Khajuraho – Famous for Erotic Art on Temple Walls
Khajuraho nestled within Vindhya mountain range is about 175 kilometers southeast of Jhansi, in Madhya Pradesh, India. It is famous for its Hindu and Jain temples; and is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India. The temples are famous for their detailed Nagara-style architectural symbolism and thousands of erotic sculptures. The temple’s erotic statues covering around 10% of temple walls and art works, are made of sandstone sourced from local quarries. Khajuraho got its name from Kharjuravāhaka, a mix of Sanskrit words kharjura meaning date palm, and vāhaka, meaning "one who carries" or bearer.
Most temples in Khajuraho were built between 950 and 1050 AD by Chandela dynasty rulers. Its said that Khajuraho once had 85 temples by 12th century; however, now only 21 temples remain. Presiding deity of most temples is Shiva and Vishnu. While Chausath Yogini, Lalgun Mahadev, Brahma, Lakshmana, Varaha, Mahishasuramardini, Vishvanatha, Matangeshwar, Vishnu-Garuda, Ganesha, Devi Jagadambi, Chitragupta, Kandariya Mahadeva, Vamana, Javeri, Chaturbhuja, and Duladeo temple are dedicated to Hinduism; Parshvanatha, Adinath, Shantinatha, and Ghantai temple are dedicated to Jainism. Beejamandal and Chattarbhuj temples are also worth visiting.
Kandariya Mahadeva temple, the most famous and largest temple was built during reign of King Ganda from 1017-1029 AD. The temple is decorated with a profusion of intricately designed sculptures that symbolizes finesse of ancient Indian art. Most Khajuraho temples were built during reign of Chandela Kings namely Yashovarman and Dhanga. While Yashovarman's legacy is best exhibited by Lakshmana temple, Vishvanath temple highlights King Dhanga's reign. The temple deities were regularly worshipped till end of 12th century, but after Sultan Qutb-ud-din Aibak, ruler of Delhi Sultanate, attacked and annexed Chandela kingdom in 13th century, many temples were destroyed and surviving temples fell into disuse. Overtimes forest engulfed these temples and were only rediscovered in 1838 by TS Burt, an East India Company officer.
Khajuraho temples can be divided into western, eastern and southern groups. Each temple is uniquely designed and depicts royalty, war, meditation, courtship, army, union, wrestling, kinship, marriage, dancing, lovemaking, music, spiritual teaching, bliss, gods/goddess, animals and plants through sandstone made human figurines. Another unique thing about these temples is granite foundation that is almost concealed from view. Architects and masons who built Khajuraho temples didn't use mortar anywhere: instead stones were put together with mortise and tenon joints and were held in place by gravity. This construction technique required very precise joints, this tells about capability and technical prowess of temple builders during that time. Even columns and architraves of most Khajuraho temples were built using megalithic rocks that weighed up to 20 tons.
Some Khajuraho temples have two layers of walls with intricate erotic carvings on outside of inner walls. According to some scholars, these erotic sculptures were built in reference to tantric sexual practices. Well connected by roads, railways and air with all major cities of India; Khajuraho has numerous budget and luxury hotels, lodges for people to stay as per their budget. Numerous restaurants in the city serve not just local delicacies but also North Indian, South Indian, Chinese, and Punjabi cuisine. A few restaurants also serve European cuisine keeping in mind food choices of western tourists. A couple of bars and wine shops allow people to enjoy their drinks. Best time to visit Khajuraho is from October to March. Several tourist agencies with registered guides regularly conduct guided tours of the temples.
Besides visiting Khajuraho, tourists can visit Bandavgarh National Park and Panna National Park famous for their tigers. Tourists can also visit Beni Sagar dam, Ranguan lake, Gangau dam; as well as Nachna, Orchha, Raneh waterfalls, Ajaygarh fort, Chitrakote, Kalinjar fort, and Pandav waterfalls. Tourist can also visit Majhgavan Panna diamond mines; India's only working diamond mine. Adventure seekers can go on Ken Nature Trail as also day-long bike tours. The state government organizes Khajuraho Dance Festival every year in February; besides a light and sound show every evening. Tourists can also visit Tribal and Folk-Art museum, Archaeological museum, Dhubela museum and Jain museum. Couple of spas and yoga centers allow tourists to rejuvenate themselves. Tourists can buy iron, brass and sandstone sculptures and gold and silver ornaments from local market.