Khajuraho, a temple town, was built by the Chandela rulers, who ruled Bundelkhand from 9th to 14th centuries. The exemplary sculptural art of this temples have made them popular across the world. The bold depiction of erotica in these sculptures makes visitors wonder about how liberated the society would have been in those times. All the temples were built in between the 9th and the 12th centuries. As per the locals, there were originally 85 temples, but only 25 of them have survived. Khajuraho is now on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. For heritage explorers Khajuraho is one of the important travel destinations in Madhya Pradesh. The temples here are divided into three groups: Western Group, Eastern Group and Southern Group.
Travel Tip: The gardens of Western Group host a sound-and-light show every evening. First session is in English and it is followed by a session in Hindi.
And if you’d prefer more information, here is a 10-min documentary on Khajuraho:
Attractions and Places to Visit in Khajuraho:
1. Western Group
The temples in the Western Group are the most popular ones. They are massive and beautifully sculpted. If you aren’t accompanied by a guide, do opt for an audio tour of this set of monuments.
This richly carved temple was built in the early 10th century and is the oldest in the Western Group. The beautiful ceiling of the entrance porch and the finely carved sanctum of this temple are worth admiring. A three-headed idol of god Vishnu’s incarnations resides in the sanctum.
Kandariya Mahadev Temple
Kandariya Mahadev, an 11th century temple is the largest in the group. While this temple has a ‘lingam’ in the small sanctum, its extravagant ornamentation makes one ponder whether the temple was about worship or about displaying the artistic prowess. Over 900 sculptures of this temple depict deities, warriors, beasts, maidens and erotic scenes.
This gracefully sculpted temple is from the beginning of the 11th century. The images of the ‘Apsara’ plucking a thorn from her foot and a celestial maiden playing a flute are worth observing. The presiding deity of the temple is god Shiva.
Chausath Yogini Temple
This quadrangle-shaped, 9th-century temple is dedicated to goddess Kali. This temple is surrounded by a cluster of 35 granite-made shrines. The ruins of a Shiva temple called ‘Lalguan Mahadev’ are a km further from here.
This temple, with the plain circular interior, stands outside the complex gates. It is a functional temple. The circular sanctuary of the temple houses a ‘lingam’.
This temple shares the platform with Kandariya Mahadev temple. Goddess Kali is the main deity here but originally this was a Vishnu temple. The large mandapa of this temple is dominated by a massive pyramidal roof.
This heavily restored temple is one of the few sun temples of India. The 5 ft high image of sun god in the temple rides a horse-drawn chariot. The friezes depict hunting scenes, dancing girls, nymphs and royal processions.
2. Eastern Group
Eastern Group is a short distance away from the Western Group. It has one cluster of Hindu temples and another of Jain temples.
Surprisingly this Brahma temple has a ‘ lingam’. So, it has to be a Shiva temple. It is mistaken to be a Brahma temple because the ‘ lingam’ here is four-faced. The more interesting fact is that this was originally a Vishnu temple.
Vamana temple is dedicated to the fifth incarnation of god Vishnu – the Vamana (meaning dwarf). The simple design of this temple is an example of the refined ‘Chandela Style’. There are two bands of sculptures depicting sura- sundaris around the body of the temple.
This small temple stands on a high plinth. It is dedicated to Vishnu. The outer walls of the temple are covered with beautiful carvings.
This temple was built in the late 10th century and today it is in ruins. The remnants include an entrance porch and an assembly hall. The columns have carvings of bells and garlands.
The most remarkable Jain temple is the Parshvanath temple. This 10th century temple has beautifully carved ceiling pendants in the porch. This temple was originally dedicated to Adinath, the first ‘Tirthankara’ of Jains.
This small temple, north of Parshvanath temple, has a black image of Adinath in the sanctum. This temple has undergone large-scale renovation. Only sanctum, vestibule and ‘shikhara’ have survived from the original structure.
The temple of Shantinath has a 4.5m-high statue of the deity. This is a working temple and receives worshippers from across the country.
3. Southern Group
There are only two temples in this group, one is dedicated to lord Shiva and another to lord Vishnu.
This 12th century temple is said to be a mark of the decline of the Chandela style of art. The sculptures here appear lack-lustre when compared to the other temples of Khajuraho.
This temple is unique in that it is the only temple in Khajuraho which doesn’t have a single erotic carving. Built in the beginning of the 12th century, this temple has an image of Vishnu in the sanctum.
ASI Museum is situated opposite the western group of temples. Divided in four halls, this museum houses a fine collection of sculptures found in the area.
State Museum of Tribal and Folk Art
The purpose of this museum is to introduce the visitor to the tribal and folk art of Madhya Pradesh. Over 500 tribal artefacts are on display in this museum.
This museum has more than 100 Jain images.
5. Excursions from Khajuraho
If you want to while away some time during your stay in Khajuraho, this falls could be an interesting choice. Though you shouldn’t expect to see it in its swollen avatar unless it is monsoon. At other times it is barely more than a trickle. The distance from Khajuraho is about 18 km. You’ve got to hire a taxi for the trip, auto-rickshaw can also be hired for to and fro.
Panna National Park
Panna National Park is a tiger reserve, albeit chances of spotting a tiger are very odd. However, Panna has a pristine forest cover which is cut through by the Ken river making it a nature retreat. Bird-spotters won’t go back disappointed from here. The park is also home to ‘Gharial’ crocodiles, sloth bears and pythons. Panna is about 32 km southeast of Khajuraho.
Also read: Travel Destinations in Madhya Pradesh>>