Amazing Khajuraho temple monuments and the sculptures - 34 gripping facts that you need to know!!

Khajuraho temple, Chhatarpur,MP
 Khajuraho monument complex, known for their Nagara style of structures, in Chhatarpur, Madhya Pradesh, Centrral India, is one of the most important destinations for international tourists across the world. Most of the temples in the complex  present small stone-carved images of humans, celestial, etc and the workmanship and imagination transcend the limits of human endeavor as it requires painstaking efforts and demanding stone-carving work.  Their grandeur and beauty is beyond human comprehension and no words can express their majesty in simplicity  and the presentation of aesthetic. The beauty and elegance of the Khajuraho temples is beyond words and imagination and they leave you pondering as to how, way back in the 10th century when there was no such a thing called engineering and technology, the sculptors and temple architects were well-versed in the art of building stone temples of beauty and splendor, with stone images in thousands  exhibiting all kinds of human activities and  emotional expressions and set them in particular  patterns all around the temple tower. Literally the well-trained sculptors seemed to have run riot, creating such amazing masterpieces in  raw stones. In no other places do we find  such fine portrayal of human emotions as we find them here. 
India, relief map.
Buddhist temples in ruins, Khajuraho temple,
Above image: Once there were 85 temples in this vast area. The  Delhi Sultanate in the 13th century took control over this place and under the Muslim  rule  many temples of beauty were destroyed and the rest were left in a state of neglect. Some of the Ruins of old temples (Ghantai temple above) are still visible.........................
For many, the very mention of Khajuroho temples conjures up the imagination of  small stone-carved images of amorous couples  representing eroticism. Visitors who come to sites, I understand, give a myriad of responses. Some cringe, many look plain embarrassed; some are cynical and take a quick glance and keep moving quickly. The Chalukyas and the Hoysala temples  do have  such  carved erotic figures on their walls, but they are not as explicit as those in Khajuraho or Konark. As a matter of fact  only 10% of the images represent eroticism outside the temples. The Mithunas or the couples in love are only portrayed on the outside walls of the shrines. Some of the temples that have two layers of walls have small erotic carvings on the outside of the inner wall. The  rest are a variety of art work and images of gods, goddesses, nymphs, etc.  An important aspect of these temples in a societal life  point of view is the integration of  masculine and feminine deities,  emphasizing the interdependence of men and women in  pursuit of four goals in their lives in conformity with the tenets of Hinduism - the four phases of  dharma, kama, artha and moksha. We miss out the good stone works and focus on the 10% erotic stone sculptures on the temple outer walls and tag ''the Khajuraho temples as the erotic temples''. It is a sad publicity gimmick.

It is regarded as one of the popular  UNESCO world heritage sites in the world, best preserved and evolved, though some of these beautiful temples in the complex were damaged during raids by the Muslim rulers way back in the 13th and 14th centuries. The monument complex is close to Jhansi about 175 km (109 mi). The temple complex includes both Hindu and Jain temples in Chhatarpur, Madhya Pradesh. The temples' origin and design are subject to discussion and further studies by researchers.

Some gripping facts of Khajuraho temples: 

01.  The Khajuraho temples were built between 950 and 1050 CE about 35 miles from the medieval city of Mahoba, the capital of the Chandela dynasty, in the Kalinjar region.

02.   It was during the reign of  the Hindu kings Yashovarman and Dhanga most temples  came into being  Yashovarman and Dhanga. Yashovarman's ; the former built the  Lakshmana Temple and the latter Vishvanatha temple respectively. 

03.  The temples are believed to celebrate the marriage of  God Shiva and Goddess Parvathi. However there are temples dedicated to other gods as well as Jain monks.

 04.  Among the surviving temples, 6 are dedicated to Shiva and his consorts, 8 to Vishnu and his associates, 1 to Ganesha, 1 to Sun god, 3 to Jain Tirthankars.
Chaturbhuja temple, Khajuroho.
Khajuraho: Kandariya Mahadeva temple (Largest temple)
05.  The largest surviving Shiva temple is Khandarya Mahadeva, while the largest surviving Vaishnava group includes Chaturbhuja and Ramachandra.
Khajuroho. MP: Lakshmana temple
06. Kandariya Mahadeva Temple  is a majestic one, the total height is 116 ft above ground and 88 ft above its own floor and 60 ft wide. The central padas are surrounded by three rows of stone-carved figures, with over 870 statues, most being half life size (2.5 to 3 feet)

stunning stone carved images, Khajuroho., MP:
07.  Built in the reign of King Vidyadhara, the inscriptions here suggest many of the currently surviving temples were built  between 970 and 1030 CE,

08,  Khajuraho temples were  active and functional till the end of the 12th century.Activities came to a stop after Muslim invasion in the 13th century.

09.  Under the Hindu rulers, there were as many as  85 temples  spread over 20 square kilometers, of these, only about 25 temples have survived, spread over 6 square kilometers.

10.  The Delhi Sultanate (Sultan Qutb-ud-din Aibak) caused major damages and the ruins of old temples  (ex. Ghantai temple)  are very much there. Ibn Battuta, the Moroccan traveler in his memoirs mentioned about his stay in India from 1335 to 1342 CE, and  his visit to Khajuraho temples and the damages caused by the Delhi rulers. ... ( Ibn Battuta, about 1335 CE, Riḥlat Ibn Baṭūṭah, Translated by Arthur Cotterell; vide wikipedia).

11.  Among the surviving temples, the Kandariya Mahadeva Temple has intricate sculptures with expressive facial features etc. They are in profusion, indicating the peak of temple building activities at that point of time.

12.  Khajuraho is believed to be one of the four holy sites associated with Lord Shiva; the other  being  Kedarnath, Kashi and Gaya). 

13. It is to be noted that Maha Shivaratri is celebrated in all the temples by way of chanting of ''Rudram''  while the officiating  priests enact the divine marriage of Shiva and Parvathi.

14 The name Khajuraho, or Kharjuravāhaka, is derived from ancient Sanskrit (kharjura meaning  date palm, and vāhaka, meaning "one who carries" or bearer. It is believed that the temples had two golden date-palm trees at their gate. (Kharjuravāhaka also means  scorpion bearer implying God  Shiva who wears snakes and scorpion garlands in his fierce form).

15.  The Hindu temple layout suggests that the symbolic Mandala design principle of square and circles is  present in each temple plan and design. The land  is laid out in three triangles converging to form a pentagon. Researchers believe this  is suggestive of   the Hindu symbolism for three realms or trilokinatha, and five cosmic substances or panchbhuteshvara (five elements of the earth essential for life).

16.  But for one,  all Khajuraho temples  face east (sunrise; Suryodhyam), and the entrance for the devotee is from the east side, invariably a common feature of major  Hindu temples.

17.  Yet another common Hindu temple feature is the temples are clustered near water; here, the water bodies include: Sib Sagar, Khajur Sagar (also called Ninora Tal) and Khudar Nadi (river)
Khajuraho temple.  India Shutterstock
, Khajuroho temple, MP Lakshmi Sharath
18.  The Khajuraho temples are made of  superior quality sandstone locally available, with a granite foundation that is not visible below the ground. The surviving sculptures reflect fine details such as strands of hair, manicured nails and intricate jewelry, it shows the workable nature of sandstone.

19.  Each temple has  a superstructure with a dome called Shikara (or Vimana, Spire) on it.  Variations in spire design come from variation in degrees set for the squares. The temple Shikara, in many texts, is linked to Mt. Kailash or Meru, the mythical abode of Lord Shiva and his retinue.

20.  Each temple at Khajuroho, as in other Hindu temples, has a central space - sanctum-garbagriha surrounded by Prathakshina path  (ambulatory path) for the devotees to walk around  the main deity- a way of paying respect /obeisance. The square path - space all around,  has ornate pillars, walls and ceilings; so are the spaces outside symbolic of  the four and necessary pursuits of life - kama, artha, dharma and moksa. The clockwise walk - pradakshina symbolizes all the four. 

21, The  Khajuraho temples  are divided into three parts : the Eastern group, the Southern Group and the Western group of temples. 
22.  Common misconception is that, in Khajuraho temples, the carvings depict amoral deities. There is no depiction of gods  as such and it represents the alluring relationship between angels, etc. It is an expression of Kama of different human beings.
Actually, the majority of  stone carvings depict various aspects of everyday life, mythical stories as well a secular and spiritual aspects of life relevant to the  Hindu tradition. For example, women on makeup, musicians playing  music, farmers and others  attending to their respective daily professional life during the medieval era. These are well depicted on the exteriors of temple walls. 

23.  It is of interest to note that the  builders never used the mortar for construction. How did they keep the stone blocks  intact one over the other?  the stones were put together with mortise and tenon joints and they were held in place by gravity. The columns and architraves were built with megaliths that weighed up to 20 tons. The work requires precision and dexterity.

24.  That the ''Khajuraho temples are erotic'' is a wrong conclusion  as preponderance of sculptures are non-erotic and are based on 25. social life. No doubt, a small percentage of  quite visible sexual images  led  James McConnachie, who wrote a book on 'the  history of the Kamasutra', to  tag the  Khajuraho sculptures as "the apogee of erotic art".

25.  Some scholars   suggest these to be Thantric sexual practices. Others conclude, it is a celebration of Kama (cupid) as sex is part of human life to propagate. 

26. The erotic images of Kahjuraho is a warning to those people who may get caught in sexual perversion  from which recovery is tough. Yet another conclusion is  a man has to lead a moral life and go past such transient enticements and achieve  permanent bliss under the shadow of God. Yet another version is it could be a manual for those who lack knowledge of man-woman relationship. That many images - Mithunas depict sexual transgression is a myth; it shows man's prone to  various aberrations of mind and perversion.

27.  According to the ASI (The Archaeological Survey of India) the sculptures at Khajuraho  are grouped into five broad categories. The first one deals with  the cult images and are made as per  the Shilpashastra. You can see some of them carved as the Teerthankaras in the Jain museum.
Chaturbhuj Temple: Side viewTripAdvisor
28.  The second category  consists of those  in the reliefs and niches representing attendants, the guardian deities, the gandharvas, the Shiva ganas, the ashta dikpalas among others.
Apsaeas,Khajuraho temple,, MP
29.  The third  deals with  the apsaras, (also called Sapna Sundaris/ dream girls). Here, the sculptors  show  their outstanding  workmanship  carving  beautiful life-like women in various activities and chores.  The graceful nymphs portray human emotions and engage in  dancing, painting, holding a parrot, caressing a baby or scratching their backs or just undressing. They are are not exclusive to Khajuraho and such women are portrayed in n several Hoysala temples as well.

Musicians Khajuraho temple,, MP,
30.  The 4th one is about  ''secular  sculptures'' and their their daily activities. You see a medley mix of warriors, dancers, musicians in a  a royal court, a teacher and a pupil, a sculptor with his students and even funeral scenes. In addition to all of these, you also see mythical animals and even floral prints.
caravan Khajuraho temple,, MP,
31.  The 5th category includes  the famous 'erotic sculptures' of Khajuraho involving  Mithunas in intense romance activities. 

32.  It is unfortunate, the media and the visitors do not focus on the other four categories  of beautiful sculptures and are spending more time and energy on the amorous couples- they form a small part of the sculptures.

33.  The Khajuraho Dance Festival is held every year in February. It features various classical Indian dances set against the backdrop of the Chitragupta or Vishwanath Temples.

34. The 10th century Bhand Deva Temple in Rajasthan was built in the style of the Khajuraho monuments and is often referred to as ''Little Khajuraho''.