The fascinating temples of Khajuraho, were built between 950 and 1050 A.D. Khajuraho derives its name from the Khajur tree (the date palm tree) which can be found in abundance in the area. The divine sculptures in these temples depict the life and times of the Chandelas, and celebrate the erotic state of being. They not only testify to the mastery of the craftsman, but also to the extraordinary breadth of vision of the Chandela Rajputs under whose reign, these temples were constructed.
However, with the decline of the Chandela empire, these magnificent temples lay vulnerable to the ravages of time till it was rediscovered in the present century.
Originally there were 85 temples, of which only 22 still exist. Their style of architecture was also rather peculiar to their times. The three main compartments are the entrance (ardhamandapa), assembly hall (mandapa), and the actual sanctum (garbha griha). The temples are grouped into three geographical divisions: western, eastern and southern.
Western Group of Temples includes:
Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the kandariya temple soars 31 m high. The sanctum enshrines a lingam (symbol of Shiva), while the main shrine is ornately carved and depicts various gods, goddesses, apsaras (heavenly maidens) in elaborate detail.
The oldest surviving temple in the group (900 A.D.), this is the sole granite temple dedicated to Goddess Kali. Another Kali temple, which was originally dedicated to Lord Vishnu, is the Devi Jagdambe temple.
Dedicated to the sun-god, Surya, this temple faces eastwards to the rising sun. The inner sanctum boasts of an impressive image of the presiding deity - the majestic sun-god looming 5 feet high, and driving a chariot. The other group scenes depict royal processions, group dances and other scenes of sheer luxury, typical of the Chandela court-life.
The temple enshrines a three-headed image of Lord Brahma. Lions guard the northern entrance to the structure, while elephants flank the southern flight of steps that lead up to it. A Nandi bull faces the shrine.
The lintel over the entrance of this temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu, shows the holy trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva with Goddess Lakshmi, Vishnu's consort. The sanctum is adorned with a three-headed idol of Vishnu's incarnations, Narasimha and Varaha. The latter, the boar incarnation also appears as a nine-feet high statue at the Varaha Temple.
This temple, which happens to be outside the precincts of the western group, is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It boasts of an eight feet high lingam.
Eastern Group of Temples includes:
The largest in the group of three Jain temples, the Parsavanath image in this temple, was installed in 1860. The sculptures on the northern wall depict everyday activity, in awesome detail. Within the temple, a throne faces the bull emblem of first tirthankara, Adinath.
This Jain temple has a frieze depicting the 16 dreams of Mahavira's mother, and a Jain goddess perched on a winged Garuda. Adinatha Temple - Khajuraho
The last of the Jain temples, is dedicated to the Jain saint, Adinatha, and is gorgeously adorned with sculptures of yakshis among others.
Southern Group of Temples includes:
Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the highlights of this temple are the sensuous images of the apsaras, and other exquisite sculptures.
This temple sports a huge, elaborately carved image of Vishnu in the sanctum.
Places to visit around Khajuraho
Benisagar Lake (11 km) - This picnic spot and a dam of the Khudar river is an ideal place for boating and angling.
Pandav Waterfall (30 km) - The Pandavas of the Mahabharata are believed to have spent a part of their exile here and hence the name Pandav Waterfall.
Ranch Waterfalls (20 km) - the lovely Waterfalls on the Ken river are famous for its rock formations.
Rajgarh Palace (25 km) - More than 150 years old, this palace nestles at the foot of the Manjyagarh hills.
Dhubela Museum (64 km) - The museum is located in an old fort, on the Jhansi-Khajuraho road houses the personal effects of Chhatrasal and other Bundela rulers.
Ajaygarh Fort (80 km) - The magnificent fort, built at a height of 688 meters, was the capital of the Chandelas during their decline.
Kalinjar Fort (100 km) - This fort was built during the Gupta period and captured by Shri Yashovarman, the Chandela king, in the 10th century.
Panna National Park
Panna National Park (40 km) - It is spread over 546 sq. km along the east bank of the river Ken. Dense forest cover, rocky gorges and waterfalls make for ideal wildlife watching.