During my visit to Madhya Pradesh, i wanted to encash every opportunity. So, i decided to explore Khajuraho before leaving the state……Yes, the same you are thinking, the sites belongs to temples of Erotica. After all, it is a famous World heritage site of India. And yes, it is very much true that World know Khajuraho temples as the ‘Temples having erotic sculpture’ or sometime ‘Temples of love’. And you know, usually Indians hesitate in choosing Khajuraho as their travel destination. India is like this only ‘the country with contradictions’. The thing these ancient temple can say, is still not easy to say or discuss openly. A guy in Bhopal said…. If you talk about visiting Khajuraho, people will look at you, like you committed a big mistake.
But I already had decided so, i took a train from Bhopal reached Khajuraho after an overnight journey from Bhopal. It was not a big town, as i expected. Previously it was just a village but in recent decade, the town expanded as hotels, shops or food points around the heritage monuments because of increase in tourism activity.
History of Khajuraho Temples.
These temple were build during Chandela dynasty, approximately 1000-1100 years ago. It is also said that around 85 temples of such type was there till 12th century. But, as on date only 25 of them survived. Kings Yashovarman, 1st Chandela king established their kingdom with capital at Mahoba and chose Khajuraho as his religious capital. Most of the temples build in his regime but later it become tradition. And every Chandela king builds at least one temple of similar style (Nagara).
Invaders like Mahmud of Ghazni and Qutub-Ud-Din Aybak attacked here to loot and destroy these temples. But in the later period no one cared about it because of its interior location. And due course of time, forests covered these temples and remained un-discovered until a British explorer spotted these temples. Today, these temples are classified in two main groups Western and Eastern.
Western Group of monument; Khajuraho.
The first thought was, whether these temple have any relation with western culture. Because in India, we easily correlate such openness (expressions of sculptures) with western-ism. Later, i came to know that these temples lies on the west side of town so got this name. Western group of monument are mainly located within a large bounded compound of size (approx 400 x 300 meter). Maintenance work of these monuments is under the control of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), and they charged Rs. 40/- (for Indian). So, I too bought a ticket to explore these gems of ancient architecture.
Vishvanatha Temple, Khajuraho.
It was the first monument that drew my attention while entering this heritage complex. Standing on a big and high plinth, and having a Nandi temple in front. There is a life-size statue of Nandi (holy oxen) carved out of a single stone. An elephant statue below the stair was guarding the temple, also a common feature in Hindu temple. This temple has five sub-section like Ardha Mandapa, Mandapa, Maha-mandapa and inner sanctum (Gribha Grih) and each have their own spire (Sikhara). The temple has been constructed with yellow sand stone and it seems like a gold crown with thousands of precious stone. Every parts of temple has been covered with beautiful intricate carving.
While observing all these features, my eyes were looking for something else. And, it was quite obvious too because these temple are mainly famous for those erotic sculpture. Though, there are hundreds of sculptures in three horizontal layer for enhancing the beauty of temple wall. These sculpture depict various emotions and expressions, whether you call it lust or love. Some of these sculpture belong to some God-Goddess. Artisans have put all their skill in flaunting curves on female body. The sense of sensuality emerges from every stone. Various embracing couples enjoying their togetherness in every corner. Some sculptures may be titillating while some are enough to get your jaw dropped. Main wall gallery display some couple in their love-making posture, expression are very much loud and shocking too. They are not bother to hide their asset or any kind of feeling, even they celebrating the male-female bonding in public.
Some philosophy say, when you get saturated with worldly act, then its the right time to come to God. After roaming around the temple’s outside wall, it was time to enter inside the temple. Side wall of the entrance porch have some ancient inscription, which tells the temple was build by Chandela king Dhanga in the last of 10th century AD. As per the inscription, soul of Vishvakarma had entered in the body of architect while he designed the torans of temple.
The temple also have numerous sculpture inside too but not about lust or desires. They are mainly display various forms of Gods and belonging to mythological theme. A Shiva linga installed inside the main sanctum, its like we have to go through various stages to reach the God. Inside pillars and wall of inner sanctum also have wonderful carving.
Kandariya Mahadeva Temple.
Kandariya Mahadeva means ‘God of Caves’ which is a synonym for ‘Lord Shiva’ built in the reign of King Vidyadhara. It is the highest and most recognized temple of western group of monument. Build over the 12 feet high plinth of size 30×20 meters, sharing with Jagadamba temple (A temple of Goddess Parvati). Layout of the temple is almost similar to Vishwanatha temple. The main spire over the main sanctum, which is more than 100 feet high itself has 84 miniature spires. This represents the Mount Kailash, adobe of Lord Shiva.
Like the Vishwanatha temple, every inch of the temple is beautifully decorated and enough to amaze you. The temple wall too have nicely curved hundreds of sculptures of Apsaras and other God-Goddess. Finishing on these sculptures made every stone alive, it seems like every stone is trying to communicate with you. Apart from the human figures, there are many carving of animals. A mythical animal which look like a mix of lion and horse emphasize everywhere that may be representing desire or power . All of these temples are the masterpiece and beyond the imagination. Even after thousand year, Kandariya Mahadeva is the most preserved temple of the group.
It is the oldest and another important temple of western group. Situated on a beautiful and well fenced platform in comparison to other group temple. There are four smaller temple at each corner of platform dedicated to different God-Goddess. Lakshmana temple share its layout design with Vishwanatha and Kandariya Mahadeva temple. This temple also covered with hundreds of beautiful sculptures of God-Goddess, men-women, animals like elephants and horses and that erotic gallery.
There is another small temple dedicated to Varaha Avtar(Boar) of Lord Vishnu, closer to Lakshmana temple. This temple has a big statue of boar which have thousands of smaller sculptures of God-Goddess. Lord Vishnu use snake as his vehicle, so here you can see a big stone snake below the feet of boar. Goddess Lakshmi, wife of Lord Vishnu also carved out on the mouth of boar.
Other than these important temple there is one Chitragupta Sun temple and one Jagadamba temple near the Kandaria Mahadev temple. Both of them are having theme like other temple of the group, but not as magnificent.
Apart from these temples, there is another Shiva temple ‘Matangeshwara’ belonging to same Era, opposite to Lakshman temple but outside the boundary, still in use for worship. If you are kind of religious person , you can join evening Aarati at the temple. This temple has a large Shiva Linga of 8 feet high and 1 meter in dia.
Eastern group of monument, Khajuraho
Other important ancient temple lies on the eastern side of town ( within original village) also referred as ‘Easter group of monument’. Eastern group of monuments is a combination of Hindu and Jain temples. And there is no cost involve for visiting these monuments/temples. Choose the time of morning or evening walk as a Perfect time to visit these temple. You can freely walk through the old town and can enjoy the ancient marvel at the same time.
All the temple except Ghantai Temple are alike. These temples are based on similar theme, having lots of beautiful sculpture of God Goddess in different avatar. Temple walls with carving of couples enjoying romance or can say more than romance. Even if you go to the Jain temples.
It’s true that Khajuraho temples exhibit only 10% of the sculpture on erotic theme. But at the same time it is also true that, you can’t see such intimate sculpture at any sacred site anywhere in the world. That is why it known to world as temple of erotic image. You may find similar image on the Konark Sun Temple but the scale of sculpture is quite small in comparison. Here, in Khajuraho artisan have tried hard to make these sculptures alive.