I always wanted to be a fancy travelogue writer like my Mom, like an explorer or something.. writing stuff about different places. So I thought, let me start with my most recent trip to Khajuraho. The memory is still fresh in my mind and my mom advised that the sooner I write them down the better it is!
We started off from Delhi at 5:45 AM when it was pitch dark, I have never traveled so early in the morning when I could actually see the sunrise on the way! Well that is partly because I am the reincarnation of *kumbhakarna* and I can sleep through a entire day with ease and Panache!! Anyway, As we set out on the Delhi- Mathura - Agra highway, all I could think of was drifting off to sleep :P, but the morning sunrise made me change my mind. On both sides I could see the greenery coming to life with the crimson gold rays of the sun, I tried to capture a shot while the car was moving... and I think i did a swell job. We stopped at Agra to get a heavy breakfast, we knew that we couldn't halt on the way in the small towns we barely knew, so decided to have a brunch!! We ate at ITC Mughal (that was fun) and after a very very heavy breakfast and one Red Bull we started off for Khajuraho. It is a 620 KM drive from the capital city and believe me it's a looong drive! After crossing Mathura, Agra, Gwalior, Jhansi and NowGong, we finally reached Khajuraho at around 5 in the evening. Particularly interesting things on the way were the green fields and the mustard fields which looked amazing in the early morning light. And it was obvious that I had to get down and take a snap in a villager like pose in the middle of the sarso ka khet. We also crossed Chambal on the way, but sadly did not see any Dakus. The hills of Chambal looked like they have a cover of green moss on them... but on a closer look it seems that there is some weird shiny shrub all over the hills that sparkle in the sunlight and give it that mossy glow.
Anyhoo! Khajuraho is a very small town, a village so to say. The main village of Khajuraho is like any other village in India.. small, dingy and rural people curiously looking at tourists and smiling at you for no apparent reason. The temples of Khajuraho are constructed all around the village, and almost centering the village the temple directions are set. Khajuraho: the name is derived from the word Khajur/Khajoor or date plant. Being a very dry area, one can see many date tress around this place, the name Khajuraho, was most probably derived from that. Legend has it that when the temples were constructed, the architects built two beautiful Golden Date trees at the main entrance of the temple campus, later these trees were taken down and stolen by the Afghan invaders. Can you imagine? Invaders going back to their land with looted Golden Date trees and telling their Moms 'Dekho Maa main tumhare liye kya laya hun'
Coming back to the erotic Khajuraho sculptures. The Chandela Dynasty that ruled around 9 to 11 century BC, constructed over 85 temples over a period of hundreds of years over here. The first among the rulers of this dyansty, was Chandravardhan, he was the first one to upright the very first temple of Khajuraho. According to local legend and mostly maybe a folklore, Chandravarman was the illegitimate son of a temple priest's daughter, Hemvati and the Moon God. Hemvati was bathing in a beautiful lake on a Moonlit night- (Bathing was an extremely important pass time in medieval India, as noted in Mahabharat and Ramayan as well), when the Moon God, extremely impressed by her beauty was compelled to come down to Earth and romance her. Quite obvious!! But then, when the Sun's rays touched the earth, the Moon God (chandradev) was compelled to return to his heavenly abode. But, Hemvati was petrified by the thought of the night before as she knew she would bear a child. (Yes! she was ovulating!):P The moon God then directed her to go the banks of Karnavati river near the secluded village of Khajuraho where she would give birth to a son who would grow up to be a valiant King. So she did what was told, and she gave birth to ChandraVarman, the founder of the Chadela dynasty. The Chandela dynasty flourished over the years, and to make up for his mother sins, he had to construct over 80 temples in the Khajuraho area. He did an elaborate yagna and laid the foundation of the holy temple grounds of Khaujuraho.
Chandrabarman's decendants, mainly Yashobarman or Laxmanbarman constructed the other most important temples that are still found in that area. Today, only 25 of the 85 temples are in stable consitions, most of the others were taken down in the Mughal era or by the Afghan and Turkish invaders.
The temples are distributed around the small village of Khajuraho beside the Khajuraho river/ or widely known as the Karnavati, and are marked in directions accordingly. The Western band of temples, the Eastern Band of temples and the southern temples. The eastern temples as I saw were less lavish and were most probably made as a prototype to prove to the kings that the workers and carvers were worthy of being entrusted with this job. The first prototype was the Bramha Temple, just after that is the Baman temple which is dedicated to the Baman avtar of Lord Vishnu. The carvings on these temples are those of beautiful apsaras dressing up and these are depicting the different ways of shringar. Make up was extremely important in medieval times as well! The guide explained that the Apsara was putting on Lipstick... I wonder what brand did they use back then!! :D
In most of the temples of Khajuraho that are dedicated to Lord Shiva, we saw the ancient symbols of OM crafted on the ceilings of the temples. Hinduism is emblematized by the symbol "OM" or "AUM" which encompasses the aspect, trinity. The representation of "AUM" connotes Brahma(A), Vishnu (U) and Maheshwara (M). The third of the tridev is Maheshwara or Lord Shiva, most of the temples which have erotic sculptures also have many variations of Shiva Parvathi on the temple walls, attracting and preaching the masses to lead a healthy 'Grihastha' life (a family life). Lord Shiva as a symbol of creation therefore, is worshipped as "Linga".
The temples of the Western Belt are most probably among the ones that are in the best condition today. Here we saw the earliest and most probably among the first temples of Kahjuraho, that is the 'Chausath Yogini' temple, that was build around 9th century (this is thought to be the one that was made after the yagna). The temple is dedicated to Bramhani, Maheshwari and Mahisashurdamini (this last one is mentioned as hingalaja). Then there is the Varaha temple (incarnation of Vishnu). After this we saw the Parvathi temple, Vishwanatha temple and the Laxman temple. The Laxman temple is not that of the Laxman that we know through Ramayan. apparently, Chandela ruler YashoVarman was also known as Raja Laxmanvarman, and he constructed this temple. To immoortalize his name, the temple was named after him. There is also a Nandi Shrine and a ChitraGupta temple and the Devi Jagadambhi temple. The most famous one in this belt is the Kandariya Mahadeva temple : it is the largest and the loftiest and has a huge lofty shiv linga.
In the Southern belt of temples we saw the Dulhadeo Temple and Chatur bhuja temple. The Dulhadeo temple is dedicated to the newly weds and is also a Shiv temple. Locals of the region come here to seek blessing after marriage, and it is believed that praying in this temple gives a couple a happy married life and earns them the blessing of Shiva Parvathi for three years three months when they pray once at the temple. It is a compulsion for the local villagers to come here after marriage, they perform a Puja here once and seek a blessing equivalent to three years three months. The architecture of the temple points towards the romance and eroticism of the first night of marriage, and is depicted graphically on the walls all around the temple.
One of my favorites in the Southern belt is the Chaturbhuja temple. Here the idol is almost 11 feet tall, and is in a west facing direction. A folklore has it that, the Sun God after circling the universe comes to this temple to seek the blessing of the OM. The Idol's feet and legs represent Lord Krishna, it is clearly noted by the posture in which lord Krishna stands with his legs crossed with his Bansuri in hand. We can see ornaments on the idols feet which are similar to Krishna Idols. The chest represents Lord Vishnu, the hands are of Bramha with the "kamandalu" and "mala". The face and the head is that of Lord Shiva, where wee see the Jata and Ganga on the crown of the idol. This is the reason, this idol is called the Chaturbhuja, with the elements of all four Gods. It is here that the Sun God comes to offer his prayers to the almighty Lord. While we waited in the temple, we saw the sunset, and the sun's rays touched the feet of the Idol, and I must confess, I was a little intrigued by it. It made me think of how advanced the architects of the temple are, that they had been able to figure the exact positioning of the Sun's rays, so that it touches the feet of the Idol. At the Back of the temple is a sculpture that denotes the chariot of the Sun God with his seven horses, traveling the world and finally resting at the feet on OM to seek his final blessing.
My trip to Khajuraho ended with a visit to the near by Pandav falls, where inside the Panna tiger reserve a beautiful waterfall is situated amidst caves, where the Pandavas were believed to have rested for a while during their 'Agyatvass'. The exotic Pandav falls are at a distance of 34 kms from Khajuraho. Falling down to the Ken river from great heights, the sight of the falls is quite extraordinary. It is believed that the Pandavas spent some years of their exile here and hence the name was given to the place.
On my way back, I bought some traditional bamboo silk from Khajuraho, this is something which the locals take great pride in, and show off to the tourists with great passion and self appreciation. I think I will gift two of those to my Mom and one I will keep for myself. :D