Khajuraho Group of Monuments

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UNESCO World Heritage Site
Khajuraho Group of Monuments
Name as inscribed on the World Heritage List
A typical temple at Khajuraho with divine couples. Note lace-like ornamentation on the major and the minor shikharas.
TypeCultural
Criteriai, iii
Reference240
UNESCO regionAsia-Pacific
Inscription history
Inscription1986 (10th Session)
 
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UNESCO World Heritage Site
Khajuraho Group of Monuments
Name as inscribed on the World Heritage List
A typical temple at Khajuraho with divine couples. Note lace-like ornamentation on the major and the minor shikharas.
TypeCultural
Criteriai, iii
Reference240
UNESCO regionAsia-Pacific
Inscription history
Inscription1986 (10th Session)

The Khajuraho Group of Monuments in Khajuraho, a town in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, located in Chhatarpur District, about 620 kilometres (385 mi) southeast of New Delhi, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in India. Khajuraho has the largest group of medieval Hindu and Jain temples, famous for their erotic sculptures.

Between 950 and 1150, the Chandela monarchs built these temples when the Tantric tradition may have been accepted. In the days before the Mughal conquests, when boys lived in hermitages, following brahmacharya 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.[1]

The name Khajuraho, ancient "Kharjuravāhaka", is derived from the Sanskrit words kharjura = date palm and vāhaka = "one who carries". Locals living in the Khajuraho village always knew about and kept up the temples as best as they could. They were pointed out to the English in the late 19th century when the jungles had taken a toll on the monuments. In the 19th century, British engineer T.S. Burt arrived in the area, followed by General Alexander Cunningham. Cunningham put Khajuraho on the world map when he explored the site on behalf of the Archaeological Survey of India and described what he found in glowing terms. 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.

Town[edit]

Khajuraho
city
Khajuraho Group of Monuments is located in Madhya Pradesh
Khajuraho
Khajuraho
Coordinates: 24°51′N 79°56′E / 24.85°N 79.93°E / 24.85; 79.93Coordinates: 24°51′N 79°56′E / 24.85°N 79.93°E / 24.85; 79.93
CountryIndia
StateMadhya Pradesh
DistrictChhatarpur
Elevation283 m (928 ft)
Population (2011)
 • Total19,282
Languages
 • OfficialHindi
Time zoneIST (UTC+5:30)

Khajuraho is a town in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, located in Chhatarpur District, about 620 kilometres (385 mi) southeast of New Delhi, the capital city of India. According to the 2001 India census,[2] Khajuraho has a population of 19,282. Males constitute 52% of the population and females 48%. The town has an average literacy rate of 53%, lower than the national average of 59.5%: male literacy is 62%, and female literacy is 43%. In Khajuraho, 19% of the population is under 6 years of age. Khajuraho is located at 24°51′N 79°56′E / 24.85°N 79.93°E / 24.85; 79.93[3] and has an average elevation of 283 metres (928 feet).

Khajuraho is served by Khajuraho Airport and there is a railway station in the centre of the town.

History[edit]

In the 27th Century of Kali Yuga the Mlechcha invaders started attacking Northern India, some Bargujar moved eastward to central India; they ruled over the Northeastern region of Rajasthan, called Dhundhar, and were referred to as Dhundhel or Dhundhela in ancient times, for the region they governed. Later on they called themselves Chandelas; those who were in the ruling class having gotra Kashyap were definitely all Bargujars; they were vassals of Gurjara - Pratihara empire of North India, which lasted from 500 CE to 1300 CE and at its peak the major monuments were built. The Bargujars also built the Kalinjar fort and Neelkanth Mahadev temple, similar to one at Sariska National Park, and Baroli, being Shiva

The city was the cultural capital of Chandel Rajputs, a Hindu dynasty that ruled this part of India from the 10 to 12th centuries. The political capital of the Chandelas was Kalinjar. The Khajuraho temples were built over a span of 200 years, from 950 to 1150. The Chandela capital was moved to Mahoba after this time, but Khajuraho continued to flourish for some time. Khajuraho has no forts because the Chandel Kings never lived in their cultural capital.

The whole area was enclosed by a wall with eight originates, each flanked by two golden palm trees. There were originally over 85 Hindu temples, of which only 25 now stand in a reasonable state of preservation, scattered over an area of about 20 square kilometres (8 sq mi). The erotic sculptures were crafted by Chandella artisans. The temples, maintained by the locals, were pointed out to the English in the late 19th century when the jungles had taken a toll on the monuments. Today, the temples serve as fine examples of Indian architectural styles that have gained popularity due to their explicit depiction of sexual life during medieval times.You can see the erotic sculptures on Kandariya Mahadev Temple.

Architecture[edit]

Lakshmana temple at Khajuraho, a panchayatana temple. Two of the four secondary shrines can be seen. Another view
Devi Jagadambi Temple

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 tons.[4]

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

Chronology[edit]

The temples have been assigned the following historical sequence by Dr. Kanhaiyalal Agrawal.[5]

SequenceModern nameOriginal DeityNote
1Chausath Yogini64 YoginisEst. 9th century
2BrahmaBrahmaEastern group
3Lalgun MahadevShivaContemp to 2
4MatangeshwarShivaIn active worship
5VarahaVaraha
6LakshmanaVaikuntha VishnuLakshavarma Inscription
7ParshvanathAdinathPahil inscription 954 AD, Jain Compound
8VishvanathShivaDhanga inscription Sam 1059
9Devi JagadambiInitially Vishnu but currently Parvati
10ChitraguptaSurya
11Kandariya MahadevaShivaLargest
12VamanaVamanaEastern Group
13AdinathJinaJain compound
14JavariVishnuEastern group
15ChaturbhujaVishnuSouthern
16DuladeoShivaSouth end
17GhantaiJinaOnly some columns remaining

The Beejamandal temple is still under excavation. It has been identified with the Vaidyanath temple mentioned in the Grahpati Kokalla inscription.

Statues and carvings[edit]

The Khajuraho temples contain sexual or erotic art outside the temple or near the deities. Some of the temples that have two layers of walls have small erotic carvings on the outside of the inner wall. It has been suggested that these suggest tantric sexual practices. Some 10% of the carvings contain sexual themes and those reportedly do not depict deities but rather sexual activities between people. The rest depict the everyday life. For example, those depictions show women putting on makeup, musicians, potters, farmers, and other folk. The 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.[6]

Another perspective of these carvings is presented by James McConnachie. In his history of the Kamasutra,(KamaSutra Ebook Download) McConnachie describes the zesty 10% of the Khajuraho sculptures 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 belief a document which focuses on pleasure rather than procreation. That is, fertility is moot.[citation needed]

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.[7]

Between 950 and 1150, the Chandela monarchs built these temples when the Tantric tradition may have been accepted. In the days before the Mughal conquests, when boys lived in hermitages, following brahmacharya 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.[8]

While recording the television show Lost Worlds (History Channel) at Khajuraho, Alex Evans, a contemporary stonemason 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.[9] Roger Hopkins and Mark Lehner also conducted experiments to quarry limestone which took 12 quarrymen 22 days to quarry about 400 tons of stone.[10] These temples would have required hundreds of highly trained sculptors.

Tourism and cultural events[edit]

The Khajuraho temple complex offers a professional light and sound show every evening. The first show is in English language and the second one in Hindi. The show is about an hour long and covers the history, philosophy and the art of sculpting of these temples. It is held in the open lawns in the temple complex.

The Khajuraho Dance Festival, held every year in the first week of February (1st to 7th), is an opportunity for visitors to experience various classical Indian dances set against the backdrop of the Chitragupta or Vishwanath Temples.

The M P Tourism Development has set up kiosks at the Khajuraho railway station (which is 9 km away from the city), with helpful tourist officers to guide the travelers. The temples in Khajuraho are broadly divided into three parts : the Eastern group, the Southern Group and the Western group of temples of which the Western group alone has the facility of an Audio guided tour wherein the tourists are guided through the seven eight temples. There is also an audio guided tour developed by the Archaeological Survey of India which includes a narration of the historical data related to the temples.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Khajuraho
  2. ^ "Census of India 2001: Data from the 2001 Census, including cities, villages and towns (Provisional)". Census Commission of India. Archived from the original on 2004-06-16. Retrieved 2008-11-01. 
  3. ^ Falling Rain Genomics, Inc - Khajuraho
  4. ^ "Lost Worlds of the Kama Sutra" History channel
  5. ^ Khajuraho, Kanhaiyalal Agrawal, Macmillan India, 1980 (in Hindi)
  6. ^ "Khajuraho", liveindia.com
  7. ^ McConnachie, James (2005). The Book of Love, the Story of the Kamasutra. Metropolitan Press. pp. 46–47. 
  8. ^ Khajuraho
  9. ^ "Lost Worlds of the Kama Sutra," History Channel
  10. ^ Lehner, Mark, The Complete Pyramids, London: Thames and Hudson (1997) p. 202-225 ISBN 0-500-05084-8.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Khajuraho travel guide from Wikivoyage