Khajuraho Temples

The Khajuraho temples are located within the "Golden Triangle" of northern India. This is the tourist route that most vacation itineraries in this part of the country follow. New Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur mark the rough outline of this triangle, and most vacation itineraries follow it for ten to fourteen days by motorcoach and/or short flights visiting the sites in those cities and along the way.

This Golden Triangle area and these three cities contain some of the greatest monuments, palaces, and forts of the mighty Mughal Empire—including the temples of Khajuraho and even the Hindu holy city of Varanasi set on the sacred Ganges River, which is a bit to the east of the triangle.

An itinerary that takes in all these sights really needs the full ten days to two weeks to give it full justice. However, the temples of Khajuraho represent one of the most visited sites in the country. The little village of Khajuraho has a modern airport, and it is possible for those who have less time to see the Taj Mahal images in Agra and enjoy a Khajuraho temple tour from New Delhi all in a single day.

There were once as many as 85 or more Khajuraho temples here. The remaining 22, which comprise a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, represent the largest collection of medieval Hindu and Jain (a religion closely related to Hinduism) temples in the world. Each temple in Khajuraho is highly ornate and richly embellished with hundreds of carved statues of gods, goddesses, and ordinary people performing everyday tasks, as well as floral and geometric designs. They dot the flat park-like landscape like so many elaborate wedding cakes.

Built by the Chandal Empire in the 200 years between 950 and 1050 AD, the temples of Khajuraho are also known for their erotic sculptures. Two theories account for this erotica. One is that a beautiful Brahmin girl was seduced by the moon god and the temples were built by her son to honor human passions and desires. The second theory is that they sculptures served as a practical "study guide" for young boys who lived a cloistered life before venturing out into the world to become husbands and householders.

Some people think the sculptures show the gods in passionate embraces, but this is not true. Each temple in Khajuraho is built (like a wedding cake) of progressively smaller tiers. The gods are at the top, and not part of the erotica, which only appear on the lower tiers. You will also find notable erotic sculptures on other Hindu temples, including the Konark Temple.

The Khajuraho Temples are divided into three groups. The western group has the largest number of structures, including the largest of all the temples. The Kandariya Mahadeva soars more than 100 feet high and contains four inner sanctums with painted ceilings accessed through a grand archway. The western group also contains the oldest temple, and the only temple in Khajuraho made of granite (the others are made of sandstone). The Chaunsat Yogini is also the only temple dedicated to the goddess Kali. The eastern group includes the majority of the Jain temples, and the southern group contains the most modern structures.

If you want to visit the Khajuraho temples during special events and festivals, consider March when a large dance festival is held. Both the months of February and March are prime pilgrimage times. If you want to know when to go for the best weather, you will find that is from September through March. There are some other attractions in the regions, including scenic waterfalls, lakes for boating and fishing, and the ancient Kalinjar Fort. There are nearby hills surrounded by flat landscapes that are excellent for parasailing. Panna National Park (about 35 miles away) is a refuge for tigers, elephants, hyenas, and other wildlife, including more than 200 bird species.

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