The Khajuraho temples are known not so much for their religious predilection but for the exquisite erotic sculptures that are etched on the temple walls. Here passion and desire are reflected in the most daring manner in the form of carved sculptures with the aesthetically built temples taking us on a journey into the glorious past of India.
Travellers come from far and wide to see the world famous temples of Khajuraho. The temples are all there is to see, but you don’t need much more than these magnificent monuments to the gods, as you try and absorb the breadth of man’s artistic ability and aesthetic sense that breathes life into mere slabs of stone.
Declared a heritage site back in the 1980’s, the Khajuraho temples date back to the 10th and 11th centuries AD and were built under the Chandela Rajput Kings. Originally 85 temples were built near the village of Khajuraho at that time, but today only 22 of them stand sturdily.
The temples of Khajuraho are unique in architecture and stunning in their ornamentation. They stand on high masonry platforms, and have three sections – the ‘ardhamandapa’ or the entrance, ‘mandapa’ or assembly hall and ‘garbha griha’ or the sanctum sanctorum. The larger temples have additional sections. Each compartment has its own roof, each roof higher than the one before, all rising in tiered succession culminating in the towering ‘shikhara’ (pinnacle) over the inner sanctum. The whole entire effect is visually stunning.
The distinctive architecture of the temples is further enhanced by absolutely superb sculptures inside and outside the temples that leave you mesmerised. Indeed, it is these exquisite sculptures that give Khajuraho its well-deserved fame. The carvings and frescoes depict a variety of moods of every aspect of human life – from the mundane to the sublime. The temples are replete with beautifully sculpted and detailed erotic figures in a mind-boggling variety of positions, of voluptuous maidens and handsome men, which have aroused much discussion and several interpretations regarding their relevance and meaning. Contrary to what you may have heard, the erotic sculpture is less titillating and more amazing as you marvel at the creativity and craftsmanship of the people who chiselled life into stone.
The temples of Khajuraho are segregated into three groups; Western, Eastern and the Southern. Of the three, the western group is the biggest, best preserved and easiest to access. The other two groups are smaller, though interesting.
The largest temple of the western group, and the most magnificent, is the Kandariya Mahadeo Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. Built during the reign of King Vidyadhara, of the Chandela dynasty, the temple soars to an impressive height of 31 metres above the main platform, and has lavish and elaborate sculptures, representing Chandela art at its very zenith. Do take along a guide who will explain everything in detail and make your visit really interesting.
The Chaunsat Yogini Temple is the only granite temple in Khajuraho and is dedicated to Kali. Another Kali Temple which is originally dedicated to Vishnu is the Devi Jagadambe Temple.
The Chitragupta Temple is devoted to Lord Surya, the sun-god. The image of this powerful holy being is chiefly striking. It is 5feet in height. The scenes like the royal processions, elephant-fights, hunting scenes, group dances are spectacularly depicted in the temple. The lavish lifestyle of the Chandela kings and their court is here in all its splendour and glory.
Lions border the northern steps and elephants the southern, leading up to the Vishwanath Temple . The exteriors of the temple are generously done up and inside the temple one can witness an extraordinary three headed image of the Brahma. Just opposite to this is the Nandi Temple boasting its gigantic Nandi Bull 6 feet in height.
The other equally famous temples are the Vaishnavite temples in the Khajuraho as the creators were the devotees of Vishnu and the best of them is The Lakshmana Temple. The Matangeswara Temple is dedicated to Shiva and it has an 8 ft high lingam.
The Eastern group comprises of the Jain and the Hindu temples.
The largest Jain Temple is Parswanath Temple with charismatic themes and sculptures all over its walls are particularly striking. Adinath Temple is dedicated to a Jain saint and is lavishly embroidered with sculptures, the sanctum of the temple is quite simple and the altar has been built in an early phase. The roof has been built with a lotus like stone lending it an authentic look.
The creators of the sculptures in this temple have been able to impart appropriate expression to various emotions in stone. The Ghantai Temple is a beautiful temple which is almost in ruins now but it still bears evidence of its original magnificence.
The Hindu Temples comprise of the Brahma, Vamana, Javari and Hanuman Temples. Brahma temple is simply designed with the granite stone and consists of a four faced lingam; Vamana temple consists of sculptures of apsaras and celestial nymphs which beautify the outer walls of the temple and the Javari temple has a richly-carved gateway.
The Hanuman temple has an enormous statue of Hanuman, familiar as ‘the Monkey God’. The statue is 8 feet high and is now in remains. This is the oldest structure discovered here so far and is very fascinating from the archaeological point of view.
The Southern group of temples lies at a distance of 5 kms from Khajuraho village. An example of finely built temple in this group is the Chaturbhuj Temple with enormously carved figure of Vishnu. Duladeo Temple is also a temple of the southern group with a little distance from the Jain temples.
Apart from its well known temples, the town also offers much more in entertainment and activities, especially in the cultural field. A number of cultural organisations regularly hold events that highlight the tribal and folk culture of the region. This translates into a more entertaining time for the visitor.
Khajuraho hosts a Festival of Classical Dances in February/March every year. The weeklong festival provides the rare opportunity to see the seven classical dances of India performed by some of the best dancers in the country. What is more, the floodlit temples provide a bewitching backdrop, making it a truly unforgettable experience. The dances performed cover the spectrum of Indian classical dance genres- Bharat Natyam, Manipuri, Kucchipudi, Oddissi, Kathak, Mohiniattam and Kathakali. Not to be missed!