Khajuraho Group of Monuments are renowned for the Hindu and Jain temples. Historical memorabilia suggest that originally, the Khajuraho temple site had 85 temples by the 12th century, spread over a vast area of 20 square kilometers Of these, presently only about 25 temples survive, spread over six square kilometers. Noteworthy is the Kandariya Mahadeva Temple which is decorated with a profusion of sculptures with intricate details, symbolism and picturesqueness of traditional ancient Indian art.
They are categorized into three types :
• Eastern group of temples
• Western group of temples
• Southern group of temples
A brief about each of them is being described below.
Khajuraho witness an amalgamation of Jain and Hindu art and culture. The Eastern Group of Temples are segregated into Jain assemblage and Hindu dieties.
Located near the village, away from the busy lanes of hotels and tourist restaurants, the Eastern Group includes three Brahmanical temples and three Jain temples. The former group are located close to Khajurahi-sagar, while the latter are further south of them and can be accessed by road.
Parshvanatha temple : dedicated to the 23rd tirthankara of Jainism, Parshvnatha, also known as Parshra or Paras. This is a humongous structure and is well sequined. Built in the 10th century, the entrance has an unique inscription with a most perfect magic square.
Adinath Temple : dedicated to the 1st tirthankara of Jainism, Rishabhanatha or Adinath.This was built in the 11th century. The garbhgriha (sanctum) exhibit a black schist (or basalt) of Lord Adinath and significantly showcases a three line inscription depicting the date. The temple is also adorned with sculptures of Jain Yakshanis, Padmavati, Chakreshwar and Ambika.
Ghantai Temple : a relatively ruined temple build in 995 CE, the sculpture is quite similar to the Parshavanath temple. One of the surviving pillars feature a bell and chain after which the temple is named. The entrance door of the structure features Adinath’s Yakshini attendant Chakreshwari. She is portrayed possessing eight arms and sitting on a Garuda (a legendary & mythological Indian bird).
The Brahma Temple : is a huge granite stone temple showcasing four headed Brahma. The Brahma Temple is simple in both plan and design. Though it currently enshrines a linga in the sanctum, the temple was originally Vishnavite. Its doorway is minimally ornamented, with figures of the Brahmanical trinity and of Ganga and Yamuna. It is dated to 900 CE and ejoys an enviable position on the banks of the Khajuraho Sagar.
The Vamana Temple : a hindu temple dedicated to Vamana, an incarnation of Vishnu the temple was built circa 1050-75. Close to Brahma temple, the Vamana Templehas been dated to the latter half of the 11th century and has features similar to other temples of Khajuraho, except for the fact that it has no ambulatory passage.
The Javari Temple : built between 975-1100 AD is dedicated to Vishnu. Worth noticing is that the main idol is headless and partially broken and has a remarkable makara (capricon) arch at the entrance. The entrance depicts the navagraha (nine celestial planets) alongwith sculptures of hindu dieties Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. The Javari Temple resembles Chaturbhuj architecturally.
Also visit the Ghantai Temple, named so because of the chain-and-bell (ghanta) motif on its pillars. This temple, to the south of Khajuraho village, may now only be a shell of the original grand structure but its lone location makes it stand out.
Half a kilometer southeast of Ghantai is a group of Jain temples situated within a modern compound. The notable temples here include the Parsvanatha, Adinath and Santinatha, along with numerous modern shrines that seem to have been built on the remains of older ones.
Shantinatha Temple : it is the main centre of Jain worship in Khajuraho. An inscription bears date samvat 1085 (1027-28 CE). A Gajarath festival was organized as renewal of the site in 1870 AD marks this temple dedicated to the Jain tirthankara Shantinatha. It is an assorted shrine of 18 Jain deities.
The Parsvanatha Temple is one of the finest monuments in Khajuraho, and it is a pity that not all tourists make it all the way out to see this set of sculptures. It is dedicated to the first Jain tirthankara. Despite its Jain affiliation, architecturally this temple bears a very strong resemblance to Lakshman Temple in the Western Group, and its sculptures also show Vaishnava themes.
Chousath Yogini Temple : a rectangular planned structure, built in circa 885 CE is considered to be the oldest surviving temple in Khajuraho. Out of the 14 other historic Chousath Yogini temples discovered across the country, the Khajuraho temple is the only one with a rectangular plan, all other have a circular plan. Built primarily of coarse granite blocks, this temple has no inheritant deity structure. Initially, three huge statues of goddesses, Brahmani, Maheshwari and Hingalaya or Mahishamardini were found which were relocated to the ASI Khajuraho museum. These statue are claimed to be the oldest ever found in Khajuraho.
The Chausath-yogini Temple is the earliest building in Khajuraho, dated to around the 9th century CE, and is located on a low outcrop, to the south of the huge (but nowhere near as huge as it used to be) Sivasagar Tank. This granite temple is in ruins now, but the simplicity of its plan and design is evident. The temple has an open-air quadrangle with cells, of which there were 67 at some point, but only 35 have survived. The cells are plain with a curvilinear shikhara.
The only decorations that are still surviving are a few simple mouldings on the façade. This temple is perhaps the oldest yogini shrine in the subcontinent.
Constructed between 1020-1025 CE, this temple is a tribute to the Sun god Surya. It is assumed to be ordained on 23 Feb 1023 CE, on the eve of Mahashivratri. This temple bears architectural resemblance to the Jagadambi temple. The 6.9 feet and 2.1 meter tall statue of Surya (Sun God) riding a chariot driven by seven horses is presently in a dilapidated state. Dress in an armored coat and boots and holding the lotus flower, the statue is in a standing position.
Walk down the stone path next to the Visvanatha Temple, past the well-manicured lawns to reach the Chitragupta Temple. This is the only temple in Khajuraho dedicated to the sun god, Surya. The sculptures on the platform of the temple show a party of stone-carriers, hunting scenes and elephant fights.
The sanctum has an impressive Surya image, standing in a chariot driven by seven horses. The temple walls have some of the finest carvings of erotic couples and gods, including an incredible eleven-headed Vishnu situated on the south façade.
Based on stylistic variations, these temples have been dated to approximately 1000-1025 CE.
Devi Jagadambi Temple
Constructed between 10 and 12 century, located in the north of the group is one of the finest decorated temple in Khajuraho. The temple is named after Jagadamba, a hindu goddess correlated to Parvati.The centum (garbhagraha) has an enormous visualization of the deity.
At a little distance from Chitragupta is Jagadambi Temple, originally dedicated to Vishnu – evident from the prominence the god is given on the doorway to the sanctum – but now housing an image of Parvati, after whom the temple is named. The temple stands on a platform that is right next to the Kandariya-Mahadeva`s. The sculptural depictions are absolutely stunning here, with a fantastic statue of Yama, the god of death, and of course, the ubiquitous erotic couples.
Kandariya Mahadeva Temple
The Kandariya Mahadeva roughly translates to “Great God of the Cave” and is the largest of the Western Group of the Temples. Constructed between 1003-1035 CE, this is the largest and most rhetorical amongst all hindu temple of Khajuraho. The Kandariya Mahadeva temple is one of the most well preserved temples of the medieval period, hence is held in high esteem. Agni, the God of Fire is prominently described, erotic sculptures scattered across the outer perimeter of the temple is a brick draw for the tourist. Delicately carved mithuna (coitus) postures surrounded by female associates is worth mentioning. Other prominent erotic sculpture is one of a male figure suspended upside in coitus posture and depicts a yogic pose and exquisite sculptures is that of a Sardula, a mythical feature with a lion face and human limb.
The largest and tallest of the temples, the one with the most carvings, the Kandariya Mahadeva Temple is an extremely harmonious and rhythmic Shiva temple, nearly 30.5m high, built in 1030 CE by King Vidhyadhara to celebrate his victory over Mahmud of Ghazni. Its special features include: the makara torana (a lintel in the form of the makara, a mythical aquatic creature with the jaws of a crocodile, ears of a lion, horns of a ram and the tail of a fish); the marble linga in the sanctum, the energetic mithunas; and, according to Alexander Cunningham, the largest number of figures in the complex. He counted 646 figures on the exterior and 226 inside.
The shikhara, decorated with a series of 84 smaller replicas of itself, makes for a stunning, and somewhat dizzying, sight. The temple`s architecture is absolutely stunning, with numerous niches, elaborate design and gorgeous ornamentation. Its lofty basement has several elegantly decorated felief sculptures, including two rows of processional friezers, that feature elephants, horses, warriors, dancers, acrobats, musicians and devotees, along with many, many erotic figures. These sculptures are apt depictions of life at its happiest, most joyous and free.
The spacious interiors of the temple also contain a wealth of carvings and sculptures, including the makara torana, of which there are two.
Since this temple can architecturally be placed after the Visvanatha Temple, historians have dated it to around 1025-50 CE, which was the reigh of Vidyadhara.
Constructed in the 10th century, the Lakshamana temple is tributed to Vaikantha Vishnu, an incarnation of Vishnu. The entire temple complex lies elevated on a high platform. The main idol is a tri headed quadra armed fine sculptures of Vaikunth Vishnu.The central head is of a human and the other two depicts a boar (Varaha) and a lion (Narasimha).
Varaha : An avatar of Vishnu who takes the form of a wild boar to rescue Prithvi ( Goddess Earth ).
Narasimha : An avatar of Vishnu, incarnaly in the form of part lion and part man to destroy evil.
The most refined temple in the complex, the Lakshman Temple, built in 954 CE, is the seat of Vishnu. The temple is structurally and architecturally remarkable. The sanctum has a three-headed and four-armed image of Vishnu as the avatar Vaikuntha; its central head is a human one, while on either side is a boar head and lion head. On its base are depictions that include marching armies, domestic life, dancers and orgies. The female bracket figures in the temple are exquisite. The façade is decorated with panels of sculptures; the middle panel portrays mithunas or amorous couples. The erotica, however, forms only a small part of the sculptures in Khajuraho. In another platform frieze, men and women disciples listen to a Tantric preacher sitting in a chair and a line of religious musicians are shown in ecstasy. Another impressive frieze depicts elephants and their keepers. Also look out for the intricately carved and energetic street-singers on the southern façade.
An inscribed slab dated around 953 CE, which was originally found at the base of the temple, has now been fixed in the mandapa passage. The inscription states that Yasovarman built this splendid temple to Vaikuntha.
There are also four subsidiary shrines located at the corners of the platrorm-terrace; a fifty shrine, facing the entrance, houses an image of Brahmani, locally known as Devi. However, archaeologists believe that this shrine may have originally housed a Garuda, Vishnu`s vehicle.
This much smaller sand ruined Shiva temple stands between Jagambi and Kandariya0Mahadeva. The only reason we even know to attribute it to Shavism is because of the presence of a Shiva figure in the centre of the sanctum doorway. The sanctum itself has long collapsed, but there is still a portico, in which stands a powerful figure of a sardula, a mythical tiger figure.
Is dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi, consort of Lord Vishnu. The temple is laid on a square shaped foundation ( Chabutara ) and is devoid of any sculptures.
Lalguan Mahadeva Temple
This is a partially ruined Shiva temple, dated to 900 CE, close to the Chausath-Yogini Temple. Both Chausath Yogini Temple and Lalguan Mahadeva temple are considered to be the oldest surviving temples in Khajuraho, now a dilapidated structure, with a decimated entrance porch. Made of granite, unlike the other temples which were made of sandstone, is situated on the bank of the Lalguag Sagar lake. Simple built, the design is very ordinating and is a relatively much smaller temple.
The temple shares its plan and design with the Brahma Temple and is said to belong to a transitional phase, when sandstone had been introduced, but granite was still used. It is dated to around 900 CE.
Is a Shiva temple and the only temple in Khajuraho where devotees still actively pursue their worship and rituals.
Build in 1000 CE, the temple inhouses a lingam which has Nagari and Persian inscriptions. Every year in February and March, on the occasion of Maha Shivratri, a three day ceremony is organized with great pomp and show and is attended by a huge number of devotees from far and near.
The Matangesvara Temple is right next to the boundary wall of the Western Group, near the Lakshman Temple. A little further away are two other temples, Chausath-yogini and Lalguan-Mahadeva, both older.
Dedicated to Nandi, the bull which is the mount (vahana) of Shiva features a stone sculpture of a seated Nandi facing Shiva. Sculptures of elephants,humans and erotic couples are displayed.
The Nandi shrine opposite the Visvanatha temple stands apart from the platform of the latter, but is part of the architectural scheme, as it were. The pavilion, approached through a flight of steps, houses a massive image of Nandi, the bull vehicle of Shiva, which is over 2.2-m long and 1.8-m high and faces the main deity of the Visvanatha Temple.
Dedicated to the consort of Shiva, Parvati temple is restored to it’s present stage. Sculptures of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva are depicted on the arch and in the front wall, erotic sculptures of couples can be seen. The porch is completely lost and of the sanctum, only a part of the plinth survives. The sanctum houses an idol of Parvati on an Iguana.
This is a small temple right next to Visvanatha, with a heavily restored small shrine. The doorway indicates that it was a Vaishnava shrine, because of the image of Vishnu in the middle of the lintel. Other than this, not much detail has survived. The image inside is that of Gauri with her vehicle Godha, or Iguana.
Near Parvati Temple is a relatively newer temple that was built by a Chhattarpur Maharaja not more than 100 years ago.
Build between 900 – 925 AD, the Varaha Temple is build of sandstone and venerates a colossal monolithic image of Varaha, the 3rd avatar of Lord Vishnu in the form of a wild boar (Varaha).
Lord Vishnu appeared in the form of a wild boar to defeat Hiranyaksha, a demon who had kidnapped Prithvi (Earth) and carried to the bottom of the cosmic ocean. The mythological battle between Vishnu and Hiranyaksha lasted for a 1000 years and Vishnu finally won, thereby carried Earth out of the ocean between his tusks. The statue of Varaha, measuring 3.6 m ong & 1.7 m high is carved with numerous figures, the prominent being Saraswati carrying Veena in her arms.
This shrine, located just in front of the Lakshman Temple, was built on a high plinth, and is similar to the Lalguan-Mahadeve. Inside the shrine is a stunning colossal Varaha, carved in a single block of sandstone, over 1.5 m high. The image is beautifully finished to a glossy luster, and is carved all over with innumerable figures of gods and goddesses. Varaha is, of course, the boar incarnation of Vishnu, and is credited with saving the Earth – anthropomorphized into a goddess – from devastating floods by lifting her up on his snout. The image in this shrine will confirm the prevalence of this myth. At the feet of Varaha is the serpent Seshanaga, next to the feet of the broken figure of the earth-goddess.
This shrine was probably constructed during the rule of the first Chandela prince Harsha, and is dated to around 900-925 CE.
Dedicated to Shiva, build in sandstone, who is also the Vishvanatha – Lord of the Universe. Build between 999 CE – 1002 CE, the temple features sculptures of several deities, Surasundaris ( celestial maidens ), couples making love and mythological creatures.
The Varaha temple, Lakshmana temple and the Kandariya Mahadeva temple are a fine example of an exemplary Chandela style of architecture.
Walk eastwards from the Varaha shrine to explore the Visvanatha, Nandi and Parvati shrines before you move on to the more illustrious set of temples at the other end of the archaeological complex. Of these, the most spectacular is the Visvanatha Temple.
Located at the northeastern end of the Western Group, this temple has a shivalinga enshrined in its sanctum. It is said to have been an architectural precursor to the Kandariya-Mahadeva, which is another reason to head here first. There are two inscriptions on the mandapa walls of the temple. The longer inscription was found in the temple and isa royal record referring to the dedication of two lingas, an emerald one and a stone one, in a towering temple of Siva-Marakatesvara, built in 1002 by the CHandela king Dhanga. Though only one linga has survived, it is obvious that the temple being referred to is the Visvanatha itself.
On the banks of the Khudar river, south of the town, is the stunning Duladeo Temple. Belonging to the later phase of temple-making in this region, it has many features that show a departure from the typical Khajuraho style. On the other hand though, the sculptures are also voluptuous and erotic in nature, similar to those in Khajuraho.
For the true history and architecture aficionados, a visit to the Chaturbhuj Temple will not seem like too much. Located 3 km south of Khajuraho, close to the village of Jatkari, it is the only temple here without any erotic depictions. The sculptures are stereotypical and have none of the vigour and emotion associated with Khajuraho images. However, the colossal image of Vishnu in the sanctum makes up for this.
A ruined temple located at village Jatkara, near Khajuraho. The dimension in length of this temple is 34.60 meters and can boast to be bigger than the biggest temple of Khajuraho, the Kandariya Mahadeva temple. Still under a stage of excavation, it is one of the 18 unexplored cumulation of Khajuraho.
Build circa 1100 AD, the temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and literally means “One who has four arms” as it refers to Vishnu.
Like the Beejamandal temple, this temple is also located at village Jatkara, near Khajuraho. The main idol is a four armed Lord Vishnu and faces south with astonishing resemblance to the idols with the same characteristics found in Angor Wat temples, Combodia.
The east facing Duladeo temple, located on the bank of Khoidar river, build around 1000-1150 AD, is formally dedicated to Lord Shiva, who is omnipresent in form of a linga in the sanctum. Duladeo in the regional language means “Holy Bridegroom” and the temple is also known locally as “Kunwar Math”. The walls depict delicately carved celestial dances in erotic postures. The sculptures of the Duladeo temple have strong resemblance to those of a temple in Jamsor near Kanpur, UP and it has been extrapolated that Vasala, the name of the chief sculptor, whose name figures in many inscriptions on the temple complex, was responsible for both these monuments.
The Khajuraho temples features lot of erotic or sexual art, which is suggested by scholars and historians as tantric sexual practices. Another school of thought is that these erotic forms of art in the sculptures depicted are a part of the Karma ( as in Hindu religion ) considered to be an integral part of one’s life. The Kandariya Mahadeva temple leads in this as this itself hosts around 870 such erotic sculptures.
Directly outside the complex are temples, a tank, as well as an ASI museum that is likely to also take up a few hours of your time, if you wish to explore the Western Group thoroughly instead of limiting yourself to the ASI-designated and delineated set of temples.
• Archeological museum
• Jain Museum
Sound and Light Show
Like all other major tourist sites in Madhya Pradesh, MP Tourism has organized a Sound and Light Show at the Western Group of Temples for a dramatic retelling of the political history that led to the remins that we admire today. Of course, knowledge about the Chandelas and the process of building these gorgeous structures is limited, so a lit of what you will get to hear are fanciful local legends that the government decided to do-opt to amaze tourists. The lights make full use of the niches and corners of the temples, and all in all, it is a beautiful experience.
Sandstone images of Brahmani, Mahesvari and Mahishasurmardini that were earlier installed her can now be found at the ASI Museum, located opposite the Sivasagar Tank. These are considered the oldest sculptural representations found in Khajuraho, amd are massive.
MP Tourism`s Tourist Interpretation and Facilitation Centre organizes traditional folk dances in their auditorium every evening. The performances, an amalgamation of colourful outfits, soulful music and bright lights, are an absolute treat and a must-see.
Adivart Tribal & Folk Art Museum
For those staying on a bit longer in Khajuraho and wanting a break from all the art and architecture, this museum of folk art from the different tribal communities of Madhya Pradesh is a great place. Though much smaller in scale and aspirations than the Tribal Museum in Bhopal, this wonderful art museum is lovely. Located a short walk away from the centre of Khajuraho village the museum is spread over two rooms, with lots of bright paintings, terracotta images, sculptures, masks and statues. You can buy original paintings for somewhat hefty prices and prints as souvenirs.
ASI ( Archeological Survey of India ) offers a self guided audio tour facility, comparable to international standards, better known as the Audio Compass Guide. Available in hindi, english & other prominent languages.
Official Smartphone App
Download Audio Compass ( available in android and IOS ). This is a state of the art app offering touch screen map graphics and authentic audio content. This app is the official Audio partner for the Ministry of Tourism (Incredible India).
Connect with Arhanta Yoga ashram to indulge in Yoga during your trip to Khajuraho.
Spurge on iron, brass and stone sculptures depicting dancing Natraja as well as various Kamasutra poses. Souveniers like gold and silver ornaments, sand stone and granite statues can be bought.