) is a village in the
, located in
, about 385 miles (620 kilometres) southeast of
the capital city of
The Khajuraho group of monuments has been listed as a
World Heritage Site.
One of the most popular
tourist destinations in India, Khajuraho has the largest group of
temples, famous for their
erotic sculpture. The name Khajuraho, ancient "Kharjuravahaka", is
derived from the
Sanskrit word kharjur meaning
The city was once the original capital of the
a Hindu dynasty that ruled this part of India from the 10th to the 12th
centuries. The Khajuraho temples were built over a span of 200 years,
from 950 to
Chandela capital was moved to
after this time, but Khajuraho continued to flourish for some time.
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 8 square miles (21 kmē).
The temples of Khajuraho suffered destruction by early Muslim
invaders between c. 1100-1400 AD as various disfigured statues at the
temple complex attest. Today, the temples serve as fine examples of
Indian architectural styles that have gained popularity due to their
explicit depiction of the traditional way of sexual life during medieval
times. They were rediscovered during the late 19th century and the
jungles had taken a toll on all of the monuments.
Khajuraho is located at
It has an average elevation of 283 metres (928 feet).
As of 2001[update]
Khajuraho had a population of 19,282. Males constitute 52% of the
population and females 48%. Khajuraho has an average literacy rate of
53%, lower than the national average of 59.5%: male literacy is 62%, and
female literacy is 43%. In Khajuraho, 19% of the population is under 6
years of age.
The Khajuraho temples, constructed with spiral superstructures,
adhere to a northern Indian
shikhara temple style and often to a
Panchayatana plan or layout. A few of the temples are dedicated to
Jain pantheon and the rest to Hindu deities - to God's Trio,
Devi forms, such as the
Devi Jagadambi temple. A Panchayatana temple had four subordinate
shrines on four corners and the main shrine in the center of the podium,
which comprises their base. The temples are grouped into three
geographical divisions: western, eastern and southern.
With a graded rise secondary shikharas (spires) cluster to create an
appropriate base for the main shikhara over the sanctum.
Kandariya Mahadeva, one of the most accomplished temples of the
Western group, comprises eighty-four shikharas, the main being 116 feet
from the ground level.
These shikharas – subordinate and main – attribute to the Khajuraho
temples their unique splendor and special character. With a graded rise
of these shikharas from over the
ardhamandapa, porch, to
mahamandapa, principal assembly hall,
antarala, vestibule, and
sanctum sanctorum, the Khajuraho temples attain the form and glory
of gradually rising
Himalayan peaks. These temples of Khajuraho have sculptures that
look very realistic and are studied even today.
Saraswathi temple on the campus of
Birla Institute of Technology and Science,
India is modeled after the Khajuraho temple.
The temples have been assigned the following historical sequence by
Dr. Kanhaiyalal Agrawal.
||Est 9th c.
||Contemp to 2
||In active worship
||Pahil inscription 954 AD,
||Dhanga inscription Sam 1059
||Initially Vishnu but today Parvati
||Only some columns remaining
The Khajuraho temples are now set in a parkland landscape. When India
gained independence from Britain in 1947 the landscape setting was
semi-desert and scrub. The archaeological park now has something of the
character of an English public park, with mown grass, rose beds and
ornamental trees. This may be popular with visitors but has no
relationship with the historic landscape at the time the temples were
The development of
landscape archaeology as an academic discipline raises questions
concerning the earlier landscape of Khajuraho and the original
relationship between the temple complex and the surrounding area. There
are no records of what the original landscape might have been, but it is
known that a large community of priests used the temple complex and that
Indian gardens in the tenth century were predominantly tree gardens.
They did not have lawns or herbaceous flowering plants.
The statues and carvings of Khajuraho
Kandariya Mahadeva temple
Outside wall of one of the temples
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
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
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."
While the sexual nature of these carvings have caused the site to be
referred to as the Kamasutra temple, they do not illustrate the
meticulously described positions. Neither do they express the philosophy
of Vatsyayana's famous sutra. As "a strange union of Tantrism and
fertility motifs, with a heavy dose of magic" they belie a document
which focuses on pleasure rather than procreation. That is, fertility is
The strategically placed sculptures are "symbolical-magical diagrams,
or yantras" designed to appease malevolent spirits. This
alamkara (ornamentation) expresses sophisticated artistic
transcendence over the natural; sexual images imply a virile, thus
the Chandela monarchs built these temples when the
tradition may have been accepted. In olden days, before the
Mughal conquests, when boys lived in hermitages, following
brahmacharya until they became men, they could learn about the
world and prepare themselves to become householders through examining
these sculptures and the worldly desires they depicted.