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Khajuraho Temples: The ancient city of Erotica & Sexual Health of India

The Khajuraho a town in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, located in Chhatarpur District, about 620 kilometres (385 mi) southeast of New Delhi, are one of the most popular tourist destinations in India. Khajuraho has the largest group of medievalHindu and Jain temples, famous for their erotic sculpture. The Khajuraho group of monuments has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is considered to be one of the "seven wonders" of India.

Interesting Info about Khajuraho Temple

Location: Khajuraho, Chhatarpur District, Madhya Pradesh, India.
Population: 19,282 (2001)
Time zone: IST (UTC+5:30)
Significance: Well-known for the sculptures in erotic poses in its temples.
Famous: for their erotic sculpture.
Constructed:  950 to 1050 A.D
Climate: Khajuraho has extreme tropical climate with temperature as high as 47°C in summers and as low as 4°C in winters.

How to Reach:

By Air: Khajuraho has daily domestic flights to and from Agra, Varanasi and Kathmandu.

By Train: The nearest railway stations to Khajuraho are Mahoba, Satna and Jhansi. All of these are well connected to most of the major cities of India.

By Road: Khajuraho has frequent bus services and good roads to and from the major cities of India including Panna, Mahoba, Satna, Jabalpur, Bhopal, Gwalior, Indore, Agra and Jhansi.

Facts about Khajuraho

Situated in the heart of Central India, in the state of Madhya Pradesh, Khajuraho is a fascinating village with a quaint rural ambience and a rich cultural heritage. The fascinating temples of Khajuraho, India's unique gift of love to the world, represent the expression of a highly matured civilization.

Khajuraho temples were constructed between 950 and 1050 A.D. during the reign of Chandel Empire. Khajuraho derives its name from the Khajur tree (the date palm tree) which can be found in abundance in the area. These temples are considered the "high point" of Indian architectural genius in the Medieval period. 
  • The Khajuraho group of monuments has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 
  • Khajuraho has the largest group of medieval Hindu and Jain temples and is well-known for erotic sculptures adorning the temples.  
  • The name Khajuraho is derived from the Hindi word 'khajur', which means 'date palm'.  
  • It was during the reign of Chandel Empire, between 950 and 1050 AD, that Khajuraho temples were constructed. 
  • Earlier, there were about 85 Hindu temples at Khajuraho, which degenerated due to the ravages of the nature. There are only about 22 Hindu temples left now. 
  • It was only in the 20th century that Khajuraho temples were rediscovered and preserved.  
  • These temples are considered the "high point" of Indian architectural genius during the medieval times.  
  • Khajuraho temples are divided into three geographical divisions - western, eastern and southern.  
  • The Western group is home to the largest and most typical Khajuraho temple, dedicated to Kandariya Mahadev.  
  • The fascinating temples of Khajuraho represent the expression of a highly matured civilization. They comprise of one of the top tourist attractions of India.  
  • It is wrongly believed that Khajuraho temples are filled with erotic sculpture. Erotic scenes represent a relatively small part of the carvings, but sensuous eroticism prevails in all the sculptures. 
  • Archeological Survey of India has ranked Khajuraho temples as the best preserved monuments of antiquity.  
  • A few of the temples in Khajuraho 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. 
  • Mostly, the temples are built of sandstone, with varying shades of buff, pink and pale yellow. 
  • The divine sculptures in Khajuraho temples are a tribute to Life itself, embodying everything that is sublime and spontaneous about it.  
  • The images of Goddesses and Gods sculpted on the temple walls represent the many manifestations of the divine Shakti and Shiva, the female and male principles, the Yin and the Yang.  
  • The inside of the temple has rooms that are inter-connected and placed in an East/West line. Each contains an entrance, a hall, a vestibule and a sanctum. Windows have been added to the larger temples, probably to add a feeling of space and light. 
  • Khajuraho temples, constructed with spiral superstructures, adhere to a North Indian shikhara temple style and often to a Panchayatana plan.
History of Khajuraho

Khajuraho has been traced to prehistoric times, as artifacts from the Middle and late Stone Age and Neolithic ages have been unearthed here. Khajuraho was a prominent temple town built during the period between 900 AD and 1200 AD, extending over an area of 13 square kilometres. This site flourished under the Chandellas, either by themselves or their Chieftains and Jain Merchants. The region acquired the name `Jejakabhukti`, named after the Chandella chief Jeja, or Jayashakti, the third in the genealogy of Chandellas. By the middle of the 10th century the Chandellas, became an established power in the north; Khajuraho thus, gaining importance. The Chandellas considered Khajuraho very special, as they concentrated most of their temple building activity here. The temples built by them when they were still feudatories, were made of rough granite, and built on the outskirts of Khajuraho. The Chausath Yogini temple and the Shiva temple, called Lalguan Mahadeva belonged to this category. 
There have been many rulers, who were the patrons of the Khajuraho temples and instrumental in developing the art and the sculpture of this site. They are as follows: 

Harshadeva: The event of his victory over the Rashtrakuta King Krishna II, Harshadeva reinstated as the King of Kanauj, in 917 AD has been recorded in a stone inscription at Khajuraho, near the Vamana temple. The recently excavated brick complex in the northeastern area of the site, and the `Brahma` temple on the bank of the Khajursagar Lake, can also be associated with Harshadeva. 

Yashovarman: The prestigious Vaikuntha-Vishnu image was acquired by Yashovarman from his Pratihara overlord Devapala and celebrated this victory by building a magnificent temple at Khajuraho. This temple is the first in the Nagara style at Khajuraho, and he embellished it abundantly with sculptures. Now known as the Lakshmana temple, this temple is made of finely grained sandstone brought from the quarries near Panna, not far from Khajuraho. One inscription of this temple declares the conquest of the strategic fort of Kalanjar by Yashovarman. After conquering Kalanjar, Yashovarman further asserted his power by installing a huge icon of the boar incarnation of Vishnu, which depicts a boar rescuing mother earth in front of the Lakshmana temple. 

King Dhangadeva: He installed two lingas, one made of emerald and the other of stone, in the temple then called Marakateshvara (Lord of Emerald), and now known as the Vishvanatha temple. The temple was consecrated in AD 999, after Dhangadeva`s death. Vidyadhara: The grandest temple at Khajuraho, the Kandariya Mahadeva, was built, to celebrate Vidhyadhara`s victory over Mahmud Ghazni.

Jayavarman: He carried out renovation work at Khajuraho and there is a possibility that he might have built the Chaturbhuja temple, which is known for its exquisite Vishnu image. In an inscription, he is described as a great devotee of Lord Narayana. Madanavarman: He is believed to have built the Duladeva temple, the last towering monument at Khajuraho. 

Apart from the patrons building the various art forms in Khajuraho, there have been questions posed by many, regarding the religion in Khajuraho during its flourishing days, including the very existence of religion over here. There are several images of divine beings, with many holding manuscripts and several others in yogic postures. Khajuraho was a place of worship and religious discourses were also held here. It is important to note that the monuments at Khajuraho were temples, built by their patrons primarily for the sake of worship, since they were the centers of both religious and artistic expression in medieval India. 

The temples built by the Chandella kings are in the Nagara style, mostly affiliated with the brahminical or Hindu religion. The temples built by their ministers or the Jain merchants belong to the Jain Digambara faith. Of the twenty-five temples that exist today, ten have Vishnu enshrined in various forms, such as Vamana, Varaha and a composite Vaikuntha form. Eight temples are dedicated to Shiva, one to Surya, one to the Sixty-four Yoginis and 5 temples belong to the Jain Digambara faith. More temples were constructed at Khajuraho, many of whose epigraphs and sculptures remain. A large image of Hanuman with a 922 AD inscription suggests the worship of Hanuman too.

Excavations have also discovered an image of Buddha in the eastern side of Khajuraho. The image has an inscription belonging to the Buddhist faith, suggesting the existence of Buddhism here, however, on a limited scale. In the recent excavations at the Bijamandala mound in the southern area of Khajuraho, there are signs of what seems to be a Shiva temple of the early eleventh century. Along with the images of Shiva and Vishnu, some Jain images have also been excavated. 

The Jain group of temples, found in the eastern part of Khajuraho, were patronized by the Jain merchants, who belonged to the sect of Digambaras. The temples were dedicated to Tirthankaras Adinatha (Rishabhanatha), Parshvanatha (installed later in 1860), and Shantinatha. A large image of 14 feet in height of Shantinatha has an inscription from AD 1027-28. Several independent donors installed images of Tirthankaras. Several images of Jain Yakshis and Kshetrapalas can also be seen in the temples and also as independent sculptures, which are now kept in museums. Some pillars with images of Jain divinity are found to the south of the Yogini temple. 

A composite of both tantric and puranic elements prevailed in Khajuraho. The inscriptions at Khajuraho however, support Brahmins and highly proclaim the three Vedas. The puranas strongly recommend the practice of giving gifts to Brahmins, and building of temples, tanks, and undertaking of charitable works. The inscription dating 999 AD mentions King Dhangadeva performing the Tulapurushadana ceremony, in which he weighed himself against gold and distributed this gold to Brahmins. The performances of fire sacrifices were also glorified in inscriptions. The Chandellas believed they got merits by giving gifts on eclipse days. Satyabhama, wife of King Vidyadhara made donations on the days of solar eclipse. 

The composite religious practices at Khajuraho are evident in the Lakshmana temple. This temple enshrines the mystical icon of Vaikuntha. Built in AD 954, it was associated with Tantric Vaishnavism of the Kashmir school (Pancharatra) but this image was acquired by the Chandella King Yashovarman as a victory tokenOne of the grandest temples in Khajuraho, The Kandariya Mahadeva temple, built in about AD 1030, was affiliated to Siddhanta, a moderate Tantric Shaivite order. 

The numerous Khajuraho sculptures depict various architects, their masons, musicians, dancers, traders, animals, gods and goddesses, which indicate the intense religious and cultural activity that flourished in Khajuraho during the medieval period. Some of these are as follows: 

Vyala: It had a body of a lion and the face of an elephant, goat, parrot or other animals and birds. It also enjoyed a great popularity in medieval Indian temples. It was considered to be a protective motif, and is placed in recesses of the wall, and on the brackets of pillars, at Khajuraho. 

Makara: This mythical aquatic creature combines the jaws of a crocodile, trunk of an elephant, ears of a lion, horns of a ram, and the tail offish. It is the mount of the river goddess Ganga, and also of the Dikpala Varuna. One can find makaras on the torana-gates of the Kandariya and other temples, on arched frames of divinities, on water chutes (pranala), and in many other places in Khajuraho.

Architecture of Temple Khajuraho

The temples are grouped into three geographical divisions: western, eastern and southern.

The Khajuraho temples are made of sandstone. The builders didn't use mortar: the stones were put together with mortise and tenon joints and they were held in place by gravity. This form of construction requires very precise joints. The columns and architraves were built with megaliths that weighed up to 20 ton. These temples of Khajuraho have sculptures that look very realistic and are studied even today.

The Saraswati temple on the campus of Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani, India is modeled after the Khajuraho temple.

The ancient city of Erotica & Sexual Health of India

The Khajuraho temples do not contain sexual or erotic art inside the temple or near the deities; however, some external carvings bear erotic art. Also, some of the temples that have two layers of walls have small erotic carvings on the outside of the inner wall. There are many interpretations of the erotic carvings. They portray that, for seeing the deity, one must leave his or her sexual desires outside the temple. They also show that divinity, such as the deities of the temples, is pure like the atman, which is not affected by sexual desires and other characteristics of the physical body. It has been suggested that these suggest tantric sexual practices. Meanwhile, the external curvature and carvings of the temples depict humans, human bodies, and the changes that occur in human bodies, as well as facts of life. Some 10% of the carvings contain sexual themes; those reportedly do not show deities, they show sexual activities between people. The rest depict the everyday life of the common Indian of the time when the carvings were made, and of various activities of other beings. For example, those depictions show women putting on makeup, musicians, potters, farmers, and other folk. Those mundane scenes are all at some distance from the temple deities. A common misconception is that, since the old structures with carvings in Khajuraho are temples, the carvings depict sex between deities. 

Another perspective of these carvings is presented by James McConnachie. In his history of the Kamasutra, McConnachie describes the zesty 10% of the Khajuraho sculpture as "the apogee of erotic art": "Twisting, broad-hipped and high breasted nymphs display their generously contoured and bejewelled bodies on exquisitely worked exterior wall panels. These fleshy apsaras run riot across the surface of the stone, putting on make-up, washing their hair, playing games, dancing, and endlessly knotting and unknotting their girdles. Beside the heavenly nymphs are serried ranks of griffins, guardian deities and, most notoriously, extravagantly interlocked maithunas, or lovemaking couples."

While the sexual nature of these carvings have caused the site to be referred to as the Kamasutra temple, they do not illustrate the meticulously described positions. Neither do they express the philosophy of Vatsyayana's famous sutra. As "a strange union of Tantrism and fertility motifs, with a heavy dose of magic" they belie a document which focuses on pleasure rather than procreation. That is, fertility is moot.

The strategically placed sculptures are "symbolical-magical diagrams, or yantras" designed to appease malevolent spirits. This alamkara (ornamentation) expresses sophisticated artistic transcendence over the natural; sexual images imply a virile, thus powerful, ruler. Between 950 and 1150, the Chandela monarchs built these temples when the Tantric tradition may have been accepted. In olden days, before the Mughal conquests, when boys lived in hermitages, followingbrahmacharya until they became men, they could learn about the world and prepare themselves to become householders through examining these sculptures and the worldly desires they depicted.

While recording the television show 'lost worlds' for the history channel at Khajuraho Alex Evans, a contemporary stone mason and sculptor gave his expert opinion and forensically examined the tool marks and construction techniques involved in creating the stunning stonework at the sites. He also recreated a stone sculpture under 4 feet that took about 60 days to carve in an attempt to develop a rough idea how much work must have been involved. Roger Hopkins and Mark Lehner also conducted experiments to quarry limestone which took 12 quarrymen 22 days to quarry about 400 tons of stone. These temples would have required hundreds of highly trained sculptors.

What To See:

The temples are grouped into three geographical divisions : western, eastern and southern.
Western Group

Kandariya Mahadeo

The 31m high temple is the largest and most typical Khajuraho temple with exquisite carvings and intricate and detailed craftsmanship in stone depicting divine deities, celestial maidens, eternal lovers, gods and goddesses. This temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and enshrines the 'linga'. 

Chaunsath Yogini

The temple is the earliest temple of the group that has survived. It belongs to 900 AD and is dedicated Goddess Kali. It has the distinction of being the only granite temple here. 

Chitragupta Temple

This temple is dedicated to the Sun God (Surya Dev). It faces towards east or the rising sun and the imposing image of the image of the deity in the inner sanctum is as high as five feet and is shown driving a horse-drawn chariot. It is in front of this temple and the Vishwanatha temple that most of the dance performances take place during the Khajuraho Dance Festival.

Vishwanatha Temple

This temple has impressive entrances with magnificent stone guarding its northern steps and royal masonry elephants taking care of the southern steps. The three-headed image of Lord Brahma in the temple is not less captivating.

Lakshmana Temple

A pretty Vaishnava temple flaunts a lintel over its entrance depicting the divine trinity of Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva along with Goddess Lakshmi, the wife of Lord Vishnu.

Matangeshwara Temple

Situated outside the premises of Western group of temples, this Lord Shiva's temple is known for the daunting eight-feet high lingam (male organ representing the natural process of reproduction and the continuity of human life form) that it enshrines.

Eastern Group

Parsvanatha Temple

The largest Jain temple of the Eastern group, Parsvanath temple has intricate stone carvings, especially, the sculptures on the northern outer wall of the temple are certainly praiseworthy. It enshrines a throne facing the bull emblem that represents the the first tirthankara, Adinatha. 

Ghantai Temple

This Jain temple has remarkable frescos depicting the 16 dreams of the mother of Lord Mahavira at the time of his birth and a Jain goddess mounted on a winged Garuda. 

Adinatha Temple

This temple is richly ornamented with delicate and pretty scultures including those of yakshis. It is dedicated to the first Jain tirthankara (saint), Adinath.

Most of the temple here belong to Jain faith but there are three Hindu temples of the group, namely, the Brahma temple enshrining a four-faced linga; the Vamana temple with divine carvings of sensuous celestial maidens in various poses adorning its outer walls and the Javari temple with a opulently carved doorway and ostentatious sculptures on its exteriors.

Southern Group

Duladeo Temple

This Shaiva temple is known for flaunting the striking images of the celestial maidens or apsaras and richly ornamented figures.

Chaturbhuja Temple

It is the huge imposing intricately carved image of Lord Vishnu in the temple's sanctum, which is the chief attraction of the temple.

Khajuraho Festival (Dance Festival)

Held every year from 25th February to 2nd March, Khajuraho Dance Festival takes place at the open-air auditorium in front of the Chitragupta Temple dedicated to the Sun God and the Vishwanatha Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. They are situated in the Western Group of temples, which is the largest, well maintained and most easily accessible temple group of Khajuraho. Started regularly since 2002, this weeklong festival has already become legendary with its outlandish classical dance performances presented in a dreamlike setting of splendidly illuminated temples. Khajuraho temples present sculptures depicting various skills and arts of courtly love including dance and music in stone and what venue can be more befitting to hold the cultural festival highlighting the various classical dances of India.

Some of the best artists and performers that have marked themselves in their fields come from the various states of India to participate in the festival and the performances including some of the best known dance styles such as the intricate footwork of Kathak, highly stylized and sophisticated Bharathanatyam, soft lyrical temple dance of Odissi, the dance dramas of Kuchipudi, Manipuri, the dance of rare and ancient civilization and Kathakali stage fights with elaborate masks. Recently, modern Indian dances have also found their place in the Khajuraho Dance festival. Along with the dance performances one can also see a number of craftsmen trading off their indigenous arts and crafts to the visitors

Around Khajuraho

Benisagar Lake (11 km) - A picnic spot and a dam of the Khudar river. Ideal for boating and angling.

Ranguan Lake (25 km) - A dam site at the confluence of the Ken and Simri rivers.

Pandav Waterfall (30 km) - A waterfall on river Ken. The Pandavas of the Mahabharata are believed to have spent a part of their exile here.

Ranch Waterfalls (20 km) - Waterfalls on the Ken river, famous for rock formations.

Rajgarh Palace (25 km) - More than 150 years old, this palace nestles at the foot of the Manjyagarh hills.

Panna (45 km) - A historic town and capital of the Bundela kingdom.

Dhubela Museum (64 km) - The museum is located in an old fort, on the Jhansi-Khajuraho road. It houses the personal effects of Chhatrasal and other Bundela rulers.

Ajaygarh Fort (80 km) - An old fort, built at a height of 688 metres, and capital of the Chandelas during their decline.

Kalinjar Fort (100 km) - The fort is located on the Vindhya range, 38 km away from the Atarra Railway station. It was built during the Gupta period and captured by Shri Yashovarman, the Chandela king, in the 10th century.

Panna Diamond Mines (56 km) - India's only diamond mines, located at Majhgawan.

Panna National Park(40 km) - It is spread over 546 sq. km along the east bank of the river Ken. Dense forest cover, rocky gorges and waterfalls make for ideal wildlife watching.

Bandhavgarh National Park (237 km)

Lesiure activities - Angling at Benisagar and Ranguan lake. Permission of the Assistant Director Fisheries Department, Nowgong, Madhya Pradesh is necessary. Boating facility is available at Benisagar lake.

Khajuraho Temple Galleries

This post first appeared on Tourist Book, please read the originial post: here

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Khajuraho Temples: The ancient city of Erotica & Sexual Health of India


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