Madhya Pradesh - The heart of India is undoubtedly a treasure trove of historical, cultural and religious emblems that have borne the brunt of thousands of years of invasions, plundering, storms, floods and other merciless tormentors both natural and man-made. One such spectacular place in Madhya Pradesh
that showcases the very zenith of local ingenuity and rich taste in craftsmanship is the temple town of Khajuraho.
When one talks about classic Indian workmanship, Khajuraho is a name that usually comes out at the tip of the tongue. The temples have long been renowned world over for their fantastical architecture, erotica and exquisite sculptures. Let us now take a detailed look into what made Khajuraho one of the ‘Seven Wonders of India’ and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site!
Glimpse Into The Past!
Construction of the temples goes back in time to 950 - 1050 AD under the rule of the Chandela Dynasty. According to legends, thousands of years ago, there was a royal priest of Kashi who had a beautiful daughter. Once while bathing on a full moon night in a pond full of lotuses, the moon god sighted her and was so captivated by her beauty that he instantly fell in love with her. From their union, a son was born, who was raised in the forests of Khajuraho as per the wishes of the moon god.
The son grew up to be a king, founded the Chandela dynasty and built a temple in the forest. As the Chandela lineage prospered, more and more temples were added to the existing ones. With the increase in the number of invaders and the fall of the Chandela Dynasty, the temples were pillaged, some were destroyed and with the passage of time, all of them were reclaimed by the forests of Khajuraho, until their re-discovery in the early 19th Century. There are a number of variations to this story and no one can exactly point a finger on the one that is most accurate.
The Name Says It All!
The name Khajuraho literally translates into ‘Date Palm Bearing’. This also has two stories behind it one says that the whole area was covered by a date palm tree forest and thus the name, while according to the second one the rulers built a wall around the temple complex. At each gate on the wall, there were two golden date palm trees giving a grander look to the entrance of the temples. Though no one knows for sure which story is authentic, what is for sure is that the name stuck on and became synonymous with these Hindu and Jain temples.
It’s More Than Just Kamasutra!
Yup! Sorry to burst your bubble, but contrary to popular belief the Khajuraho temples aren’t all about intertwined couples, erotic sculptures and gymnasts in action (pun intended)! All those hardly account for only 10 percent of the total sculptures in Khajuraho! In fact, instead of glorifying or over stressing on sex, it is on the other hand shown as a very normal part of life. The sculptures depict everyday life and the importance of sexual practices in a normal household. And no, cosmic deities are not shown indulging in it, but simply normal human beings showing their very humane desires and expressions in typical Kamasutric manner.
So What Exactly Is It?
Khajurhao temples are Hindu and Jain Temples, mostly made of sandstone, planned and constructed very carefully according to the ancient Hindu architectural design of Vastu-purusha-mandala. Though a number of temples existed back in time only 20 have withstood the turmoil of the time. Out of the ones that are still standing a few are dedicated to Lord Shiva & his consorts, Vishnu & his avatars, Ganesha, the Sun God and some to Jain Tirthankars.
The splendid sculptures in the temples portray scenes from the everyday life of men and women of those ages busy in their usual practices and daily chores. Such is the precision and skills of the workers that the sculptures are bound to leave first-time visitors speechless with disbelief and awe!
Khajurao - Now!
Currently, the temple complex is divided into 3 different regions, namely the Eastern, Western and the Southern sides. The most astounding of these surviving temples which will probably spellbind you with their majestic carvings and scintillating architecture are the Lakshmana Temple, Devi Jagadamba Temple, Chitragupta Temple, Kandariya Mahadeva Temple, Parsvanath Temple, Brahma Temple and Chaunsat Yogini.
MP Tourism and ASI have included the options of availing audio guides for some of the temples while others can be seen with the help of an actual guide. Also, not to be missed out on is the Light and Sound show which takes place every evening. It takes place on the Western side of the complex and colorful lights and lasers are strewn all over the complex. A detailed and entertaining narration in both English and Hindi keeps the visitors intrigued and glued to the performance for a solid hour.
What Khajuraho Holds For Us?
Khajuraho is one of the greatest accomplishments of the Indian civilization in its long and glorious history. The sculptures give a glimpse into the life, culture and society make-up of the people of the past. It shows us how society functioned freely, how all ideas were openly accepted & debated and especially how sexuality was unbridled and not a topic of taboo.
The contents of the Khajuraho temple complex shouldn’t be merely labeled as Erotica but should be the basis of motivating us as a society to break all boundaries, daring to think outside the box and feel free to express our passions and desires. A visit to Khajuraho is the eye opener that we all require, it is a gift from our ancestors to us, and we should cherish and treat it like one.
Khajuraho Dance Festival!
The Khajuraho Dance Festival is a major weeklong dancing extravaganza that is held each year in February and gives everyone a chance to gaze and admire at the various classical dance forms from various regions of India. The icing on the cake is that all of these graceful performances are featured in the backdrop of majestically lit Khajuraho temples! Numerous artists and performers of International fame are regularly featured here and they pay tribute to the gods and celestial beings of Hinduism, who used to be wonderful performers themselves.
In the course of its splendid history, Khajuraho Dance Festival has seen famous personalities giving a glimpse of their surreal talent to a crowd of bewitched onlookers. Few of the most popular names that have graced the festival are Madhumita Roy, Madhuri Majumdar, Methil Devika, Madhu Natraj, Danial Freddy, Sukant Kumar Acharya, Rajendra Gagani, Anita Guha, Ranjana Gauhar and many-many more! The list is endless! Dance forms like Odissi, Bharatnatyam, Kathak, Kuchipudi, Saraikela and Mohiniattam tantalize the viewers and make them feel as if they were watching a divine performance in the court of Lord Indra himself!
This is one treat that you can’t even dream of missing out on!
This article is a part of series by TripHobo on Madhya Pradesh Tourism. Read More articles here