275 kms (171 miles) SE of Gwalior
More tourism information:
Bus Stand, Khajuraho.
Tel.: (07686) 274163.
The magnificant group of temples at Khajuraho, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, were built between the 9th and 10th
centuries by the Chandela dynasty which dominated Central India at that time. The most impressive of the temples is the Kandariya Mahadev, which represents the pinnacle of North Indian temple art and architecture. It is remarkable for its grand dimensions, its complex yet perfectly harmonious composition, and its exquisite sculptural embellishment. Over 800 sculptures cover the temple, depicting gods and goddesses, beasts and warriors, sensuous maidens, dancers, musicians and, of course, the erotic scenes for which the Khajuraho temples are famous.
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.
THE 25 temples at Khajuraho represent the brilliant burst of artistic flowering that took place under the generous patronage of the powerful Chandela rulers, who made Khajuraho their peacetime capital. The remoteness of the temples location saved them from the ravages of Islamic raiders, but also led to their being abandoned after the decline of the Chandelas in the 13th century. Hidden in a dense forest for 700 years, they were "rediscovered" in 1838 by Captain TS Burt of the Bengal Engineers. According to local tradition there were originally 85 temples, and ongoing excavations have unearthed extensive ruins in the area.
The Khajuraho temples are divided into three groups. The most important are in the Western Group which, apart from the Kandariya Mahadev, includes the Lakshman and the Vishwanath Temples. Both are similar to the Kandariya Mahadev in composition, sculptural embellishments and themes, but they also have outstanding individual features.
The superb ceiling of the entrance porch and the female bracket figures inside the Lakshman Temple (built in AD 930) are worth special notice. The pair of street singers on the south fade are also remarkable, widl their expressions of intense absorption. The master architect and his apprentices are exquisitely sculpted on the subsidialy shrine in the temple's eastern corner.
Opposite the Lakshman Temple is a pavilion with a magnificent statue of Varaha, the boar incarnation of Vishnu, covered with carvings of several deities.
In the Vishwanath Temple, dating to AD 1002, the apsara plucking a thorn from her foot is outstanding, as is the apsara playing the flute, which can be seen in the interior chamber.
The Matangeshwar Temple (built AD 900), with its plain circular interior, is the only one still in everyday use. The Archaeological Museum, near the entrance to the Western Group, has a fine collection of sculptures found in the area, including a dancing Ganesha, and a fas cinating frieze showing the construction of the Khajuraho temples, with scenes of stone being cut and transported.
A short distance away is the Eastern Group of temples. The Jain Parsvanatha Temple, built in AD 950, is the most remarkable, for the intricately carved ceiling pendants in its entrance porch. Three exquisite sculptures here show apsams applying kohl around their eyes, painting their feet, and applying kohl fastening ankle bells.
The last phase of temple building in Khajuraho is seen in the Southern Group. The Chaturbhuj Temple (built AD 1090) has a superb, four armed image of Shiva in the inner sanctum. It is the only major temple in Khajuraho without any erotic sculptures.