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Group of Temples, Khajuraho - World Heritage Sites

Khajuraho Temple
Temple town of Khajuraho is much different from any other temple city of India. It is not about religion and worshipping and deities. The temples of Khajuraho are instead famous for the eroticism etched on its walls in the form of sculptures. An amalgamation of science and art of architecture, these 10th-11th century temples have a very interesting legend behind them that connects them to the origin of Chandela dynasty. It is said that in a fit of passion and lust, the Moon God seduced and ravaged a beautiful Brahmin girls known as Hemvati, resulting in the birth of Chandravarman (the founder of the Chandela dynasty). Later, Chandravarman had a dream where his mother requested him to make a temple, which would reveal all aspects of the treasure of passion and erotic fantasy to the world.
Thus he brought an artistic revolution by building the famous Khajuraho temples, in the town, which was his capital. Some people also believe these erotic art forms to be the visual depiction of Kamasutra, art of sex or the relations between Shiva and Parvati, the divine couple. Khajuraho temples got lost into obscurity and were only discovered by chance but they quickly became India's second most favored tourist destination after Taj Mahal. This temple complex is perhaps the largest group of medieval temples. Other than eroticism, these sculptures also depict other refined courtly accomplishments such as music and dance. Only 22 temples have survived out of the original 85 temples. It displays one of the most unique stone-carving work and was declared a World Heritage Site in 1986.
Khajuraho Temple

Location: In Madhya Pradesh, India.
Significance:Well-known for the sculptures in erotic poses in its temples.
Climate:Khajuraho has extreme tropical climate with temperature as high as 47°C in summers and as low as 4°C in winters.

How to Reach:
By Air: Khajuraho has daily domestic flights to and from Agra, Varanasi and Kathmandu.
By Train:The nearest railway stations to Khajuraho are Mahoba, Satna and Jhansi. All of these are well connected to most of the major cities of India.
By Road:Khajuraho has frequent bus services and good roads to and from the major cities of India including Panna, Mahoba, Satna, Jabalpur, Bhopal, Gwalior, Indore, Agra and Jhansi.

Shopping Attractions:
The two distinctive group of temples of Khajuraho have dozens of souvenir stalls, hotels and restaurants at their entrances from where one can buy mementos and gifts for their loved ones back at home. Since it is the second most visited tourist destination in India (after Taj Mahal), it is not surprising to see signboards posted here in different languages as little boys efficient in number of languages peddling handicrafts and mineral water. It is even surprising to note how these little peddlers switch from Spanish to German to French, trying to sell a trinket to you almost forcibly.

Prime Attractions:
Temples of Khajuraho
It took more than 200 years to complete elaborately carved Khajuraho temples that are planned in a similar pattern. Built in the central Indian temple architectural style, the uninhibited and graceful erotic sculptures of Khajuraho temples are known for their paramount architectural balance and exquisiteness. The temple plans range from the simple ones to the most inspired ones. The lovely temples can be divided into three broad groups, namely, the Eastern group, the Southern group and the Western group. However, the Western group is not only the largest one but also the one, which is most easily accessible. 
1. The Eastern Group takes in five isolated sub-group of temples situated in and around the present town of Khajuraho. Along with the three Brahmanical temples more commonly spoken of as temples of Brahma, Vamana and Javari, the three Jain temples of the deities Ghantai, Adinath and Parsvanath fall under this group. 
2. The Southern Group is situated at the most distant location and includes mainly the two temples of Duladeo and Chaturbhuja, which are situated near and across the Khudarnala.
3. The Western Group is the largest of all the temple groups of Khajuraho. It is not compact and located in the center but also include the most renowned and noteworthy monuments built during the reign of the Chandela rulers. They are also known to have been maintained well by the Archaeological Survey of India and the lush green lawns surrounding them with multihued shrums and fragrant blossoms add to their beauty. The most prominent temples of the group are the Lakshmana Temple, the Matangesvara Temple and the Varaha Temple that are a part of a single complex, the Visvanatha and Nandi temples situated near the above-mentioned complex and the Chitragupta, Jagadambi and the Kandariya Mahadeo temples a little to the west of the complex.

History of Khajuraho
Khajuraho Temple
The past of Khajuraho is shrouded with mystery and conjecture. In the midst of the wilderness full of ferocious animals, there is the small town of Khajuraho standing alone in its solitude with its ancient temples. With hardly any written records and rare references to its origin, the history of Khajuraho has become trapped in the mythical folklore of the region. The beautiful artwork of these temples have gained the attention of the art lovers all over the world but the real purpose behind their construction is a mere guess work of the intellectuals. The These temples fire the imagination of the visitors with innumerable questions such as their significance and their position in the society, the reason behind using these temples as an art gallery, the whereabouts of the said kingdom and why only the temples have been found and there are no ruins of the mansions and palaces in the nearby area. The graphic representation of sexual and erotic postures in a religious place is bewildering too.
However, if the myth it is to be believed, Khajuraho was known as 'Khajur-vahika' or 'Khajjurpura' in the ancient times because of its golden date palms (known as 'khajur') that lined the gates of this city. It has been mentioned in the Mahoba-khand of Chandbardai's (the famous medieval court poet) 'Prithviraj Raso' that Hemraj, the royal priest of Kashi (the old name for Varanasi), had an exceptionally beautiful daughter named Hemvati, who was unfortunately a child widow. One summer night, while she was bathing in a lotus-filled pond, the Moon God was so dazed by her beauty that he descended to earth in human form full of lust and passion and ravished her. Later, he repented when the distressed Hemvati threatened to curse him for ruining her honor and dignity and blessed her with a valiant son who would later become a king and build the temples of Khajuraho. Hemvati left her home and gave birth to a brave and strong boy child in the tiny village of Khajjurpura. The child was named Chandravarman and it is said that by the time he was 16 years old, the glorious boy was strong and skilled enough to kill tigers or lions with his bare hands. With the blessings of the Moon God, his father he became a mighty king and built the fortress at Kalinjar. Then heeding to his mother's wishes he built 85 legendary temples surrounded by lakes and gardens at Khajuraho and also performed the bhandya yagya, to wash away the sins of his mother. 
Yet another version of the above legend raises Hemvati as a dutiful daughter who sacrificed all her happiness and dignity for her father. Mani Ram, the royal priest of Kalinjar, miscalculated once and declared the dark night as the full moon night or Purnamasi in front of the king. Hemvati, his widowed daughter could not bear the possibility of any stigma on her father's reputation and prayed to the Moon God to uphold the word of the priest. However, she had to pay a heavy price for her wish being granted when the Moon God who was smitten by the lady's beauty ravished her in return for his favor. When Mani Ram came to know of this entire incident, he was so ashamed and grief-stricken that he cursed himself and turned into a stone. However, Hemvati got pregnant with the tryst and gave birth to a virtuous son by the name of sage Chandrateya who is believed to be the founder of the Chandela dynasty. Chandelas worshipped the Mani Ram-turned-stone as Maniya Dev.

Khajuraho Dance Festival
Held every year from 25th February to 2nd March, Khajuraho Dance Festival takes place at the open-air auditorium in front of the Chitragupta Temple dedicated to the Sun God and the Vishwanatha Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. They are situated in the Western Group of temples, which is the largest, well maintained and most easily accessible temple group of Khajuraho. Started regularly since 2002, this weeklong festival has already become legendary with its outlandish classical dance performances presented in a dreamlike setting of splendidly illuminated temples. Khajuraho temples present sculptures depicting various skills and arts of courtly love including dance and music in stone and what venue can be more befitting to hold the cultural festival highlighting the various classical dances of India! 
Some of the best artists and performers that have marked themselves in their fields come from the various states of India to participate in the festival and the performances including some of the best known dance styles such as the intricate footwork of Kathak, highly stylized and sophisticated Bharathanatyam, soft lyrical temple dance of Odissi, the dance dramas of Kuchipudi, Manipuri, the dance of rare and ancient civilization and Kathakali stage fights with elaborate masks. Recently, modern Indian dances have also found their place in the Khajuraho Dance festival. Along with the dance performances one can also see a number of craftsmen trading off their indigenous arts and crafts to the visitors.
Architecture Of Khajuraho
Khajuraho Temple
Khajuraho group of temples in Central India is one of the most illustrious manifestations of Indian architecture. These 10th-11th century temples represent religiosity, patronage, artistic genius and aesthetic sensibility all at once. Built in the typical 'Nagara' style of architecture, over 20 of the original 85 temples have survived the climate for more than a thousand years despite being lost into obscurity and hence, suffering neglect for a long period of time. Believed to have been constructed during the Chandela rule, the temples belong to Shaivism and Vaishnavism sects of Hinduism, Jainism and 'tantrism'. Unlike other temple complexes in the country, there is no enclosure wall surrounding these temples and each of them on a high and solid raised masonry platform. Though not very large, they have elegant proportions and are adorned with sculptures on their exteriors and even interiors.
These walled sculptures include depiction of numerous deities, their attendants, celestial maidens in sensuous positions and provocative postures, embracing couples (some of them in erotic sexual positions), dancers and musicians and couples engaged in various refinements of courtly love. It is believed that one temple alone sports over six hundred and fifty such figures ranging from sensual and warm depictions to explicit sexual activity (believed to illustrate the tantric rites by some). Some of these much-famed or much-notorious sexual postures are said to follow the Kama Sutra, the ancient Indian manual of art of making love. One of the most preferred destinations after Taj Mahal, Khajuraho has provided a scenic backdrop for many movies as well as many Indian classical dances that have been performed here.

Excursion Points Near Khajuraho
Though it is the temples and their erotic sculptures that first come to mind when we talk about Khajuraho, but they are not the only things worth a look here. There is a fort, a palace and a museum for those who want to delve into the regal and cultural splendor of the region. There are interesting lakes and waterfalls and beautiful rock formations that can charm any nature lovers who ventures there and there are national parks and sanctuaries for the wildlife enthusiasts. For the casual tourists, who just want a break from the hectic lifestyle of the big cities, Khajuraho is an idyllic place to visit. 

Rajgarh Palace
25 km from Khajuraho, just 50-year old Rajgarh Palace is situated at the foot of Maniyagarh hills.

Ajaygarh Fort
80 km from Khajuraho, Ajaygarh Fort is situated at a height of 688m. This fort remained the capital of Chandelas during the dark times before their reign ended. 

Kalinjar Fort
100 km from Khajuraho, Kalinjar fort is as old as the Gupta period and was won over the Chandela ruler Shri Yashovarman in the 10th century. This fort is situated on the Vindhya ranges. 

Dhubela Museum
57 km from Khajuraho, Dhubela museum is situated in an old fort on the way to Jhansi. The museum has a rare collection of Bundelkhandi artifacts and a myriad of sculptures of Shakti cult. Besides that, it also has several other sections such as those on clothes, armory and paintings.

Panna National Park
30-minute drive will bring you from Khajuraho to the famous and splendid Panna National Park. The region is rich in wildlife and its highlights are Leopards, Wolves, Gharials, Wild Boars, Sloth Bears, Cheetals, Chowsinghas, Indian Foxes and Porcupines. Flora is not the less inviting with dense teak forests and the panoramic landscape of the sanctuary has deep gorges and lush green serene valleys. But due to the hot summers, this national park remains close from June to October. 

Ken Gharial Sanctuary
24 km from Khajuraho, Ken Gharial sanctuary is the best place to see the crocodiles with long-snouts living in their natural home. The dreadful glimpse of the sharp teeth seemingly ready to engulf you at once does not correspond to the behavioral characteristics of these crocodiles with normally peaceful nature. However, it is best to keep the distance. 

Pandava Waterfalls
30 km from Khajuraho, Pandava waterfalls are so called because it is believed that Pandavas spent most of their time in exile here. It is on the Ken River. 

Raneh Falls
20 km from Khajurao, Raneh Falls are famous for the lovely rock formations on the River Ken. Besides the multihued pure crystalline granite canyon, which is 5 km long and about 100 ft deep, in varying shades of pink, red and gray, there are a number of seasonal waterfalls in the nearby wooded area making it a perfect picnic spot. 

Benisagar and Ranguan Lakes
Lake Benisagar is 11 km from Khajuraho while Lake Ranguan is 25 km from Khajuraho. Both these delightful lakes have boating facilities and are perfect venue for a short picnic.

Khajuraho Temples
The Khajuraho village surrounded by the mountains of Chatarpur district of Madhya Pradesh is 395 Km southeast of Agra. Today this village remains with 22 temples, which give us a glimpse of a golden time of art and devotion at their peak. Out of 22 temples, two were made from sandstone. The stone blocks were first carved and then the interlocking pieces were assembled to form a temple. Each temple is different from one another.

Western Group

Kandariya Mahadeo
The 31m high temple is the largest and most typical Khajuraho temple with exquisite carvings and intricate and detailed craftsmanship in stone depicting divine deities, celestial maidens, eternal lovers, gods and goddesses. This temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and enshrines the 'linga'. 

Chaunsath Yogini
The temple is the earliest temple of the group that has survived. It belongs to 900 AD and is dedicated Goddess Kali. It has the distinction of being the only granite temple here. 

Chitragupta Temple
This temple is dedicated to the Sun God (Surya Dev). It faces towards east or the rising sun and the imposing image of the image of the deity in the inner sanctum is as high as five feet and is shown driving a horse-drawn chariot. It is in front of this temple and the Vishwanatha temple that most of the dance performances take place during the Khajuraho Dance Festival.

Vishwanatha Temple
This temple has impressive entrances with magnificent stone guarding its northern steps and royal masonry elephants taking care of the southern steps. The three-headed image of Lord Brahma in the temple is not less captivating.

Lakshmana Temple
A pretty Vaishnava temple flaunts a lintel over its entrance depicting the divine trinity of Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva along with Goddess Lakshmi, the wife of Lord Vishnu.

Matangeshwara Temple
Situated outside the premises of Western group of temples, this Lord Shiva's temple is known for the daunting eight-feet high lingam (male organ representing the natural process of reproduction and the continuity of human life form) that it enshrines.

Eastern Group

Parsvanatha Temple
The largest Jain temple of the Eastern group, Parsvanath temple has intricate stone carvings, especially, the sculptures on the northern outer wall of the temple are certainly praiseworthy. It enshrines a throne facing the bull emblem that represents the the first tirthankara, Adinatha. 

Ghantai Temple
This Jain temple has remarkable frescos depicting the 16 dreams of the mother of Lord Mahavira at the time of his birth and a Jain goddess mounted on a winged Garuda. 

Adinatha Temple 
This temple is richly ornamented with delicate and pretty scultures including those of yakshis. It is dedicated to the first Jain tirthankara (saint), Adinath.

Most of the temple here belong to Jain faith but there are three Hindu temples of the group, namely, the Brahma templeenshrining a four-faced linga; the Vamana temple with divine carvings of sensuous celestial maidens in various poses adorning its outer walls and the Javari temple with a opulently carved doorway and ostentatious sculptures on its exteriors.

Southern Group

Duladeo Temple
This Shaiva temple is known for flaunting the striking images of the celestial maidens or apsaras and richly ornamented figures.

Chaturbhuja Temple
It is the huge imposing intricately carved image of Lord Vishnu in the temple's sanctum, which is the chief attraction of the temple.


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