Khajuraho

by Nilutpal Gogoi
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Located in Chattarpur district of the Indian State of Madhya Pradesh, the Khajuraho temples are dedicated to physical love in various yogic postures thereby attaining supreme pleasure. Deemed as one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Khajuraho set of temples of the 9th and 10th centuries has been designated the epithet of ‘World Heritage Site’ by the UNESCO (United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization). An instance of the rich Indian cultural and historical heritage, the group of temples on this site also proclaims India’s architectural excellence and mysticism of the early centuries.

Khajuraho-town
Photo Credit: Ryan

 The ‘Khajuraho’ Nomenclature

The place now identified as Khajuraho has been mentioned in ancient Indian Sanskrit texts as ‘Kharjuravāhaka’. The roots of the word ‘Kharjuravāhaka’ has been traced to the Sanskrit roots khajura connoting date palm and vāhaka referring to any person who carries or transports items. Since a place is generally christened according to special characteristics of that region, therefore, the nomenclature amply suggests two things: First, the place might have been a potential region for date palms, Secondly, there might have been a flourishing export of the sweet and healthy fruit.

Khajuraho--temples
Photo Credit: ASIM CHAUDHURI

 Yoga-bhog, tantricism and Khajuraho

Constituting one of the fascinating creative wonders of the world, these temples represent the significant tantric philosophy of Hindu religion that converge yoga and bhog (Yoga-bhog) for the ultimate realization of the spirit of the Almighty.  Yoga refers to the process of unifying oneself with the Supreme Power of the universe and bhog justifies the union with the Lord through physical pleasures.

The Educational Angle: Apparently erotic in nature, these temples in the tantric tradition served an educational as well as a philosophical purpose. During those centuries only boys were educated in hermitages that were residential at the site and girls were trained at home to be able to perform the duties of womanhood in future. Irrespective of their domain or residence, both the genders at that impressionistic age had to strictly follow the Brahmacharya regimen — the first of the three stages in a person’s life according to the Hindu tradition. The pupils remain celibate and concentrate their efforts to the development of their mental acumen, attainment of expertise in warfare, and the full flowering of their physique by hard labor and exercises. This was the formative stage when the foundation was laid for the deciding phase of life known as Garhastya when a person starts earning, gets married, begets children and also sets the tone for the respective family. Once they complete their education they leave the Brahmacharya stage and are now qualified to enter manhood. The sculptures served as dedicated automatic visual tools on the means of attainment of physical and mental pleasures through lovemaking — a vital duty not only providing full pleasures to the persons concerned but also leading to the procreation of the human race. The silent and yet eloquently sensually evocative sculptures were also dedicatedly and every single second taking a silent and psychological trying test for the young boys at the even more challenging adolescent period to have control over their carnal desires and that too after viewing the erotic postures on the walls of the Khajuraho temples.

Finally, a person enters the life stage of Banaprashtha when s/he gains in age and takes sanyas or retirement from worldly activities and retires for life into the bana or forest. There, s/he dedicates the remaining part of her/his life to prayers and lives on alms given by other younger people.

The Philosophical Poser: Many ask a pertinent question: How can a religious place have such unambiguous and uncensored display of sex?

There are many temples in India that showcase lovemaking BUT not as a crass carnal cause! Mention may be made of another ancient Shakti and Tantric peeth (sacred spot) Madan Kamdev in the North East Indian State of Assam. In fact, these love-making statues may immediately raise one’s desires for sex but a continuous proximity with them will gradually and surely leave one highly gratified and relaxed and thus take one to that mental and psychological and aesthetic plane when one enters the temple and offers prayers at the sanctum sanctorum with a purely liberated psyche.  The society of the Chandela time was steeped in the tantric belief, and the rulers also believed in it. The royal patronage also helped in the furtherance of tantricism. No ruler would dare to flout the societal unwritten norms and rub the subjects on the wrong side, psychologically or ethically and aesthetically. The very fact that the Khajuraho group of temples was constructed over a century speaks volumes about the prevalence and popularity of tantricism.

The Kamasutra and Khajuraho

Kamasutra-Khajuraho
Photo Credit: So_P

The carvings and sculptures of copulation have close resemblances to the various postures described in the ancient Indian text popularly known worldwide as the Kamasutra. The world’s first treatise of human physical and psychological pleasures — Kamasutra — by sage Vatsayana also celebrates the tantric attainment of supreme bliss via yoga and bhog. That Hinduism — which is the most ancient documented philosophy on life, and not just a religion in the modern sense of the term — adopted a liberated but philosophically enervating insight towards ‘sex’ is celebrated in the famous and explicitly documented tome Kamasutra. Compiled by Vatsayana between the 3rd and the 5th centuries BC (the exact lifespan of the ancient learned mendicant is yet to be pinpointed), from a still ancient manuscript of 150 chapters which in turn had been already condensed from a text of one lakh chapters. It encompasses the lion’s share of all points on lovemaking. This ancient Oriental (typically Indian) research material was translated into English and taken to the Occidental world by Sir Richard Attenborough.

Chandelas: Tracing their Roots

The roots of the Chandelas — the creators of the Khajuraho set of temples — have been traced to the Bargujar Rajput (Hindu) community of the West Indian State of Rajasthan where the Great Indian Thar Desert is located. Some of the Bargujars shifted south-eastwards and settled in various places of Madhya Bharat (Central India).

The legend: There is an interesting story connected with the origin of the Chandela Dynasty and its link with Khajuraho. Popular belief among the Chandelas is that the first temple at Khajuraho was constructed by the founder of the Chandela Dynasty, Maharaja Chandravarman. His mother was Hemawati, the young and very beautiful daughter of a Brahmin cleric. As usual, she was bathing in the Rati River one evening. The moon God saw her. Enthralled by her beauty, the deity seduced her. The baby that was born out of this physical union between a divine entity and a mortal being was the boy child, Chandravarman. When the news of the unwed Hemawati becoming a mother spread among the people, she was oppressed as it was against the prevalent custom for a spinster to go nature’s way (become pregnant). The entire Brahmin family faced the extreme social threat of excommunication. Finally forced by circumstances, Hemawati along with her baby ran away from the village to take shelter in the forest of Madhya Bharat (Central India). Amidst the dense jungles, Hemawati all alone nursed her child and also performed the role of a teacher by grooming him to be an able leader. This boy matured to ultimately set up the great dynasty popularly known as that of the Chandelas. Now, here is the connection between the Chandelas and Khajuraho. Chandravarman set the Chandela kingdom on a firm footing. Once, he saw a dream when his deceased mother asked him to construct temples that would reveal human passions in order that the message permeates into the masses that desires are futile pursuits. Immediately afterwards, Maharaja Chandravarman began the mission of constructing the first such temple at Khajuraho. His descendent rulers kept on adding more structures with the same purpose over the following 200 years of the rule of the dynasty.

Researchers have pegged the starting period of the construction of the first of these structures at AD 950. Temples in the typical Chandela style of architecture continued to be added at the site till AD 1150.

The hoary days: In the ancient times, the Bargujars had their exclusive domain in the North East portion of Rajasthan then known as Dhundhar. In course of time, the ruling class of Dhundhar came to be identified as Dhundhela or Dhundhel. The Bargujars were followers of Lord Shiva and are credited to have constructed several temples including the fabulous Neelkanth Mahadev Temple having close resemblances in architectural style with the Shiva temple Baroli and also at the Sariska National Park. One of their impregnable citadels was the Kalinjar Fort (described in the earlier section of the itinerary). The Bargujars were vassals of the powerful Gurjara-Pratihara Dynasty who had their far-flung empire across Madhya Bharat (Central India) and large portions of Paschim Bharat (Western India) as well as in selected areas of Dakshin Bharat (South India) for almost eight centuries from AD 500 to AD 1300. Both the dynasties were patrons of art, culture and heritage.

Tenth Century Onwards: Much later in the 10th century AD, the ruling families of the Kashyap gotra of the Bargujars adopted the title of ‘Chandela’ and independently ruled the region up to the 12th century. The political capital of the Chandela Rajputs was Kalinjar. After AD 1150, they transferred their political headquarters to Mahoba. Nevertheless, Khajuraho remained their cultural capital for more than two centuries of their regime stretching even beyond the 12th century AD. Since the Chandela rulers never stayed at Khajuraho, we do not find any fort there.

 Discovery of Khajuraho

The Khajuraho temples were always revered and looked after by the local people. But it was not adequate enough to preserve them. Over the ages the extremes of tropical climate and inadequate preservation efforts had already taken a toll of several of those structures. The exquisite architectural marvels languishing uncared for (scientifically speaking) amidst the tropical jungles, were chanced upon by TS Butt — an engineer of the British Army, following vital inputs from the local populace and guides in the 19th century AD. The natural overgrowths had already destroyed several of the structures. He partially surveyed the area, and carried back the news of the exciting discovery to his superiors. Within a very short time, British General Cunningham arrived at the spot with adequate arrangements to study it. It was General Cunningham who declared to the Occidental world the existence of such a mystifying locale in the heart of the Indian sub-continent. At that time, he was carrying out the exploration for the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

Khajuraho always figures prominently in the itinerary of all tourists — Indian and foreigners.

Khajuraho-Architecture
Photo Credit: Ward & Karen Walker

 The Khajuraho Style of Architecture

Sponsored by the rulers of the Chandela Dynasty who had their sway over a significant region in Madhya Bharat (Central India) at that time, there were more than 85 temples there — constituting the largest set of temples (in both the Hindu and the Jain philosophies). The Khajuraho World Heritage Site including the ruins and the still extant temple structures extend over an area of approximately 20 square kilometers (eight square miles). Of them, only 35 survive today. The temples were made with sandstone without any mortar. The builders used the force of Earth’s gravity to put in place the huge stones. They applied the strategy of mortise and tenon joint to put together the mammoth stones. The architraves and columns were made up of megaliths some of which weighed more than 20 tons.

Here’s a comparative study of two instances to analyze the Herculean task and labor that went into the construction of these finely designed temples of the middle Ages. Prominent chroniclers Mark Lehner and Roger Hopkins undertook a practical test to extract approximately 400 tons of limestone. The exercise involved 12 laborers over 22 days. It is mentioned in The Complete Pyramids, written by Lehner and published in London by Thames and Hudson. Prominent sculptor and stonemason Alex Evans also carried out an exercise to form an idea of the immense sweat and sinewy endeavor that went into the designing of the Khajuraho temples. He did it during the recording of the ‘Lost Worlds of the Kama Sutra’ at Khajuraho — a part of the television serial ‘Lost Worlds’ telecast subsequently in the History Channel. Evans analyzed the tool marks and utilized forensic means to know of the modus operandi employed by the experts and the laborers while breathing eternal life to the sandstone carvings, sculptures and statues at Khajuraho. He further sculpted a similar figure of less than four feet in height. It took him 60 days! Judged by these modern standards, we have to salute the tireless efforts of several hundreds of expert sculptors to carve the hundreds of figures and figurines.

Carvings, Sculptures and Statues

Carvings-Sculptures-Statue
Photo Credit: Aaron Geddes

A misconception about the excellent medieval Khajuraho art as depicted on the temple walls is that all of them are erotic or sexually explicit. We also have a glimpse of the day-to-day life of the common people of that region in India during the medieval times. For instance, 90 per cent of the carvings, sculptures and statues illustrate various professions and also the mundane moods of the masses like peasants, potters, various artistes like dancers and musicians as well as women applying makeup. A point to be noted about such scenes is that there is always some space before they appear on temple walls and the places where the deities are depicted.

It is only the remaining 10 per cent of the carvings, sculptures and statues on the Khajuraho temple walls or beside the respective presiding deities that portray absolutely open sexual postures. There are also suggestions that the existence of double wall layers in some of the temples point to the probable prevalence of tantric sexual practices within those temples. Some of the sexual depictions lean on excesses or perversity like man-animal sex. One of the temple wall reliefs show a woman and a man masturbating on the either side of a couple enlocked in a sexual squeeze while another picturizes a male while having sex with the anus of the horse and another male having his organ licked by the same animal.

A section of researchers has come up with the premise that as the erotic scenes are on the walls of temples, the characters are deities. This view has come in for sharp criticism. The significant point is that none of the sexual themes and characters involves any deity.

Here is an important observation by eminent art critic James McConnachie in his critical tome entitled The Book of Love, the Story of the Kamasutra published by Metropolitan Press in 2005: “Twisting, broad-hipped and high breasted nymphs display their generously contoured and bejeweled bodies on exquisitely worked exterior wall panels. These fleshy apsaras run riot across the surface of the stone, putting on make-up, washing their hair, playing games, dancing, and endlessly knotting and unknotting their girdles….Beside the heavenly nymphs are serried ranks of griffins, guardian deities and, most notoriously, extravagantly interlocked maithunas, or lovemaking couples.” (pp. 46-47) McConnachie has described the miniscule set of eroticism in Khajuraho thus: It is the “apogee of erotic art.” 

To sum up the analyses, it is to be noted that the sculptures or the carvings or the statues were not placed randomly. Their placement, positioning and even the sacrosanct space left between two such works of art and also between two sets of creativity were with some purpose and with precision. For instance, the sexual depictions stress the superiority of the basic instincts on the course of action of all while the exquisitely designed ornamentation (alamkara) portrays the transcendence of creativity over the usual. The intricately structures yantras (diagrams having magical and symbolical connotations) were placed at particular spots as that position was the most appropriate to appease the malicious spirits. Basically, all the efforts of the artisans at Khajuraho focus more on the cult of fertility to attain bliss than on procreation as an end in itself. That is the reason why we see a fine attachment of the fertility motifs with the tantric magical tilt. Instead of focusing on just the erotic element, it is necessary that we examine the wonderful Khajuraho creations as an explanation of an esoteric life philosophy that still holds the key for the ultimate bliss.

The most stupendous temple having the most of erotic statues, carvings and sculptures in the Khajuraho group of structures is the Kandariya Mahadev temple which is 116 feet in height. The other significant temples at the spot (in an alphabetical order) are: the Adinath temple, the Chaturbhuj temple, the Chausath Yogini temple, the Duladeo temple, the Kandariya Mahadev temple, the Lakshman temple, the Matangeshwar temple, the Vamana temple, and the Varaha temple.

Reaching Khajuraho: The Means for the Ways

Khajuraho is well accessible by road, rail and also air. Let’s check them out:

Road: Khajuraho has road connections with Orchha, Jhansi and Agra. Please check out the following comparative chart on the distances among the main stoppages on this set of tour (shown in km): Khajuraho is located 625 km from Delhi via Agra, Gwalior, and Orchha. Between Agra and Khajuraho via Gwalior and Orchha, the distance is 416 km; between Gwalior and Khajuraho via Orchha it is 298 km; and the distance between Orchha and Khajuraho — the final stop in this set of itinerary — is just 178 km.

Rail: Satra and Jhansi, a principal rail junction in Central India, are the nearest rail stations. Several superfast trains have stoppages at these two train stations. You can also seek aid of the tourist officers at the kiosks of the MPTDC (Madhya Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation).

The M P Tourism Development has set up kiosks at the Railway Station (which is 9 km away from the city), with helpful tourist officers to guide the travelers.

Air: The Khajuraho airport have direct flights to and from Delhi, Agra, Varanasi, Gwalior and the principal tourist destination spots in the state of Madhya Pradesh.

TOURING TIME: The most ideal time to visit Khajuraho is in the wintry months especially the period from the last part of October to early March.

MUST ENJOY: Evening and night life in Khajuraho is something typical. You must enjoy the evening-time sound and light programs as well as the world famous Khajuraho Dance Festival — both at the Khajuraho Temple complex; besides the traditional dance performances organized on the open-air theatre in the Shilpgram each night. The Shilpgrams across the countries are state government managed venues for showcasing and sale of the traditional arts, crafts, costumes and of course cuisines. At several shilpgrams, you can also explore the manner in which the artisans weave or carry out their varied professions involving handicrafts and weaving among others.

. The sound and light show recreates the glorious political history, and also sheds light on the romance, art, philosophy, culture and heritage of Khajuraho. These bilingual (separately arranged in English and Hindi) shows are an integral part of the tourists’ itinerary. These hour long shows are held on the well-manicured and arranged lawns of the Khajuraho complex under the open sky. The entrance fee for the sound-and-light shows are Rs. 250.00 for each foreign tourist and Rs. 75.00 for an Indian visitor. During the summer months from March to October, the one-hour English show starts at 7:30 p.m. while the Hindi version commences at 8:45 p.m. On the other hand, the timings are advanced by an hour in each instance during the wintry months from November to February (i.e., from 6:30 p.m. for the English show and 7:45 p.m.)

Schedule your tour of this World Heritage Site to coincide with the world famous Khajuraho Dance Festival organized in the first week of February. This dance extravaganza showcasing Indian classical dance forms usually commences in the evening of the first day of February and is regularly held during the same timings till the seventh day of the month. The natural backdrop of the dance fest is the Vishwanath or Chitragupta Temple.

Communication in Khajuraho

Though there are rickshaws, auto-rickshaws, and tempos to move around in Khajuraho, the best means to travel around this heritage site is to take on rent a bicycle from any of the many cycle rent shops situated just opposite the premises of the western set of temples. Besides being a healthy exercise and practical, cycling can be done at a rather down-to-earth cheap price. Stop wherever you want, park it conveniently and above all, it is user friendly.

Gourmets’ Guide

There are several restaurants at Khajuraho. You can have your choice of cuisine from the list of varieties that they offer. Even the hotels have their in-house restaurants with typical specialties and, of course bars.

 Shopping Spree

Go for the typical clothing with the characteristic Khajuraho motifs. Varieties of Indian wear are also on offer at the stalls in Khajuraho. Textile weaving is a specialty of this place. Among the popular mementoes are stone-carved miniature replicas of erotic sculptures and the varieties of handicrafts from across Madhya Pradesh that is sold at the many outlets. The principal shopping hub is near Gole Market opposite the temple complex. Two modern hang-outs are the City Center and the Oswal Complex.

 Accommodation in Khajuraho

Accommodation is not a problem in Khajuraho as you can avail of the hotels in the three-star category and also the ones in the economy range. They range from the economical ones starting from Rs. 800 for a night stay; and also another range of hotels in the Rs. 801-Rs.1200 budget bracket and yet another set of hotels in the Rs.1200-Rs 2500 range. If you are looking out for a pool, net facilities and a bar then opt for the other group of deluxe hotels. There you need to cough up Rs. 2500 and above for a deluxe room. Well, there are also the luxury hotels offering their customers day-and-night coffee shops, health clubs, and discotheques. Their range is between Rs. 4,000 and Rs. 7,500.

You can plan the detours from your hotel in Jhansi as it often becomes difficult accommodation in some of the locales without prior intimation in the State Government-run lodges. For instance, accommodation is limited in the tourist bungalows managed by the MPSTDC (Madhya Pradesh State Tourism Development Corporation) at Khajuraho. You can also go for online booking of accommodation. At a few places, you can avail of group accommodation at customer-friendly ranges. The lodges are so dovetailed that you can go for cooking your own meal at the well-equipped kitchens. If you are of the adventurous type, you can also opt for the dharamshalas. Many of these lodges owned by charitable institutions or non-governmental organizations (NGOs), offer both food and accommodation at market prices.

  The Tourist Destination Spots

Based on their locations, the Khajuraho temples have been broadly subdivided into the following three groups:

(a)    The Eastern Group;

(b)   The Western Group; and

(c)    The Southern Group

Let’s take a quick tour of the World Heritage Site as depicted above:

THE EASTERN GROUP OF TEMPLES

The eastern set of the Khajuraho temples is constituted of the following five exquisitely carved temples: The Brahma temple, the Hanuman temple, the Ghantai temple, the Parsvanath temple and the Shantinath temple.

THE BRAHMA TEMPLE: This granite and sandstone structure is so named due to the well-chiseled image of Lord Brahma that is enshrined on the temple wall. The body of the temple is made of hard granite while its peak known as shikhara is built of sandstone.

THE HANUMAN TEMPLE: Singled out by the mammoth eight-foot tall statue of the monkey-faced Hindu God, Lord Hanuman, this temple is one of the oldest structures in Khajuraho.

THE GHANTAI TEMPLE: A Jain temple, its prime attraction is the quite arresting frieze. There is a wonderful sculpture of a Jain goddess on a garuda with wings as well as the 16 visions of Lord Mahavira’s mother.

THE PARSVANATH TEMPLE: The largest of the several Jain temples in Khajuraho, the image of Parsvanath (after which it is now known as) was mounted only at a much later period — AD 1860. One of the most capturing artisanship within the temple is the gorgeous throne facing a bull: one of the emblems of Lord Adinath, the First Jain Tirthankara. Another captivating aspect of the structure of this temple is made up of the intricately detailed sculptures — especially the ones on its northern wall.

THE SHANTINATH TEMPLE: Marked by the gigantic statue of Adinath (the first Jain Tirthankara — the Enlightened One), this temple is the youngest structure in Khajuraho. It dates back to just 100 years. There are several well-crafted figures of yakshis (mythological figures of the Hindus).

 THE WESTERN GROUP OF TEMPLES

You can avail of the audio guided tour of the ASI (Archaeological Survey of India) while visiting structures. It is worth mentioning that such a facility is available only with this set of the Khajuraho temples. The western group of the Khajuraho temples has the following five finely crafted temples: The Chaunsat Yogini temple, the Chitragupta temple, the Kandariya Mahadeo temple, the Lakshmana temple, and the Matangeswara Temple. Let’s have a quick look at them:

THE CHAUNSAT YOGINI TEMPLE: Estimated to have been constructed in AD 900, the Chaunsat Yogini Temple is the earliest surviving structure in Khajuraho today. The sole shrine made of only granite, it is dedicated to Hindu Goddess Kali, one of the violent forms of Goddess Parvati, the consort of Lord Shiva — the preserver and the destroyer of the universe. There is another temple dedicated to the same deity. Known as the Devi Jagdambe Temple, it was initially dedicated to Lord Vishnu.

THE CHITRAGUPTA TEMPLE: Dedicated to Lord Surya, the Hindu Sun God, the Chitragupta temple has two grandiose entrances with the northern flight of steps being flanked by finely crafted sculptures of lions on its either sides; and the southern stair by equally exquisitely carved statues of pachyderms. The well-embellished fabulous image of the presiding deity — looming five-feet high — driving his stately chariot located within the sanctum sanctorum, will definitely overwhelm you. The most imposing among the many carvings, statutes and sculptures on the temple walls is that of Lord Brahma, the three-headed Hindu God on the front face.

THE KANDARIYA MAHDEO TEMPLE: Noted for its grandiose architecture, the Kandariya Mahadeo temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Situated right at the center of the western set of the temples, the shrine top soars 31 meter above the base. More than 800 carvings, sculptures and statues decorate the structure. It would be ideal for you to take a guide while touring this magnificent creation in order that you know about the figures etched on the temple walls. Tough the compositions are highly intricate, they are blended harmoniously. The grandest and the largest of all the Khajuraho temples, the Kandariya Mahadeo temple towers over the surroundings.  The most arresting aspects of the temple are the intricately carved arches at the entrance to the inner chambers as well their pillars and ceilings.

THE LAKSHMANA TEMPLE: A Vaishnavite shrine, it is dedicated to the Hindu Trinity of Lord Shiva, Lord Brahma, and Lord Vishnu. The exquisitely designed images of the Trinity as well as of Goddess Lakshmi — the Hindu deity of prosperity — are etched on the protruding lintel over the entrance. The interior walls of the temple are equally well decorated.

THE MATANGESWARA TEMPLE: A popular pilgrimage spot, the sanctum sanctorum of this Shaivite shrine houses an eight-feet-high lingam.

You can also visit the open air archeological museum located to the south of the Matangeswara Temple. There are friezes and statues recovered from the remnants of the shrines that have vanished from the site.

 THE SOUTHERN GROUP OF TEMPLES

The following two finely designed Khajuraho temples constitute the southern bracket — The Chatturbhuj temple, and the Dulah Deo temple.

Let us check them out:

THE CHATTURBHUJ TEMPLE: Actually this complex is made up of a pair of shrines. Situated almost three kilometers from the Khajuraho town, the one dedicated to Bhagwan Chatturbhuj enshrines an 11-ft high statue of the presiding deity (Lord Vishnu). The extremely calm transcendental visage of the statute is worth noting. The other temple located a few yards away is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Its sanctum sanctorum has a marble lingam.

THE DULAH DEO TEMPLE: Also known as the Kunwar Math, the Dulah Deo temple is among the finest structures of Khajuraho. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the shrine is remarkable for the ornamentation on its walls, both outside and inside the structure. One can really gape at the dexterity with which the crafts persons carved the images including those of the flying sorcerers, both singly as well with their consorts.

Temple Chronology

Eminent researcher and chronicler Dr. Kanhaiyalal Agarwal in his research tome in Hindi entitled Khajuraho published by Macmillan India in 1980 has assigned the following sequence (arranged here in a descending order) to the seventeen of the excavated medieval mandirs at the World Heritage Site. Excavation was still on at the shrine of Beejamandal at the site when the book was under print. He, however, refers to the Grahpati Kokalla inscription, and claims that the Beejamandal Temple is the same as the Vaidyanath Temple mentioned in that dedication.

SL MODERN NAME THE PRESIDING DEITY OBSERVATIONS
17 The Ghantai Temple Jina Only some columns of the structure remain intact.
16 The Dulhadeo Temple Shiva The structure is at the south end of the Khajuraho site.
15 The Chatturbhuja Temple Vishnu It belongs to the southern group
14 The Jawari Temple Vishnu It is included to the eastern group
13 The Adinath Temple Jina The mandir is located on the compound of the Jain Temples.
12 The Vamana Temple Vamana This shrine is of the temples in the eastern group of structures in Khajuraho.
11 The Kandariya Mahadeva Temple Shiva This is the largest temple in Khajuraho.
10 The Chitragupta Temple Surya
9 The Devi Jagadambi Temple At first Vishnu but now Parvati
8 The Vishvanath Temple Shiva We find its mention in the Dhanga inscription (Sam 1059).
7 The Parshvanath Temple Adinath Located on the Jain Compound, it has mention in the Pahil inscription 954 AD.
6 The Lakshmana Temple Vaikuntha Vishnu The Lakshavarma Inscription mentions it.
5 The Varaha Temple Varaha
4 The Matangeshwar Temple Shiva Devotees offer daily prayers here.
3 The Lalgun Mahadev Temple Shiva This temple is contemporary to the Brahma Temple (No 2 below).
2 The Brahma Temple Brahma It is included in the eastern group of Khajuraho temples.
1 The Chausath Yogini Temple 64 Yoginis It was set up in the ninth century.

The Six Definite Detours

From your lodging at Khajuraho, plan your indulgence in the following six detours — all located within a radius of maximum 64 km from the World Heritage Site. They are (in an alphabetical order): the Dhubela Museum; the Ken Gharial Sanctuary; Lake Outings; the Pandava Waterfalls, the Panna National Park and the Raneh Waterfalls. Here is a snapshot of these popular tourist destination spots:

Dhubela Museum: A treasure trove of not only the traditional but also some of the rarest of the Bundelkhand artifacts, this fort-turned museum is located on the banks of a picturesque lake just 64 km away from Khajuraho. The Dhubela Museum also has a rich collection of varied statuettes of the Shakti cult of Hinduism. Buses regularly ply on the Khajuraho- Jhansi road along which lies this museum.

Ken Gharial Sanctuary: One of the exotic habitats of the rare species of crocodile that eats fish, the Ken Gharial Sanctuary is just 24 km from Khajuraho. Located at the spot where the two rivers — Khuda and Ken — converge, this eco-tourism spot is in the Chattarpur district of Madhya Pradesh. You can avail of the taxis and auto rickshaws that run between Khajuraho and the scenic wildlife protection zone. Besides the gharial that grows to a length of six meters, this insulated wild land is also home to many other genus and species of flora and fauna including the blue bull, chinkara, Chital, peacock and the wild boar.

Lake Outings: Why not plan a half-day picnic trip to this exotic spot on the banks of Lake Benisagar located just 11 km from Khajuraho? There is another picturesque idyllic picnic spot some 14 km from Lake Benisagar (and 25 km from Khajuraho). That location is on the banks of Lake Rengaun. You can go boating at both the lakes.

Pandava Waterfalls: Christened after the Pandava siblings, this picturesque heritage location having mythical allusions is 30 km away from Khajuraho. Communication is not an issue as auto rickshaws and cabs are readily available from Khajuraho. Situated on River Ken flowing in a valley that is bowl-shaped, the popular belief is that the five brothers of the exiled Pandavas of the Mahabharata epic-fame had strategic discussions among themselves there.

Panna National Park: The varied topography added to the scenic splendor and the varied flora and fauna have always made Panna National Park one of the most sought after tourist destination spots in the Khajuraho itinerary. Located 32 km from Khajuraho, it takes hardly 30 minutes

Raneh Waterfalls: Known especially for the many colored but primarily pink-tinged huge canyon, the depth of this rocky rift is 100 feet while it is five kilometer in length. The ravine is made of naturally formed unadulterated granite crystals.

The areas around Raneh waterfalls constitute a popular picnic location. During the rainy season, many waterfalls appear in the surrounding forest areas. Located score of kilometer from the UNESCO recognized world Heritage Site of Khajuraho, auto rickshaws and cabs ply regularly on the 20 km stretch between Khajuraho and this site.

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