bucIntroduction – Khajuraho in Chhatarpur district of Madhya Pradesh, India is one of the most extraordinary archaeological sites in India. It is located on the banks of Khudar Nala, a tributary of Ken river. Khajuraho’s ornate temples are among the most beautiful medieval monuments in India. Khajuraho was recognized as a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO in 1986 for its ‘outstanding universal value’ and ‘human creative genius’. Despite the tourist traffic, Khajuraho preserves the ambience of a village and at the same time offers the most modern facilities to the visitor.
Devangana Desai (Khajuraho – Monumental Legacy, Oxford India Paperbacks, ISBN-978-019-565643-5) wrote very romantically about Khajuraho. She writes, “The first impression that a visitor gets of Khajuraho is overwhelming: Huge mountain-like temples, free-standing in open space, each square inch covered with sculptures. On coming closer, greeted by whistling birds and parrots, one enters a medieval world inhabited by gods and goddesses, celestial maidens (apsaras, surasundaris), mythical animals (vyalas, makaras), warriors, dancers, and musicians, all carved on the temple walls. Each temple is a monumental three-dimensional sculpture itself”.
For many, the name Khajuraho is synonymous with erotic sculptures, however these erotic sculpture are less then one-tenth of total sculptures in the temples. Sometimes, Khajuraho is also associated with a religion where free love was in practice. Some people also associated it with the extreme Tantric sect, Kapalikas. D. N. Lorenz, a leading authority on the history of the Kapalika sect, dissociates this sect from the Khajuraho temples. None of these popular beliefs really define the character of Khajuraho. There are hundreds of images of divinities, many holding manuscripts and several in yogic posture in the temples. Khajuraho was not a royal playground, but a place of worship and religious discourse, where many sects received patronage. These temple were constructed for purpose of worship. We see evidences of existence of Brahmin, Jain and Buddhism religion in Khajuraho.
History – The antiquity of Khajuraho has been traced back to prehistoric times, as artifacts belonging to Middle, late Stone and Neolithic industries have been unearthed here and near around area. However, there is no written evidence of township of Khajuraho prior to AD 900. The temple construction activity at Khajuraho began from AD 900 onwards when local chieftains of Chandella family amassed power and wealth and rose as major dynasty in northern India.
The Chandellas were local feudatories, under the imperial Pratihara monarch of Kanauj. A local legend romantically traces the descent of the Chandellas directly from Chandra, the Moon god. According to the legend, a young Brahmin maiden, Hemavati, was taking bath in one of the pond. Chandra saw her and fell for her beauty. Out of this relationship was born a boy. Hemavati was worried about the son because of illegal affair, however Chandra comforted her by prophesying that their son would become the first king of Khajuraho. The god added, he should perform Bhandya Yajna, a sacrificial ritual that included among the rites the depiction of erotic figures. He should also built 85 temples with erotic figures. This would free his mother from the blemish of extramarital affair. More than sixty-five inscriptions of the Chandellas have been found, however all of those are silent about this love story. Instead they trace the descent of the Chandellas from the mythic sage Chandratreya. Nannuka (AD 831-845) was the first chief of the Chandellas who was a directly descendent of sage Chadratreya. Vakpati (AD 845-865) succeeded Nannuka. Jayashakti (AD 865-885) was the third chief in the line. Soon the Chandella region got the name ‘Jejakabhukti’, after the chief Jayashakti, or Jeja. Rahila (AD 885-905) succeeded Jayashakti.
Harsha (AD 905-925) was the fifth chief in line, and first notable among the Chandellas. He successfully fought with the Rashtrakutas and reinstated Pratihara overlord Kshitipala, alias Mahipala, on the throne of Kanuaj in AD 917. His son and successor Yashovarman ( AD 925-950) valiantly defended his suzerain from the attacks of both the Rashtrakutas and Palas of east India. He got back the fort of Kalinjar, however he retained that fort with him instead of giving it to his overlord Pratiharas. This was the first sign of Chandellas gaining power in the region. As per an inscription by his son, dated AD 954, Yashovarman built a magnificent temple for Vishnu, identified with Lakshmana Temple at Khajuraho.
Dhangadeva (AD 950-999) succeeded Yashovarman and boldly discarded the tutelage of Pratihara rulers. He consolidated the Chandella region by extensive conquests and made it strongest power in central India. His territories extended from Vidisha to Gwalior and from Varanasi to the Narmada. He was not only a mighty warrior, but even greater patron of art and architecture. During his reign two of the finest surviving temples of Khajuraho were built, Marakateshvara Temple (now known as Vishvanatha Temple) and Pashvanatha Temple.
Gandadeva ( AD 999-1003) succeeded Dhangadeva and enjoyed peaceful period during his short reign. Vidhyadhara (AD 1003-1015) succeeded Gandadeva and is described as most powerful Indian ruler of his time by the contemporary Muslim chronicler, Ibnul-Athir. Under him Chadellas kingdom reached at its zenith. He not only won victories over the Kalachuris and the Paramaras, but twice, in AD 1019 and 1022, played an important role in mobilizing the Indian princess against the raids of Mahmud of Ghazni. To celebrate this victory, he built the grandest temple at Khajuraho, the Kandariya Mahadeva Temple.
Vidhyadhara’s successors Vijaypala ( AD 1035-1050) and Devavarman ( AD 1050-1060) lost some part of their territory to their powerful neighbors. It was king Kirtivarman (AD 1060-1100) who reestablished the Chandellas authority defeating the neighboring Chedi rulers of Jabalpur region. He celebrated his victory by staging an allegorical play Prabandachandrodaya, written by the court poet Krishna Mishra. Significantly, the play ridicules extreme Tantric sect such as Kapalikas. Kirtivarman built temples at Mahoba, Kalinjar and Ajaygarh. The first Chandella coin started in his reign.
The next notable ruler Jayavarman (AD 1110-1120), succeeding Sallakshavarmana (AD 1100-1110), carried out some renovation work at Khajuraho and possibly built the Chatarbhuja temple. The last great Chadella ruler, Mahendravarman (AD 1128-1165), is associated with Duladeo Temple, the last temple built by any Chandella ruler in Khajuraho. Parmadideva (AD 1165-1203) was noted for his enmity with powerful Rajput king, Prithviraj Chauhan, and it is recorded in the badric annals of the Prithivirajraso and the Paramlraso. He was defeated by Qutbuddin Aibak in AD 1202, following which the power of Chandellas declined. Hammiravarman (AD 1288-1308) was the last king of this dynasty.
The Khajuraho temples were built over a period of 250 years (AD 900-1150) during the rule of Chandella dynasty. As per a local tradition, there were eighty-five temples in Khajuraho; but now only twenty-five remain in varied states of preservation. Except for a couple of them, the temples are not used for worship today, though they were originally built for this purpose. Abu-Rihan al Biruni, who visited India with Mahmud of Ghazni, speaks of the realm of ‘Jejhuti’, with ‘Kajuraha’ as its capita. Ibn Battuta, who visited India in AD 1335, refers to Khajuraho as ‘Kajarra’, where there is a great pond, about a mile in length, near which are temples containing idols that the Muslims have mutilated. By the sixteenth century Khajuraho went into oblivion, it is even not mentioned in any Mughal records. Ain-i-Akbari mentions a nearby fort town of Kalanjar, but nothing about Khajuraho. The whole town had been engulfed under the forests.
In 1813, Lieutenant William Price presented a paper at the Asiatic Society of Bengal on the Sanskrit inscription found at Mau near Khajuraho. From this inscription, for the first time historians’ attention was drawn to Chandella dynasty. In 1838, Captain T.S. Burt visited Khajuraho, when one of his palakiwala told him about exquisite temples of Khajuraho which are all under forest. He published a colorful account of the western group of temples in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal (Vol. VIII), which attracted the notice of art lovers and antiquarians. The first British officer wrote:’…before finally taking the leave of the seven temples, I shall state my opinion, that they are most probably the finest aggregate number of temples congregated in one place to be met with in all India, and all are within a stone’s throw of one another.’
Monuments – The temples at Khajuraho are the best specimen of Nagara style, north Indian temple architecture style. The main elements in Nagara style are mukh-mandapa (entrance porch), mandapa (assembly hall), maha-mandapa (dance hall), antarala (vestibule), garbha-griha (sanctum) and pradakshina-path (ambulatory around the snactum). Not all the temples have all the elements, however every one will always have two or more out of these. The identification of the temple construction time is determined based upon the elements used, the sculprures architecture, the grandeur of the tower height.
Erotic Images – Before we start a tour of monuments, I would like to state some facts about the erotic images in Khajuraho. Convention of depicting erotic images was not invented by Khajuraho sculptors but most of the contemporary temples in India contains these kind of images. However these images are quite large, about a meter in height, in Khajuraho compared to other temples, which attract the immediate attention of the visitors to these. On other temples such images are located on smaller rows of the plinth, usually below the eye level. But we should also remember that erotic figures are only one-tenth of the total images at Khajuraho.
There are several hypothesis to explain the presence of erotic figures on the temples. As these motifs appear in the art of all three main religious sects, Hindu, Jain and Buddhism, so it might have come out of fertility cults. fertility cult involved sexual practices or its symbolic representations. Another explanation comes from the earlier vastu literature, Shilpashashtras and other authoritative texts on temple art talks about the auspicious aspect of erotic figures. People sometimes try to relate Khajuraho with Kamasutra. Vatsyayana composed this sex manual in AD 600, however Khajuraho does not seem to have any relation with this text. Khajuraho’s sculptures were not primarily created to illustrate the various postures described in sex manuals. Some of themes, depicted in Khajuraho, are very far from imagination of applying those in to practice. Another explanation came by association Khajuraho with Tantrik sect of Kapalikas. This tantrik sect expressed their philosophy by erotic art. However this explanation is not tenable as there is no proof of association of this sect with temple management.
Devangana Desai has wrote an authoritative text on erotic art in India. She writes about Khajuraho, ‘..the architect has placed erotic sculptures on the wall portion between the two balconies in the three major Hindu sandhara temples. Here, the architect has employed puns and intentional language, called sandhya bhasha. This is a code language used by esoteric religious practitioners and Tantric texts to conceal their doctrines from outsiders. This enigmatic language employs erotic terminology to convey non-communicable experiences, which cannot be expressed in ordinary language. For instance, when one reads: ‘A washerwoman clings to the Yogi (ascetic) on his neck’, it is found to be erotic if taken literally. But in the code language of the Tantras, it means that the washerwoman, i.e. Dombi = kundalini energy, has ascended to the chakra (subtle center) of the neck…’
Twenty-five survived temples at Khajuraho are grouped into three groups: 1) the western group, 2) the eastern group and the Khajuraho village, 3)the southern group.
Western Group of Temples – The most important and magnificent temples of Khajuraho are situated in Western group of temples, which were included in the World Heritage Site in 1986. They are now within an enclosure and under maintenance of ASI.
1. Lakshmi Temple – This is a west facing temple and situated in front of Lakshmana temple. It houses now an image of Brahmani, but originally it housed Vishnu’s mount Garuda. The temple is constructed on high raised platform and contains a mukha-mandapa (porch) and garbha-griha (sanctum sanctorum). The shikhara (tower) is not very high compared to other temples in the compound. This temples is approached by few steps on the platform.
2. Varaha Temple – This is also a west facing temple and situated in front of Lakshmana temple. This temple is like an open sanctuary with a pyramidal roof. It enshrines a massive solid yellow sandstone monolith of Varaha, Vishnu’s boar incarnation, measuring 2.66 m by 1.75 m. There are more than 675 miniature figures in twelve neatly carved rows on its body. These figures depict all measure divinities of Hindu pantheon, including Ganesha, sapta-matrika (the seven mothers), sapta-rishis (the seven sages), dikpalas (eight guardians of space), nav-graha (nine planets), the river goddesses, the seas, the Rudras, and different forms of Vishnu. There was also an image of earth goddess, however it is missing now except only a feet is remaining attached to pedestal. This image dates about AD 950 and perhaps installed by Chandella king Yashovarman as a celebration for his victory over Pratihara overlords.
The similar Varaha is also found at Eran, where it is well carved all over the body, but it is carved in red sanstone. Another Varaha is found at Mahabalipuram, but its body is not carved and the mouth in downward direction.
3. Lakshmana Temple – This is one of the most refined and well-planned temples, not only in Khajuraho but in all of India. This is a sandhara (with ambulatory in sanctum) temple and pancha-yatana (five-shrined) complex with one central shrine and four subsidiary shrines at the four corners. This temple contains all main elements of a typical north Indian (nagara style) such as mukh-mandapa (entrance porch), maha-mandapa with transepts, antaralya (vestibule) and garbha-griha (sanctum). As per an inscription, king Yashovarman built this temple to enshrine the Vaikuntha image that he acquired from his overlord, the Pratihara king, who in turn got it from the ruler of Chamba region. This Vaikuntha image is 1.3 m high and has three faces, lion, man and boar. Pancharatra scet of the Kashmir school worship Vishnu in this composite form. This inscription is now fixed in the porch of the temple. This is the only temple which preserves the sculpture panel on the platform, depicting everyday life: a royal hunt, battle, dance, musicians, erotic scenes, traders etc.
The temple is entered via a arched gateway, adorned with makar-torana. This is the only temple in Khajuraho which sanctum door jambs depicts the incarnation of Vishnu on its jambs. Matsya (fish), Varaha (boar) and Vamana (dwarf) on the left jamb and Kurma (tortoise), Narasimha (man-lion) and Parashurama on the right jamb. On the circumambulatory path around the shrine, you can see Varaha on south, Narsimha on west and Hayagriva (horse-neck) in the north cardinal niches. The door lintel of the sanctum shows the nine planet divinities.
4. Kandariya Mahadeva Temple – This is one of the greatest monument in India and tallest among Khajuraho temples. The tower of the temple reaches to the height of 30.5 m. It was possibly built by King Vidhyadhara, in about AD 1030, after his successful combat against Mahmud of Ghazni. This temple is built on a high jagati (platform), approached by a fleet of steps. Entrance is through a grand makara-torana which leads into a intricately decorated mandapa, used for scared dances. This temple comprises all essential elements of north style architecture (nagara style). It consists a mukha-mandapa (entrance porch), followed by a mandapa (assembly hall ), maha-mandapa (dance hall), antarala (vestibule) and garbha-griha (sanctum sanctorum). This is a sandhara temple, consisting of circumambulatory around the sanctum. The tower of the temple has a series of graded 84 replicas of itself, which cluster around the central peak and create the effect of a mountain range. This seems like the representation of Mount Kailasha, abode of Shiva as per Hindu mythology. Directly beneath the central peak is located Shiva lingam in the sanctum. The unique feature of this temple is that all the different parts of the temple has their own towers, all smaller than main and receding to the main tower, which make it somewhat restless in movement, but unified in theme and design.
Inside the maha-mandapa, there is a unique four-footed (chatushpada) Sadashiva image. Sadashiva is considered to be the ‘unmanifest-manifest’ aspect of the Supreme Shiva, is pivotal to the Shaivite religious system. His four feet refers to the four parts of Shaiva system that builders of this temple followed. In the three cardinal niches of the sanctum wall are depicted Shiva’s manifestations: 1) subduing Andhakasur (blind demon), 2) Nataraja (cosmic dancer), and 3) Tripurantaka (destroying three cities of demons)
On external walls of the temple are shown various images of apsaras, dwarfs, various images of Shiva, eight dikpalas (guards of space). This temple also has snake god, goddesses in the corners where the rain water flows. This is similar to famous Arjuna’s Penance in Mahabalipuram where snake god, goddesses are carved in a slit where the water flow during rains. Alexander Cunningham, first director of ASI (Archaeological Survey of India) counted 646 figures on the exterior of the temple and 226 figures in its interior.
There is a unique counter-circumambulatory arrangement of images of sapta-matrikas (seven mothers) on the exterior of the temple. When you go clock wise from the entrance, you start with Ganesha and then finds seventh Matrika Chamunda. You meet first Matrika, Brahmani, only when completing the round with Veerbhadra image. The placement of Matrikas can be explained on the ground that the Matrikas themselves cirumambulating the abode of Shiva led by Virabhadra, followed by Ganesha. It seems that they encircle the temple in a kind of protective mandala (circle) around it.
5. Mahadeva Temple – This is situated on the same platform as Kandariya Mahadeva. It houses an important sculpture of Shardula (a warrior and a lion), a favorite theme in Chandella time. However this was Shiva temple as an image carved centrally on the lintel of the sanctum. The sanctum is perished but porch is intact.
6. Jagadambi Temple – Located in the north of Kandariya Mahadeva, this temple shares the same platform. This temple was dedicated to Vishnu, as reflected by the central image of the sanctum door and from images in cardinal niches as well. However now it houses an image of Devi, and worshipped by villagers on festive occasions. The temple was built between AD 1000-1025 and is famous for graceful sculpture on its exterior walls. The temple is consisted of a mukha-mandapa followed by maha-mandapa and garbha-griha. This is a niradhara temple, thus having no ambulatory around the sanctum.
7. Chitragupta Temple – This is only Sun temple at the site, built around AD 1000-1025. This is a niradhara, without ambulatory around sanctum, temple. This temple consists a mukha-mandapa (entrance porch), maha-mandapa (dance hall) with transepts, antarala (vestibule) and garbha-griha (sanctum). The image of Surya, in sanctum, is 2.13 m high and he is shown wearing an armored coat and boots. His chariot is shown pulled by seven horses. The exterior of the temple contains two bands of sculptures and uppermost small row contains erotic figures and teacher-disciple groups. There are some seventy ascetic figures carved on the balcony panels of this temple. There is an interesting eleven-headed Vishnu image on its south wall niche.
8. Parvati Temple – This small shrine is heavily restored and now houses and image of goddess Parvati standing on iguana (horse). However the sanctum door has an image of Vishnu which indicates that this shrine might be dedicated to Vishnu earlier. This temple consists only a garbha-griha (sanctum) and mukha-mandapa (porch). The porch is completely lost now, and only a plinth has survived out of sanctum.
9. Vishvanatha Temple – This is the third largest temple, others are Lakshmana and Kandariya Mahadeva, at Khajuraho. This was built by king Dhangadeva in AD 999. The inscription at the temple talks about the two Shiva lingam installed by king Dhangadeva, one lingam of stone and another of emerald. The temple was known as Markateshvara, the lord of emerald, at that time. The emerald lingam was missing when the temple was rediscovered. As per the inscription, the architect of the temple was Sutradhara Chhichchha, who was well versed in Vishvakarma architectural tradition.
Two elephants are placed at the entrance of the temple on southern end and two lions at northern end. The temple is constructed on high raised jagati (platform) which is approached by a fleet of steps. This temple has mukha-mandapa (porch), mandapa (assembly hall), maha-mandapa (dance hall) with transepts, antarala (vestibule), garbha-griha (sanctum) with ambulatory around it. This is a sandhara temple This is the only temple at Khajuraho which had a Nandi pavilion in front of the temple. Originally this temple was a pancha-yatna (five shrines complex), like Lakshmana, however only two subsidiary shrines have survived. This temple is a sandhara temple, with ambulatory around its sanctum. Khajuraho’s earlier representation theme of an apsara removing the scorpion from her body can be seen here on sanctum wall. The niches of the sanctum wall has Shiva’s manifestations: 1) Andhakantaka, subduing Anadhaka demon, 2) Nataraja, cosmic dancer, and 3) Ardh-nareeshwar, half-male and half-female representation.
This was the first temple at Khajuraho where we see the peculiar arrangement of sapta-matrikas around the exterior walls of the temple. These are placed in counter-circumambulatory manner. The similar arrangement was later adopted in Kandariya Mahadeva temple.
10. Nandi Shrine – This pavilion faces Vishvanatha temple and houses Nandi, the mount of Shiva. This square pavilion is supported on twelve pillars. The Nandi image is 2.2 m long and 1.8 m high. The pyramidal roof of receding tiers of pidhas with an almost plain circular ceiling of overlapping courses.
11. New Temple – This is a very new temple at the site which was built by Maharaja of Chhatarpur some hundred years back. There is noting of much interest in this construction except the dome of the roof. This dome indicates the Muslim elements in the construction.
This the end of Western group of temples inside the ASI enclosure. Now we will see temples around this group in near vicinity.
Statue of Bhairava – Out of the above enclosed compound, on the way to Matangeshwara Temple, stands a 1.98 m high colossal statue of Bhairava. It is coated in red lead and is still in worship today. From the architecture style, this statue seems to be of early-tenth century. In 1865, Cunningham wrote that the statue was found while digging for stones to build a cenotaph for Pratap Singh, Maharaja of Chhatarpur.
Matangeshwara Temple – This temple is out of western group enclosure, situated by south of Lakshmana Temple. This is the main temple in Khajuraho which is still in use. This has one of the largest Shiva Lingam, 2.53 m and one meter in diameter, in India. The external walls of the temple are simple without any images. The roof is pyramidal and from style of architecture, it is dated to 10th century by art historians.
Chausath Yogini Temple – Walking along the Shivsagar Tank towards the village, you will find this unique open sanctuary temple. This was dedicated to the Chausath (sixty-four) Yoginis, goddesses. Unlike other temples at Khajuraho, which are built in fine sandstone, this temple is constructed with granite stone. This is considered as one of the oldest temple at Khajuraho by scholars, dated to AD 900. The sanctuary located on low rocky mount, contained sixty-seven cells, out of which only thirty-five have survived. One cell is larger than all others. Each of smaller cells were for sixty-four Yoginis, while the central larger one for Durga-Mahishasuramardini, inscribed with label ‘Hinghalaja’. When Major Cunningham visited this sanctuary, he found three images in situ, the goddess Hinghalaja in the principal cell and the two Matrikas Brahmani and Maheshwari in the cells flanking it. These images are now in the museum at the site. This temple is the earliest Yogini shrine in India. It is different from other shrines as this is constructed on square plan instead of circular plan of other similar temples.
Lalguan Mahadeva Temple – This shrine is situated on the bank of the Lalguansagar lake. The way to find the temple is not that easy so get help from local people as this shrine is located deep inside the village, about half a kilometer from Chausath Yogini temple. This is a west facing temple with a simple plan consisting a sanctum and a porch. The porch is now more there now. This shrine is dated after Chausath Yogini, dated AD 900-925. This temple is also constructed with granite stone, like Chausath Yogini.
Shivsagar Tank – This is the main tank at Khajuraho and possibly the same large lake as mentioned by traveler Ibn Battuta in AD 1335.
The Eastern Group of Temples
These temples are about 4-5 km from the western group of temples. You can either take an auto rickshaw, bicycle or a taxi to visit these monuments.
Hanuman Temple – On the way to Jain temples from Gol Market, this newly built, white washed shrine houses one of the earliest inscribed images of Hanuman in India. This 2.5 m high image has short dedicatory inscription of 316 of possibly Harsha era (AD 922), the oldest inscription of Khajuraho.
Brahma Temple – This temple, of simple plan and design, is situated at the banks of Khajursagar lake. It currently houses a four-faced lingam and thus mistakenly called as Brahma temple because of four heads. However the temple was dedicated to Vishnu as the image in center of the door lintel. This temple is constructed with granite stone, except its pyramidal roof which is constructed in sandstone. The main door has images of Ganga and Yamuna on either side, a typical architecture motif of Gupta’s time. This temple is dated to AD 925.
Vamana Temple – Located some 200 meters to the north-east of Brahma Temple, this temple was built between AD 1050 and 1075, enshrines Vamana, dwarf incarnation of Vishnu. This is an important temple as there are not many temples in India dedicated to this form of Vishnu. This is a nirandhara temple, no ambulatory around its sanctum. It has a sapta-ratha or seven-projection sanctum, antarala, maha-mandapa with transepts, mukha-mandapa. The sikhara, tower, of the temple is not encumbered by subsidiary sikharas and is embellished with a fretwork of chaitya arches. In contrast to local temples, erotic scenes are absent in this temple. The main niches of the sanctum contains , in lower row, Vaishnava images of Varaha, Narasimha and Vamana.
Javari Temple – Located about 200 meters south of Vamana Temple, this temple is dedicated to Vishnu as well. It is called ‘Javari’, due to ‘javara’ (millet) growing in nearby fields. This is a nirandhara temple consisting of sanctum, anatarala, mandapa and mukha-mandapa. This temple is an architectural gem and indeed remarkable for its ornate and slender makar-torana and soaring outline of sikhara.This temple was constructed in between AD 1075 and 1100.
Ghantai Temple – This Jain temple is commonly known as ‘Ghantai’ because of chain-and-bell motifs carved on the pillars of the temple. The walls of the temple have collapsed, what only remained are the pillars of the mandapa and its ornate ceiling, lintel and doors. According to historian Krishna Deva, its pillars are ‘among the finest pillars of medieval India, known for their stately form, restrained ornamentation, and classical dignity’. If this shrine would have been preserved then it would have been the grandest temple at Khajuraho. There are sixteen auspicious symbols of the dream of Jina’s mother on the upper lintel. The centre of the main lintel represents the Jain goddess Chakreshvari riding Garuda, which suggested that the shrine was dedicated to Adinatha.
Jain Temples – Located about 400 meters south-east of Ghantai temple, Jain group of temples are enclosed within one modern wall and maintained by a Jain trust. There are three main temples, which are directly under maintenance of ASI.
Parshvatnatha Temple – This is the largest temple among the Jain group. This is a sandhara temple, having ambulatory around its sanctum. Although it is a sandhara temple, the transepts with the balconied windows, which are so characteristic of the developed Khajuraho temple style, are absent. External walls only has perforated windows to admit light inside. The temple was built between AD 950 and 970, in the time of King Dhangadeva. It has an inscription mentioning a certain Pahila, who was respected by Dhagadeva. This temple was dedicated to Adinatha, the first Tirthankara, however now it houses image of Parshvanatha which was installed in 1860 during some renovation work.
It is still unclear why a Jain temple contains images of Krishna, Rama, Balrama, Vishnu, Brahma and Shiva on its exterior walls. Many fascinating figures of apsaras are found on the exterior wall. They are caught in the act of wearing an anklet, applying eye make-up, and writing a letter, among others. The temple has a rich variety of vyalas with faces of parrots, lions, elephants and other creatures. The doorway guards, wearing crowns, are Jain Indra and Upendra, not to be misunderstood with Vishnu’s guard. A sculpture of parents of Jina is placed in the maha-madapa. The door-lintel of the maha-mandapa bears a ten-armed image of yakshi Chakresvari riding on Garuda, while that of the sanctum shows figures of jinas. There is magic square on one of the door jamb, which states the presence of magical mathematics at those times in India.
Adinatha Temple – This single-spired, nirandhara temple is situated to the north of Parshvanatha temple. This temple consists a sanctum and vestibule. There are chaitya-style decoration on its tower. The wall niches of the walls house Jain Yakshis – Padmavati, Chakreshvari, Ambika, Manasi, and others. The door lintel bears the sixteen auspicious symbols that Jina’s mother dreamt of at time of the conception.
Shathinatha Temple – This is the principal Jain shrine at Khajuraho. This temple complex, with many small shrines, consists of components of older temples and sculptures from Ad 1027 and earlier. The main sanctuary houses a 4.3 m polished icon of a standing Shantinatha bearing a dedicatory inscription dated AD 1027. An interesting twelfth century sculpture of dancing kshetrapala is present at the entrance to the sanctuary. There is a marvelous sculpture of a Yaksha couple on the right as one enters the complex.
Jain Museum – This museum is located at the site of Jain temple group. Admission fee is Rs 5. It houses various Jain images found at and near Khajuraho.
The Southern Group of Temples
Chaturbuja Temple – Located 3 kms south of Khajuraho, near Jatkari village and airport, this is a west facing temple. This nirandhara temple is dated to AD 1100. This temple has a sanctum, antarala, mandapa and mukha-mandapa. This is the only local temple which does not have erotic images. This temple has Vishnu image in its door lintel and houses in its specially built sunken sanctum one of the most majestic icon of northern India, a 2.75 m high statue of an unusual ascetic form of Vishnu. This charming god, with matted hair and ornaments, is chaturbhuja (four-armed), hence the name of the temple. In the northern niche is rare image of the esoteric goddess Narasimhi, with a lion’s face and a human body. Images of Ardhnarishvara and Surya are seen in the southern and eastern niches.
Duladeo Temple – This Shiva temple is locally called as ‘Duladeo’, refers to a local tribal myth of Dulhadeva who, like the corn spirit, is wedded and slain amidst marriage celebrations, as part of fertility rituals. This is the last temple in the chronology of Khajuraho temple, built in about AD 1130, possibly constructed by Chandella king Madanavarman. This temple displays marked changes from earlier Khajuraho architecture. This is a nirandhara temple consists of sanctum, antarala, maha-mandapa and mukha-mandapa.
Bijamandala Temple – This is the recently excavated temple at Khajuraho, situated near the Jatkari village, not far from Chaturbhuja temple. The plinth that has been unearthed is 34 m long, which is larger than the 30 m plinth of Kandariya Mahadeva, so far the biggest temple at Khajuraho. This suggests that the excavated temple would have been the largest one at Khajuraho. Photography is not allowed here and excavation is still on.
Food and Accomodation – Khajuraho has many hotels suiting everybody’s budget. Though Khajuraho is a very small town, but all the major hotel chains are present at this location. Hotel Taj Chandela, Jass Trident, Lalit Grand Temple View, Best Western Greenwood, Usha Bundela, Radisson, Clarks Khajuraho are some of the 5 star hotels in Khajuraho. MPSTDC runs two hotels in Khajuraho, hotel Jhankar and Payal. Hotel Siddharth has some rooms facing the Western Group of Temples. Most of the luxury hotels are near the airport and little far from the town. However if you don’t have your conveyance then it would be convenient to stay in some hotel situated near or in the town. All the major Indian tourist and travel sites allow online booking of most of the Khajuraho hotels.
Raja Cafe, located in front of Western Group of Temples, is the best and most economical place to eat in Khajuraho. This restaurant has a Swiss cafe at ground floor and a restaurant on first floor. Blu Sky restaurant, located near Raja Cafe, is another ok kind place to eat. They have a restaurant on second floor.
How to reach – Khajuraho is situated 49 km east of Chhatarpur, 44 km north-west of Panna, 65 km south of Mahoba and 175 km south-east of Jhansi.
Air – Khajuraho is also connected to New Delhi and Varanasi via air with daily flights. Airport is about 6 km far from main town. Most of the luxury hotels are loacted on the road to the town.
Rail – Khajuraho is connected with New Delhi via rail track. UP Sampark Kranti (2448) runs from Hazarat Nizamuddin station via Mathura, Agra and Jhansi.
Road – Khajuraho is connected to Jhansi, Agra, Gwalior, Bhopal and Indore. You can also get buses to Satna, Panna and Chhatarpur. Chhatarpur is the main bus stand nearest to Khajuraho.