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Temples of Central India

Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh is a well visited tourist center. This village houses several temples from the 9th through the 13th centuries, built in the Indo Aryan Nagara style of architecture, embellished with a profusion of sculptural work.  Around the temples are bands of fine work, depicting several aspects of life, over a 1000 years ago, portraying gods, goddesses, musicians, animals, etc. Erotic sculptures featuring Apsaras and mithunas (couples) also dominate the themes portrayed here.

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Khajuraho is virtually in the middle of nowhere. Fortunately it is served by air from major cities.  It is a  a distance of 280 km from Gwalior, and 175 km from Jhansi and 120 km from Satna, all three being major railheads.

History: Khajuraho was the historic capital of the Chandellas, who ruled over this area from the 9th through the 13th centuries. It was known as Kharjuravahaka. Tradition has it that the city gates were ornamented with two golden Kharjura or date palm trees. It is also believed that the name was derived from the numerous date palm trees that thrived in the vicinity.

The Chandellas trace their origin to the mythical sage Chandratreya born of the moon. The Chandella dynasty came into being after the break up of the Pratiharas. During the reign of the rulers Harsha and Yashovarma or Lakshavarma  in the 1st half of the 10th century, the Chandellas rose to power. Lakshavarma was succeeded by Dhanga who ruled for about 50 years and it was during his rule that several temples were constructed at Khajuraho.

The Panchayatna puja - involving the worship of five deities Shiva, Vishnu, Shakti, Surya and Ganesha was highly prevalent in Khajuraho, as evidenced from the panchayatna temples - each with a main shrine and four subsidiary shrines scattered around the landscape.

The Temples: There are three groups of temples at Khajuraho. The Western group has temples to Shiva and Vishnu. The northern group has Vaishnava temples for the most part and the south eastern group consists of Jain temples.

The oldest of these temples, dating back to 900 CE is the Chaunsat Yogini temple in the western group, located southwest of the Shibsagar lake. 

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To the north of this is the Kandariya Mahadeo temple, the largest in Khajuraho. It is considered to be the best representation of the Khajuraho style of Indo Aryan temples - consisting of a sanctum - Garbhagriha, a circumambulatory path - Pradakshinapatha,  an Antarala, Ardhamandapa, Mandapa and a Mahamandapa. The sanctum enshrines a marble Shivalingam.

To the north of this temple is the Devi Jagadambi temple. Further north is the Sun temple, enshrining an image of the Sun God, on a chariot pulled by seven horses. To the extreme north of this, is the Vishwanath temple, built along the lines of the Kandariya Mahadeo temple. Inscriptinos reveal that it was built by King Dhanga and that an emerald image of Shiva - Marakateswara was enshrined here. South west of this temple is the Parvati temple.

Emperor Lakshavarma is credited with building the Lakshmana-Chaturbhuja temple at Khajuraho. The image enshrined here said originally to be from Tibet  was gifted to Lakshavarma by the Pratihara ruler Devapala. This is a three headed image of Vishnu, bearing a human, varaha and a simha head. The Matangeswara temple enshrines Shiva, in the form of a highly polished Shivalingam. There is also a small Varaha temple in the vicinity.

The eatern group has temples to Bhrama (Shiva), Vaamana, and Javari. The Jain temples in the south eastern group are very similar in construction to the others. The Parsvanatha temple is the largest of these. There are also temples to Ghantai and Adinatha.

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