A small town located in the Bundelkhand region in Madhya Pradesh, Khajuraho is a brilliant example of Indian architecture and its culture back in the medieval period. The architecture of these Hindu and Jain temples depict the innocent form of love, the carvings on the walls display passion in the most erotic yet aesthetic ways. Built between 950 to 1050 AD the sheer confrontational nature of these carvings show a stark paradox with the conventional Indian ideals about eroticism, leaving everybody spellbound. Art in this small town is engrained in all of its structures and are a classic example of the finesse of India’s cultural and artistic heritage.
The name Khajuraho, or Kharjuravāhaka, is derived from ancient Sanskrit (kharjura, means date palm, and Vāhaka, means “one who carries” or bearer). Local legends state that the temples had two golden date-palm trees as their gate (missing when they were rediscovered). Desai states that Kharjuravāhaka also means scorpion bearer, which is another symbolic name for deity Shiva (who wears snakes and scorpion garlands in his fierce form).
Cunningham’s nomenclature and systematic documentation work in the 1850s and 1860s have been widely adopted and continue to be in use. He grouped the temples into the Western group around ‘Lakshmana’, Eastern group around Javeri, and Southern group around Duladeva.
Khajuraho is one of the four holy sites linked to deity Shiva (the other three are Kedarnath, Kashi, and Gaya). Its origin and design is a subject of scholarly studies. Shobita Punja has proposed that the temple’s origin reflect the Hindu mythology in which Khajuraho is the place where Shiva got married; with Raghuvamsha verse 5.53, Matangeshvara honoring ‘’Matanga’’, or god of love.
The Jain temples are located on east-southeast region of Khajuraho monuments. Chausath jogini temple features 64 jogini, while Ghantai temple features bells sculptured on its pillars.
Architecture of the temples
The layout plan of Kandariya Mahadeva Temple. It uses the 64 pada grid design. Smaller Khajuraho temples use the 9, 16, 36 or 49 grid mandala plan.
Khajuraho temples, like almost all Hindu temple designs, follow a grid geometrical design called Vastu-Purusha-Mandala. This design plan has three important components – ‘Mandala means circle’, ‘Purusha is a universal essence at the core of Hindu tradition’, while ‘Vastu means the dwelling structure’.
The design lays out a Hindu temple in a symmetrical, concentrically layered, self-repeating structure around the core of the temple called Garbhagriya, where the abstract principle Purusha and the primary deity of the temple dwell. The shikhara, or spire, of the temple, rises above the Garbhagriya. This symmetry and structure in design are derived from central beliefs, myths, cardinality, and mathematical principles.
The circle of mandala circumscribes the square. The square is considered divine for its perfection and as a symbolic product of knowledge and human thought, while the circle is considered earthly, human and observed in everyday life (Moon, Sun, Horizon, Water Drop, Rainbow). Each supports the other. The square is divided into perfect 64 sub-squares called “Padas”.
Temples, religious affiliations and consecration years
|Sequence||Modern Temple name||Religion||Deity||Completed by
|1||Chausath Yogini||Hinduism||Devi, 64 Yoginis||885|
|9||Devi Jagadambi||Hinduism||Devi, Parvati||1023|
|11||Kandariya Mahadeva (Largest temple)||Hinduism||Shiva||1029|
|13||Adinath Jain Temple||Jainism||Adinatha||1027|
Arts and Sculptures
The Khajuraho temples feature a variety of artwork, of which 10% is sexual or erotic art outside and inside the temples. Some of the temples that have two layers of walls have small erotic carvings on the outside of the inner wall. Some scholars suggest these be tantric sexual practices. Other scholars state that the erotic arts are part of Hindu tradition of treating kama as an essential and proper part of human life, and its symbolic or explicit display is common in Hindu temples. James McConnachie, in his history of the Kamasutra, describes the sexual-themed Khajuraho sculptures as “the apogee of erotic art“:
“Twisting, broad-hipped and high breasted nymphs display their generously contoured and bejeweled bodies on exquisitely worked exterior wall panels. These fleshy Apsaras run riot across the surface of the stone, putting on make-up, washing their Hair, Playing Games, Dancing, and endlessly knotting and unknotting their girdles…Besides the heavenly nymphs are serried ranks of griffins, guardian deities and, most notoriously, extravagantly interlocked Maithunas, or lovemaking couples.”
Places Of Interest
Built around 1025-1050 AD, this temple exudes grandeur and finesse in its architecture. With beautiful frescos of women in various postures adorning the walls of this temple, this place is one of the most stunning tourists sites in Khajuraho.
Kandariya Mahadev Temple has an artistically engraved shrine with over 800 images of women, most of which are more than 3 feet high. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and has a Shivalingam at the center of Garba Griha. Made of a typical sandstone structure, the artistic representation of eroticism on the walls of this temple are bound to give a new perspective on India’s cultural heritage.
The oldest and most aesthetically pleasing temples among the Western group of Temples, the Lakshman temple is named after the ruler of that time. The trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva is depicted in the horizontal beam over the entrance of the temple.
Initially built as a Vishnu temple, the Devi Jagdamba temple has beautifully carved erotic figures. The Garba Griha houses a stunning sculpture of the Goddess of the Universe. The temple also houses a beautiful image of Goddess Parvati, with the image of Mithuna.
This temple is dedicated to Lord Vishwanath or Shiva, as he is fondly called, this temple is one among the western group of temples. It has a beautiful marble Shivalinga as the main deity. An imposing image of Brahma is also housed in this temple. A massive sculpture of Nandi the Bull is also enshrined alongside the Shivalingam.
Built in the year 1130 the Dulhadev Temple enshrines a beautiful Shivalingam and striking sculptures of Apsaras and other ornamented figures. The temple also has a stunning sculpture of Lord Shiva with his wife Parvati, the intricate details of the carvings adding to the charm of the overall architecture.
This temple is the largest among the Eastern group of temples and has intricately detailed carvings on its walls. The most intriguing side of the architecture of this temple is the aesthetic blend of Hindu, Muslim and Buddhist styles. The highlights of the temple are the sculptures on the northern outer walls.
This is a Jain temple dedicated to the Jain God Tirthankar. With exquisitely sculpted figures, including yakshis this is one of the most beautiful Jain temples in Madhya Pradesh.
Dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi, the Hindu deity of wealth. This temple houses some moderate shrines and is comparatively smaller than the other temples in Khajuraho.
Sights and Shows to Enjoy
1. Khajuraho Dance Festival -: Every year, Khajuraho dance festival is organized in February or March. This festival attracts loads of travelers including the international ones. They attend the festival enthusiastically and they get the opportunity to explore the rich Indian culture and its marvelous history. This festival is organized by the Madhya Pradesh Kala Parishad. Many world-famous artists come and perform here. The ambiance around is full of art and passion and the background of the magnificent Khajuraho temples enhances the beauty of the festival.
Khajuraho dance festival is a festival organized by the Madhya Pradesh Kala Parishad in which performers from all over the world come and exhibit their skills in Indian classical dance forms. The festival continues till one-week. It is held annually with the background of the Khajuraho temples lit behind in Chhatarpur district of Madhya Pradesh state. Every year, Khajuraho dance festival is organized in February or March. This festival attracts loads of travelers including the international ones. They attend the festival enthusiastically and they get the opportunity to explore the rich Indian culture and its marvelous history. This festival is organized by the Madhya Pradesh Kala Parishad. Many world-famous artists come and perform here. The ambiance around is full of art and passion and the background of the magnificent Khajuraho temples enhances the beauty of the festival.
2. Light and sound show -: After the visit to the temple complex is over, a light and sound show is carried out which is narrated by veteran actor Mr. Amitabh Bachhan.
Best Season to visit
Winter (October – March)-: This is an ideal season for a visit to Khajuraho, with pleasant climate and cool ambiance waiting for your arrival. Although the temperature might drop down to 4 degrees Celcius, the winter sun is absolutely welcome. You should especially visit this site in February when the famous Khajuraho Dance Festival actually begins.