the temple architecture of India, the Khajuraho complex remains unique.
One thousand years ago, under the generous and artistic patronage of the
Chandela Rajput kings of Central India, 85 temples, magnificent in form
and richly carved, came up on one site, near the village of Khajuraho.
The amazingly short span of 100 years, from 950 AD - 1050 AD, saw the
completion of all the temples, in an inspired burst of creativity.
Today, of the original 85, only 22 have survived the ravages of time;
these remain as a collective paean to life, to joy and to creativity; to
the ultimate fusion of man with his creator.
Why did the Chandelas
choose Khajuraho or Khajirvahila - garden of dates, as it was known then
- as the site for their stupendous creations? Even in those days it was
no more than a small village. It is possible given the eclectic
patronage of the Chandelas and the wide variety of beliefs represented
in the temples, that they had the concept of forming a seat of religion
and learning at Khajuraho. It is possible that the Chandelas were also
believers in the powers of Tantrism; the cult which believes that the
gratification of earthly desires is a step closer to the attainment of
the infinite. It is certain however, that the temples represent the
expression of a highly matured civilization.
Yet another theory is
that the erotica of Khajuraho, and indeed of other temples, had a
specific purpose. In those days when boys lived in hermitages, following
the Hindu law of being "brahmacharis" until they attained manhood, the
only way they could prepare themselves for the worldly role of
'householder' was through the study of these sculptures and the earthly
passions they depicted.
The creators of Khajuraho
claimed descent from the moon. The legend that describes the origin of
this great dynasty is a fascinating one: Hemavati, the beautiful young
daughter of a Brahmin priest was seduced by the moon god while bathing
in the Rati one evening. The child born of this union between a mortal
and a god was a son, Chandravarman. Harassed by society, the unwed
mother sought refuge in the dense forest of Central India where she was
both mother and guru to her young son. The boy grew up to found the
great Chandela dynasty. When he was established as a ruler, he had a
dream-visitation from his mother, who implored him to build temples that
would reveal human passions, and in doing so bring about a realization
of the emptiness of human desire. Chandravarman began the construction
of the first of the temples, successive rulers added to the fast growing