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Verified Member MouthShut Verified Member  
Bangalore India
An architectural marvel!
Jun 19, 2021 10:07 AM 1358 Views
(Updated Jun 19, 2021 11:16 AM)


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I recently visited Panna National Park between Jun 12-Jun 17, 2021. On Jun 16, on the reopening of Khajuraho Temples post unlock, I also decided to pay that a visit, considering it is an acclaimed UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Being located in present day Chattarpur districts in Madhya Pradesh, The Khajuraho Temples date back to the Chandela Dynasty, who were responsible for the construction of the temples around 1000 AD or before. In between, Mahmud Ghazni had tried to attack the area during his raid of Kalinjar but his raid was unsuccessful. Later, I believe Qutub-Ud-Din Aibak also conquered this region. But no damage was done to these parts because of the same. Aurangzeb never eyeing this region also helped in keeping this site intact through time. The fact that it is built on a foundation of granite has helped protect it from natural disasters, over the centuries. Originally, a set of 85 temples, I think the count stands at 12 or so. It was situated in a date palm plantation area, initially. That's how it gets the name "Khajuraho".


I took a guided tour here, as I had little time and this is something I wasn't too familiar with. I think that worked out pretty well this time.

3 Main Temples:

1] The main 3 temples are - Lakshmana Burman temple of god Vishnu. It also has most of the earliest architecture intact. Then, there is a Shiva Temple, which is relatively more modern. Also, there is a Vishnu temple which is later converted to a Parvati temple. These 3 best describe the architecture works of Khajuraho.

A] The Lakshmana temple of god Vishnu is the one with most intricacies. There is a huge variety of carvings on the outside walls of the temple - Ranging from sexual acts with humans and animals, humans in various stages of their life and scenarios, war and preparation of war, gods, goddesses, demons, chamunda, dragon signifying conflict between mind and heart, various animals and their use.

The interior of the temple has a place for parikrama, with a place for dancers at the entrance followed by the pedestal for the main monument of the god. The temple walls are thick with multi-layers and a gap for air to flow in between, allowing for cooling. There is also a provision to dissipate heat by virtue of construction inside. You can feel the dissipating heat if you put your hand close to the construct.

Many of the god/goddess depictions are unique with multiple heads, limbs, rare combinations (combination of multiple gods and unknown variant depictions) and multiple lesser known vahanas also shown.

B] There is a Shiva temple where, in addition to recurring themes of the Lakshmana temple, addition of geometrical shapes, mesh like designs with alternating squares open/solid can be seen. Even blank portions are introduced in this monument, this structure being more modern. More depiction of normal human behaviour and happenings before wars and during wars.

Interior of the temple has a similar structure to Lakshmana temple, which is older. Here, instead of Parikrama, we have a place for Havan in front of the monument.

C] The 3rd main temple is that of Parvati, originally a Vishnu temple. The interior and most of exterior sculptures are similar. In addition to the mesh like designs introduced in the Shiva temple, it also has some floral designs/patterns.

Other Notable Things About The Temples:

2] Most temples here have a lotus like hollow formation at the top of the entrance to channel positive energy. Also most entrance archs have a depiction of crocodiles as the vahana of river goddess of Ganga for some kind of conveyance of blessings or positivity. There is a "Yaksh" shown carrying the weight of the temples on his shoulders in most temples.

3] Many of the temples have the 3 main gods Vishnu, Brahma and Shiva shown doing something over the entrance to the pedestal on which the idol is kept. It could also be a slightly different combination of gods sometimes.

4] Most of the temples have a cork like round structure at the top at places which aids in holding the entire structure together better.

5] The carvings are very fine and capture great materialistic and emotive detail unlike anything else I have seen. I found myself in awe of what I witnessed and in the throes of laughter or surprise at times.

6] Many of the sculptures are shown in stages. In sculpture 1, xyz is about to happen. In sculpture 2, xyz has already happened and the impact of that. In a 3rd sculpture, the subsequent or related event is shown. But not in all cases.

7] On the other hand, there is often no correlation between adjacent sculptures. One could be related to gods and goddesses. The next one could be some very explicit sexual act, shown to the last detail. All next to each other. I think the architects and sculptors were moody. Only god knows!

8] The erotic sculptures probably constitute something around 10 - 15% of all sculptures. The erotic sculptures pretty much cover every possibility / scenario that can be there. It could also serve as sex education to some. "Doggy Style" seems to be more popular with the sculptors who have carved out these works of art.

Makes you wonder if our ancestors of long ago may have been really open minded.

9] There is a lot of depiction of women with their backs turned, in addition to their front towards you as well, in the sculptures. It is not a dominant theme but is a recurring theme in most of the temples.

10] Many of the sculptures are testament to the fact that the people during those times were quite fashion savvy. Some sculptures even depict various dances like Salsa etc. Lot of the cultural and dressing nuances found all around the world in contemporary times were already present many years ago.

11] There is a Varaha temple to depict the Wild Boar like incarnation of Vishnu. It also has a depiction of Saraswati and Lakshmi and their vahanas, at the front, which is broken now.

12] Even though most of the structures are intact, some parts in between at some places have been subject to some breakage due to vandalism and looters probing, expecting to find hidden treasure.

13] These set of temples also boast the 2nd largest Shiv Ling in Madhya Pradesh in one of the Shiva temples. Much taller than me.

14] There is a sun god temple and another one whose top bodes influence of Hindu, Islam, Jain and Buddhist architecture.

15] All the elephants in the sculptures are looking straight ahead with the exception of 1 elephant. He appears to be looking sideways at an intimate scene between humans and laughing at it. Every now and then, while going through the carvings, you will come across something amusing like this.

16] It appears lions were quite important to the civilization who etched out these sculptures. I believe in olden times, the lion was also something like a more coveted / national animal in most of India's former kingdoms.

17] There are some gargoyle depictions inside some of the temples too.

18] One can also see remnants of the foundation of some of the temples kept aside near Lakshmana temple. You can see granite pieces among them.

19] All of this is situated amidst well maintained lawns with fair bit of greenery.

Cost: The entry fee is Rs. 40/- and if you go for the guided tour it could range between an additional Rs. 1000/- to 1600/- depending on the means by which / through whom you do this.

There are several souvenir shops etc just outside the temple site, for those in such.

To conclude: Fair bit of people had started visiting the site on June 16th, the first day of its opening post unlock. All in all, I thought it was a very good visit and in the end, I was left with a very satisfied feeling of having witnessed something special. I would rate my experience 4.5 to 5 / 5.

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