This Place Called Khajuraho

6:15 pm


It's funny how I never did blog about this particular place. This tiny place in Madhya Pradesh is among the most beautiful places in India as far as I know (which reminds me, go to Daman if you can--it's not an island as many people think, it has wonderful beaches & one of the most gorgeous beaches ever).

You must have read or heard about the architecture of Khajuraho at some point of the other...if you haven't relax, this is not a history test, just read along. That city is filled with numerous Hindu temples dating back to early AD which make them almost a thousand year old, or more. I had heard a lot about that place but when I went there this April, I was completely awestruck. I had never seen anything like that. The architecture of those cluster of temples resembles those of Konark temple (my fantastical theory: back then, there was some university sort of a thing for architecture and all these people graduated from the same place, reading similar books as the syllabus was the same and ended up making similar structures in two different places--Madhya Pradesh & Orissa!). The temples are made out of stone...but they all have beautiful carvings (I have never seen an imitations even close to the original) on other blocks of stones which were plastered or pasted or whatever, stuck basically to the original structure. And a lot of erotic art, which I think signify that a thousand years back, they were more liberal than us today and treated all levels of desires as what they actually are: natural.

The story of how these temples came up goes like this...there was this beautiful woman called Hemvati who was once bathing in a pond on a beautiful full moon night. Now why exactly she chose to take a bath in the dead of the night, I have no clue, but it's result was that the Moon (which, like in all pagan religions, is a God in Hinduism) was struck by her flawless beauty & took a fancy to her. So, he came down and seduced her. Here, my mother's thoughts deserve a special mention where she wondered whether it was really the Moon who did that, or some really handsome guy passing off as Moon. Anyways, we go by the story, and it was Moon. When day came, the Moon had to go away and Hemvati was very sad. Moon told her not to be devastated, that she would bear a son--their son--who would build many temples in order to atone for her sin (note in point of view of my feminist argument: the sin is hers, a woman's and not his, a man's which implies that it's okay for men to seduce random women but not okay for women to get seduced!). That's exactly what did happen, a son was born who became a great king and made numerous temples to atone his mother's sins and the sight he chose for these temples was Khajuraho. That son was the founder of the Chandella dynasty (Moon is known as Chand or Chandra in most Indian languages, especially the ones spoken back then, hence Chandella) which is responsible for making those temples over centuries, until the dynasty finally perished.

One must notice that Khajuraho has absolutely no forts, palaces or any of those things. It only has temples. This shows that it was not Chandella's political capital but religious capital. The city got it's name from the apt observation of many that it was surrounded by innumerous date trees...dates are called khajoor in Hindi (and obviously in the language they spoke in as Hindi evolved from those languages). The date trees are still there,but have depleted in number, which is sad.

Another thing I noticed about Khajuraho temples was that they are devoted to Vishnu and not His incarnations. I mean, these days, and in a lot of places (like Haridwar, Chitrakoot and so on) you'll find temples devoted to the incarnations of Vishnu--Ram, Krishna, Buddha and so on--but not Vishnu as such. But here in Khajuraho, they are devoted to Vishnu, not one single temple to His avatars. Maybe it was yet not in vogue back then.

Yet another great aspect of those temples are the Gods & Goddesses that are husband and wife in Hinduism had their temples facing each other or next to each other. Almost all the temples are inactive now as over the period, invaders destroyed the main idol of each temple (Hindus don't worship broken idols), thus wasting the temples, but there are few that are active few times a year. So much thought could have gone into building anything so perfectly is mind boggling especially when it strikes you that today, with all that technology, we can't construct anything even close to it.

It's an amazing place. Trust me. Go there. It's breathtaking.

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