The word 'erotic' and the place 'Khajuraho' sell and gel so well together that the next word that you hear after Khajuraho is erotic. How apt is this with respect to the wonderful sculptures on the magnificent temples built by Chandelas? Are there erotic sculptures? Yes, there are. Are there only erotic sculptures? No, there are others too. But sex sells and sells big, when beautifully packaged like in Khajuraho. Regardless of what they portray, they are so synonymous with each other.
Khajuraho was the capital of the Chandela kingdom during the 9th and 10th century and was a celebrated temple town until it went into oblivion sometime during the 16th century. It was not until the 19th century that it was rediscovered by the British engineer, T.S. Burt. Built by the Chandelas in the 10th century, only 25 temples remain from the initial 85 that were constructed. It was conferred the world heritage site tag by UNESCO in 1986 and is glorified for it architecture, carvings and love making sculptures. Why the erotica on temple walls is a question that conjures up in every mind. It is there in mine, in yours and in many other people's, but there has hardly been any convincing answers that have come up.
Putting those thoughts aside, I reached Khajuraho after a short drive from Panna national park. I would rather enjoy the wonderful creations than find answers which even historians have found tough. After a relaxing lunch at the the very popular Raja cafe, headed to explore the beautifully intricate temple sculptures of the western group of temples in Khajuraho. Western group of temples are the most popular and preferred ones over the southern and eastern group. This UNESCO world heritage site is enclosed inside a huge and well maintained garden area and the temples look stunning even from a distance. Audio guides available near the ticket counter are definitely helpful unless you want to create your own stories about each sculpture. However, no guides are required to gaze and to get lost amidst those marvellous chisel works. Western group comprises of Varaha temple, Lakshmana temple, Kandariya Mahadev temple, Jagadambi temple, Chitragupta temple and Vishwanatha temple. Of these, Lakshmana temple and Kandariya Mahadev temple outshines others with their elaborate and spectacular art work, while Vishwanatha temple happens to be the most popular one.
All the temples are erected on high platforms, has an entrance porch, pillars with carvings, extensive artwork on its outer and inner sanctum, and is dedicated to either Shiva or Vishnu. There are various points marked and the audio guides explain in detail the importance and the story at every juncture. Varaha temple is where I began my temple tour. Inside, a huge sculpture of a boar (incarnation of Vishnu) with intricate works on its body stands peacefully staring at the other temples. Lakshmana temple, the most beautiful one inside the temple complex is dedicated to Vishnu. The facade is emblazoned with beautiful sculptures depicting armies, dancers, celestial beauties, amorous lovers, animals and social life. The inner sanctum also has many chiseled works on its outer, on pillars and on the ceiling. I found many students of art making their exquisite pencil sketch creations on paper from the sculptures in stone. There was a guide with a group of foreign tourists, who concentrated on explaining only about the erotic sculptures. I found that to be disturbing. Erotic sculptures constituted of hardly 10% of all the sculptures. Why then would you want concentrate so much on it? Why can't people look at at as any another sculpture?
Next in line was Kandariya Mahadev temple, the largest of the lot. This again has a plethora of carvings on its facade similar to the ones on Lakshmana temple. The temple also boasts of the largest number of chiseled figures amongst all the temples. Its elaborate plan and design makes it one of the most evolved and sublime creations. I found its gopurams (towers) to be extraordinarily attractive. The inner sanctum has many intricate works and the entrance arch is supposedly one of the finest works. The sculptures have been so beautifully carved that I kept gazing at them in oblivion as I circumambulated the temple. Dedicated to Shiva, this tall temple was constructed to celebrate the victory of King Vidhyadhara over Mahmud of Gazni. Situated on the same platform as the Kandariya Mahadev temple is Devi Jagadamba temple. Another beautiful creation with loads of beautiful carvings both on outer and inner.
|Kandariya Mahadev temple|
From there I strolled to Chitragupta temple which is dedicated to Sun god and looks similar to Jagadambi temple. It has an impressive sculpture of sun god in a chariot driven by seven horses. The temple has fine carvings of celestial beauties and erotic couples on its outside. As I was about to enter the sanctum, the security guard came to me and said he will show me whatever has to be seen. He went to one side of the temple and expected me to follow him. I did not move as I understood what he wanted to show me. He came back and again asked me to follow him. Followed him this time, and he pointed to a few erotic sculptures on the outside of the temple. I am not interested in that I said, and he gave me a confused look. I smirked and walked away. It again showed people are keen only on erotic sculptures in Khajuraho. Be it the visitor, the guide or the security guard.
The temples close for visitors as the sun sets and I had to make a dash to Vishwanatha temple, the last one inside the complex. Dedicated to Shiva, the most popular and the grandest of Western group of temples was under renovation and the towers looked as though it needed some immediate rubbing. However, the pillars and the lower portion of the temple looked neat and beautiful. Extensive carvings and sculptures of gods, goddesses, celestial beauties, amorous couples, animals, armies, dancers and much more has been harmoniously engraved on the outer walls of the temple. Unfortunately could not enter the inner sanctum as the temple had shut down by then. There is also a shrine of nandi (bull) on the same platform.
Next day, I hired an auto and visited the lesser explored Eastern group of temples and Southern group of temples. A short drive away, Chaturbhuj temple which is a part of the southern group is dedicated to Vishnu. Though the temple has numerous carvings on its outer, it does not have any erotic sculptures engraved. Duladeva temple dedicated to Shiva is the other temple which forms a part of the southern group. The temple has extensive carvings on its pillars and gorgeous chisel work on its gopuram (tower).
Matangeshwara temple is a living temple adjoining the walls of western group of temples and is quite a popular one with the visitors. Chausath Yogini temple is another important temple in Khajuraho. Everyday at 7 p.m., a sound and light show is conducted inside the enclosure of Western group of temples. The show narrated by Amitabh Bachchan gives an insight into the history of Chandela kings and Khajuraho. Anyone who visits Khajuraho must make it a point to enjoy this wonderful show. The ASI museum opposite the western group of temples displays some exquisite statues and sculptures from various centuries and is a must visit for any archaeological enthusiast.
|Sound and light show|
Signing Note- An architectural extravaganza...!!