THE temples of Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh are India’s unique gift to the world, representing, as they do, a paean to life, to love, to joy, perfect in execution and sublime in expression. Life, in every form and mood, has been captured in stone, testifying not only to the craftsman’s artistry but also to the extraordinary breadth of vision of the Chandela Rajputs under whose rule the temples were constructed.
The Khajuraho temples were built in the short span of a hundred years, from 950-1050 AD in a truly inspired burst of creativity. Of the 85 original temples, 22 have survived till today to constitute one of the world’s great artistic wonders.
The fascinating Son-et-Lumiere spectacle evokes the life and times of the great Chandela Kings. Mounted in the complex of the Western Group of temples, the 50-minute show runs in Hindi and in English every evening and is narrated by Amitabh Bachchan in his mesmerizing voice.
Kandariya Mahadeo: The largest and the most typical of the Khajuraho temples, it soars 31 m high. Dedicated to Shiva, the sanctum sanctorum enshrines a lingam. The main shrine is exquisitely carved and features in delicate details, gods, goddesses and celestial maidens.
Chaunsath Yogini: The only granite temple and the earliest surviving shrine of the group (900 AD), it is dedicated to Kali. Only 35 of the original 65 shrines remain.
Chitragupta Temple: Facing eastwards to the rising sun, the temple is dedicated to the sun god, Surya. The image of the deity is particularly imposing: five feet high, and driving a horse-drawn chariot.
Vishwanath Temple: A three headed image of Brahma is enshrined in this temple. The approach is equally impressive, with lions flanking the northern and elephants the southern steps that lead up to it.
Lakshmana Temple: The lintel over the entrance of this beautiful Vaishnavite temple shows the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva with Lakshmi, Vishnu’s consort. The finely carved sanctum has a three- headed idol of Vishnu’s incarnations, Narasimha and Varaha. This boar incarnation also appears in a nine-feet high statue at the Varaha Temple.
Parsvanath Temple: The group’s largest Jain Temple and exquisite in detail. The sculptures on the northern outer wall are particularly noteworthy. Within, a throne faces the bull emblem of the first tirthankara, Adinath. The Parsvanath image was installed in 1860.
Ghantai Temple: This Jain temple has a frieze which depicts the 16 dreams of Mahavira’s mother, and a Jain goddess on a winged Garuda.
Adinath Temple: Dedicated to the Jain saint, Adinath, the temple is lavishly embellished with sculpted figures, including yakshis.
The three Hindu temples of the group are the Brahma, containing a four-faced lingam, the Vamana, with apsaras in a variety of sensuous attitudes; and the Javari, with a richly carved gateway and sculptures.
Duladeo Temple: Dedicated to Shiva, the apsara and ornamented figures are its most striking features.
Chaturbhuj Temple: This temple has a massive, intricately-carved image of Vishnu in the sanctum.