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Temples of love- Khajuraho


Temples of love

Khajuraho Temples in Madhya Pradesh are one of the most popular tourist destinations in India. The largest group of medieval Hindu and Jain temples, these are famous for their erotic sculptures, writes K. J. S. Chatrath

EROTICA is the first word that comes to mind when one hears of the Khajuraho temples. One of the most popular tourist destinations in India, Khajuraho has the largest group of medieval Hindu and Jain temples. These temples have been listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site.

Vishwanath Temple is part of the Western group of temples, the largest and the best-known group
Vishwanath Temple is part of the Western group of temples, the largest and the best-known group

Every year in February a weeklong dance festival is organised in Khajuraho. Although this festival showcases the rich cultural heritage of India, it is a period of rush and chaos for a normal tourist. It is best to choose a period before or after this festival to avoid the heavy rush.

Over the years this sleepy little place has become a bustling town. Much of the transformation has been brought about by the Archeological Survey of India. The temples are in good state of repairs and there are lush green lawns around various temples making it like any well-maintained monument abroad.

Khajuraho Temples were built by Chandela rulers between 900 AD to 1130 AD. The earliest mentions of these temples is found in the accounts of Al Biruni (1022 AD) and Ibn Batttuta (1335 AD). According to the information available, there were 85 temples in Khajuraho, out of which only 25 remain in various stages of preservation.

Almost all temples were constructed with fine-grained sandstone of different shades of buff, pink or pale yellow — except the temples of Chausath-Yogini, Brahma and Mahadeva, which are made of granite. Quite amazingly, the builders did not use mortar. The stones were put together with mortise (male) and tenon (female) joints and these were held in place by gravity. The same technique has been used by the Incas in Peru during the period 1100-1400 A.D.

However, the architectural style of Khajuraho Temples is very different from the temple prototype of that period. Each temple stands on a high masonry platform and not within the customary enclosure. Each temple is dedicated to a deity. The sculptures reveal the daily life of kings and commoners.

The Khajuraho temples do not contain any sexual or erotic art inside the temple or near the deities; however, some external carvings bear erotic art. There are many interpretations of the erotic carvings. One theory is that these were meant to test the devotees, who came to worship their gods at these temples. Another theory holds that these sculptures portray that, for seeing the deity, one must leave his or her sexual desires outside the temple.

The temples are divided into three geographical groups: Western, Eastern and Southern.

The Western group is the largest and the best-known group. Most famous of this group and the largest of all 25 temples is Kandariya Mahadev Temple. Chaunsat Yogini Temple, constructed in granite, is dedicated to Goddess Kali. It has been constructed on a unique quadrangular plan. Unfortunately, no image of Kali has survived.

Devi Jagadambe is another temple dedicated to Kali. North of it facing eastward to the rising sun, is Chitragupta Temple, dedicated to the sun god, Surya.

The nearby Vishwanath Temple is similar in plan to the Kandariya Mahadev. Lions flank the northern steps and elephants the southern, leading up to the temple. There is an impressive three-headed image of Brahma inside. Facing the shrine is Nandi Temple with a massive, six-ft-high sculpture of Nandi bull.

There are some important Vaishnavite temples in Khajuraho, the finest of which is the Lakshmana Temple. Varaha Temple is another Vaishnavite temple. It has a mammoth nine-ft-high statue whose surface is covered with figures from the Hindu pantheon.

The Eastern group of temples include Hindu and Jain temples, which lies close to the Khajuraho village. The largest Jain temple, Parswanath, is in this group. The actual image of Parswanath, from which the temple derives its name, was installed as recently as 1860. North of Parswanatha is the more modestly sized Adinatha Temple. The three Hindu temples in the Eastern group are the Brahma, Vamana and Javari Temples.

The Southern group of temples is about 5 km from Khajuraho village. Chaturbhuj Temple in this group has a massive intricately carved image of Vishnu in the sanctum. Duladeo Temple is a little away from the road to the Jain group of temples.

The Khajuraho temples are no longer living places of worship, with a few exceptions like Matangeswara Temple, which is dedicated to Shiva. it has an eight-ft-high lingam.

Walking, cycle rickshaws or cycles (easily available on rent) are the best way to explore these temples.

There is an impressive light and sound show in the complex of the Western group of temples. It was a 50-minute show, which runs in Hindi and in English every evening. The narration is in the inimitable voice of Amitabh Bachchan.

This huge temple complex is no hurried destination, for it takes time to absorb and explore the beauty of these temples. No wonder, these are considered to be one of the “seven wonders” of India.

FACT FILE

By train: Khajuraho has its own railhead. Other nearest railheads are Mahoba (64 km) and Harpalpur (94 km). Railway station is seven km from the town. Autos/Taxis are available.
Where to stay: Hotels to suit all budgets. Madhya Pradesh Tourism Corporation runs three hotels here.
Best time to visit: Winters, as in summer temperature can go up to 47° C. Temperature in December is generally 20.5 (Max)-10.5 (Min) ° C
Local transport: Taxi/autos/ cycle rickshaws are availble. Cycles for hire are also available at the hotels
Sound & Light Show: English show 06:30 pm and the Hindi 07:40 pm. Entry fees: for Indian adult Rs 120/- and children Rs 60 each

Appeared in The Tribune, Chandigarh dated October 9, 2011

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