Khajuraho is a famous tourist and archaeological site known for its sculptured temples dedicated to Shiva, Vishnu, and Jain patriarchs. Khajuraho was one of the capitals of the Chandela kings, who from the 9th to the 11th century CE developed a large realm, which at its height included almost all of what is now Madhya Pradesh state. Khajuraho extended over 21 sq. km and contained about 85 temples built by multiple rulers from about 950 to 1050. In the late 11th century the Chandela, in a period of chaos and decline, moved to hill forts elsewhere. Khajuraho continued its religious importance until the 14th century (Ibn Batuta was impressed by it).
But was afterwards largely forgotten, its remoteness probably saved it from the desecration that Muslim conquerors generally inflicted on Hindu monuments. In 1838 a British army captain, TS Burt, employed by the Asiatic Society in Calcutta, came upon information that led him to the rediscovery of the complex of temples in the jungle in Khajuraho.
Of the 85 original temples-most constructed of hard river sandstone-about 20 are still reasonably well preserved. Both internally and externally the temples are richly carved with excellent sculptures that are frequently sensual and, at times, sexually explicit. The temples are divided into three complexes-the western is the largest and best known, containing the magnificent Shaivite temple Kandariya Mahadev, a 31m high agglomeration of porches and turrets culminating in a spire. Modern Khajuraho is a small village, serving the tourist trade with hotels and an airport. Khajuraho's name derives from the prevalence of khajur, or date palms, in the area.
At the rear of the western enclosure lies the extraordinary Kandariya Mahadev- sculpturally and architecturally the most perfect. This perfectly symmetrical Shiva temple is the largest and the loftiest. The temple roof raises skywards in a series of graded shikhara to the summit of the central 31 m high shikhara. Kandariya Mahadev is the only temple at khajuraho to have makara toranas. There are nearly 900 figures of God and Goddesses, mithunas and sura sundari, musicians, carved in stone of different colours into its internal and external surface.
It is the only granite temple and earliest surviving shrine of the group (900 AD), situated southwest of the Shiva Sagar. The temple is planned as an open air quadrangle with cells around it and the only one not aligned east to west. Chausath means 64- the temple once had 64 of these peripheral shrines one each for the 64 yoginis (ascetic attendants) of the goddess Kali.
A temple dedicated to Goddess Kali(originally dedicated to Vishnu) is of a four part design in plan. On the outer walls lavish decorations include an unusual three faced eight armed figure of Shiva and dignified sculpture of Yama(the God of Death). Also to be noted are sculptures of some sura sundaris and erotic couples.
North of the Jagdambi Temple facing eastwards to the rising sun is the Chitragupta temple of the Sun God in Khajuraho. The image of the deity in the sanctum is imposing and driving a seven horsed chariot. The temple walls are also carved with figures of sura sundaris, erotic couples and Gods, including an eleven headed statue of Vishnu in the central niche of the south façade.
The temple at the nort eastern end of the Western Group is dedicated to shiva. An inspriction found reveals that the temple was built by the King Dhanga(950-1002) and originally had an emerald linga in addition to the stone one present today. It is a panchayatana temple, but only two subsidiary shrines have survived. Vishwanath Temple has the most beautifull sculptures particularly of female figure. Facing the Vishwanath Temple the Nandi Temple in the sanctum houses a massive 2.2 m long 1.8 m high image of Nandi ( the bull vehicle of Shiva).
One of the earliest complete Vaishanva temples has five principal elements of the ardh mandapa, mandapa, maha mandapa, vestibule and sanctum and an ambulatory. The temple is entered through a simple but elegant makara toran (an arch flanked by crocodiles) of two loops. The circula ceiling of the ardha mandapa is carved with miniature figure of nagas (snakes) and kalashas. In the mandapa is a platform supported by four pillars with carved brackets with dancing nymphs. The garbha griha (sanctum) doorway has a panel showing each of Vishnu’s nine incarnations, while the little has Goddess Lakshmi flanked by Brahma and Vishnu. A frieze above depicts the nine planets with a large figure of Rahu.
Standing next to the Lakshmana temple, Matangeswara dated 950-1002 is still a living place of worship. The temple is dedicated to shiva who is anshrined in the sanctum here as lingam. It is probably the plainest among sandstone temples in Khajuraho.
The varha (Boar) incarnation of Vishnu appears in its sanctum approximately 205 m long and 1.5 m high. Its surface is covered with figures from the Hindu pantheon (a total of 674 deities). The temple is an oblong pavilion with a pyramidal roof of receding tiers, resting on 14 plain pillars.
This temple stands on the bank of Ninora Tal. This actually was a temple of Vishnu wrongly attributed to Brahma on account of four faced lingam now enshrined in the sanctum. But the prominent figure of Vishnu carved on the lintel of the sanctum doorway indicates that it was actually dedicated to Vishnu.
This temple is dedicated to the Vamana, the dwarf incarnation of Vishnu and is situated about 200 m to the northeast of the Brahma Temple. It has very simple design of shikhara only embellished with a fretwork of Chitya arches.
200 m south of Vamana Temple, this niradhara temple is dedicated to Vishnu. Simple in plan but well proportioned the Javari temple consist of the basic ardha mandapa, mandapa, vestibule and the sanctum.
Proceeding south from Javari, the Ghantai Temple is a Jain shrine called so on account of the chain and bell (ghanta) motifs beautifully executed on its tall stone pillars. The entrance porch is bordered by oblong panels depicting group of dancers and musicians.
About 400 m southeast of Ghantai Temple this stands in a wall enclosure along with the other Adinath Temple. Made of honey coloured sand stone it enshrines a black marble image of the first Tirthankar.
Adinath Temple where only the sanctum and vestibule have survived of the original. The sculptures on three bands include charming sura sundaris, the principal niches of the outer façade has images of yakshis.
Santinath Temple with its 5m high statue of Adinath is main place of Jain worship. Built about a century ago it incorporates in its structures many of the medieval sculptures including Mahavira’s parents.
Duladeo Temple is probably the last temple the chandela built around 12 century.There are dancing apsaras on its interior and the flying vidyadharas on the top row of its façade.
Chaturbhuj Temple is the only temple which does not have erotic sculptures and its sanctum contains a 2.7 m high image of a four armed Vishnu.
The museum has some exquisite, sculptures housed in its galleries. These the statue of dancing Ganesha, image of Sambhavnath, the 10-12 century old Varha with 6 heads and the six headed figure of Shiva dating back to 11-12 century.
117 Km from Satna , 172 Km from Jhansi.
July to March.