What is the significance of the Khajuraho Monuments?

Khajuraho is popular for its group of artistic temples which were built by the Chandela rulers between the 10th and 12th Century. Chandela rulers were the great patrons of art and this is the reason that the Khajuraho group of temples is known for its sculptural wealth. There were some 85 temples constructed during the aforementioned period but only 25 temples remain in the complex today.

The Khajuraho temples are even mentioned in the records of Al Biruni and Ibn Battuta. All the temples are built out of fine sandstone except Chausath Yogini, Brahma and Lalguan-Mahadeva temples constructed out of granite.

Categories of Sculptures

Based on their nature, the sculpture in Khajuraho is categorized into five. The first group of sculptures is the cult images. The second category of images that occur in the niches comprises of enclosing divinities, family, and the attendants. The third and the most dominant group of sculptures are that of the apsaras and the sura-sundries who are portrayed in dancing postures and graceful nymphs respectively.

The fourth group of sculptures is secular images depicting scenes like teacher and student, dancer and musicians, erotic couples, etc. The last category of sculptures is that of animals including the mythical beasts. We find the sculptural art at its zenith in the Kandariya Mahadeva Temple.

The Importance of the Erotic Sculptures

Amongst all the group of sculptures mentioned, the erotic sculptures are considered to be exemplary in highlighting the sensuous human emotion. To quote art historian Krishna Deva, ‘the sculptural art of Khajuraho surpasses the medieval school of Orissa in revealing the sensuous charms of the human body’. Some consider the erotic sculptures as an illustration from the ancient text of Kamasutra. The stress is laid on considering sex as a source of creation. The sensual element has always been described in the ancient literature and folk tradition.

Western, Eastern and Southern Group of Temples

The western group of temples is the most visited ones by the tourists. It comprises the Lakshmana temple, the magnificent Kandariya-Mahadeva Temple, Chitragupta temple and Vishwanatha temple. Kandariya Mahadeva is the largest monument in Khajuraho with its architecture depicting the splendid and considerably taller sculptures and also the Central style of architecture. The eastern group of temples includes the Brahma temple, Vamana temple, and other Jain temples.

Brahma temple is considered to be the oldest in Khajuraho. The Vamana temple is dedicated to the dwarf incarnation of Vishnu. It is mainly noteworthy for its roof over the maha-mandapa. Jain temples include Parsvanatha and Adinatha temples dedicated to the Tirthankaras. The southern group of temples comprises of Duladeo and Chaturbhuja temples. Duladeo temple is devoted to Shiva and Chaturbhuja i.e. four-armed Vishnu (it is the only temple where one does not find erotic sculptures).