Thursday, March 12, 2009


The very mention of Khajuraho, springs to mind a world of sculpted temples, cloistered covetously in the jungles of Madhya Pradesh. The 85 odd temples, dedicated to different Hindu deities, built during the 950-1050 AD by the Chandela kings, boggle the mind and their sight, belies the vision - because their maverick sculptures still seem too bold for what India seemingly portrays to be. The place still exudes that eerie quaintness, but amidst curious tourists, speckled archaeologists, the Taj Groups luxury lodges, the trinkets of the dancing maestros (Dance Festival every March), Khajuraho seems alien to its own gods.

Tale of the City

The town continued its religious importance until the 14th century, when it began to wade, perhaps under the Islamic influence. It was only in 1838, that a British army captain rediscovered this forgotten treasure trove and UNESCO followed suit by branding it a World Heritage Site about a century hence.

The Chandelas believed in the Tantric Cult which propounds that gratification of earthly desires is a step towards attaining the ultimate liberation. Tantrism as well as the expression of so-called erotica in the sculptures is often misunderstood. Whatever, be the debate and the conclusion, what interests us is the fact that their beliefs gave the world some of the inimitable expressions in stone.



The Khajuraho temples are famed for their sculptural embellishments (minus the brouhaha over the eroticism of their postures). Their genesis dates back to the period of the Chandela dynasty which survived for five centuries before giving in to the Islamic onslaught. For the convenience of research, the locale has been sliced into three geographical sections - Western, Eastern and Southern groups.

Khajuraho Temple

The Western Group: Undeniably the best and most sensuous sculptures belong to this group. The baritone voice of Amitabh Bachhan, arguably India's most popular screen icon, narrates the fascinating history of Khajuraho for the 50-minute sound-and-light show held here every evening at 6:30pm.

The temples here include:

Lakshmi and Varaha Temple: Are two small shrines and the latter has a huge beautifully carved figure of the Varaha (wild boar), incarnation of Lord Vishnu worth seeing.

Lakshmana Temple: Has dexterously carved figures of Apsaras (celestial maidens) and the base of the temple has a frieze with scenes of the battles, hunting and processions.

Kandariya Mahadev: The largest (31 km high) and architecturally the most perfect, dedicated to Lord Shiva, has an interesting exterior with 646 statues and an equally amazing interior with 226 statues.

Mahadeva Temple: Though in ruins and probably the smallest temple, yet the sculpture of a sardula figure caressing a lion makes it a must-see.

Vishwanath Temple: Dedicated to Shiva, and his faithful vehicle Nandi (the cow). The depiction of women, fondling babies, writing letters, playing music and in some other erotic postures make it one of the most photographed temples.

Matangesvara Temple: The 2.5 m high Shiva lingum here is still worshiped and is perhaps the only temple here that is still used.

Chausath Yogini Temple: Believed to be the oldest here, it is only one made in granite, unfortunately in ruins now.

Devi Jagadamba Temple: The sculptures here are depicted in three bands running around the temple itself with the famous Mithunas (loving couples) on the uppermost one.

Chitragupta Temple: Dedicated to the Sun God (Surya), the sculptures depicting dancing maidens, elephant fights, hunting scenes and Surya driving his chariot and the 11-headed Vishu statue make the stroll in the complex very interesting.
Eastern Group: These are partly Hindu and partly Jain temples.

Adinath Temple: A typical Khajuraho Hindu temple, but with a striking black image that resonates a Jain temple.

Parasvanath Temple: Flanking the Adinath temple, is this largest Jain temple in Khajuraho. The feminine sculptures here echo classic, sensitive art more than anything else.

Shantinath Temple: Youthful, compared to its neighbors, where Digambara Jains come to worship Adinath.

Ghantai Temple: This has graceful carvings of the bell and chain motifs. The depiction of the 16 dreams of Mahavira's mother and a multi-armed Jain goddess riding on a winged Garuda are must dekko.

Javari Temple: With a plethora of Khajuraho maidens on the exteriors and Vishnu is the reigning deity.

Vamana Temple: Slightly older than the Javari Temple, stands alone in the middle of a field, dedicated to the dwarf incarnation of Vishnu.
Brahma and Hanuman Temple: One of the oldest in pure granite and actually dedicated to Vishnu and not Brahma. The nearby Hanuman temple has the earliest inscription dating back to 922 AD on a 2.5m statue.

Southern Group: With just two temples viz. Duladeo and Chaturbhuja. The sculptures here seem a monotonous repetition on the rest, perhaps built when the creativity of the artists were already beginning to fade.

Archaeological Museum (Open daily, except Fridays/Time: 10-5pm): Just near the Western group is a treasure trove housing some rare sculptures rescued from around Khajuraho. Here you can scrutinize closely the figures otherwise perched high on the walls.

Shilpgram: A 10-acre ethnic village with an heirloom of traditional crafts from various parts of India which can be both viewed and bought. The amphitheater within hosts various cultural programs.


Shopping may not be a smooth sail out here in this quaint old city with touts and shopkeepers known for their irrefutable persistence. But if you are an adamant buyer and pick exactly what you want, then any place can be your shopping hub.

The ethnic souvenirs are erotic mini sculptures and a wide range of handicrafts. The areas around the temple complexes remain a shoppers bee-hive. Head for Shilpgram, the ethnic arcade, Artist ((Surya Hotel Complex, Jain Temple Rd.) for good buys. The latter has exquisite paintings on silk, fabric, and paper, and also some clever foldaway chairs, tables, and ornamental pieces at prices so low they'll make your head spin. And if you want some authentic Mughal art, you will have to find your way from here to either of the two Artist outlets in Khajuraho.


Now Khajuraho is not exactly a gourmet's dream come true, but you can have some luscious dishes on your palate if you check out the restaurants in the Five Stars. For snacks and mini-meals go to Raja's Café, while for delectable Gujrati food go to Shivam Restaurant. Try Italian at Mediterraneo and Japanese at Sakura.

Legend behind the scluptures: A lore goes that Hemawati, the lovely daughter of a Brahmin priest, was seduced by the moon-god while bathing in a forest pool. The child born of this union was Chandravarman, founder of the Chandela dynasty. Brought up in the forests by his mother who sought refuge from a censorious society, Chandravarma, when established as a ruler, had a dream visitation from his mother who implored him to build temples that would reveal human passions. And the rest is history.

The Khajuraho Dance Festival: The classical dance maestros from across the nation match their steps during this week-long cultural fiesta with the silhouetted temples in the background. Khajuraho serves the befitting venue for 'expressions' in different hues right from Kathak, Bharatnatyam, Kuchipudi, Odissi, Manipuri, and many more, in a land where the best is still expressed in the age-old stones.


Dhubela (64 km): On the Khajuraho-Jhansi route is this old fort housing a rare collection of artifacts depicting the heritage of Bundelkhand through the Shaki cult sculptures and a cache of weapons, clothes and personal memorabilia of the Bundela rulers.

Ken Gharial Sanctuary (24 km): Here is where you will see a fearsome gang of the Indian gharial or the long-snouted crocodile basking recklessly under the sun.

Pandav Falls (32 km): The cascading Pandav Falls on the mighty Ken river samples a sight not to be missed.

Panna National Park (44 km): A fascinating wildlife park to head if you have a tiger fixation. Other wildlife life like deer, leopards, langur and sambar and about 300 avian species abound. The less known fact is this that Panna houses some beautiful temples which are a fine blend of Hindu and Islam architecture. Once there, consider a traip to the Raneh Falls and the Majhgawan Diamond Mines (Asias largest) close by.

Ajaygarh Fort (36 km from Panna) and Kalinjar Fort (25 km northwards): Ajaygarh is an old Chandela fort, built at an elevation of 688 m, to the ward off intruders still resonates something of that lost galore. Kalinjar Fort was an original Gupta product captured by the Chandelas later.

Banisagar Lake/Dam (11 km): This is a fine spot for picnicking while the adventure mongers can try boating and angling. Note: For angling and fishing prior permission must be gained from the Assistant Director Fisheries Department, Nowgong, Madhya Pradesh.

Orchha (150 km): On Jhansi-Khajuraho highway, is this medieval city flanked by the Betwa River and home to some beautiful 16th and 17th century palaces and temples. Paintings and mirror-work and intricate stairways in Jehangir Mahal, Raj Mahal and Rai Praveen Mahal are enchanting. The Ram Raja, Chaturbhuj and Laxmi Narayan temples and cenotaphs also worth a meander around.

Location :
Northern tip of Madhya Pradesh

Go there for :
Temples, Sculptures

Climate :
20°-45°C (Sun); 5°-27°C (Win)

When to Go:

Literacy :

STD Code :
+91 - 7686

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