Note : More ravings of Khajuraho ahead.
Of the many medieval temples in this town, the Western group might be more popular & of an advanced temple-building style, but the others carry a lot of significance too. The remaining few temples, unlike the Western group that is enclosed in a park, are scattered through the old village area in the East & South of Khajuraho. One could be walking past a row of houses and suddenly come upon an ancient structure standing tall in the narrow lanes, in a paradoxical blend of past and present.
The Eastern Group of Temples
Far less monumental in size than the likes of Kandariya Mahadeva, these are smaller but have just as detailed exteriors as their Western counterparts. They can be further categorised into either Jain or Hindu religion, based on the deity they are dedicated to.
- To the extreme N-E of this cluster sits the temple most known for its sculptures & carvings of celestial beauties, the Vamana Temple (1050-1075 C.E). Built as a shrine to Lord Vishnu's 'Vamana' (Brahmin) avatar, it has a sanctum with lateral transepts that project out in the form of balconies.
- Another temple of repute is the Javari (1075-1100 C.E), which is situated 200 m from the Vamana. Proportionally, this temple is excellent and has a particularly detailed 'Makara torana' (Capricorn archway) at its entrance. Its coffered ceiling in the sanctum & vestibule matches the style of temple architecture of the period. Sadly though, the sanctum houses a headless image of God Vishnu, the result of some pillaging army.
- The largest & best preserved Jaina temples amongst the old temples of Khajuraho is undoubtedly the Parshvanatha Temple (950-970 C.E), named after the 23rd Jain Tirthankara. An interesting feature is the shrine attached to the back of the sanctum on the West face; which is not a common feature in Indian temple architecture.
- The other Jain temples are Adinatha & Shantinatha (both dating to 11th Century C.E), named after the 1st & 16th Tirthankaras respectively. The former is similar in construction to the Vamana temple with only slight evolution in embellishment & form. A lime plastered masonry entrance porch has replaced its original mandapa that has been lost to the ages. The present-day structure of the latter features modern renovations (1870 C.E), but the nucleus of the temple belongs to medieval times, spanning 10 centuries. This temple has a courtyard with galleries around it showing history of Jainism in India.
The Southern Group of Temples
Consisting of only 2 temples that are situated 5 km away Khajuraho village, this group lacks sculptural refinement & polish of the other temples perhaps since they were built towards the decline of the Chandela kingdom when creativity, artistry and finances were drying up.
- The lone temple facing West among all at Khajuraho (which is unusual for Hindu temples) is the Chaturbhuj Temple (1100 C.E). As its name suggests, it is dedicated to a 4-armed multideity figure; Shiva at the head, Vishnu's torso and Krishna's legs. This is also famous for being the only temple at Khajuraho that lacks erotic sculptures.
- Duladeo Temple (1000-1150 C.E), dedicated to Shiva, seems to be the last temple built in the golden era of Khajuraho. Its name translates to 'Holy Bridegroom' and thus represents Shiva as a 'Dulha' (groom). The multiple towering Shikharas represent mount Kailash, the abode of its namesake god.
I would love to write about the construction & layout of each monument individually; since I cannot do that without creating a novel, I will leave a few links that do a neat job of explaining the structural aspects for any architectural enthusiast. If you're lucky to be able to visit, please be sure to be respectful to the locals as they pride themselves on their heritage, culture & hospitality.
Khajuraho is reached by either train or plane, but both the station & airport are located a few kms away from the main village. From there, taxis or autos can be hired to make the last mile journey. Alternatively, few hotels offer pick-up services on request. Please be sure to arrive during daylight hours to ensure a safe trip to the village as roads are deserted during nighttime & there are no signs of civilisation on the way. And do plan to stay for weeks or months (there are a number of hotels catering to a range of budgets) at the very least, to soak up every ray of sunshine that lights up the mystical land that is Khajuraho!!!
Apart from its temples, this town offers a couple more well-hidden sights; obscured by the popularity of its main attractions. And that, will be a story for another page...
For further reading :
About history of the temples -
About architecture of Khajuraho temples -
About Jain Tirthankaras -