14th January, 2020. Khajuraho became famous when a British officer found the ruins of ancient temples hidden away in the forest. He was amazed by the intricate sculptures and the massiveness of the entire monuments. Today these temples are under control of ASI (Archaeological Survey of India).
These temples were built around 950 AD and 1050 AD by the Chandela dynasty. The striking importance of the group of temples found here is that these temples are devoted to two religions, Hinduism and Jainism, suggesting a tradition of acceptance and respect for the diverse religious views of Hindus and Jains in the region. Historical records mention that Khajuraho had 85 temples by the 12th century, spread over 20 square kilometers. Out of which only 25 have survived till date.
The temples are mainly famous for their Nagara-style architecture and erotic sculptures. But frankly speaking even though there are many erotic sculptures, they don’t look vulger. There are many intepretations on the presence of erotic sculptures around temples, which are very uncommon, but I want to mention two point of views of two different individuals I met during my visit. They both make perfect sense but we would never know which one is true.
Two Perspectives of the same story
My guide during my visit to the western group of temples told me that all the erotic sculptures are on the exterior of the temples. They share the space with other sculptures which showcase the daily chores of common people in those eras. And as a tradition, one has to take a complete round around the temple before entering the sanctum. In the sanctum, or in other words in the interior of the temple there are no sculptures other than that of gods and goddesses and other holy spirits or beings. So the first interpretation, as narrated by the guide says, the exterior of the temple shows the daily cyclic life of human beings. Before abstaining from which, one cannot begin his/her spiritual journey. This is when one starts a personal journey towards the divine
Later in the day when I visited the Chaturbhuj temple, a solitary temple, separate from other groups of temples, I met a Government employee who was appointed to look over the maintenance work being carried out at the same sight. His interpretation was this. He had heard this from his forefathers that in the 9th and 10th century, the same era when these temples were being built, Buddhism was on rise in India. Many people were converting to Buddhism which had abstinence as one of its core disciplines. As a result, the population was on a decline. The kings of that era promoted building the erotic sculptures to lure the people back into the normal lifestyle.
Keeping all the interpretations aside, my overall experience of this place was magnificent. I was spell-bound by the beauty of the temples, especially the Kandariya Mahadev temple.
After sunset, I attended the ‘light and sound show’ at the western group of temples. The narration was in Amitabh Bachchan’s voice. And this narration had a different, a more mythological story behind the construction of the temples. I personally recommend everyone to attend this light and sound show as it provides a very unique and beautiful view of the temples. The story goes like this.
There was a beautiful woman named ‘Hemavathy’. She was bathing in the dark under moonlight. Spell bound by her beauty the moon god seduced her. After this encounter ‘Hemavathy’ ran into the forest for refuge and raised her son ‘Chadravarman’, all by herself. The moon god however made a prophecy that their son would one day rule over a kingdom. This prophecy was fulfilled when Chandravarman grew up to establish the Chandela dynasty. He was so influenced by his mother’s story that he built temples with sculptures depicting human passion and its futility at the same time
To Be Continued…