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22 March 2011

Khajuraho Monuments

The Khajuraho Group of Monuments in Khajuraho (Hindi: खजुराहो), a town in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, located in Chhatarpur District, about 620 kilometres (385 mi) southeast of New Delhi, are one of the most popular tourist destinations in India.
Khajuraho has the largest group of medieval Hindu and Jain temples, famous for their erotic sculpture. The Khajuraho group of monuments has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is considered to be one of the "seven wonders" of India. The name Khajuraho, ancient "Kharjuravahaka", is derived from the Sanskrit word kharjur meaning date palm.


In the twenty-seventh century of Kali yuga, the Mlechcha invaders started attacking North India. Some Bargujar Rajputs moved eastward to central India; they ruled over the Northeastern region of Rajasthan, called Dhundhar, and were referred to as Dhundhel/Dhundhela in ancient times, for the region they governed. Later on they called themselves Bundelas and Chandelas; those who were in the ruling class having gotra Kashyap were definitely all Bargujars; they were vassals of Gurjara - Pratihara empire of North India, which lasted from 500 C.E. to 1300 C.E. and at its peak the major monuments were built. The Bargujars also built the Kalinjar fort and Neelkanth Mahadev temple, similar to one at Sariska National Park, and Baroli, being Shiva worshippers. The city was the cultural capital of Chandela Rajputs, a Hindu dynasty that ruled this part of India from the 10-12th centuries. The political capital of Chandelas was Kalinjar. The Khajuraho temples were built over a span of 200 years, from 950 to 1150. The Chandela capital was moved to Mahoba after this time, but Khajuraho continued to flourish for some time. Khajuraho has no forts because the Chandel Kings never lived in their cultural capital.

The whole area was enclosed by a wall with eight gates, each flanked by two golden palm trees. There were originally over 80 Hindu temples, of which only 25 now stand in a reasonable state of preservation, scattered over an area of about 20 square kilometres (8 sq mi). Today, the temples serve as fine examples of Indian architectural styles that have gained popularity due to their explicit depiction of sexual life during medieval times. Locals living in the Khajuraho village always knew about and kept up the temples as best as they could. They were pointed out to an Englishman in late 19th century but the jungles had taken a toll on all the monuments.


The temples are grouped into three geographical divisions: western, eastern and southern. The Khajuraho temples are made of sandstone, they didn't use mortar the stones were put together with mortise and tenon joints and they were held in place by gravity. This form of construction requires very precise joints. The columns and architraves were built with megaliths that weighed up to 20 tons. Lakshmana temple at Khajuraho, a panchayatana temple. Two of the four secondary shrines can be seen. Another view.
These temples of Khajuraho have sculptures that look very realistic and are studied even today.
The Saraswati temple on the campus of Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani, India is modeled after the Khajuraho temple. The scale at which the work was undertaken is enormous. It covers twice the area of the Parthenon in Athens and is 1.5 times high, and it entailed removing 200,000 tonnes of rock. It is believed to have taken 7,000 labourers 150 years to complete the project. The rear wall of its excavated courtyard 276 feet (84 m) 154 feet (47 m) is 100 ft  (33 m) high. The temple proper is 164 feet (50 m) deep, 109 feet (33 m) wide, and 98 feet (30 m) high.

Statues and carvings

The Khajuraho temples do not contain sexual or erotic art inside the temple or near the deities; however, some external carvings bear erotic art. Also, some of the temples that have two layers of walls have small erotic carvings on the outside of the inner wall. There are many interpretations of the erotic carvings. They portray that, for seeing the deity, one must leave his or her sexual desires outside the temple. They also show that divinity, such as the deities of the temples, is pure like the atman, which is not affected by sexual desires and other characteristics of the physical body. It has been suggested that these suggest tantric sexual practices. Meanwhile, the external curvature and carvings of the temples depict humans, human bodies, and the changes that occur in human bodies, as well as facts of life. Some 10% of the carvings contain sexual themes; those reportedly do not show deities, they show sexual activities between people. The rest depict the everyday life of the common Indian of the time when the carvings were made, and of various activities of other beings. For example, those depictions show women putting on makeup, musicians, potters, farmers, and other folks. Those mundane scenes are all at some distance from the temple deities. A common misconception is that, since the old structures with carvings in Khajuraho are temples, the carvings depict sex between deities.

Another perspective of these carvings is presented by James McConnachie. In his history of the Kamasutra, McConnachie describes the zesty 10% of the Khajuraho sculpture as "the apogee of erotic art": "Twisting, broad-hipped and high breasted nymphs display their generously contoured and bejewelled bodies on exquisitely worked exterior wall panels. These fleshy apsaras run riot across the surface of the stone, putting on make-up, washing their hair, playing games, dancing, and endlessly knotting and unknotting their girdles....Beside the heavenly nymphs are serried ranks of griffins, guardian deities and, most notoriously, extravagantly interlocked maithunas, or lovemaking couples."

Khajuraho Photos

Lakshmana temple at Khajuraho, a panchayatana temple. Two of the four secondary shrines can be seen
Full resolution‎ (1,024 × 768 pixels, file size: 294 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg).
This is a file from the Wikimedia Commons.

Khajuraho temples.
This is a file from the Wikimedia Commons.

Source: Wikipedia.com
Khajuraho sculptures  are frequently sensual and, at times, sexually explicit.
Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/galactikuh/sets/72157600015236943/

About one thousand years old erotic and sensual sculptures in Khajuraho,
Madhya Pradesh, Northern India. There are at least 13000 statues in this former forgotten area.