The temples of Khajuraho are India’s unique gift to the world, representing, as they do, a paean to life, to love, to joy, perfact in execution and sublime in expression. Life, in every form and mood, has been captured in stone, testifying not only to the craftsman’s artistry but also to the extraordinary breadth of vision of the Chandela Rajputs under whose rule the temples were conceived and constructed.
The Khajuraho temples were built in the short span of a hundred years, from 950 – 1050 A.D. in a truly inspired burst of creativity. Of the 85 original temples, 22 have survived till today to constitute one of the world’s great artistic wonders.
The creators of Khajuraho claimed descent from the moon and the legend behind the founding of this great dynasty and the temples is a fascinating one. Hemwati, the lovely young daughter of a Brahmin priest, was seduced by the moon-god while bathing in a forest pool. The child born of this union was Chandravarman, founder of the Chandela Dynasty. Brought up in the forests by his mother who sought refuge from a censorious society, Chandravarman, when established as a ruler, had dream-visitationnfrom his mother. It is said that she implored him to build temples that would reveal human passion, and in doin so, bring about a realisation of the emptiness of human desire. It is also possible that the Chandelas were followers of the Tantric cult, which belives that gratification of earthly desires is a step towards attaining the infinite liberation of Nirvana.
Why they chose Khajuraho, even then a small village, as the site for their great complex is also open to speculation. One theory is that, given the eclectic nature of their faith and the many beliefs represented in the temples, the Chandelas concieved Khajuraho as a seat of religion and learning, to bring together many sects.
With their decline, the temples lay forgotten for many centuries, covered by the encroaching forests, victim to the ravages of the elements. Re-discovered only in this century, restored and cleaned, the temples of Khajuraho once again testify to a past glory.
Architecturally too, they are unique, being very different from the temple prototype of their period. Each stands on a high masonry platform with a marked upward direction in the structure, further enhanced by vertical projections to create the effect of grace and lightness. Each of the chief compartments is mounted by its own roof, grouped so that the highest is in the centre, the lowest over the portico; a highly imaginative recreation of the rising peaks of the Himalayas, abode of the gods.
The three main compartments are the entrance (ardha-mandapa), assembly hall (mandapa) and sanctum (garbha griha), with further additions in the more developed temples.
Panna National Park: Panna National Park, 32 km. Away and a mere 30 min. drive from Khajuraho, spreads along the river Ken.The jungles today harbour many species of wildlife. The tiger can be glimpsed here, with other rare species such as the leopard, wolf and gharial. Herds of blue-bull, chimkara and sambar are a common sight. On the road to Panna are the spectacular Pandav Falls. Alternate picnic sites are Benisagar Dam, Raneh Fall and Ranguan Lake, now being converted into a Heritage-Hotel, and Dhubela Museum. Further away is Bandhavgarh National Park and tranquil Chitrakoot.