Temple construction continued
sporadically until the 12th century. Far removed from the politcal centre of
the kingdom, its location minimised the danger of external attack, making
Khajuraho te Chandelas' spiritual homeland. In 1335 Ibn Batuta talks about
'Kajarra' with a great pond, flanked by temples containing idols and
ascetics with matted locks living in them. The earliest temples of Khajuraho
were built in coarse granite. However, the most famous ones - including the
World Heritage monuments known as the Western Group of temples - are mostly
built in fine-grained buff, pink and pale yellow sandstone, quarried from
neighbouring Panna. The temples belong to different religious sects like
Shaiva, Vaishnava and Jain and mark the culmination of the northern Indian
or Nagara style of temple architecture.
Khajuraho temples are almost all aligned east to west, with the entrance
facing east. A profusely carved arch leads to the oblong porch or
ardhamanapa, behind which is the large assembly hall or mandapa, open on
three sides, followed by the still larger hall mahamandapa, a closed hall
with a corridor around it. This hall finally leads into the vestibule or the
antarala. Beyond this is the garbhagriha or sanctum, entered through another
ornate doorway, that houses the cult deity. The larger temples have both
inner and outer ambulatory passages or sandharas. And some have subsidiary
shrines on the four corners making the structure a panchayatna or five
shrined complex. Both the interiors and the exterior are beautifully carved.
series of friezes runs right round the temple, from the basement to the
projections and the recesses of the walls above. The inside walls, doorways,
pillars, pilasters, niches, architraves and ceilings all display a wealth of
ornamentation which has few parallels. The sculptors of Khajuraho have show
immense virtuosity in expressing the myriad aspects of Indian life - god and
goddesses, guardians of the quarters, sensuous and graceful apsaras
(nymphs), surasundaris (attendants of higher divinities), salabhanjikas
(tree nymphs) in infinite moods and postures.
There are three
groups of temples at Khajuraho. The Western group has temples to Shiva and
Vishnu. The northern group has Vaishnava temples for the most part and the
south eastern group consists of Jain temples.
oldest of these temples, dating back to 900 CE is the Chaunsath
in the western group, located southwest of the
To the north of this is the Kandariya
, the largest in Khajuraho. It is considered to be
the best representation of the Khajuraho style of Indo Aryan temples -
consisting of a sanctum - Garbhagriha, a circumambulatory path -
Pradakshinapatha, an Antarala, Ardhamandapa, Mandapa and a Mahamandapa. The
sanctum enshrines a marble Shivalingam.
To the north of this
temple is the Devi Jagadambi Temple
. Further north is the
Sun temple, enshrining an image of the Sun God, on a chariot pulled by seven
horses. To the extreme north of this, is the Vishwanath temple, built along
the lines of the Kandariya Mahadeo temple. Inscriptinos reveal that it was
built by King Dhanga and that an emerald image of Shiva - Marakateswara was
enshrined here. South west of this temple is the Parvati temple.
Lakshavarma is credited with building the Lakshmana-Chaturbhuja
at Khajuraho. The image enshrined here said originally to be
from Tibet was gifted to Lakshavarma by the Pratihara ruler Devapala. This
is a three headed image of Vishnu, bearing a human, varaha and a simha head.
The Matangeswara temple enshrines Shiva, in the form of a highly polished
Shivalingam. There is also a small Varaha temple in the vicinity.
eatern group has temples to Bhrama (Shiva), Vaamana, and Javari
The Jain temples in the south eastern group are very similar in construction
to the others. The Parsvanatha temple is the largest of these. There are
also temples to Ghantai and Adinatha.