With Love, From Khajuraho
What is the first thing that pops in your head at the mention of Khajuraho? Erotic sculptures and foreign tourist flocking around the temples. I will confess that my idea of Khajuraho was pretty much the same but little did I know. As I walked up the stairs of the Devi Jagadambi Temple which is a part of the Western Group of temples at Khajuraho I realized that Khajuraho has been wrongly stereotyped. The idea of Khajuraho being synonymous to just erotic sculptures was ruled out then and there. I couldn’t spot any erotic sculpture in one glance, which was my expectation. When looked hard I could spot a few of them. Sitting on the sandstone stairs with a balmy sunset at the backdrop the intricate details of the sculptures glistened with the fading sunlight.
Boasting the coveted title of The UNESCO World Heriage Site, Khajuraho Temples are not just architectural marvel but also a magnificent expression of ancient Indian Art. Khajuraho temples are divided into Eastern and Western group of temples. Built by the rulers of the Chandela Dynasty the temples are majorly dedicated to Hinduism and Jainism. While the eastern group of temples showcases more of Jainism the western group of temples are more around Hindu ideologies and beliefs. At the time of construction there were as many as 85 temples by only 22 of them stand tall today.
With a little flavor of Western Group of temples in Khajuraho we started the next day by first venturing the Eastern Group of temples. The eastern group is dominated by Jain temples namely Parsvanath, Adinath and Shantinath temple. I wonder how skilled Chandela dynasty was back then as the whole temple was built on mortise, tenon joints and interlocking architecture. No mortar is used to hold the sandstone blocks together. Chandela dynasty was time and again invaded by the Muslim invaders like Mahmud Ghazni and Muhammad Ghori. The temples were saved from their wrath when a peace accord was signed between Mahmud Ghazni and King of Khajuraho where the King agreed to pay a ransom.
Peace didn’t prevail for long and the Muslims were soon invaded by the Mughals . But somehow the temples of Khajuraho again survived as people moved to other locations and temples were blanketed by forests and other vegetation. As the time passed the thickness of the forest and vegetation grew and the temples were protected from destruction of the Muslim rulers. The story changed upside down when the temple was discovered by the British Army Engineer Captain T.S. Burt in 1838. On his insistence the jungle was cleared and he visited the temple. He later declared that he hasn’t seen a better depiction of women’s beauty and was spellbound by the life lesson offered by every sculpture of Khajuraho temple.
Khajuraho temples date back to the era when there were no schools and these temples were treated as the source of social tenets and life lessons. The temples are bulit around the teachings of Arth (economy), Dharma (religion), Karma (sex) and Moksha (nirvana). Majority of the temples have wide variety of war, armory, warrior symbols in large numbers at their facades. These symbols are the depiction of the rich economy of the dynasty. As you move ahead along with these one can spot a lot of scultptures of various Gods and Goddesses which depicts the religious belief of the dynasty. The next in line are the erotic sculptures which represent the sexual aspect of the lives. And finally the main part of the temple represents the nirvana stage of life.
Khajuraho Temples are not just significant for the life lessons but they are also source of inspiration for modern artist, designers (apparel and jewellery) and architects. The highly crafted broad hips, voluptuous breasts, well toned and contoured bodies work as muse for writers and creative creators. The female sculpture with inticrate make up, hair, clothing and jewelery details give creativity goals for the budding designers. Not just the aforesaid but the technically interlocked maithunas or lovemaking couples with extravagant position gives you major intensified love goals.
What saddens me about the erotic sculptures is the stereotype associated with them. Did you know that only ten percent of the sculptures in Khajuraho are erotic in nature. And also Khajuraho is not the only temple which possesses erotic sculptures. There are many more sites in India which have more erotic creations than Khajuraho, Sun temple of Konark, Jain temples of Ranakpur, Virupaksha temple of Hampi are a few to name.
What part of these temples intrigue you the most ? Ending the post with a picture of Lakshman Temple of Western Group of temples with a beautiful sunset at the back.