An ancient city known for its temples and intricate sculptures, Khajuraho is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the Chattarpur district of Madhya Pradesh and narrates spellbinding historical tales and architectural magnificence. According to the historical archives, Khajuraho temple site had 85 intricately carved temples during the 12th century sprawling over 20 square kilometers. Out of the 85 temples, only 25 have survived the wrath of time and multiple attacks which are spread over 6 square kilometers. Most of the temples are Hindu and some of them are of Jain religion as well. The region was named after the dry fruit Khajur (date palm) and was found in 1838 by a British official after it was lost under the dense foliage of the jungle for several years.
History of Khajuraho Group of Temples
The history of Khajuraho Group of Monuments dates back to 950-1050 AD and it still manages to capture the attention of visitors from all around the world with its spectacular glory and fascinating past. It was built during the medieval century by the Chandela Dynasty and is known for its Nagara-style architecture and graceful figurines of nayikas (Hindu mythological female protagonists) and deities. The outstanding and detailed sculptures and structure of the temples is one of the reasons that makes Khajuraho one of the most popular sites in Madhya Pradesh for tourists to visit.
The temples depict various forms of meditation, spiritual teachings, and relationships through stimulating art. The fine craftsmanship and impressive demonstrations of fine statues with detailed skill makes Khajuraho Group of Monuments a stunning UNESCO heritage site. The temple complex was forgotten and overgrown by the jungle until in 1838, when Captain T.S. Burt, a British engineer, made a visit to this area and reported his findings in the journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal.
According to the historians, these monuments were built and used as a place of knowledge and gaining education to the boys. The boys or students lived in hermitages by being ‘brahmcharis’ (bachelor) until they attained manhood and these sculptures helped them to learn about the worldly role of the ‘householder’. Although the Khajuraho Group of Monuments were constructed together, but these were dedicated to Hinduism and Jainism, indicating a tradition of acceptance and respect for diverse religious views among the two religions and their culture.
The temples of Khajuraho are clustered near water which is a symbolic feature of Hindu temples. In the Khajuraho temples, the Hindu temples follow a grid geometrical design called vastu-purusha-mandala, which has three important components:
- Mandala meaning circle - The circle of mandala circumscribes the square structure in the temple, which is divided into perfect 64 sub-squares called “padas”.
- Purusha meaning a universal essence which is at the core of Hindu tradition.
- Vaastu means the dwelling structure, according to a traditional science of architecture - The core of the temple is called garbhagriya. The shikhara, or spire, of the temple rises above the garbhagriya.
Most of the temples which are a part of Khajuraho Group of Monuments, deploy the 8x8 (64) padas grid; and the primary deities here are located within the grids. All temples, except one – (Chaturbhuja temple) face the sunrise, another dominant Hindu temple feature. The relative layout of the temple depicts masculine and feminine deities, and the artworks depict the four goals of life in Hinduism – dharma, kama, artha, and moksha. The temples are known for their stunning sculptures and some erotic carvings which cover about 10% of the temple structure. The largest surviving temple in the Khajuraho Group of monuments today is one called Kandariya Mahadeva.
Places to Visit in Khajuraho
Khajuraho is a history buff’s delight and a heaven for architecture paramours. The stunning, intricate, and expressive sculptures of Khajuraho temples will leave you mesmerized and in awe and must be visited if you are in Madhya Pradesh. The temples in Khajuraho are divided into three groups – Eastern, Western, Southern.
EASTERN GROUP OF TEMPLES :
- Vamana Temple – This temple is devoted to the fifth incarnation of Lord Vishnu and was constructed between 1050-1075. The temples have a huge idol of four-armed Lord Vishnu on its lintel and few erotic carvings its façade.
- Javari Temple – Constructed between 1075-1100 AD, Javari temple is standing on a high platform and has a raised Shikhara. One of its highlights is the delicately carved Makara Torana arch which is a fine example of the stone carving skills of the sculptors of that era.
- Parsvanatha Temple – This is a Jain temple and is one among the couple of old temples that were constructed using honey-colored sandstones. It was constructed between 950-970 but houses idols of deities of the Vaishnava faith, Lord Vishnu.
Other temples include Adinatha temple, Santinatha temple, Ghantai temple, and Brahma temple which fall under this group and have spectacular architectural and historical features.
WESTERN GROUP OF TEMPLES :
The western group of temples has around 870 beautiful sculptures carved out on the interior and exterior walls. As you enter the western group, you are greeted by a plaque on the right which outlines a brief information about the history of Khajuraho. The main highlight of this place is a Shivalinga and a stunning floral carving inside the sanctum of the temple. The outer section of the walls of the temples showcase carvings of gods, goddesses, and Hindu mythological creatures.
- Kandariya Mahadeva Temple – Constructed between 1025-1050, the temple rises in successive towers like a range of hills. The temple premises has a four-armed Shiva lined by Lord Brahma the creator, and Lord Vishnu the preserver.
- Jagdambi Temple – Another name for Goddess Parvati, wife of Lord Shiva, the temple has an idol of the goddess along with a beautifully carved sculpture of Lord Vishnu inside the sanctum. There are also a few figurines of sura-sundaris (celestial beauty) which are particularly pleasing.
- Chitragupta Temple – Dedicated to Lord Surya, the Sun, the temple also has a sculpture of eleven-headed and eight-armed Lord Vishnu towards its south. Other highlights include the sculptures of the divine couple deities Brahma-Brahmani, Shiva-Parvati, Bhairava-Bhairavi, and Lakshmi-Narayana with artistic features.
- ASI Museum – The museum showcases some amazing sculptures and artifacts that are exhibited with their names and likely age. Artifacts such as an 11th-12th century statue of Sambhava Nath on the Jain gallery, a sculpture of Varaha with six heads, a dancing Ganesha, etc. are some of the exquisite statues to see in the museum.
There are several other temples in the western group which have impressive architecture and are a sight to behold.
SOUTHERN GROUP OF TEMPLES :
- Duladeo Temples – Also known as the Kunwar Math/Mutt, the term Dula is linked with the notion of the bridegroom’s temple which was built between 1100-1150. The most stunning feature of the temple is the flying celestials on the topmost Shikhara tower. The female figurines of the temple are adorned with amazing carved jewelry that represent the artistic skill of the people of that time.
- Chaturbhuja Temple – This is the only temple in Khajuraho without a single stimulating sculpture. The temple entrance is carved with the beautiful sculptures of Ganga and Jamuna. There is also a glorious sculpture of Lord Vishnu that is carved in a way which makes it look like God is about to step out and bless his disciples.
Things To Do in and Around Khajuraho
- Raneh Fall – Located 21km from the Khajuraho bus stop, Raneh Falls is a mesmerizing waterfall that create a 30-foot-deep canyon. Often, you can see a beautiful rainbow hovering above the falls due to the beaming sun.
- Pandav Fall – Located 34km from Khajuraho bus stop, Pandav Falls is one of the most popular tourist destinations near Khajurao, Madhya Pradesh. It has a maximum height of 30 meters and forms from the river Ken. According to some mythological legends, the historical caves mentioned in the epic Mahabharata are located at the base of these waterfalls. It also acts as a great picnic spot for friends and families.
- Maharaja Chhatrasal Museum – Also known as the Dhubela museum, it is located 62km away from the Khajuraho group of temples. It was constructed by the family members of Maharaja Chhatrasal in 1955 at the ban of Dhubela Lake.
- Jain Museum – Formerly known as Sahu Shanti Prasad Jain Kala Sangrahalaya, the Jain Museum showcases artifacts and sculptures related to Jainism. The garden of its premises showcases stunning sculptures of the 24 Jain Tirthankaras while the interior of the museum offers insight about the lives of the mentioned Tirthankaras and the Jain culture.
- Khajuraho Dance Festival – If you plan your trip to Khajuraho in around February you can also attend and witness the impressive and glorious Khajuraho Dance Festival. The grand extravaganza is unique blend of art and architecture showcasing classical dances performed by known artists from the country along with an exhibition of the artifacts and handicrafts.
Timings and Entry Fees
- Entry Fee (Indian) – INR40
- Entry Fee (SAARC and BIMSTEC) – INR40
- Entry Fee (Foreigner) – INR600
- Entry below 15 years is free.
The temple complex is open from 6am to 6pm every day.
How to Reach
- By Air: Khajuraho has a domestic airport at 2km from the temple site which is connected to almost all major cities of the country. You can easily get a cab or bus from outside the airport to the temple site.
- By Train: The Khajuraho train station is 5km away from the main town and is linked to a few cities of Madhya Pradesh. Mahoba is the closest train station from Khajuraho at 78km which is connected to several main cities around India.
- By Road: Khajuraho is well-connected to state highways with many public and private buses that traverse between neighboring cities. You can also hire a cab or get your own vehicle to the temple site.