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Khajurao Travel Guide

Khajuraho - The Destination

In the history of temple architecture of India, the Khajuraho complex remains a mystical phenomenon. One of the most celebrated manifestations of Indian architecture is found in a group of temples at Khajuraho in central India. Situated a hundred miles south-east of the town of Jhansi in Madhya Pradesh, these temples are over 30 in number. The Khajuraho temples indicate, one might say, a happy and almost unique coincidence of religious emotion, abundant patronage, artistic genius, and aesthetic sensibility. Fortunately, these temples have endured the climate for a thousand years and have survived neglect surprisingly well.

Khajuraho Temple

Richly decorated with sculptures, other than numerous deities enshrined in wall niches, there are attendants, graceful “maidens” in a variety of provocative postures, dancers, musicians and embracing couples. In one temple alone, the figures thus depicted are over six hundred and fifty in number. Many of these compositions display great sensuality and warmth. There are also scenes of explicit sexual activity, which possibly illustrates the tantric rites that accompanied temple worship. It is quite reliably said that some of the sexual postures follow the Kama Sutra, the ancient Indian manual of lovemaking.

When you do come here, a village-like appeal of Khajuraho’s 5000 strong population will welcome you with its simple bylanes, exotic Swiss and Japanese restaurants. Guides will tell you how Hemvati, the lovely daughter of a Brahmin priest was seduced by the Moon God and later gave birth to Chandravarman, the founder of the Chandela dynasty. He built these temples after a dream visitation by his mother who asked him to reveal the shallow nature of human passion to the world. While much science and artistry has gone into making these temples, just walking around the enclosures makes one realize that they really do look like a dream. Some in a state of disrepair or being worked on, these temples bowl one over with an artistic revolution that happened in our evolved past. The people in this neat little hamlet are terrifically well meaning and help make for a wonderful stay.

The majority of the temples are in the eastern (Jain) and western group (Hindu), the latter of which is a fenced enclosure and maintained very well, with a consistent pattern of an Ardhamandapa (an entrance porch), which leads to the Mandapa (Hall). This in turn leads to the Mahamandapa (the main pillared hall) and finally one arrives into the inner chamber, the Garbhagriha. This seems plain when compared to the profusion of sculptures on the outer walls. All movement from the outer wells leading into the sanctum sanctorum symbolizes man’s journey from earthly preoccupations to spiritual awakening.

The Southern group has temples made when the artists were past their peak but still have a graceful presence. Having been left alone in their natural environs, this set of temples are a wonderful excursion cycling through the gullies (lanes). There is much speculation over whether these temples were a reflection of society’s liberal nature or an instruction manual for the young, or a visual depiction of the Kamasutra or symbolic of the Shiva-Parvati relations. Whatever the truth, each little work of art on these walls is not an invitation to be titillated, but rather to be charmed by the workmanship.

Khajuraho - Facts at a Glance

State : Madhya Pradesh
Area : 16.93 sq kms
Temperature : 21°C - 47°C (Summers)
4°C - 32°C (Winters)
Rainfall : 114 cms annually
Altitude : 280 mts
Language : Hindi, English
Best Season : October-March

History of Khajuraho

The Khajuraho temples were constructed between 950 and 1050 A.D. during the reign of Chandel Empire. Khajuraho derives its name from the Khajur tree (the date palm tree) which can be found in abundance in the area. Originally there were 85 temples, of which only 22 still exist. With the decline of the Chandela Empire, these magnificent temples lay neglected, and susceptible to the damage of Nature. It was only in this century, that they were rediscovered, restored and granted the recognition that they justly deserve. The murals depicting the life and times of the Chandelas not only testify to the mastery of the craftsman, but also to the extraordinary breadth of vision of the Chandela Rajputs under whose reign, these temples were constructed.

The creators of Khajuraho claimed descent from the moon. The legend that describes the origin of this great dynasty is a fascinating one: Hemavati, the beautiful young daughter of a Brahmin priest was seduced by the moon god while bathing in the Rati one evening. The child born of this union between a mortal and a god was a son, Chandravarman. The boy grew up to found the great Chandela dynasty. When he was established as a ruler, he had a dream-visitation from his mother, who implored him to build temples that would reveal human passions, and in doing so bring about a realization of the emptiness of human desire. Chandravarman began the construction of the first of the temples, with successive rulers adding to the fast growing complex.

Yet another theory is that the erotica of Khajuraho, and indeed of other temples, had a specific purpose. In those days when boys lived in hermitages, following the Hindu law of being "brahmacharis" until they attained manhood, the only way they could prepare themselves for the worldly role of 'householder' was through the study of these sculptures and the earthly passions they depicted.                                    
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