Khajuraho, in Madhya Pradesh, is that ultimate melting pot where India and Indianess both achieved its peak. It is a place where the great Indian tradition laid the foundation for ideology, philosophy and mythology to mix, flourish and create a glorious perfection. It’s a no-where-to-be-found melange of love, life, pleasure, liberation, and self-actualization where life can be seen in full circle and beyond. Nothing is taboo here, nothing is sacrilegious here, and nothing is profane here.
Khajuraho Temples – Songs Of Life Carved In Stones
The beauty and the aura of Khajuraho cannot be created by mere artists but by those who are under the spell of moksha, driven by the trance of nirvana and living life with no string attached. It seems they all have had seen it all, lived it all and have done it all; they were standing on the verge of achieving great salvation and just before entering the last phase they blessed the earth with their philosophy using chisel creating a grand symphony amidst stones that still reverberate eternal songs of life.
Khajuraho Temples – A Grand Candid Theater Of Life
Every bit of Khajuraho oozes reality and that if lived with perfection, paves the way to nirvana, moksha or salvation. Whatever god has created is carved here with upmost devotion and purity without any dissonance or dissent. Carvings on Temples of Khajuraho are more than erotica; they are all about life and divinity in its multilayered and multifaceted form. They portray intriguing stories about various aspect of life, mainly Hindu way of life, regarding war, love, worship, story of gods, anecdotes from holy books etc.
Misconception may make you curious and fill you with ecstasy and sexuality just before you enter the temple complex, however, when you see so many forms of life and try to connect the dot, you come out as a super spiritual human being with a better understanding of life and its various forms from birth to death and beyond. While watching the bas-reliefs, you need to give in and let the wibes embrace you tightly and in doing so, you see a magnum opus written all over depicting greater and deeper meaning of life.
Temples Complex of Khajuraho – UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites
Built between 9th and 12th Century AD, under the patronage of Chandela Rulers, Temples of Khajuraho are world famous for its flamboyant sculptures and highly elaborated carvings. There are number of Hindu and Jain temples from medieval time spread across telling the story of glory days when India was the world leader and superior in thoughts, ethics and human rights than any of the world power today. Carvings on the temples tell this all making it an apt candidate for UNESCO’s World Heritage Site.
Khajuraho and its temples are the masterpiece akin to Konark & Sanchi with a distinct universal appeal that goes beyond boundaries and make everyone feel proud of such human achievement. Its universal values have earned it a well deserved place in UNESCO’s world heritage site. After Taj Mahal in Agra, it is the second most visited monument site in India by people from all across the globe.
Majestic Khajuraho & Its Creators – The Chandelas
The famed stones of Khajuraho capture and showcase the life and its all manifestations, moods, shades and related legends . They majestically not just represent craftsmen’s sublime perfection but also the grand vision of Chandela Rulers for providing patronage to something unique, distinct and majestic, a stepping stone to a new beginning.
Chandelas, the creator of Khajuraho are believed to be the descendant of Moon, which is Chandra in Hindi. For this reason, Moon the lord of emotion was their presiding God. As moon governs all expression and emotions, Chandelas also infused all kind of emotions and all known, overt and covert expressions while conceiving and constructing Temples of Khajuraho. These temples were their royal pursuit and a grand attempt to achieve an unforgettable and kind of a forever stature in world history.
As per the local legend, the founder of Chandela dynasty, Chandravarman was the son of Moon and Hemwati, the daughter of a sage. Hemwati raised Chandravarman in the forest and as per legends, he fought with tigers while growing up and later became the emblem of Chandelas. Across Temple complex, we can see the brave kid with tiger.
Chandelas were the de facto rulers of modern day Bundelkhand, which they gradually acquired from Pratihar rulers of Kannauj after the end of Hashvardhana’s reign in North India. They ruled from 9th Century to 13th Century and in this period, and built around 85 grand temples showcasing everything human in a short span of 100 years from 950AD to 1050AD when they were at their peak. Epigraphic references give detail to a long line of Chandela Rulers, however, three of them Harshadeva, Yeshovarman and Dhanga were the Greatest Chandela Rulers making their presence felt from Himalaya to Narmada and during their reign Khajuraho achieved its zenith.
That was the last lag of Indian golden period that started with Gupta Dynasty and in Khajuraho, world can see the very last burst of true Indian art and purest of all creativity. With this great artistic wonder, Chandela became eternal. Every great ruler has left something great, unique and inspiring for future generation. Chandelas did the same when they gave Khajuraho to the world.
Due to absence of historical documents, conjecture, myth, speculations have further given glory to the Chandelas in Central India and after the discovery of Khajuaro by Britishers, the legends went global from local.
Temple complex of Khajuraho – Its Story Of Lost & Found – The Rediscovery
Khajuraho earned its name due to the abundance of Palm trees in the region and in fact got the mention as Khajurapura in Prithviraj Raso. It was a large city on the banks of Ken River lying on the main road connecting Patliputra to the Ujjaini and Kannauj to Vidisha, all the most important ancient centres of culture and civilization.
Due to multiple political reasons, the last of the great Chandela Ruler, Dhanga the son of Yeshovarman and grandson of Harshadev, shifted the capital to Kalinjir the great impregnable fortress on Vindhya and left Khajuraho to flourish as religious and intellectual center.
His grandson Vidyadhara stood up against Mohammad Ghazni who soon would be changing the milieu of every sort across Indian subcontinent. Vidyadhara brought together neighboring kingdoms who were under his suzerainty to create a Hindu league to repulse Ghazni. He was the last of the last Hindu king to withstand and repulse Islamic rule. After his death, his son could not manage or manipulate his vassals and fought for supremacy that eventually reduced the might of Chandelas in central India. In next few decades, decline of the Chandelas continued and with shifting of their capital to Mahoba, Khajuraho the erstwhile capital town of Jejakabhukti (Modernday Bundelkhand) was completely abandoned.
In next century, Chandelas were overthrown by Mohhamad Ghori confirming the end of Chandela’s supremacy from Central India after 20 successive reigns. Of those glory days what was left is the most precious and poignant testimony to their existence i.e. magnificent collection of architecture in Khajuraho earning Chandelas a place for posterity and future antiquity.
When Khajuraho was abandoned, it was a boon for the great architecture of Khajurao for Islamic rulers lost the site of it. Chandelas also protected them till 16th century but could not add anything into it due to regular fights of survival with other kingdom which led to their eventual decline.
Khajuraho and its temples thus remained unheard and survived and unlike other locations of religious prominence, they didn’t bear the full-blown brunt and the religious wrath of successive Islamic rulers. But, few did fall naturally due to no maintenance and many were destroyed by Qutub-Uddin-Aibek and later by Sikandar Lodhi when he was retreating from Panna and Baghelkhand in 1494-95.
It was first desecrated, then left neglected and that resulted in vegetation and forest that overgrew the temples. Despite all this, temple town of Khajurao, largely, remained isolated for few centuries and its remoteness saved it from further destruction. Ruins and remains were known to local people and an annual Mahashivaratri festival (Great night of Shiva) was continued to be celebrated there. With this historical background and interplay of afflicting ironies, only 25 temples could survive the effect of nature, time and destruction by the time they were rediscovered by Britishers in 1830s.
In 1830s, locals of Kahjuraho guided British T S Brut to the great ruins and remains of the temple complex and thus started the journey of resurrection and redevelopment. Owing to the continuous efforts that ASI put in over more than a century, remaining temples could gain some glory back and again started to exhume their magnificence. The temples of Khajuraho, today, overwhelm every one and give multitude reason to visualize not just what we have lost and but also make us feel sad about what further we could have achieved.
My Interpretation of Temples of Khajuraho – Erotica and beyond
In next few paragraphs I will put forth my interpretations which are based on my interaction with locals and multiple books and essay written on Khjuraho. The thoughts are an assimilation of my learnings and observations that I have acquired during my travel to places across India. They are a juxtaposition of history, folklores and my understanding of how history might have evolved and folklores created over generations.
Khajuraho, undoubtedly, represent the most glorious chapter and an intense story of Indian renaissance. They were built when thousand years old Buddhism was having its last deep breathes on Indian soil yielding ground to new-found Hinduism and Hindus were rebuilding their symbolism. The trinity of Hinduism was to reclaim its rightful place and regain its storied glory weaved tightly and neatly by rishis, sages and saints around legends of Gods and kings.
Under the almost century old prevalence of Buddhism, general people were more indulge in monastic way of life and it was important to bring them back which led to the creation of grand theaters with lively sculptures, erotic and otherwise, to make Kama in vogue. The wheel of Karma which encompasses Dharma, Artha, Kama ad Moksha was required to be reinvented. Walls of these Temples were proudly adorned with symbol of resurgent Hinduism which was re-imagined and re-established by Adi Shankaracharya. All sects such as Vaishanava, Shaiva, Shakya and Nagas were given their dues to bring forever unity among the sects within Hindu ecosystem. This phenomenon, although achieved its grandness at Khajuraho but also can be seen at other places such as Konark in Odisha and Bhoram Deo in Chhattisgarh to name few.
The sculptures of Khajuraho also profusely depict the prominence that women had in the society; showcase the wholesomeness of the life people had on their platter and, portray a society that was tolerant to accept multitude of thought processes and ethos. A golden epoch of Indian history where society was as open and progressive as it is today in western world where sex was not taboo, openness was mainstream, individualism was worshiped and spirituality was practiced.
Khajuraho was more of a cultural moment for it was witnessing the transition from Unitranism to trinity; from Buddhism and Jainism to overarching Hinduism; from a life where moksha was the ultimate objective to a new way of life where Artha and Kama were at the center of every manifestation.
So, to accommodate all and to bring cultural assimilation and social awakening, rulers have to shatter old ethos and create profound yet disruptive ways to unite mass across classes. Amidst these cultural hard-stops and grand scheme of things, when a new moment was sweeping across India, Khajuraho was the momentous phenomenon that rapidly manifested itself and soon holistically and extrovertly shout out loud about the Hindu resurgence and arrival of another cultural renaissance.
Mighty kings of Chandelas were in complete sync with these realities and under their able patronage this renaissance unfolded in central India just like the last one which happened in Gupta period. Chandelas were aware of the glory it would bring to them and put their full might to build a city that can not only change the social milieu for good but also bring eternal fame and glory to their clan.
Chandelas were captivated and enthralled by the beauty and grandness of Kannauj. They must have dreamt to outmatch and outclass the city of Kannauj the famed capital of Gupta Empire and a cosmopolitan world city of those times. Chandelas could do this with finesse and class by creating a sprawling and buzzing city to be known as Khajuraho. Many world travelers like Al-baruni and ibn Batuta witnessed the magnanimous city in its full bloom avatar with awe. The city and its legendary grand architecture still reverberate the tales of glory of Chandelas and echo gratitude towards one of the finest empire of India.
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