or businesses. The kind folks at MP Tourism took me out around Madhya Pradesh and even up one of the mountains for another drone flight. I also received several gifts, including countless copies of the newspapers with my story on the front page from locals — my favorite gift of all ๐Ÿ™‚

  However the best part of all this is that although the police had erased all of the Khajuraho temples footage from my phone, they did not wipe the SD card inside of the drone. As a result, I now present to you the video that got me arrested abroad in India:

  My apologies for the watermarks but people have already stolen the drone photos I published and I do not want the same to happen to this priceless video footage. For watermark-free video licensing, please   contact me

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About Derek Freal

"Some people eat, others try therapy. I travel." ย  Cultural enthusiast. Adrenaline junkie. Eater of strange foods. Chasing unique and offbeat adventures around the world since 2008. Derek loves going to new destinations where he does not speak a word of the local language and must communicate with hand gestures, or places where he is forced to squat awkwardly to poo -- supposedly its healthier and more efficient. For more information (about Derek, not squat pooing) including popular posts and videos, check out his bio.

6 thoughts on “World’s Only Aerial Video of the 1,000 Year Old Khajuraho Temples”

    • You can only spend so many years chasing adventures in far flung corners around the globe before you get yourself into an unexpected situation ๐Ÿ˜‰ Now all I need is for Nat Geo or Discovery Channel to produce a new documentary about the Khajuraho temples so that I can sell them this unique footage…

  1. Woa! How I only discovered your blog today blows my freaking mind. Amazing stuff Derek.

    You’ve been at this longer than anyone I know. You’ve got a new fan in me. Thanks for such an amazing contribution to the blogosphere.

    Great video, and sorry you keep getting arrested ๐Ÿ˜…

    • Lol, it’s okay, I’m used to it by now. Authorities love to fuck with me. (Or vice versa.) Besides, there is no such thing as bad publicity ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Just finished a month in the hospital after a building fire — long story — so I’m behind on both reading and writing. Curious what adventures you have planned for 2019….anything exciting?

      • lol I won’t ask ๐Ÿ˜‚ A month! Hope you didn’t do anything permanent!

        After 7 years in Asia I’m planning to travel around Canada, coast to coast. Nothing exciting, but Montreal in the summer time is always a great time.

        Take care of yourself brother.


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