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Khajuraho Temples, Khajuraho

Khajuraho Temples Overview

One of the most celebrated manifestations of Indian architecture is to be found in a group of temples at Khajuraho in central India. Situated a hundred miles south-east of the town of Jhansi in the modern-day state of Madhya Pradesh, these temples are over thirty in number. These temples, unlike many others in central or south India, do not illustrate a development over a long period of time, but were erected over a relatively narrow period of hundred years from A.D. 950. The Khajuraho temples represent, one might say, a happy and almost unique coincidence of religious emotion, abundant patronage, artistic genius, and aesthetic sensibility. Fortunately, these temples have weathered the climate for a thousand years and have withstood neglect surprisingly well. The Khajuraho temples were built during the reign of the Chandelas. While some show marks of a Shaivite sensibility, others clearly manifest the influence of Vaishnaism, Jainism, and tantrism. These temples have an architectural character distinct from that of any other group of temples elsewhere in the country. Instead of being contained within the customary enclosure wall, each temple stands on a high and solid masonry terrace. Though none of the temples are very large, they are still imposing structures because of their elegant proportions and rich surface sculpture. Unlike the rather plain treatment of other central Indian temple interiors, the Khajuraho temples are richly decorated with sculpture. Other than numerous deities enshrined in wall niches, there are attendants, graceful "maidens" in a variety of provocative postures, dancers, musicians and embracing couples. On one temple alone, the figures thus depicted are over six hundred and fifty in number. Many of these compositions display great sensuality and warmth. There are also scenes of explicit sexual activity which possibly illustrate the tantric rites that accompanied temple worship. It is quite reliably said that some of the sexual postures follow the Kama Sutra, the ancient Indian manual of love-making.

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