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The Khajuraho Group of Monuments in Khajuraho is famous for its temples constructed of hard river sandstone and both internally and externally richly carved with excellent sculptures that are frequently sensual and, at times, sexually explicit.


Khajuraho Monuments

Introduction

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.

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Khajuraho is located at
24°51′N 79°56′E / 24.85°N 79.93°E / 24.85; 79.93.[1] It has an average elevation of 283 metres (928 feet).


Image source >>

A UNESCO world heritage site in central India, Khajuraho is a famous tourist and archaeological site known for its sculptured temples dedicated to Shiva, Vishnu, and Jain patriarchs. Khajuraho was one of the capitals of the Chandela kings, who from the 9th to the 11th century CE developed a large realm, which at its height included almost all of what is now Madhya Pradesh state. Khajuraho extended over 21 sq. km and contained about 85 temples built by multiple rulers from about 950 to 1050. In the late 11th century the Chandela, in a period of chaos and decline, moved to hill forts elsewhere. Khajuraho continued its religious importance until the 14th century (Ibn Batuta was impressed by it) but was afterwards largely forgotten; its remoteness probably saved it from the desecration that Muslim conquerors generally inflicted on Hindu monuments. In 1838 a British army captain, TS Burt, employed by the Asiatic Society in Calcutta, came upon information that led him to the rediscovery of the complex of temples in the jungle in Khajuraho.

Of the 85 original temples-most constructed of hard river sandstone-about 20 are still reasonably well preserved. Both internally and externally the temples are richly carved with excellent sculptures that are frequently sensual and, at times, sexually explicit.

The temples are divided into three complexes-the western is the largest and best known, containing the magnificent Shaivite temple Kandariya Mahadev, a 31m high agglomeration of porches and turrets culminating in a spire. Modern Khajuraho is a small village, serving the tourist trade with hotels and an airport. Khajuraho's name derives from the prevalence of khajur, or date palms, in the area.


History

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.

Architecture

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."

Article Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khajuraho


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.


Lakshman_Temple.
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. 

Source for the 2 photos above:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/51405727@N00/sets/72157594530047811/with/301055265/


  BOOKS and Sources on Kailasa Temple 

Khajuraho - Temples of Love
(Spanish Edition)
by Kapoor Poddar

As recently as two decades ago few people knew of Khajuraho's existence; today it is a popular destination for tourists, scholars and art historians from around the globe. Its temples are the pinnacle of architectural and sculptural excellence, representing one of the finest groupings of Indian art. Yet very little is known about their builders, the medieval Chandela rulers, and even less about the reasons why the temples were used to portray (among other things) some of the most graphic erotic sculptures the world has ever known. Collating fact and conjecture, historical records and current hypotheses, this book attempts to capture, through word and image, the spirit of Khajuraho. It is aimed at a reader who might not necessarily have a deep knowledge of Indian art, mythology or history, but who would like to gain an appreciation and understanding of Khajuraho's magnificent temple sculptures.


The Love Temples of Khajuraho: A Memoir of Love, Lust, and Exotic Places
by Steve Reichstein (Author)

A unique blend of travel diary and coming-of-age story, The Love Temples of Khajuraho is filled with wonderfully written observations about the places, people, societies and situations author Steve Reichstein encountered during his journey around the world in 1964. Reflecting the adventurous spirit of that time, Love Temples is surprising, serious, funny and best of all—entertaining.
“In The Love Temples of Khajuraho, Steve Reichstein remembers his 1960s travels, a world tour unimaginable today, in which a good kid from New York finds the love of his young life in Nashville, Tennessee. With the memory of her as his heartbreaking muse, he boards a ship for Europe, working his way back to his sweet lost love via dozens of countries—from Holland to Turkey to Israel to Iran to Afghanistan to India to China and Japan. Full of humor, adventure, and always, the fated quest for love, The Love Temples of Khajuraho makes us nostalgic for a world in which travel soothes the heart and deepens the soul, and love is only an elephant ride away.”—Bill Roorbach, author of Temple Stream, Big Bend, and Summers with Juliet


Kandariya Mahadeva Temple of Khajuraho
(Hardcover) by K.M. Suresh (Author)

85 pages

 

 

Sculptural Art of Khajuraho (Hardcover)
by Deva (Author)

It's informative and well-written, too. The text starts with an historical primer on the Chandellas who created the temple complex. It ends with a few pages discussing the cultural and historical context in whicht the temples were built. The middle section of the book, by far the largest part, gives detailed descriptions of each different temple at the Khajuraho site. Although the text is thorough, pictorial plans of the site and of each temple would have helped in visualizing the details.
It was a fair trade-off, though. Fewer architectural details made room for more photos, all in color. The gallery starts with exterior shots of the temples, then works its way into details of some of the famous niche carvings. These are beautiful stone renderings of everything joyous in life. The authors give a progression of pictures, gradually easing the Western mind into a non-Western idea of what deserves holy depiction. Early on, we see a standing couple (p.42), richly arrayed, graceful and handsome, and obviously happy to be together.

Other friezes show communal celebrations, like parade of musicians (p.72). Toward the end of the book, the sculptural scenes become more passionate. Some show single figures in ecstatic dance (p.142). Others show couples (or triples, or more) in ecstatic erotism. These works cover the range of sexual contact, imcluding hands (p.181, 191), mouths (p.186), and even animal (p.185). Coital works span the familiar (p.171), unusual (p.177), athletic (p.180, 189), and frankly improbable (p.178). All are sculpted with sensitivity, sometimes with arresting beauty (p.175).
This book is the best introduction I know to the famous temple art at Khajuraho. These temples are world treasures. They venerate the creative force in the universe. They celebrate the ongoing flow of creation that sustains the human world, and they celebrate the urge to create the appears in all of us. It gives a profound and possibly unfamilair face to what is holy - the human face.


Great Architecture of the World
by John Julius Norwich (Editor), Nikolaus Norwich, Nikolaus Pevsner

 


Cover N/A

 Looking at Architecture
G. E. Kidder Smith

New York: Harry N. Abrams, Publishers, 1990. ISBN 0-8109-3556-2. LC 90-30728. NA200.S57 1990. 
Kailasa Temple discussion, p38. photo, p38, 39.


Great Architecture of the World
John Julius Norwich, editor. 

London: Mitchell Beazley Publishers, 1975. photo, p26.  An accessible, inspiring and informative overview of world architecture, with lots of full-color cutaway drawings, and clear explanations. 

Book Description
A unique and sumptuously produced overview of architecture through the ages, with extraordinary one-of-a-kind cutaway drawings. Here is a brilliantly accessible chronicle of the greatest monuments created by mankind, told by fourteen of the most distinguished architectural historians and beautifully illustrated with more than 800 original diagrams, annotated drawings, and photographs-both a browser's delight and a superb reference tool.


Cover N/A

The Art and Architecture of India: Buddhist, Hindu, Jain
by Benjamin Rowland

Photo of interior, Ravana shaking Mount Kailasa, p311.


The Sacred Earth
Courtney Milne

Kailasa Temple, cave #16 at Ellora, India 
Page 23

These two stunning collections of photographs should carry a warning: incurable wanderlust may result from examining either one. Although different in format ( The Sacred Earth is in color, while Planet Peru is black and white) and subject matter (Milne traveled the Earth to photograph places he feels to be special, whereas Bridges concentrates solely on aerial photos of Peru), both author/photographers present a sweeping panoply of landscapes that, through the ages, have instilled wonder in the beholder. The authors have a deep sense of appreciation and responsibility for the natural splendors of the Earth; both use the word sacred in its broadest sense, meaning the feeling of transcendence experienced by those fortunate enough to have shared the same vistas. Bridges's book is a vertical exploration of Peru, consisting of starkly dramatic black-and-white photos that capture the eerie, timeless beauty of such places as Machu Picchu and the dead city of Pacatnamu. Milne's book is simply splendid. Glorious color, sensitive prose, and marvelous images fill every page. The reader cannot help but be moved by the simple grandeur and majesty of these 140 sacred places, and there is more to come; this ambitious work is the first volume in a projected series. Either titles would enhance any general collection; to have both would be ideal.

Judith F. Bradley, Acad. of the Holy Cross Lib., Kensington, Md.

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