The Chandela's, Khajuraho Temples and Glory of Hinduism
The Khajuraho temples are located in Central India in an area which is known as Bundelkhand. Khajuraho has several Five-star hotels and there is a lot of tourist traffic. It is connected by direct flights to Delhi and Varanasi and forms part of the Golden tourist triangle of Central India. These temples date from the 11th to the 13th century and were constructed by a dynasty called the Chandelas.
The Chandelas ruled over the Bundelkhand area from the 9th to the 13th century and these temples were built over 200 years of their reign. These kings were powerful in their own right and one of the most famous of them was Raja Bhoj. Mahmud of Ghazni who invaded India several times avoided giving battle to Raja Bhoj because he respected his power. Raja Bhoj is respected in Indian history as a man of great wisdom.
The Chandela rulers followed a mixture of Jainism and Hinduism. Their initial capital was Khajuraho. As per records, available, a total of 85 temples was built over 200 years.
After the collapse of the Chandela rule, Khajuraho went into oblivion and as it was located in a remote place, forest and vegetation began to go grow all round. Over some time, the temples were hidden from men and only the local villagers had some knowledge about them. Nature took its toll and most of the temples began to decay because of the vagaries of the weather.
The temples of Khajuraho are temples embellished with erotic images of men and women in groups and single-sex. These temples give another facet to Jain and Hindu philosophy.
The 85 temples built by the Chandela kings remained hidden for hundreds of years. One reason they were kept obscure was the fear of their destruction by Muslim kings. The local villagers kept the temple location a secret as they feared that they would be destroyed by the Muslims, who had at that time become the rulers of India.
The fear of destruction of the temples has some justification as Mohammed of Ghazni while invading Rajasthan reached some temples located at a place called Chouthan. These temples had figurines of men and women in explicit poses carved in stone. Mohammed of Ghazni was offended by the figure sand destroyed them. The disfigured carvings are available to see to this day.
The Khajuraho temples were lost to posterity and appeared nobody would ever see them. There is a mention of these temples in the travels of Ibn Batuta who reportedly visited this place in 1322 and recorded it in his writings. Much earlier Abu Al Riham Baruni wrote about these temples as far back as 1022.
The temples over centuries went into decay. The British Raj was a godsend for ancient Indian culture and monuments. A British Army engineer named TS Burt heard about these temples from the villagers and decided to have a look. The villagers took Burt to the temples and the English man was overwhelmed with their beauty and architectural splendor. He spent many days studying the temples and was greatly influenced by the carvings of nude men and women in various poses of cohabitation. He realized that this was a deep philosophy and decided the temples need to b preserved. Burt went back and soon on his extortion the Archeological Survey of India was formed(ASI). Burt came back and began the tedious process of restoring the temples but the ravages of time allowed him only to recover 24 of the original 85 temples.Today they are part of the Indian glorious heritage. It is also a world heritage site as declared by UNESCO. No praise is enough for Captain TS Burt for his efforts that led to 24 temples being recovered and restored
The temples are unique as they represent a different facet of Hinduism. Perhaps they extoll the Tantra concept of achieving salvation through cohabitation between a man and a woman. The statues point to the earthy nature of man and woman and also lend credence to the concept of a sexual union as a path to Moksha or salvation.
This is not an easy concept to understand. Even Hindus don't understand the deep philosophy behind it. Please be aware that all the figurines are outside the walls of the temple and none are inside the sanctum sanctorum. What does it mean? It means that these acts are of earthly nature and have very little to do with the concept of god. But the very fact that they adorn the outer walls and gates meant they have a place and are a vehicle for entry into the temple.
The Khajuraho Temples are dedicated to various Gods of Hinduism and their incarnations. Some of the temples are also dedicated to Jainism. At the moment the 24 temples that have been restored have 6 temples dedicated to Lord Shiva, 8 to Lord Vishnu, 1 to God Ganesh, and one to the Sun God. Three temples are also dedicated to Jain Tirthankaras. The figurines which represent the various acts of cohabitation actually show Lord Shiva and his consort Shakti.
Many historians and religious teachers feel that the “Chandela Kings were followers of Tantric Principles. ” This is perhaps the reason these temples are associated with Tantric Sect of Hinduism. The existence of erotic motifs is proof that Tantric principles dominated the ethos at that time.
Enlightened Indians and many western men and women are understanding the deep philosophy of these temple images. The images represent the Gods and the Hindu philosophy that sex and god are almost together. The western world is now realizing the true significance of Hinduism.
The Indian government is Giving great impetus to tourism and the temples are being maintained. There is also an annual Khajuraho dance Festival wherein the best of Indian dancers do the traditional Indian dances with the nude figurines in the background.
These erotic temples are 350 km from Bhopal and about 600 km from Delhi. One can easily reach there by air and they've excellent accommodation available both in five star and budget hotels. This is one of the tourist places in the world which must be visited by a man once in his life. Where will you ever get to see such figurines with all facets of human life carved hundreds of years back? There are a few carvings even of men and animals. The carvings not only show the union between a man and woman but also a woman in various aspects of life like applying makeup, doing the cooking, and bathing.