Khajuraho is a small town of the Chhatarpur district in the state of Madhya Pradesh. This town is recognised for a group of Hindu and Jain temples located about 50 kilometres from the city of Chhatarpur which are connected to Bhopal, the state capital. These historic groups of temples, built during the rule of Chandela Dynasty at Khajuraho, are famous for their nagara-style architectural and their erotic sculptures. These temples, enlisted in the UNESCO World Heritage Site in India, were dedicated to two religions namely Hinduism and Jainism and represent a distinct pattern of art and temple architecture.
Khajuraho remained under the rule of Hindu Kings till 12 century and witnessed the construction of around 85 temples under their regime. Thereafter, in the 13th century, the Sultanate of Delhi was seized by Muslim rulers who invaded cities after cities causing mass destruction in order to establish their supremacy. The Chandela Kingdom too was attacked and seized by the army of Delhi Sultanate under the command of Muslim Sultan Qutb-ud-din Aibak. The region comprising of the Khajuraho temples remained under Muslim Dynasties for a considerable period of time during which many temples were left in neglect.
Thereafter, in 1945, Khajuraho was again invaded by Sikandar Lodi, who was on a drive of demolishing temples and erecting mosques in their place. He wanted to destroy all the temples at Khajuraho as well but was not able to do so as the site of many of these temples was remotely located, which isolated it from the main settlement.
Regardless of this, out of the 85 temples only 20 of them have survived various stages of preservation. Of theses surviving temples, 6 are dedicated to Shiva and his consorts, 8 to Vishnu and his affinities, 1 to Ganesha, 1 to Sun god, 3 to Jain Tirthankaras.
Over the centuries, these Khajuraho temples remained secluded in the place which over the period of time got converted into forest and were later rediscovered by British Engineer T.S. Burt in 1830. It was in 1852, that the earliest drawings of the Khajuraho temples were prepared by Maisey. These temples are built and established in a similar pattern and are famous for their architectural balance, exquisite style and graceful erotic sculptures.
The temples have been grouped into three geographical division – namely the Eastern Group, which comprises of temples, mostly Brahmanical, situated in and around the present town of Khajuraho, the Southern Group, which comprises of temples of Duladeo and Chaturbhuja situated near and across the Khudarrnala and the Western Group, which comprises of all the temple groups of Khajuraho, including the most noteworthy monuments built during the reign of Chandela rules and maintained well by the Archaeological Survey of India.
The prominent temples of this group are the Lakshmana Temple (temple of Vishnu, built in 954 by Yasovarman), the Visvanatha, Parsvanatha and Vaidyanatha temples (belong to the time of king Dhanga, the successor of Yasovarman), the Matangesvara Temple and the Varaha Temple (part of a single complex), however temples like Vamana, Adinatha, Javari, Chaturbhuj, Jagadambi and Duladeo, are smaller but elaborately designed.
Amongst them, the immortal Kandariya Mahadev temple is the largest and grandest temple with over 870 art works, sculptures and cult images. The temple is attributed to King Ganda (AD 1017-29) and is the most visited temple.
Besides, all Khajuraho temples, except one, faces sunrise, and the entrance for the devotee is from the east side.
Khajuraho temples follow a grid geometrical design called vastu-purusha-mandala having three main important components – Mandala means circle, Purusha is universal essence at the core of Hindu tradition, while vastu means the dwelling structure.
The design lays out a Hindi temple in a symmetrical, concentrically layered, self-repeating structure around the core of the temple called Garbhagriya, where the abstract principle Purusha and the primary deity of the temple dwell and a clockwise walk around this is called the pradakshina. Above the garbhagriha of each temple is a superstructure with a dome called Shikhara.
Larger temples have pillared walls comprising of an ardhamandapa, which is the entrance to the mandapa that leads into the hall known as mahamandapa having transepts on each side and antarala in the front leading to garbhagriha or sanctum. The clockwise walk around garbhagriha is called the pradakshina. They also have subsidiary shrines at four corners.
The exterior of these temples are decorated elaborately, which include thousand statues and art works, sculptures and cult images of parivara, parsva, avarana devatas, dikpalas, the apsarases and sura-sundaris which win universal admiration for their delicate, youthful female forms of ravishing beauty. Few of these temples even have iconographic carvings containing sexual themes and various sexual poses.
The vast majority of arts depict various aspects the everyday life, mythical stories as well as symbolic display of various secular and spiritual values important in Hindu tradition. For example, depictions show women putting on makeup, musicians making music, potters, farmers, and other folks in their daily life during the medieval era.