Khajuraho Temples , Madhya Pradesh

khajuraho

Situated in the heart of Central India, in the state of Madhya Pradesh, Khajuraho is a fascinating village with a quaint rural ambience and a rich cultural heritage. The fascinating temples of Khajuraho, India’s unique gift of love to the world, represent the expression of a highly matured civilization.

Khajuraho temples were constructed between 950 and 1050 A.D. during the reign of Chandel Empire. Khajuraho derives its name from the Khajur tree (the date palm tree) which can be found in abundance in the area. These temples are considered the “high point” of Indian architectural genius in the Medieval period.

Originally there were 85 temples, of which only 22 still exist. The amazingly short span of 100 years, from 950 AD – 1050 AD, saw the completion of all the temples, in an inspired burst of creativity. With the wane of the Chandela empire, these magnificent temples lay neglected, and vulnerable to the ravages of Nature. It was only in this century, that they were rediscovered, restored and granted the recognition that they justly deserve. The murals depict the life and times of the Chandelas, and celebrate the erotic state of being. They not only testify to the mastery of the craftsman, but also to the extraordinary breadth of vision of the Chandela Rajputs under whose reign, these temples were constructed. Their style of architecture was also rather peculiar to their times.

Each structure stands on a high masonry platform with a distinct upward direction to their build, further enhanced by several vertical projections to simulate the effect of an overall lightness. The three main compartments are the entrance (ardhamandapa), assembly hall (mandapa), and the actual sanctum (garbha griha). The temples are grouped into three geographical divisions : western, eastern and southern.

The creators of Khajuraho claimed descent from the moon. The legend that describes the origin of this great dynasty is a fascinating one – Hemavati, the beautiful young daughter of a Brahmin priest was seduced by the moon god while bathing in the Rati one evening. The child born of this union between a mortal and a god was a son, Chandravarman. Harassed by society, the unwed mother sought refuge in the dense forest of Central India where she was both mother and guru to her young son. The boy grew up to found the great Chandela dynasty. When he was established as a ruler, he had a dream-visitation from his mother, who implored him to build temples that would reveal human passions, and in doing so bring about a realization of the emptiness of human desire. Chandravarman began the construction of the first of the temples, successive rulers added to the fast growing complex.

Yet another theory is that the erotica of Khajuraho, and indeed of other temples, had a specific purpose. In those days when boys lived in hermitages, following the Hindu law of being “brahmacharis” until they attained manhood, the only way they could prepare themselves for the worldly role of ‘householder’ was through the study of these sculptures and the earthly passions they depicted.

If the temples of Khajuraho can be said to have a theme, it is woman. A celebration of woman and her myriad moods and facets- Writing letters, applying kohl to her eyes, brushing her hair, dancing with joyous abandon playing with her child. Woman – innocent, coquettish, smiling – infinitely seductive, infinitely beautiful. Depicted in a wealth of detail, sharply etched, sculpted with consummate artistry. The philosophy of the age dictated the enjoyment of the delights of arth (material wealth) and kama (sensual pleasures) while performing one’s dharma (duty) as the accepted way of life for the grihastha (householder). Hence, the powerful combination of the visual and sensual pleasures combined with the duty attributed to the worship of the Dieties brings about a powerful transformation of the body and the soul. To include all of these aspects of life in one’s early years makes it easier to renounce them without regret or attachment as one moves on to one’s next stages of life toward moksha (liberation).

The temples are grouped into three geographical divisions : western, eastern and southern.

Western Group

The Western group is certainly the best known, because it is to this group that the largest and most typical Khajuraho temple belongs to the Kandariya Mahadev. Perfectly symmetrical, it soars 31 km high.

Kandariya Mahadev –

This is the largest, and most typical Khajuraho temple. There are abput 900 statues. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, it soars 31 m high. The sanctum enshrines a lingam, while the main shrine is ornately carved and depicts various gods, goddesses, apsaras (heavenly maidens) in elaborate detail. The entrance arch, the massive pillars and ceilings are adorned with exquisite carvings, that leave the visitor spellbound. Beyond the archway of the Kandariya Mahadev, lie the six interior compartments; the portico, main hall, transept, vestibule, sanctum and ambulatory. The ceilings are particularly noteworthy and the pillars supporting them have intricately carved capitals. The transept’s outer walls have three horizontal panels showing deities of the Hindu pantheon, and groups of lovers, a pageant of sensuousness, vibrantly alive.

Vishwanath Temple –

The temple enshrines a three-headed image of Lord Brahma. Lions guard the northern entrance to the structure, while elephants flank the southern flight of steps that lead upto it. The exteriors are profusely carved, and facing the shrine is a Nandi Temple with a massive, 6 ft high Nandi bull.

Lakshamana Temple –

The lintel over the entrance of this temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu, shows the holy trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva with Goddess Lakshmi, Vishnu’s consort. The sanctum is adorned with a three-headed idol of Vishnu’s incarnations, Narasimha and Varaha. The latter, the boar incarnation also appears as a nine-feet high statue at the Varaha Temple.

Chaunsat Yogini –

The oldest surviving temple in the group (900 A.D.), this is the sole granite temple dedicated to Goddess Kali. Only 35 of the original 65 cells remain and no image of Kali has survived : not surprisingly, since this is the earliest surviving shrine of the group dated to 900 AD. Another Kali temple, which was originally dedicated to Lord Vishnu, is the Devi Jagdambe temple.

Chitragupta Temple –

 Dedicated to the sun-god, Surya, this temple faces eastwards to the rising sun. The inner sanctum boasts of an impressive image of the presiding deity – the majestic sun-god looming 5 feet high, and driving a chariot. The other group scenes depict royal processions, group dances and other scenes of sheer luxury, typical of the Chandela court-life.

Matangeshwara Temple –

This temple, which happens to be outside the precincts of the western group, is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It boasts of an eight feet high lingam. It is still a place of worship. South of this temple is the open air Archaeological Museum, which has a beautiful displayed collection of statues and friezes collected from the area : the remains of long vanished temples

Eastern Group

Parsavanatha Temple –

The largest in the group of three Jain temples, the Parsavanath image in this temple, was installed in 1860. The sculptures on the northern wall depict everyday activity, in awesome detail. A woman sits bent pensively on a letter, a lovely young girl removes a thorn from her foot, the master craftsmen of Khajuraho display here their deep understanding of the trifles that make up a human life. Within the temple, a throne faces the bull emblem of first tirthankara, Adinath.

Ghantai Temple –

This Jain temple has a frieze depicting the 16 dreams of Mahavira’s mother, and a multi-armed Jain goddess perched on a winged Garuda.

Adinatha Temple –

The last of the Jain temples, is dedicated to the Jain saint, Adinatha, and is gorgeously adorned with sculptures of yakshis among others.

Duladeo Temple –

Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the highlights of this temple are the sensuous images of the apsaras, and other exquisite sculptures.

Chaturbhuj Temple –

This temple sports a huge, elaborately carved image of Vishnu in the sanctum

Getting there and Around

By Air –

Khajuraho has its own airport from where daily fights link it to major Indian cities including Delhi, Agra, Varanasi and Kathmandu.

By Rail –

The nearest railway stations are at Mahoba (64 km) and Harpalpur (94 km). Satna (117 km) is the arrival place for tourists coming in from Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Agra and Varanasi.

By Road –

Regular bus services connect Khajuraho to neighbouring cities including Mahoba, Harpalpur, Satna, Jhansi, Gwalior, Agra etc.

Accommodation

Some of the most popular hotels in Khajuraho include Hotel Taj Chandela, Hotel Clarks, Hotel Jass Trident, Hotel Usha Bundela, Hotel Holiday Inn and Hotel The Grand Temple View

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