Once guarded by swaying date palm trees, which gave the city of Khajuraho its name, the city is a study in art and sculpture. The city traces its origin to the 10th century when it was the bastion of the Chandela dynasty. Khajuraho's claim to fame are the famous Chandela temples, erected between the 10th and 11th centuries, these temples were abandoned to the jungle during the Muslim era. In 1840 British tiger-hunters came upon them and in the 1920s twenty-two of the original 85 were excavated. The rosy sandstone tiered temples of beautifully carved figures depict the warrior clan's ebullient style in battle and in love. Now a world heritage site, Khajuraho is an Indian destination you cannot afford to miss.
❖ Khajuraho Temples
Khajuraho is world famous for its temples. These temples represent an outstanding synthesis of advanced architecture and refined sculpture, and their beauty means that a trip here should definitely be included in your North India itinerary, particularly if you plan to fly from Agra or Delhi to Varanasi. Known for the profusion of sculptural embellishments on both exterior and interior walls, Khajuraho's temples are also recognizable for the exaggerated vertical sweep in the majority of the temples, with a series of shikharas (spires) that grow successively higher. These shikharas are believed to be a visual echo of the soaring Himalayan mountains, abode of Lord Shiva. Most of the sculpted temples are elevated on large plinths (often also shared by four smaller corner shrines), and follow the same five-part design.
The existing temple of Khajuraho can be divided into three groups, Western, Eastern and Southern. The famous Western Group, designated a World Heritage site, is enclosed within a beautifully laid-out park. Yasovarman (AD 954) built the temple of Lord Vishnu, now famous as Lakshmana temple is an ornate and evolved example of its time proclaiming the prestige of the Chandellas.
The Vishvanatha, Parsvanatha and Vaidyanatha temples in Khajuraho belong to the time of king Dhanga, the successor of Yasovarman. The Jagadambi, Chitragupta, are noteworthy among the western group of royal temples of Khajuraho. The largest and grandest temple of Khajuraho is the immortal Kandariya Mahadeva, which is attributed to king Ganda (AD 1017-29).
Unlike the rather plain treatment of other central Indian temple interiors, the Khajuraho temples are richly decorated with sculpture. Other than numerous deities enshrined in wall niches, there are attendants, graceful "maidens" in a variety of provocative postures, dancers, musicians and embracing couples. On one temple alone, the figures thus depicted are over six hundred and fifty in number. Many of these compositions display great sensuality and warmth. There are also scenes of explicit sexual activity which possibly illustrate the tantric rites that accompanied temple worship. It is quite reliably said that some of the sexual postures follow the Kama Sutra, the ancient Indian manual of love-making.
Khajuraho can be visited throughout the year, but one must avoid the extreme hot summers (April-June). The most suitable time to visit Agra is in winters.
How to Reach
By Air: Khajuraho is connected to Delhi, Agra and Varanasi by daily flights.
By Bus: Khajuraho is 590 kms from Delhi via Agra, Gwalior and Jhansi.
By Train: Jhansi (172 kms) is the nearest railhead for Khajuraho, and is connected by the super fast Shatabdi Express train to both Delhi and Agra.