The Khajuraho temples were built in the short span of a hundred years, from 950-1050AD in a truly inspired burst of creativity. Of the 85 original temples, 22 have survived till today to constitute one of the world's great artistic wonders. The world renowned temple town of Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh designated by UNESCO as a world heritage site for its archaeological and historical monuments. The Creators of Khajuraho claimed descent from the moon and the legend behind the founding of this great dynasty and the temples is a fascinating one. Hemwati, the lovely young 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 sensorious society, Chandravarman, when established as a ruler, had a dream-visitation from his mother. It is said that she implored him to build temples that would reveal human passions, and in doing so, bring about a realization of the emptiness of human desire. It is also possible that the Chandelas were followers of the Tantric cult, which believes that gratification of earthly desires is a step towards attaining the infinite liberation of nirvana.
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 around Khajuraho has always been renowned for its cultural achievements.
There's more to Indian food than curry. The country has more than 15 different regional cuisines and in fact curries originated in the south of the country. Vegetarian food tends to be the norm in most areas and comes in the most wonderfully creative dishes you can imagine. For lovers of meat, you are advised to become as vegetarian as you can possibly bear while in the country as generally vegetarian dishes are less likely to give you tummy troubles. Often the meat used in anything but the top restaurants leaves much to be desired.
Thali (pronounced tar-ley) is the most ubiquitous meal in India. Served either as a vegetarian dish or with meat, it consists of rice and chapatis (similar to heavy flour tortillas) with five sauces and curds. Even those afraid of spicy food will love the mild chicken tandoori or Kashmiri-style dishes or, in Kerala, fish flavoured with coconut, ginger or fruit. Any dish prepared in the Kashmiri-style will be delicate and have lots of fruit and nuts (in Kashmir itself, find a restaurant offering a wazwan, a traditional feast containing as many as 17 meat dishes). Pakoras (fried vegetable fritters) also provide an easy introduction to Indian cookery. Samosas are breaded, fried vegetable triangles. Dal, an Indian lentil soup, can be found anywhere and if the name of a dish has the word paneer in it, the dish contains cubes of compressed cottage cheese (it's better than it sounds). Dum aloo is a wonderfully spicy potato dish found in the north. Buff refers to water-buffalo meat and mutton is usually goat. The breads are superlative—there's none better than naan (baked in a tandoori oven), but do try papadum, a wafer-thin lentil-flour bread, at least once.
For dessert, try kheer (rice pudding). Fruit lassis are a yogurt-based drink that can be very refreshing; curd, a very mild yogurt, is often served with meals. We generally advise against eating from street stalls, unless the food is freshly cooked before your eyes. Indian food is eaten with the fingers of the right hand only. In addition to Indian foods, Western and Chinese restaurants abound. Beware of ice cream and dairy products except at the finest hotels. If you're in an area where you don't trust the food but are really hungry, buy a package of the ubiquitous glucose biscuits, a bland (but safe) cookie. Steamed rice cakes, known as idli, are available almost everywhere and are considered the lightest and safest meal for sensitive stomachs.
Beware of vendors selling soft drinks that are not normally available in India (whatever's in those bottles, it's not what it says on the label). Don't accept ice in your drinks, except from the absolutely finest hotels—the water that goes into the ice might not be so good. Some states prohibit the sale of alcohol. If you want to drink liquor everywhere you go, get an All India Liquor Permit when you get your visa (or from the Government Tourist Offices in Mumbai, Calcutta, Delhi or Chennai) and buy a few bottles of your favourite booze and take them with you on your adventures through the country.
Sandalwood items, fabrics (including silks), papier-mache, brassware, wood carvings, clothing, religious paraphernalia, paintings and prints, dhurri rugs, shawls, Oriental carpets, marble inlay boxes, dolls, copperware, bronzes, musical instruments, silver, jute products, tea, saffron, batiks, bamboo products, fossils and crystals are among the good buys. Well made souvenirs are available from most good hotels, but for the real Indian buying experiences head for any local market.
The national and state government emporium stores have high quality items, but prices are usually a bit higher than elsewhere and you can't bargain. Bargaining is the name of the game almost everywhere else. Depending on the product, you may want to offer one-third to two-thirds off the initial asking price and take it from there. Remember that haggling for a good price takes time. When buying name-brand items, be careful, copycats abound. Any item more than 100 years old is classified as an antique and you will need an export license to take it home.
It's true (as you'll be told by gem dealers) that you can buy gems to take home for profit, but you can also get burned; only attempt it if you know a lot about gems. It's usually best to avoid any vendors selling animal derived objects such as tiger skins, elephant tusks etc. because trade in most animal products is illegal and you may have problems when trying to take them back into your home country. If you are dead set on obtaining such merchandise, the Indian Tourist Office strongly suggests that you make sure to get a receipt.
Khajuraho Air service is driect link with Delhi, Agra, Varanasi and Kathmandu.
The nearest railheads are Mahoba and Harpalpur. Jhansi is a convenient railhead for those travelling from Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai and Varanasi the railhead is Satna, on the Mumbai-Allahabad section of the Central Railway is ideal. Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta, Chennai, Agra by train to the railheads.
Khajuraho is connected by regular and direct bus services with Chhatarpur, Mahoba, Harpalpur, Satna, panna, Jhansi, Gwalior, Agra, Sagar, Jabalpur, indore, Bhopal, Varanasi and Allahabad.
Dedicated to the Jain saint, Adinath, the temple is lavishly embellished with sculpted figures, including yakshis. The three Hindu temples of the group are the Brahma, containing a four faced lingam, the Vamana, which is adorned on its outer walls with carving of apsaras in a variety of sensuous attitudes; and the javari, with a richly-carved gateway and exterior sculptures. The sanctum of the temple is quite simple and the Vedika (alter) seems to have been built at some later stage. The roof has been built with a Padmashila (lotus like stone giving much beauty to the sanctum. To the sculpture of this temple, the craftsmen have been marvelously successful in imparting expression to various emotions in stone. On the southern wall, there is a figure of a women, who has received a letter with sad news. The letter received is clearly visible in one f her hands and the grief caused by the message finds expression in her face and the other hand. On the outer wall of the temple, near about the starting point of Parikrama (circumambulation) in themiddle row of figures, there exists a remarkable Apsara image of a female dancer.
The smartness of her body and te restlessness of her feet, the vigorous, dynamic movement all have been so aptly carved out. The figure is so attractive that one is reminded of the famous dancer Nilanjana in the court of Lord Adinath. Among these charming figures of Apsaras, the figures of Shashan devis, Yakshines and Vidyadevis at their appropriate places add much charm, meaning and symbolism. Of these Apsara figures, the one looking into the mirror and applying collyrium in the eyes and the other that of a mother kissing her child are remarkable for their exquisite finish and artistic merits. Nayikas, Kaminis, Bhaminis, the various categories of women are depicted in a very dignified and graceful manner and their workmanship is very good.
The group's largest Jain temple and exquisite in detail. The sculptures on the northern outer wall are particularly noteworthy . The themes depict, in charming detail, everyday activity. Within, a throne faces the bull emblem of the first tirhankara, Adinath. The Parsvanath image was installed in 1860.
This Jain temple has a frieze which depicts the 16 dreams of Mahavira's mother, and a jain goddess on a winged Garuda.
One comes across the Hanuman temple while proceeding from the Western group towards the Khajuraho village. There is a colossal statue of Hanuman. "The monkey God" about 8 ft high in the temple which is now in ruins. There is a very ancient inscription on the pedestal dating back to the time of Maharaja Harsh, 922 A.D. This is the oldest structure discovered here so far and is very interesting from the archaeological point of view.
On the bank of Khajur Sagar or Ninora Tal near the village stands the Brahma Temple. It is simple in plan and design with its body in granite stone and shikhare and made in sandstone. in the sanctum is now enshrined a four faced image of Brahma, hence it is called the Brahma temple. Originally this temple must have been dedicated to Lord Vishnu, as it is clear from his figure carved centrally on the lintel of the sanctum doorway.
The largest, most typical Khajuraho temple, it soars 31 m high. Dedicated to shiva, the sanctum sanctorum enshrines a lingam. The main shrine is exquisitely carved and features, in delicate detail, gods, goddesses, celestial maidens and lovers. Particularly noteworthy are the entrance arch, the ceilings and pillars of the interior compartments.
The only granite temple and the earliest surviving shrine of the group (900 A.D.), it is dedicated to Kali. Only 35 of the orginal 65 shrines remain. Another Kali temple (originally dedicated to Vishnu) is the Devi Jagdambe Temple.
The lintel over the entrance of this beautiful Vaishnavite temple shows the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva with Lakshmi, Vishnu's idol of Vishnu's incarnations, Narasimha and Varaha. This boar incarnation also appears in a nine-feet high statue at the Varaha Temple.
Still a living place of worship, the temple is dedicated to shiva, has an eight feet high lingam, and is outside the precincts of the Western Group.
This finest temple at Khajuraho also called Kunwar Math offers some of the choicest sculptures especially the Shalbhanjika. It is a fully developed temple measuring 21 m by 12 m (69 ft. by 40 ft.) with the ardhamanadap, the mandapa, the maha mandapa, the antarala and the garbha griha with no circumambulatory passage. The ceiling of the maha mandap is a series of diminishing circles of overlapping stones. There is an image of Shiva on the lintel of the entrance to the garbh griha indicating that the temple was originally dedicated to Lord Shiva
The sanctum today enshrines a shivlingam. The superstructure is in the traditional style, with several subsidiary shikhars clustering around the central shikhara. in this temple also, apart from the othr various sculptures inside the temple, the outer walls of the temple are decorated with three bands f sculptres. "The masters of Dulhadeo temple worked on a high level of inspiration", remarks Stella Kramrisch. "indeed, whether oe examines the 'superb grace and elegance' of the Shalbhanjika-bracket capitals of the mahamandap, or the glory of the breathing bodies of apsaras on the pilasters of the ardhamandapa or again the squat forms of the living four armed ganas which provide the contrasting elements the ugly against the lovely-the masterly touch is ever apparent.
The outside ornamentation is equally rich. Specially noteworthy are the vidyadhar which occupy the highest of the three bands of sculptures. The images of these wizards are carved flying singly and flying in pairs with their consorts. They carry weapons and garlands, brandish swords, play on musical instruments, carry dance in their hands, flight in their legs, and sentiment of detachment on their faces. Their form is of the purest medieval cast, on the high level of serenity". A few extra ordinary erotic couples(mathunas), including one or two of the most embarrassing variety, provide that essential ingredient present in Khajuraho's greater temples tha putting stamp of excellence on this temple.
Three kilometers south of Khajuraho, in the village of Jatkari lie the two temples now in ruins. One of them is a Shiva temple enshrining a marble ligham. The other one enshries a 3.3 m (11 ft.) high image of Chatturbhuja (Vishnu) in the sanctum with an expression of transcendental calm and bliss on its face.
Over the lintel of the doorway are carved exquisite figures of Brahama, Vishnu and Mahesh. It is a nirandhara temple of a modes tsize similar to Javeri in plan and design consisting of a sanctum, mandapa and an entrance porch. The shikhara of the temple is plain. There are three bands of scuolptures on the jangha of the temple. The temple is an earlier and smaller version of the Duladeo temple and can be assigned to circa 1100.