“They truly are the Temples of Love”, commented a guy standing at the main entrance. The naughty grin evident on his face clearly defined the thought process that he held the famed temples with..
It was with the hope of busting this very myth that I set my foot into the famed ‘Western group of temples’. And what a sight it was!! Coming face to face with the stunning marvels of ancient Hindu architecture was certainly a ‘wow’ experience..
It was interesting to know that the current 20 temples, spread around an area of around 6 sq kms, were, by the 12th century, a part of an 85 temple group spread around an area of close to 20sq kms!!
Such was the aura, that it wasn’t difficult to understand why these group of monuments were designated as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India in 1986..
Built between 950AD and 1050AD by the erstwhile rulers of the Chandela dynasty, these temples are basically dedicated to two religions – Hinduism and Jainism. On the basis of geographical location, another division is made – Western, Eastern and Southern group.
My stroll inside the Western group of temples , considered to be the most important amongst the three groups, turned out be a soul stirring moment..Every few steps, a new temple and a new set of emotions..
For an average eye, every templey may look similar. Similar, if you take into account the common use of sandstone in all of them. Similar in the view that each one of them has been devoted to a Hindu deity. A tinch of similarity is expected, as most of the temples were under construction simultaneously, during the late 10th century..
But each temple, in its own way, was vastly different from another. Each one had its own story to narrate, its own magic to unleash. The temples were indeed devoted to a Hindu deity, but not to a common one. It’s because the temples belong to two sect of Hinduism – Vaishnavism & Shaivism. Therefore, certain temples were dedicated to Lord Shiva (6), some to Lord Visnu (8), Ganesha (1) and Sun God (1). Three temples, located in the south and south eastern groups, were dedicated to noted Jain teerthankars..
I came to know that the temples were in active use till the late 12th century. Things came to an abrupt end in the 13th century, when the army of the newly formed Delhi Sultanate, under the command of Qutubuddin Aibak, attacked the Chandela kingdom, that left the temples in neglect. It was only in the early 1800’s that a British officer, TS Burt, found about these majestic temples, which led to their restoration.
As I walked around the compound, I just couldn’t resist myself from getting awe struck by the largest and probably the most famous of all the temples in the compound, the Kandariya Mahadev temple. The structure, close to 110ft high, is built in a steep mountain form, resembling Mt Meru which in Hindu mythology is the source of world’s creation!!
I was simply spell bounded by the beautifully sculpted figures of the temple, which are more than 850 in number..It is this temple that houses the most famous erotic sculptures that define the temples identity to many..
I can say one thing for sure..The Western group of temples is an experience that’s hard to describe in words..One temple after another, the magic unfolds..All the temples, be it the grander ones like the Matangeshvara temple, Lakshmana temple,Vishvanath temple, or the relatively smaller ones like the Varaha, seem to be blended in such a harmony that each one stands out in its own way, and radiates a cosmic energy that stays on with you even after you move out of the complex…..
I was told that the Western group is what people come to see at Khajuraho. But I could not control my ever inquisitive mind to explore a bit more, go a bit farther..N boy.. I’m glad I made the right decision..
The temples of the Eastern and Southern groups are scattered and not encircled like the Western group. It took me around 10 min to reach the Eastern group, which is dominated by the Jain temples. The Parasvanath temple is the jewel of this group, simply on the virtue of its grandeur and elegance.
When I talk about the Southern group, the highlight was the exquisite 9 feet long statue of four handed Lord Vishnu of the Chaturbhuj temple. It was a masterpiece. I could not move my eyes away from it. Such is the artistry that it seemed the statue may come to life anytime!!! There’s another feature that sets the Chaturbhuj temple apart from all the other temples. It is the only temple that doesn’t face sunrise!!
By the time I completed my rendezvous with the temples, my belief was stronger than before. Khajuraho is not about just erotica..It’s about getting yourself submerged into the poetry of stones..It’s about the sweat and perseverance of the master artists who made these stones erupt with emotions..It’s about the exquisite carvings that have stood against the sands of time..N its surely about the most beautiful form of the medieval Hindu architecture that keeps reminding us about the rich heritage that we have inherited…….
If you are still not convinced, read this….
LESS THAN 10% OF THE TOTAL CARVINGS IN ALL OF KHAJURAHO DEPICT SEXUAL THEMES!!!!!!!!