The Khajuraho Group of Monuments is a group of Hindu and Jain temples in Madhya Pradesh, India. The temples are famous for their nagara style architectural symbolism and their erotic sculptures. Most Khajuraho temples were built between 950 and 1050 CE by the Chandela dynasty. Historical records note that Khajuraho temple site had 85 temples by 12th century, spread over 20 square kilometres. Of these, only about 20 temples have survived, spread over 6 square kilometres.
An ancient local legend held that Hindu deity Shiva and other gods enjoyed visiting the dramatic hill formation in Kalinjar area. The center of this region is Khajuraho, set midst local hills and rivers. The temple complex reflects the ancient Hindu tradition of building temples where gods love to play. The temples are clustered near water, another typical feature of Hindu temples. The local legends state that the temple complex had 64 water bodies, of which 56 have been physically identified by archaeologists so far.
“The gods always play where lakes are, where the sun’s rays are warded off by umbrellas of lotus leaf clusters, and where clear waterpaths are made by swans, whose breasts toss the white lotus hither and thither, where swans, ducks, curleys and paddy birds are heard, and animals rest nearby in the shade of Nicula trees on the river banks.” (Brhat Samhita 1.60.4-8, 6th Century CE)
All temples, except one (Chaturbhuja) face sunrise – another symbolic feature that is predominant in Hindu temples. The relative layout of temples integrate masculine and feminine deities and symbols highlight the interdependence. The art work symbolically highlight the four goals of life considered necessary and proper in Hinduism – dharma, kama, artha and moksha.
Of the 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 Tirthanks. For some ruins, there is insufficient evidence to assign the temple to specific deities with confidence.
An overall examination of site suggests that the Hindu symbolic mandala design principle of square and circles is present each temple plan and design. Further, the territory is laid out in three triangles that converge to form a pentagon.
Scholars suggest that this reflects the Hindu symbolism for three realms or trilokinatha, and five cosmic substances or panchbhuteshvara. The temple site highlights Shiva, the one who destroys and recycles life, thereby controlling the cosmic dance of time, evolution and dissolution.
A Hindu temple design follows a geometrical design called vastu-purusha-mandala. The name is a composite Sanskrit word with three of the most important components of the plan. Mandala means circle, Purusha is universal essence at the core of Hindu tradition, while Vastu means the dwelling structure.
The temples have a rich display of intricately carved statues. While they are famous for their erotic sculpture, sexual themes cover less than 10% of the temple sculpture.
Further, most erotic scene panels are neither prominent nor emphasized at the expense of the rest, rather they are in proportional balance with the non-sexual images. The viewer has to look closely to find them, or be directed by a guide.
The arts cover numerous aspects of human life and values considered important in Hindu pantheon. Further, the images are arranged in a configuration to express central ideas of Hinduism.
“In the embrace of his beloved a man forgets the whole world, everything both within and without; in the same way, he who embraces the Self, knows neither within nor without.” (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, 7th Century BC)
GALLERY – Khajuraho Erotic Temples
CLICK HERE: VIRTUAL TOUR KHAJURAHO TEMPLES
PHOTO: Zuzana Zwiebel
TEXT: Zuzana Zwiebel – Wikipedia, Dr.Devdutt Pattanaik: A Decoding of Hindu Mythology; 7 Secret of Shiva & other sources.
ART OF TRAVEL: www.shaktitrails.com