Spirituality is all about love and expression of love is a symbol of Moksha.
The hot cup of tea in a small roadside tea stall of Chhatarpur was over, but not my ride. I had to ride my way through the darkness. I was impatiently racing to devour that distance to attend the popular Sound and Light show, organised in the western group of temples. But before that, I had to check-in into the hotel – Casa De William.
Right on time, I was standing at the ticket counter. Fortunately, the hotel was walkable from the entrance of the Western Group of Temples. The paved walkway led me to the chairs in a lawn where other people are also waiting for the Sound and Light show.
Suddenly, lights went off and focus was shifted onto the beautiful temples hidden in the darkness till that time. It was amazing to view these fine pieces of architecture in artificial lights accompanied by the Hindi narrative explaining the history and myths. These temples withstood numerous foreign invasions, worst climatic conditions from thousands of years.
While coming back to the hotel, I was super excited to see these magnificent temples in golden rays of the rising sun. Alone I finished my dinner in a nearby restaurant, parked my bike inside the hotel and crashed on the bed.
Even before the first ray of light, ahead of everybody else, I set out to explore the Western Group of Temples in Khajuraho. From the main gate, I could see the cluster of temples spaced properly and connected by the paved path. I walked to the end of the path and stood in front of the magnificent piece of architecture.
Kandariya Mahadev Temple is the largest and the loftiest monument of Khajuraho dedicated to Lord Shiva. This magnificent temple was built between circa 1025-1050 AD, by a strong Chandela ruler, Raja Dhandadeva. The main spire depicts Mount Kailash and stands with a height of 31 meters, surrounded by 84 intricately designed miniature spires.
This superstructure is built in a steep mountain shape to symbolise Mount Meru, a mythical source of creation of the world. The Chandela ruler built this temple to celebrate his success over Mahamud Ghazni and other rulers. The majestic structure is built on 4 meters high massive plinth. A series of steep steps leads us from the ground to the entrance.
With the first ray of light, I was alone strolling inside the glorious western group of temples in Khajuraho, mesmerised by its beauty. That was the perfect time to photograph such beautiful monuments, which get crowded by tourists all the time.
I was speechless after watching this spectacular outcome of human imagination, magnificent architecture and deriving spiritual peace through eroticism.
Very few spectacularly glorious examples of the art can take your breath away & I was standing in front of one of these. Kandariya Mahadev temple is a splendid example of Indian religious art which is much older than the Renaissance architecture of Europe. The unimaginable structure has been ornamented with flamboyant sculptures and highly elaborated carvings. Every camera angle was so magnificent that I couldn’t stop clicking astonishing photographs.
Around 900 sculptures are carved onto this sandstone temple built on the granite foundation. The carvings depict all the four necessary pursuits of life – Kama, Artha, Dharma and Moksha.
Jagadambi Temple is one of the finely decorated temples with numerous erotic carvings. It has 3 bands of carvings, two lower bands have sculptors of Vishnu with Sardulas in the inner recesses. The uppermost band has Mithunas in perverted positions, some of the most erotic sculptures of Khajuraho. It is much smaller than Kandariya Mahadev Temple, but the symmetry and intricate carvings fill the gap.
No mortar was used in the temple’s construction!!
The stones were connected with Mortise and Tenon joints, held together by the gravity.
Western Group of Monuments
The Kandariya Mahadev Temple had left me spell-bound. But there were many other temples yet to be explored. Every single stone had a story to tell. I was trying my best to understand the thought process behind them.
Next comes Chitragupta Temple, an elegant 11th Century temple is dedicated to Sun god – Surya. The main image in the sanctum is an impressive sculpture of Surya standing in the chariot driven by seven horses. The temple walls are carved with some of the finest figures of Sura-Sundari’s erotic couples and gods including an eleven-headed Vishnu. Based on the epigraphic evidence, the construction of the temple dates back to 1020-1025 CE.
Moving ahead, I stopped at the Vishwanath Temple, a fine temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, which was a Panchayatana shrine. However, only two shrines, one in north-east and one in the south-west, were survived the wrath of the time. The structure shows all the elements of a developed temple, entrance porch, mandapa, maha mandapa and sanctum enclosed by an ambulatory.
Parvati Temple is heavily restored small structure is situated south-west of Vishvanatha Temple. The porch is completely lost and the only plinth is survived of the sanctum. The doorway belongs to a Vaishnava shrine as is indicated by the Vishnu figure on the middle of the lintel. While the image in the sanctum represents Gauri with Ghora as her vehicle.
These structures were hidden for a long time from foreign invaders, maybe that’s why I am able to see them in their complete form.
King Yashovarman built this marvellous Lakshmana Temple, back in the 10th century, dedicated to Vaikuntha Vishnu. The Sandhara temple is of Panchyatana variety, as we can see the main shrine is surrounded by four small shrines. The structure, built on a high plinth, has entrance porch (Ardha mandapa), Mandapa, Maha Mandapa, Antarala and Garbhagriha. The temple architecture is awe-inspiring with its exterior wall exhibiting over 600 gods.
Lakshmana Temple was the last one I was visiting in the Western Group of Monuments. I kept my camera aside and started looking at the erotic sculptures on the spire. Although there are many stories and beliefs behind these erotic sculptures, it surely evokes mixed emotions, whoever beholds these incredible carvings.
In a country like India, where people don’t talk about sex openly, it was an irony to see these erotic sculptures adorning the temples worshipped by the same people. Maybe the creators were meant to say something to the society or the society was not so conservative back then. Who knows what was the actual reason, but they are pulling the right emotional chords.
Sex is also worshipping – a pleasurable way to respect the divine creation – to forget our own existance. It’s not only limited to the body but the souls.
Panna National Park
Time was the key to a successful road trip. If I spent too much at one location, I had to compromise it with some other location. So I resumed my ride through the narrow lanes of Khajuraho. The beautiful road passing through the Panna National Park was lined by the dry tropical forest. The twists and turns made my ride more enjoyable even in the hot summer.
In 1994, it was declared as 22nd Tiger Reserve of India, and given Award of Excellence in 2007. But unfortunately, by 2009, the entire population of tigers had been wiped out by poaching with the collusion of forest officials. It had over 40 tigers in 2003, all were hunted down illegally. No responsibility was taken by the MP government over this debacle. Later 2 female tigers were relocated from Bandhavgarh and Kanha National Parks.
Panna National Forest was not on my itinerary. And the next destination, Varanasi, was too far to reach there on time to attend the Ganga Arati. I rode ahead to compete against the time.
Time is crucial in such a long roadtrip; I learned to spend it wisely on important things.