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Khajuraho derives its name from 'khajura'-date palm which grows freely in the area and perhaps because there were two gold khajura trees on a carved gate here. Taken in totality, the sculptures of Khajuraho depict the everyday life of the people and the court in the 10th and 11th centuries.
The Khajuraho temples were built in a short span of hundred years, from 950-1050 AD in a truly inspired burst of creativity. Of the 85 original temples, today only 25 have survived, and is spread over three locations to constitute one of the world's great artistic wonders. The creators of Khajuraho claimed descent from the moon and the legend behind the founding of this great dynasty and the temples is a fascinating one.
Hemawati, the lovely young daughter of a Brahmin priest, was seduced by the moon-god while bathing in a forest pool. The child born of this union was Chandravarman, founder of the Chandela dynasty. Brought up in the forests by his mother who sought refuge from a censorious society, Chandravarma, when established as a ruler, had a dream visitation from his mother. It is said that she implored him to build temples that would reveal human passions. Chandravarman began the construction of the first few temples and successive rulers added to the complex. It is also possible that the Chandelas were followers of the Tantric cult, which believes that gratification of earthly desires is a step towards attaining the infinite liberation of nirvana.
Architecturally too, they are unique, being very different
from the temple prototype of their period. Each stands on a high masonry
platform with a marked upward direction in the structure, further enhanced
by vertical projections to create the effect of grace and lightness. Each
of the chief compartments is mounted by its own roof, grouped so that
the highest is in the centre, the lowest over the portico; a highly imaginative
recreation of the rising peaks of the Himalayas, abode of the gods. Khajuraho
temples are the examples of Indo -Aryan architecture. The sculptors have
shown many aspects of Indian life 1000 years ago-gods and goddeses, warriors
and musicians, real and mythological animals. But two elements appear
over and over again and in greater detail than anything else-women and
sex. Stone figures of 'apsaras' or celestial maidens, their myriad moods
and facets appear on every temple. In between are the 'mithuna', erotic
figures, running through a whole Kamasutra of positions and possibilities.
Three geographical divisions group the temples : Western, Eastern and Southern. Entry fee (for all temples) Indians Rs.10, Foreigners $5. Timings 8am -6pm. Licensed guides are available at the tourist office, the rates ranging from Rs 280 to 400 per day.
Western Group of Temples:
The main temples are in this group, conveniently close
to the tourist part of Khajuraho. The temples are in a peaceful setting
of a beautiful park. The enclosure is open daily sunrise to sunset.
Chaunsat Yogini : The only granite temple and the oldest surviving shrine of the group (900AD), dedicated to Kali. Only 35 of the original 65 shrines remain.
Chitragupt Temple : Early 11 century, this temple is facing eastwards to the rising sun, the temple is dedicated to the sun-god, Surya. The image of the deity in the inner sanctum is particularly imposing: The idol of Surya can be seen five feet high and driving a seven horse-drawn chariot while on the south facade is a 11 headed statue of Vishnu signifying his 10 incarnations. The group scenes depict royal processions, elephant fights, hunting scenes and group dances, reflecting the lavish lifestyle of the Chandela courts.
Vishwanath Temple: Built in 1002 AD this temple is dedicated to Shiva. A massive 6 foot high Nandi bull (Shiva's vehicle ) faces the shrine. A three headed image of Brahma is enshrined in this temple. The approach is equally impressive with lions flanking the northern and elephants the southern steps that lead up to it.
Lakshmana Temple: Dedicated to Vishnu the large temple date from 930 to 950AD. The lintel over the entrance of this beautiful Vaishnavite temple shows the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, with Lakshmi, Vishnu's consort. The finely carved sanctum has a three-headed idol of Vishnu's incarnations, Narasimha and Varaha.
Matangeswara Temple : Built in 900-925AD it is the only temple still in active worship. The temple dedicated to Shiva, has an interesting circular interior with a eight-feet high lingam, and is outside the precincts of the Western Group.
Mahadeva Temple : This small temple built in 11th century houses one of Khajuraho's best sculptures- a fine sardula figure caressing a lion.
Devi Jagadamba Temple : Dating early 11th cenutry this temple was probably originally dedicated to Vishnu, but later changed to Parvati and then Kali. Some of the best carvings include deities-several of Vishnu, numerous nymphs and amorous couples.
and Varaha : These two small shrines were built in 900-925 AD. Varaha
temple is dedicated to Vishnu in his third incarnation as Varaha, the
boar. The idol is a nine feet high statue in highly polished sandstone
its surface covered with 674 deities.
Parsvanantha Temple: The group's largest Jain temple and exquisite in detail, the sculptures on the northern outer wall are particularly noteworthy. The themes depict women engrosed in everyday activity in charming detail. Within, a throne faces the bull emblem of the first Tirthankara, Adinatha. The Parsvanath image was installed in 1860. Some of the famous figures at Khajuraho can be seen here, the classic figure of a woman removing a thorn from her foot and another of a woman applying eye make-up.
Ghantai Temple: This small ruined Jain temple
has a frieze which depicts the 16 dreams of Mahavira's mother, and a multi-armed
Jain goddess on a winged Garuda.
The Hindu temples of the group are the granite Brahma temple originally a Vishnu temple containing a four-faced linga; nearby Hanuman the monkey god dating 922AD guarding a modern temple on the road out to the Jain enclosure, the Vamana dates 11th century (the dwarf incarnation of Vishnu), which is adorned on its outer walls with carvings of 'apsaras' (celestial nymphs) in a variety of sensuous attitudes, and the Javari temple also dedicated to Vishnu dating from 1075 to 1100AD with a richly carved gateway and exterior sculptures.
The southern group of temples is located 5km from the Khajuraho village.
Duladeo Temple: Dating early 12th century dedicated to Lord Shiva, the apsaras sporting around trees and ornamented figures are the temple's fine and graceful striking features.
Chaturbhuj Temple: This temple has a massive, intricately carved 2.7m high image of four armed Vishnu in the sanctum.
Khajuraho is not something that can be described in words; it has to be experienced. Large number of visitors come to Khajuraho in March for the world famous Khajuraho dance festival. The festival lasts10 days and draws some of the best classical dancers in the country who perform by the Western enclosure, with the floodlit temples providing a spectacular backdrop.
Sound and Light Show: