Khajuraho City Guide
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. In her concern for her father’s reputation the beautiful Hemvati prayed to the Moon god, who was gracious enough to uphold the word of the priest but, inreturn for his favour, ravished the daughter. The grieving father was so shame-stricken that he cursed himself and turned into a stone, which was later worshipped by the Chandelas as Maniya Dev. Hemvati gave birth to a son, the sage Chandrateya, who was later at the helm of the Chandela clan. Historically speaking, the area and aura arou.
Forts & Monuments Of Khajuraho
Kandariymahadeva-templea Mahadeva temple is not only the largest in the group of temples, but architecturally and artistically it is most perfect. It was built during the period of 1025-1050 A.D and represents Chandela art. Although its five other subsidiary shrines have disappeared, the main temple stands majestically with the typical five-part design of Khajuraho temples. The British archaeologist Cunningham counted 226 statues inside the temple and another 646 outside it, making a total of 872. Most of these are one metre high. The statues are carved around the temple in three bands and include among them gods, goddesses, musicians, dancers, beautiful women showing off their body and the famous Maithuna poses. There are two other temples which stand on the same platform as the Kandariya Mahadeva temple. One is Mahadev temple and the other Devi Jagdamba temple. Mahadev temple contains one of the finest sculptures of Khajuraho, an excellent figure of a person(it is difficult to decide whether it is a man or woman). The other temple on the common platform is Devi Jagdamba, slightly older than the Kandariya Mahadev. It was successively dedicated to Vishnu, Parvati and Kali, who also is a manifestation of Parvati. The three-headed and eight-armed statue of Shiva in this temple is an excellent piece of sculptural art.
The fourth temple at the back of the western enclosure is called Chitragupta temple. Its design is similar to Devi Jagdamba temple. A Unique feature of this temple is that it is dedicated to the god Sun (Surya) driving his chariot with seven horses. On the central niche, you can see an eleven-headed statue of lord Vishnu. The central head is of lord Vishnu and the other 10 are of his various incarnations. It has many other fine sculptures of dancing girls, elephant fights and processions, etc.
The large Lakshmana temple, is dedicated to lord Vishnu. Its design is similar to that of the Kandariya Mahadeva temple. It is one of the well-preserved temples. Around the shrine, there are two rather than three bands of sculptures. There are some very good sculptures of Apsaras (nymphs) and erotic scenes. Around the base of the temple, there is a continuous strip with scenes of battle, hunting and processions. Facing the large Lakshmana temple there are two small shrines – Lakshmi and Varaha temples. The Varaha Temple is dedicated to Vishnu’s boar incarnation or the Varaha Avtar. Inside this small shrine there is a huge, solid figure of the boar. Walking around the enclosure we see another small shrine Parvati temple. It has an image of Ganga riding over the back of a crocodile.
Vishvanath temple wasvishwanath-temple built in 1002 A.D. and has the five parts temple design similar to that of the Kandariya Mahadeva temple. Since the shrine has Shiva’s vehicle the bull Nandi, it was obviously dedicated to lord Shiva. Steps lead upto its high terrace, flanked by lions on the northern side and elephants on the southern side. The sculptures around the Vishvanath temple include the usual Khajuraho scenes but the sculptures of women in this temple are remarkable for their delicacy and beauty. The women write a love letter, fondles a baby and play music. Inside the temple there is a polished 2.5 metre high Lingam.
This is the oldest temple in western group built around 900 A.D. or perhaps earlier. It is the only temple which is built entirely of granite, and the only one oriented northeast instead of the usual north south. Chausath means 64 and the shrine contains the cells of 64 Yakshinis (nymps) who attended to Goddess Kali and only 35 survive. Another half kilometer west, you can see the Lalguan Mahadev temple, a shrine dedicated to Shiva and built of stone and granite.
Within the area of Western group of temples it is the rich archaeological museum of Khajuraho. The Museum is small but worth a visit. Opposite the museum is the Archaeological Surveys Of India compound and it has many rescued sculptures.
The Eastern group of temples can be further sub divided into two groups. The first group is located in a walled enclosure having Jain temples. The second group is scattered in the village of Khajuraho itself. These temples can also be seen on your way to the Southern Group of temples. Not all the temples are Jain temples. Three of them are Hindu temples which shows the religious tolerance of the people of those days. For instance, the Vamana temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to Vamana but it has Buddha’s statue too. The artists of Khajuraho apparently enjoyed creating so many female bodies with ornaments. There is another temple named Brahma temple, made entirely of granite and sandstone, it is dated as one of the earliest shrines. Its general outline makes it distinct even different from the normal run of the Khajuraho temples. It was originally dedicated to Shiva but the idol in the shrine was miscalled Brahma and the name has stuck. The Jain temples are located south of the above group. The most beautiful among them is the Ghantai. Its open colonaded structure is known for its classicism and details of the pillars.
There aresouthern-group-temples only two temples in this group. The first one Duladeo temple, is a major attraction of Khajuraho while the second, the Chaturbhuja temple is small and about 2 kms from the first. The Duladeo temple was built on the traditional 5-part design. It looks flatter and more massive than the typical Khajuraho shrines. It appears to be of a later period when Khajuraho temple art had passed its peak. The sculptures are now wooden and stereotyped. The decorations are still very graceful – particularly the bracket capitals inside and the flying wizards on the highest carved band outside. The Chaturbhuja temple has an attractive collonnaded entrance. This ruined temple has a very fine and large image of Vishnu – three metres high. The present day village of Khajuraho is a cluster of hotels, restaurants, shops and stalls around the bus station. Even the airport is at a walkiing distance. The western temple complex is also in this area and the other temples are not far away and easily accessible. Khajuraho is a nice place to linger on and have an interesting time.Small statues of gods and charming couples can also be purchased from the stalls at unbelievably low prices.