Khajuraho's artworks symbolically depict all the four goals of life given in the Hindu philosophy i.e., dharma, kama, artha and moksha.
According to historians, most of Khajuraho temples were built during the rule of Chandela Kings Yashovarman and Dhanga between 950AD- 1050AD. (Image: Tarun Bhardwaj/Financial Express Online)
Khajuraho, the name invokes imagery of erotic sculptures and art, and people worldwide associate it with Kamasutra but it is much more than few sensual poses. It’s a medley of architecture, art, culture and spirituality skillfully carved on stone. Khajuraho has much more to offer and this UNESCO world heritage site can not be seen with the prism erotica only. While it is a fact that erotic sculptures dot the walls of Khajuraho temples but some commentators forget that the basic function of a temple is spiritual and it celebrates all aspects of life and philosophy including Kama (carnal desires).
There is a stunning fact about Khaujraho sculptures – according to various estimates, just 10 percent of them depict erotic themes. Rest 90 percent are about the life of common men and kings, wars, religion and other themes. They show day-to-day activities of the time like potters, musicians, soldiers, farmers and priests doing their tasks and figurines of different deities. Khajuraho’s artworks symbolically depict all the four goals of life given in the Hindu philosophy i.e., dharma, kama, artha and moksha and not just kama. So, to narrow down the vast philosophy and perspective of Khajuraho’s monuments to just one aspect can be a subjective notion but it should be accepted as a widely held belief.
During the early medieval period, Bundelkhand was ruled by Rajput Chandela dynasty and they are credited as the builders of these temple complexes. According to historians, most of the temples were built during the rule of Chandela Kings Yashovarman and Dhanga between 950AD- 1050AD. Historians believe that around 85 temples were constructed until the 13 century but just over 21 managed to stand the test of time and various invasions. In 1838, British officer T S Brut rediscovered these temples for the outer world with help of local palanquin bearers. Let’s explore some of the famous temples of Khajuraho:
It is one of the smaller and simple temples situated right opposite Lakshman temple. Historians estimate that it was constructed between 900AD- 925AD and unlike many Varaha temples with anthropomorphic form of Lord Varaha, this temple has him in purely animal form. Constructed on a lofty plinth, it has four pillars and a pyramidal roof. The Varaha statue is 2.6 m long and 1.7 m high. The monolithic Varaha statue is made entirely of sandstone and has numerous figures carved on the entire body.
One of the most famous temple of Khajuraho, Lakshamana temple is a temple built in the Panchayatana architecture style. The whole temple stands on a high platform called Jagati and has five clear sub-structures known and ardha-mandapa at the entrance followed by mandapa, Maha-Mandapa, Antarala and Garbhagriha or the sanctum sanctorum. Stunning and intricate sculptures are engraved on the temple’s exterior and has balconies. It’s two rows of sculptures include divine figures, couples and some erotic scenes. The main deity of the temple is a tri-headed and four-armed Vaikuntha Vishnu. The deity’s central head is that of human while those on the either side deict boar(Varaha) and lion (Narashima).
Kandariya Mahadeva Temple
The Kandariya Mahadeva temple is the largest one in Khajuraho’s western group of temples and best preserved as well. Built during the reign of Vidyadhara between 1003AD-1035AD, it commemorates the Chandela king’s ‘victory’ against the siege laid by Mahmud of Ghazni on Kalinjar fort. The temple is 31 m high and has intricate carvings on its walls. Together with Matangeshwara temple and Vishwanatha temple, it forms a ‘yantra’ or cosmo gram. The exteriors walls have carvings depicting images of gods and divine beings including Agni, Saptamatrikas, Ganesha, Virbhadra, and few erotic poses.
One of the most visited temples in Khajuraho, World Heritage Site, Jagadambika Temple was built by the Chandela rulers of Bundelkhand region. Dedicated to Goddess Parvati, the is situated towards the northern side in the complex and is one of the most finely decorated temples. As the name suggests, the temple is dedicated to the mother goddess. Its exterior has three bands of well-crafted carvings surrounding the temple. The sanctum has an enormous image of the Mother Goddess Parvati.
Like all other temples in Khajuraho, the Chandela dynasty built this temple dedicated to lord Shiva in the ninth century. Matangeshwar temple houses an eight feet tall Shiva Lingam which is made of yellow limestone. It is the only functional Hindu temple in the complex. Attending morning and evening aarti here is a delightful experience.
Khajuraho Dance Festival
For decades now, Khajuraho Dance Festival has become the symbol of celebration of India’s culture and art. This annual fest is organized by the Madhya Pradesh Govt’s Department of Culture. Top dancers from the country and across the world perform Indian Classical dance forms. This year, the festival was organized between 20th-26th February 2021. The dance performances included Bharatnatyam by Geeta Chandran and group, Kathak By Deepak Maharaj and Chandrani Kalita Ojha, Mohiniyattam by Aishwarya Warrier, Kuchipudi by Avijit Das, Odishi by Purnashri Raut and more. Other art, cultural and culinary events included Alankaran, Nepathya, Hunar, Swad and Kalavarta, etc.
Best time to visit Khajuraho is post monsoon and winters i.e., from September to March. Khajuraho has a well-connected airport and railway station with daily train services to Delhi, Jhansi, Gwalior and Agra.