The Khajuraho Temples, located in Central India, were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986. The village of Khajuraho, located in the north of Madhya Pradesh is famous for its 1,000 year old erotic carvings. This village, is like no other in India. It is an amalgamation of history, art and architecture. These 10th -11th century temples have a very interesting legend behind them that connects them to the origin of the Chandela dynasty. It is said that in a fit of passion and lust, the Moon God seduced and ravaged a beautiful Brahmin girl known as Hemvati, resulting in the birth of Chandravarman (the founder of the Chandela dynasty). Later, Chandravarman had a dream where he was requested to make a temple, which would reveal all aspects of the treasure of passion to the world.
Some people also believe that these beautiful erotic sculptures are the visual depiction of the Kamasutra, or the relations between Shiva and Parvati, the Hindu divine couple. Khajuraho was one of the capitals of the Chandela kings, who from the 9th to the 11th century CE developed a large realm. At the height of its realm, this included almost all of what is now the Madhya Pradesh state. Khajuraho extended over 21 sq. km and contained about 85 temples built by multiple rulers from about 950 to 1050AD. In the late 11th century the Chandela, in a period of chaos and decline, moved to hill forts elsewhere. Khajuraho continued its religious importance until the 14th century but was afterwards largely forgotten.
The remoteness of the Khajuraho temples probably saved them from the desecration that other religious conquerors generally inflicted on Hindu monuments. In 1838 a British army captain, TS Burt, rediscovered the complex of temples in the jungle in Khajuraho.
Of the 85 original temples-most constructed of hard river sandstone, only 24 are still reasonably well preserved. These lovely temples can be divided into three complexes:-
The Western Group
This is the largest and best known, containing the magnificent Shaivite Temple Kandariya Mahadev. This is a 31m high agglomeration of porches and turrets culminating in a spire. The Western Group is not only the largest one but also the one, which is most easily accessible. Located in the centre, they include the most renowned and noteworthy monuments built during the reign of the Chandela rulers. They have lush green lawns surrounding them with fragrant blossoms adding to their beauty. The most prominent temples of the group are the Lakshmana Temple, the Matangesvara Temple and the Varaha Temple that are a part of a single complex. The Visvanatha and Nandi Temples situated near the above-mentioned complex and the Chitragupta, Jagadambi and the Kandariya Mahadeo Temples a little to the west of the complex.
The Eastern Group
The Eastern Group are composed of five isolated sub-group of temples situated in and around the present town of Khajuraho. Along with the three Brahmanical Temples more commonly spoken of as the temples of Brahma, Vamana and Javari, the three Jain temples of the deities Ghantai, Adinath and Parsvanath fall under this group.
The Southern Group
The Southern Group is situated at the most distant location and includes mainly the two temples of Duladeo and Chaturbhuja, which are situated near and across the Khudarnala.
Other than eroticism, these magnificent sculptures also depict other refined accomplishments such as music and dance. Such is the beauty of the carvings, that Khajuraho has rapidly become the second most visited place in India, after the Taj Mahal!