Close on the heels of the Taj and the piousness of Varanasi; the enigma of Khajuraho, unfolds with the tinkling of temple bells and the graceful movement, of myriad forms, poised in dance and movement, with the beauty of the timeless sculptures. Once used to guard the city gates, Khajuraho, alludes to the imagery of the tall date palms.
While the gates have ceased to exist, the willowy date palms continue to grace this temple town. The temples are a fabulous example of Indo-Aryan architecture, an elegant combination of intricacy and simplicity.
Now a quaint cluster of commerce, set against the backdrop of the magnificent temples, the city comes alive every year, during its Annual Dance Festival, when the maestros of classical dance, perform against the dramatic temple backdrop.
Khajuraho, the temple city of central India, is famous throughout the world for its exquisitely carved temples in stones. Thousands of visitors and tourists from all over the world flock together to envisage this immortal saga of Hindu art and culture engraved in stone by shilpies (stone craftsmen) a millenia ago.
Today, apart from the temples, Khajuraho is a small village but a thousand years ago it was a large city of the Chandelas, medieval Rajput kings who ruled over Central India. Khajuraho is 595 km (370 miles) south-east of Delhi and can be visited by air, rail or road. An overnight train journey from Delhi takes the visitor to Jhansi, from where another morning train takes him to Harpalpur 85 km (53 miles) to the east.
The Ancient dynasties are often covered in a veil of mystery, largely because written records are rare and, as is often the case in India, myth and legend weave their way over time into the history of their origin and their reign. And when the dynasty leaves a legacy as contradictory as the Khajuraho temples, with their mix of the religious and the sensuous, the web is woven of brighter threads, the accompanying legends more colourful. Khajuraho or 'Khajur-vahika' (bearer of date palms), also known as 'Khajjurpura' in ancient times, evidently derives its name from the golden date palms (khajur) that adorned its city gates and, if the different legendary versions are to be believed, it owes its existence to an enchanting maiden named Hemvati.
According to the account of the medieval court poet, Chandbardai, in the Mahoba-khand of his Prithviraj Raso, Hemvati was the beautiful daughter of Hemraj, the royal priest of Kashi (Varanasi). One summer night, while she was bathing in the sparkling waters of a lotus-filled pond, the Moon god was so awestruck by her beauty that he descended to earth in human form and ravished her.
The distressed Hemvati, who was unfortunately a child widow, threatened to curse the god for ruining her life and reputation. To make amends for his folly the Moon god promised that she would become the mother of a valiant son. 'Take him to Khajjurpura', he is believed to have said. 'He will be a great king and build numerous temples surrounded by lakes and gardens. He will also perform a yagya (religious ceremony) through which your sin will be washed away.' Following his instructions, Hemvati left her home to give birth to her son in a tiny village. The child, Chandravarman, was as lustrous as his father, brave and strong. By the time he was 16 years old he could kill tigers or lions with his bare hands. Delighted by his feats, Hemvati invoked the Moon god, who presented their son with a touchstone which could turn iron into gold, and installed him as king at Khajuraho.
Chandravarman achieved a series of brilliant victories and built a mighty fortress at Kalinjar. At his mother's request he began the building of 85 glorious temples with lakes and gardens at Khajuraho and performed the bhandya-yagya which expunged her of her guilt. A variation of the same legend introduces Hemvati as the widowed daughter of Mani Ram, the royal priest of Kalinjar. As a result of a mistake in his calculations the priest informed his king that a particular night was Puranmasi (full moon night) and not the dark night that it actually turned out to be.
The temples in Khajuraho are a fabulous example of Indo-Aryan architecture, an elegant combination of intricacy and simplicity. The Chandelas were a people, who branched off from the Rajputs and belonged to the lunar dynasty, which was founded by Chandravarman, the son of Hemwati (daughter of a Brahmin Priest) and the Moon God.
The city comes alive every year, during the Dance Festival in March, when the maestros of classical dance, Birju Maharaj and Kelucharan Mohapatra and their disciples, perform against the dramatic temple backdrop.
The visitor to Khajuraho cannot but be attracted to the vivid erotic sculptures on the temples walls. The sculptures are mithunas i.e. couple in various erotic poses. There have been many interpretations of their existence and some have criticized them severely. According to one authority, a man and woman in erotic embrace typify the ultimate union of the soul such erotic figures save the temple from beings struck by the lightening. The reason given for this is that Indra, Lord of rainand thunder bolt who himself is a great connoisseur of Kama, will not damage anything pertaining to that.
There are others who attribute to the desire of the sculptor to show life in its naked reality. Some say that it is related to the fertility cult. But a more plausible explanation could be that as the life in totality has been depicted on the temples, sex, which plays a major roe in the life of a grahast should not be left out. The subject of erotic and its philosophical and religious interpretations is not new in the oriental world. They are deeply rooted the social life of the people. In a country where the Linga cult is the source of religious belief and its manifestations sculptures are but a continuation of that tradition which accepts procreation as a major function of life.
The presence of erotic sculptures show that there were no taboos or inhibitions against sex as we have now. The people of that time took a healthy view of things and gave sex its requisite place in its life. Kama or pursuit of pleasure was deemed to be one of the four purusharthas or legitimate aims of life offer a Grahast and was regarded as a stepping stone to moksha, or deliverance. Thereforere, these erotic scenes were not regarded as abnormal or unnatural.
Beginning from the ninth century for five hundred years a powerful dynasty of kings known as the Chandellas ruled over Central India with Khajuraho as their capital city. They claimed to be the descendants of the moon kula (moon born). It can be inferred from the historical accounts that the Chandellas were Hindu Rajputs and were one of the 36. Rajputs clans who traced their descent from the Sun, the Moon of the sacred fire. According to Rawlinson, many central Asian tribes invaded the country and after they had become rulers, they were admitted to the Hindu fold. In this own words.
"Modern research seems to show that they (the Rajputs) are mainly the descendants of the Gurjara, Huna and other central Asian tribes who found their way across the northwest frontier in the fifth an sixth centuries. These invaders carved out kingdoms for themselves and eventually settled down in the country, taking Hindu wives, the ruling classes had no difficulty in persuading obsequious brahmins to admit them into the Hindu fold and to provide them with genealogies going back to the heroic times, very much as. Virgil and Livey traced the ancestry of the founders of the Roman Empire back to the heroes of the Trojan War.
Snacks and mini-meals, Indian, Thalis and Gujarati cuisine, Italian, Japanese.
Most shops situated around the temple complex sell local handicrafts and temple souvenirs. The city is small and the shopping areas are few, the major one being in opposite the temple complex near the Gole Market. The most popular souvenirs are the erotic mini sculptures, which display great flexibility and imagination! All the hotels have mini shopping arcades with a good variety of handicrafts.
Perched on the northern tip of Madhya Pradesh, Khajuraho is 365 km from Gwalior, 174 km from Jhansi and 421 km from Varanasi.
IA and Jet have shuttle flights between Khajuraho, Varanasi, Agra and Delhi. Though the Airport is small it is functional, centrally located and very close to all the hotels.
Jhansi (175 km) and Satna (120 km), are the two convenient railheads.Harpalpur (100 km) is the nearest railhead when travelling to and from the city.
The town is well connected with bus routes to Indore, Jhansi and Jabalpur. For the adventurous traveller, a bus journey with the numerous picturesque stops en route is a real treat. The Bus Stand is centrally located.
Extreme, with a drastic shift in the day and night temperatures and minimal rainfall. The summer temperatures vary from 45?C to 20?C; winter 27?C to 5?C. Temperatures range between 15?C and 27?C from July to January.
Dedicated to the Jain saint, Adinath, the temple is lavishly embellished with sculpted figures, including yakshis. The three Hindu temples of the group are the Brahma, containing a four faced lingam, the Vamana, which is adorned on its outer walls with carving of apsaras in a variety of sensuous attitudes; and the javari, with a richly-carved gateway and exterior sculptures.
On the bank of Khajur Sagar or Ninora Tal near the village stands the Brahma Temple. It is simple in plan and design with its body in granite stone and shikhare and made in sandstone. In the sanctum is now enshrined a four faced image of Brahma, hence it is called the Brahma temple.
The group's largest Jain temple and exquisite in detail. The sculptures on the northern outer wall are particularly noteworthy . The themes depict, in charming detail, everyday activity. Within, a throne faces the bull emblem of the first tirhankara, Adinath. The Parsvanath image was installed in 1860.
This Jain temple has a frieze which depicts the 16 dreams of Mahavira's mother, and a jain goddess on a winged Garuda.
One comes across the Hanuman temple while proceeding from the Western group towards the Khajuraho village. There is a colossal statue of Hanuman. "The monkey God" about 8 ft high in the temple which is now in ruins. There is a very ancient inscription on the pedestal dating back to the time of Maharaja Harsh, 922 A.D. This is the oldest structure discovered here so far and is very interesting from the archaeological point of view.
The lintel over the entrance of this beautiful Vaishnavite temple shows the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva with Lakshmi, Vishnu's idol of Vishnu's incarnations, Narasimha and Varaha. This boar incarnation also appears in a nine-feet high statue at the Varaha Temple.
The largest, most typical Khajuraho temple, it soars 31 m high. Dedicated to shiva, the sanctum sanctorum enshrines a lingam. The main shrine is exquisitely carved and features, in delicate detail, gods, goddesses, celestial maidens and lovers. Particularly noteworthy are the entrance arch, the ceilings and pillars of the interior compartments.
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. A Nandi bull faces the shrine.
The only granite temple and the earliest surviving shrine of the group (900 A.D.), it is dedicated to Kali. Only 35 of the orginal 65 shrines remain. Another Kali temple (originally dedicated to Vishnu) is the Devi Jagdambe Temple.
Still a living place of worship, the temple is dedicated to shiva, has an eight feet high lingam, and is outside the precincts of the Western Group.
This finest temple at Khajuraho also called Kunwar Math offers some of the choicest sculptures especially the Shalbhanjika. It is a fully developed temple measuring 21 m by 12 m (69 ft. by 40 ft.) with the ardhamanadap, the mandapa, the maha mandapa, the antarala and the garbha griha with no circumambulatory passage. The ceiling of the maha mandap is a series of diminishing circles of overlapping stones. There is an image of Shiva on the lintel of the entrance to the garbh griha indicating that the temple was originally dedicated to Lord Shiva.
Three kilometers south of Khajuraho, in the village of Jatkari lie the two temples now in ruins. One of them is a Shiva temple enshrining a marble ligham. The other one enshries a 3.3 m (11 ft.) high image of Chatturbhuja (Vishnu) in the sanctum with an expression of transcendental calm and bliss on its face.
AJAIGARH AND KALINJAR FORTS - The solitary Ajaigarh Fort, 80 km from Khajuraho, built by the Chandela rulers, was an effort to protect the local folk, during attacks or sieges. The Kalinjar Fort, 25 km northwards, much older in origin was built during the Gupta period. ARCHAEOLOGICAL MUSEUM - KHAJURAHO - At a short distance from the Western Group, this museum is packed with statues and figurines, which have been restored from the ruins of the temples. Particularly noteworthy, is the Ganesh sculpture in the entrance gallery. BENI SAGAR DAM - A great spot for fun, 11 km from Khajuraho, the dam is a god place to swim and go boating. The surrounding landscaped gardens, offer shade and green areas to rest and relax in. DHUBELA - On the road from Khajuraho to Jhansi, at a distance of 64 km, there is an old fort, which unfortunately is falling into ruin and a museum with ancient Shaki cult sculptures and a cache of weapons, clothes and personal memorabilia of the Bundela rulers. EASTERN GROUP OF TEMPLES - It can be further divided into two groups-one being an enclosure housing the Jain Temples and the second being a cluster of four temples. Though all the temples are worth a visit, the main attractions are the Parasvanath Temple, the Adinath temple. GANGAU - A mini wildlife sanctuary, situated on the banks of the Ken River, 38 km from the city. The park has a small population of cheetal, sambhar, langurs etc and is well worth a visit.