The Khajuraho Group of Monuments is a group of Hindu and Jain temples in Madhya Pradesh, India, They are one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India. Khajuraho, through its architectural magnificence, displays the height of artistic excellence reached by the architects of a particular time in ancient India. The temples are famous for their nagara-style architectural symbolism and their erotic sculptures. Originally a group of 85, they are the largest group of Hindu and Jain temples in the world, although only about 25 of them remain today.
The Khajuraho group of monuments was built during the rule of the Rajput Chandela dynasty, which reached its apogee between 950 and 1050. It was the principal seat of authority of the Chandella rulers who adorned it with numerous tanks, scores of lofty temples of sculptural grace and architectural splendor. The local tradition lists eighty-five temples but now only twenty-five are standing examples in various stages of preservation. Most temples were built during the reigns of the Hindu kings Yashovarman and Dhanga. Yashovarman’s legacy is best exhibited by The Lakshmana Temple. Vishvanatha temple best highlights King Dhanga’s reign.
There are three geographical divisions of temples at Khajuraho i.e. western, eastern and southern. Largest among these is the western group. This group consists of famous temples – Jagdambi Temple, Kandariya Mahadeva and Chitragupta Temples. The largest and currently most famous surviving temple is Kandariya Mahadeva built in the reign of King Vidyadhara. The temple inscriptions suggest many of the currently surviving temples were complete between 970 and 1030 CE, with further temples completed during the following decades. Central Indian region, where Khajuraho temples are, remained in the control of many different Muslim dynasties from 13th century through the 18th century. In this period, some temples were desecrated, followed by a long period when they were left in neglect.
The vegetation and forest took over but in secret yogis and devotees visited the temples. In the 1830s, T.S. Burt, a British surveyor rediscovered the monuments. Apart from these temples, Khajuraho is also popular for its cultural festival of dance and music that is organized by Madhya Pradesh Kala Parishad. Classical dancers from all across India come there to perform.
These temples, featured with erotic sculptures, have made the name of the town get mentioned in the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) list of the World Heritage Sites in the nation. Khajuraho Temples are among the most beautiful medieval monuments in the country. The layout, architecture, and construction are unrivaled. They are built of sandstone with unique mortise and tenon joints. Because of the sculptures, the temples are also referred as Kamasutra temples. A few of the temples are dedicated to the Jain pantheon and the rest to Hindu deities — to God’s Trio, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva and various Devi forms, such as the Devi Jagadambi.
A few of the temples are dedicated to the Jain pantheon and the rest to Hindu deities — to God’s Trio, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva and various Devi forms, such as the Devi Jagadambi. The artwork symbolically highlights the four goals of life considered necessary and proper in Hinduism – dharma, kama, artha and moksha. Of the surviving temples, 6 are dedicated to Shiva and his consorts, 8 to Vishnu and his affinities, 1 to Ganesha, 1 to Sun god, 3 to Jain Tirthankars. The temples have a rich display of intricately carved statues. While they are famous for their erotic sculpture, sexual themes cover less than 10% of the temple sculpture. The arts cover numerous aspects of human life and values considered important in Hindu pantheon. Further, the images are arranged in a configuration to express central ideas of Hinduism.
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.
The temple complex hosts a very good sound-and-light show every evening and an annual dance festival in February. Some of the famous temples in the complex are the Lakshmana Temple, the Vishwanath Temple and the Kandariya Mahadev Temple.
Built by Chandela kings, Lakshmana Temple is one of the first magnificent structures established in Khajuraho. Known to be an architectural marvel, this beautiful shrine is amongst the largest temples set in the Western Wing of the Khajuraho complex. Constructed in 930-950 AD, the temple is one of the well-preserved temple having a full five-part floor plan and four subsidiary shrines. The temple is beautifully decorated with patterns of elephants and horsemen carrying out parade and there is a small idol in every corner. It also contains sculptures carved with the life of Lord Krishna like subjugation of the serpent Kaliya and the killing of demon Putana. The shrines also have a three-headed and four-armed image of Lord Vishnu known as Vaikuntha-Vishnu.
Vishwanath Temple is located on the north-eastern corner of the western group complex. Vishwanath temple in Khajuraho is famous for the beautifully carved sculptures of Shivlinga and idol of Lord Brahma. This temple is considered to be a UNESCO world heritage site constructed in the 11th century. The word Vishvanatha means “Lord of the Universe“. The wall of the temples contains carvings of couples making love and various mythical creatures. Adding beauty to the shrine, images of lions and elephants can be seen on the southern as well as northern steps of the temple. The beautifully carved exteriors of the temple are decorated with images of Apsaras to enhance the charm and beauty of this huge temple.
Kandariya Mahadev Temple:
Kandariya Mahadeva Temple is the largest, tallest and most beautiful Hindu Temple of the Khajuraho Group of Temples. This is one of the most imposing structures in the Western group of Khajuraho, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Depicting the Chandela art, the huge shrine was constructed in 1025–1050. The mesmerizing looks of the temple and 900 awesomely carved sculptures imply the rich culture of Madhya Pradesh to the visitors. This temple is dedicated to Hindu Lord Shiva, and has a Shiva Linga made of marble, as its sanctum. About 646 statues are installed in its boundary that looks even more appealing. The façade of this temple is east facing. The beautifully sculpted ceilings and the outer walls with three horizontal panels featuring deities of the Hindu pantheon illustrate the eternal glory of Khajuraho.
Best Time To Visit:
The beautifully sculpted ceilings and the outer walls with three horizontal panels featuring deities of the Hindu pantheon illustrate the eternal glory of Khajuraho. The ideal time to visit Khajuraho is between the months of October and March. The average temperature remains close to 20°C (68 °F) during the month of October till February making it ideal for outdoor activities like temple visit.
How To Reach:
By Air: Khajuraho has its own Domestic Airport, which is well-connected to most of the Indian cities such as New Delhi, Mumbai, Varanasi, Allahabad, and Bhopal.
By Rail: Khajuraho has a railway station, but only a few trains halt there. Mahoba is the nearest major railhead, 63 km away. Trains from Mumbai, Mathura,Allahabad, Varanasi, Gwalior, Jabalpur, Kolkata, etc. run regularly to Mahoba.
By Road: Khajuraho is well connected with a good bus network. The highways connect Khajuraho with every city in Madhya Pradesh.
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