Khajuraho – A Unesco Heritage Site With An Architectural Brilliance
In each group of Khajuraho temples, there were major temples surrounded by smaller temples – a grid style that is observed to varying degrees in Hindu temples in Angkor Wat, Parambaran and South India.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, situated in state of Madhya Pradesh has been attraction for all generations of people for their intricate carvings and brilliant architecture. Out of group of 85 , the largest group of Hindu and Jain temples only 25 remains today. Scattered over an area of about 9 square miles, Khajuraho temples depict the traditional lifestyle of women in the medieval age.
The site is also famous for its erotic sculptures. But for Chausath-Yogini, Brahma and Mahadeva which are of granite, all the other temples are of fine grained sandstone, buff, pink or pale yellow in colour. Khajuraho represent a distinct pattern of art and temple architecture of its own reminding one of the rich and creative period it witnessed during the Chandella rule. It was the principal seat of authority of the Chandella rulers who adorned it with numerous tanks, scores of lofty temples of sculptural grace and architectural splendour. Yasovarman (AD 954) built the temple of Vishnu, now famous as Lakshmana temple is an ornate and evolved example of its time proclaiming the prestige of the Chandellas.The Khajuraho groups of temples are noted for soaring terraces (jagati) and functionally effective plans comprising of an ardhamandapa, acting as entrance generally adorned with makara torana and kakshasana, the mandapa, as the hall with antarala leading to garbha griha or sanctum. The larger temples have mahamandapas in front of the ardhamandapa. They also have minor shrines at four corners and thus categorized as pancayatana. The exterior of the temples are richly decorated. The sculptural embellishments include parivara, parsva, avarana devatas, dikpalas, the apsarases and sura-sundaris which win universal admiration for their delicate, youthful female forms of ravishing beauty. The attire and ornamentation embrace the winsome grace and charm.
The Khajuraho Temples were built by the Chandella rulers between AD 900 and 1130, during the golden period of the Chandela dynasty. It is presumed that every Chandella ruler built at least one temple in his lifetime. One noteworthy ruler was Maharaja Rao Vidyadhara, who repelled the attacks of Mahmud of Ghazni. His love for sculptures is shown in these temples of Khajuraho and Kalinjar fort. The first recorded mention of the Khajuraho temples is in the accounts of Al-Biruni in AD 1022 and in the works of the Arab traveller Ibn Battuta in AD 1335. The images of Goddesses and Gods sculpted on the temple walls represent the many manifestations of the divine Shakti and Shiva.
These temples are largely seen for their erotic art which has rows of sculptures depicting devanganas, mithunas, divinities and explicit erotic sculptures, especially those depicting mithunas in sexual positions. Most of the erotic sculptures can be found either on the outside or inner walls of the temples but not near the deities. They actually show passionate interactions between humans along with changes that occur in the human bodies. It is considered that these temples are a celebration of womanhood. According to the Brihat Samhita, mithunas, goblins, creepers and erotic sculptures were meant to be carved on the temple door to bring good luck. This was linked to the idea of young boys during the medieval era practicing ‘brahmacharya’, in which they were required to live in hermitage until they matured and became adult men, thus these sculptures are said to have been made to prepare them for the worldly desires and learn about them.
The western side of the site is the most popular area, which includes the Kandariya Mahadeva, the largest and one of the most important of the Khajuraho temples. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the temple is studded with magnificent sculptures and one of the most ornately crafted temples at Khajuraho. The Chaunsath Jogini Temple, situated on the bank of the Shivsagar Lake, is believed to be the oldest temple in Khajuraho. This temple is different from the other temples at Khajuraho and depicts a style different from the Chandela style of architecture.
The temples depict various forms like meditation, spiritual teachings, kinship, wrestling, royalty and most significantly, erotic art. The temples consist of stunning displays of fine sculptures and exceptional architectural skill, making them one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India.
Based on their geographical location, the temples are categorised into three groups: Eastern, Western and Southern. Beautiful, intricate and expressive, the sculptures of the Khajuraho temples will leave you in awe and wonder.
The Khajuraho temple complex offers a light and sound show every evening. The first show is in English language and the second one in Hindi. It is held in the open lawns in the temple complex.
Places to see around Khajuraho:
Panna National Park – 36 km from Khajuraho the park is famous for its splendid and rich wildlife. The highlights of Panna national park are Leopards, Wolves, Gharials, Wild Boars, Sloth Bears, Cheetals, Chowsinghas, Indian Foxes and Porcupines. Panna national park remains closed from June to October.
Ranch Falls- 20 kms away from Khajuraho these falls are famous for the rock formations and these waterfalls empty into a lake and is a beautiful place for picnic and to visit.
Benisagar and Ranguan – Lake Ranguan is 25 km from Khajuraho and are tourist spots and perfect venue for a picnic. There is a dam on Khudar River and is an ideal place for boating and angling.
Ken Gharial – a sanctuary, 24 km from Khajuraho, is famous for the crocodiles with long-snouts living in their natural home.
Dhubela Museum – 64 km away from Khajuraho, located on the bank of a lake in an old fort on the Jhansi-Khajuraho road. Dhulbela museum has a variety of sculpture of the Shakti cult and a rare collection of Bundelkhandi artifacts. There are different sections on garments, weapons, and paintings in this museum.
Ajaygarh- is an old fort, built at a height of 688 meters is 60 kms from Khajuraho, was the capital of the Chandelas during their decline.
Kalinjar fort – 100 km from Khajuraho the fort is situated on Vindhya Ranges. It was built during the Gupta period and was won over by the Chandela ruler Shri Yashovarman in the 10th century.
Pandava waterfalls- 30 km from Khajuraho, are so called because it is believed that Pandavas spent most of their time in exile here.
Timings: Open from sunrise to sunset
Fees: For Indians Rs. 30/- per head and Foreign Nationals- Rs. 500/- per head. (Children up to 15 years free)
How to Reach:
By Air: Khajuraho Civil airport is located about 2 km from the town and is well connected to cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Varanasi and Indore. Taxis are available from the airport to reach the city centre.
By Rail: You can get to Khajuraho in a train by getting off at the Khajuraho Railway Station, which is around 5 km from the main town centre. The station is well connected to Delhi and Varanasi and (via Satna Railway Station) to Mumbai and Kolkata.
By Road: Khajuraho is connected by road to cities like Jhansi, Orchha, Bandhavgarh and Chattarpur. You can hire a taxi from any of these places to get to the city.
Khajuraho Dance Festival- 20-26 February 2017
The Khajuraho Dance Festival is held every year in February. It features various classical Indian dances set against the backdrop of the Chitragupta or Vishwanath Temples. Khajuraho Festival of Dances is celebrated at a time when the hardness of winter begins to fade and the king of all seasons, spring, takes over. The most colourful and brilliant classical dance forms of India with their roots in the ling and rich cultural traditions across the country, offer a feast for the eyes during a weeklong extravaganza here.