The Khajuraho Group of Monuments is situated in Madhya Pradesh, just over 600 kilometres outside New Delhi. This magnificent spectacle has become one of the country’s most sought-after tourist attractions, known for the erotic sculptures that characterise them. They are also the largest group of Jain and Hindu temples, which date back to medieval times. Their deep historical and cultural import resonates through every dimension, figure and shadow of these awe-inspiring structures.
These temples were constructed during the Chandela Dynasty, which was a Hindu rulership that lasted from the 10th to the 12th centuries of our Common Era (CE or AD). It took these people over 200 years to build each of the original 80+ temples, a mammoth task that was carried out between 950 and 1150 CE. Although Khajuraho was no longer the capital city as of 1150 CE, it continued to develop and grow.
Of the original estimate of over 80 temples, only 25 remain in fair condition today. These temples are beautiful in their cunning combination of sculpture and architecture in one, magnificent form (or conglomeration of forms).The original and remaining temples are grouped into western, eastern and southern divisions. They are made of sandstone, and are held together by mortise and tenon joints (where one piece of material fits into a hole cut into the other piece of material) and faithful gravity. The sculptures that adorn the faces of the temples are intricate, ornate and lifelike. The external carvings display some erotic portrayals of sex and sexual acts being conducted between human beings (and not deities, as some have understood). These have been interpreted to mean that sexual desires need to be left outside of the temple, or that seeing the deities and holy elements inside the temple is an experience not affected by normal human desires. Some believe that the sculptures display certain tantric methods. Significantly, all of the carvings focus on the pleasure derived from sexual encounters, rather than on fertility and procreation. The carvings with sexual connotations are only on the outside of the temples. Inside, the carvings depict people going about ordinary daily tasks, such as women applying cosmetics, potters creating ceramic goods or musicians playing their instruments. These unique art forms are still a subject of research and study amongst art students and enthusiasts today.
The town of Khajuraho itself is home to over 20 000 inhabitants. Its name means “date palm” in Sanskrit. It is mainly made up of semi-desert and scrub vegetation. Tourism is becoming an increasingly lucrative industry, particularly for the historical structures that can be found in this unique destination.
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