Khajuraho is a fascinating village situated in the state of
Madhya Pradesh, India. The fascinating temples of Khajuraho,
India’s unique gift of love to the world, represent the expression
of a highly matured civilization. It is one of the very famous
tourist places for both foreign and Indian tourists in India.
Temples of Khajuraho attract the visitors with their sculptural art,
which is very exquisite and intricate. Perfect in execution and
sublime in expressions these Khajuraho temples are a
dedication to the womanhood. The artist’s creative instincts
have beautifully captured various facets and moods of life in stone.
The beautiful temples that dot the town of Khajuraho are
believed to have been built by the mighty Chandela
rulers in 9th and 10th century AD. The engravings on these
temples are highly sensual and erotic.
Tantricism and the Shakti cult, where the pancha
makaras (five tenets), namely, matsya (fish), madira (wine),
maithun (sexual activity), mamsa (meat), and mudra (gesture)
were to release the human spirit from the bondage of the flesh,
have been described as the possible explanations for the
sculptural sensuality of Khajuraho.
In the twenty-seventh century of Kali yuga, the Mlechcha
invaders started attacking North India. Some Bargujar
Rajputs moved eastward to central India; they ruled over the
Northeastern region of Rajasthan, called Dhundhar, and were
referred to as Dhundhel/Dhundhela in ancient times, for the
region they governed. Later on they called themselves
Bundelas and Chandelas; those who were in the ruling class
having gotra Kashyap were definitely all Bargujars; they were
vassals of Gurjara – Pratihara empire of North India, which lasted
from 500 C.E. to 1300 C.E. and at its peak the major monuments
were built. The Bargujars also built the Kalinjar fort and Neelkanth
Mahadev temple, similar to one at Sariska National Park, and
Baroli, being Shiva worshippers. The city was the cultural
capital of Chandela Rajputs, a Hindu dynasty that ruled this
part of India from the 10-12th centuries. The political capital
of Chandelas was Kalinjar. The Khajuraho temples were built
over a span of 200 years, from 950 to 1150. The Chandela
capital was moved to Mahoba after this time, but Khajuraho
continued to flourish for some time. Khajuraho has no forts
because the Chandel Kings never lived in their cultural capital.
The whole area was enclosed by a wall with eight gates,
each flanked by two golden palm trees. There were
originally over 80 Hindu temples, of which only 25 now
stand in a reasonable state of preservation, scattered over
an area of about 20 square kilometres (8 sq mi).
Today, the temples serve as fine examples of Indian
architectural styles that have gained popularity due to their
explicit depiction of sexual life during medieval times.
Locals living in the Khajuraho village always knew about
and kept up the temples as best as they could. They were
pointed out to an Englishman in late 19th century but the
jungles had taken a toll on all the monuments.
Out of 85 temples, only 20 have survived the ravages of time.
Made of sandstone blocks fitted together, the temples are
aligned east-west. For convenience, these may be divided into
western, eastern, and southern groups of temples.
The temples at Khajuraho are divided into three broad groups:
The Western Group :
- This is the largest and paramount group with most of its constituent temples laid out roughly in
two rows. The Lakshmana Temple, the Matangesvara Temple and the Varaha Temple form one complex and the Visvanatha and Nandi temples are not far from this complex.
- The Kandariya Mahadeo is considered the most evolved example of central Indian temple architecture. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, this temple is also the largest of Khajuraho’s temples.
- The Lakshmana Temple is one of the oldest and finest of the western group of temples. Although the general norm in other temples is three bands of sculpture, this temple has only two. Recurrent themes are battles, hunting, and women.
- The temple of Devi Jagdamba is considered by many to be one of the most erotic temples of Khajuraho. The temple houses Khajuraho’s most talked-about image, mithuna, and the sensuously carved figures.
- The temple of Vishvanath and Nandi celebrates the marriage of Lord Shiva with Parvati. From traditional images of women fondling babies and writing letters, they are seen also as the most provocative of images.
- Chaunsat Yogini is the oldest of the surviving temples of Khajuraho. This temple is dedicated to goddesses Kaliand is the only temple in Khajuraho that is built in granite. Other important temples in the western group are the temples of Lakshmi and Varaha, Mahadev, Chitragupta, Parvati, and Matangesvara.
The Eastern Group :
- The eastern group of monuments, situated in close proximity to the Khajuraho village, includes three Brahmanical temples known as Brahma, Vamana and Javari and three Jain temples, the Ghantai, Adinath and Parsvanath.
- The temple of Parsvanath is the largest of the Jain temples in Khajuraho and the finest. The temple was originally dedicated to Adinath and latter to Parsvanath. It is the finest example of the sensitive art without any sexual motifs.
- Shantinath is the youngest of all the temples in Khajuraho. The temple has a four and a half meter statue of Adinath.
- Mostly in ruins now, The temple of Ghantai has fine columns and chains and bells, with a figure of a Jain goddess on a garuda.
- The temple of Brahma and Hanuman is also one of the oldest temples at Khajuraho. The temple is built mostly of granite and sandstone. Two other notable temples are Javari and Vamana temple.
The Southern Group :
- The southern group of monuments comprises the Duladeo and the Chaturbhuja temples. The Duladeo is about a kilometer south of the Khajuraho village and half a mile southwest of the Jain group of temples.
- The Duladeo is somewhat new and built in a time when the creativity of Khajuraho was well down its peak. The temple has wooden structures that take away its authenticity somewhat. The other temple is of Chaturbhuja, pretty far from the village. The temple has a 3-m-high statue of Vishnu.
Apart from the temples, another place that can be visited
here is the Archeological Museum.
It has a very good collection of sculpture, inscriptions,
and architectural objects.
The Khajuraho temples do not contain sexual or erotic art
inside the temple or near the deities; however, some external
carvings bear erotic art. Also, some of the temples that have
two layers of walls have small erotic carvings on the outside of
the inner wall. There are many interpretations of the erotic carvings.
They portray that, for seeing the deity, one must leave his or
her sexual desires outside the temple. They also show that
divinity, such as the deities of the temples, is pure like the atman,
which is not affected by sexual desires and other characteristics
of the physical body. It has been suggested that these suggest tantric
sexual practices. Meanwhile, the external curvature and carvings of the
temples depict humans, human bodies, and the changes that occur in
human bodies, as well as facts of life. Some 10% of the
carvings contain sexual themes; those reportedly do not show
deities, they show sexual activities between people.
The rest depict the everyday life of the common Indian of the
time when the carvings were made, and of various activities
of other beings. For example, those depictions show women
putting on makeup, musicians, potters, farmers, and other folks.
Those mundane scenes are all at some distance from the
temple deities. A common misconception is that, since the
old structures with carvings in Khajuraho are temples,
the carvings depict sex between deities.