I always wanted to visit Khajuraho. It intrigued me always as to why would someone build such majestic temples middle of nowhere and after few centuries people will completely forget about its existence only to be found by a British and become famous again.
Originally the team consisted of Subhadip Mukherjee, Prasenjit Sanyal & Prosanto Mondal. Prasenjit due to year end work could not join us and Amitabho Gupta joined the gang. Unfortunately the day before our departure there was a family emergency at Prasonto’s house and he dropped out. Thus the final team was Subhadip Mukherjee & Amitabho Gupta.
Kolkata to Satna Junction
Saturday 15th of March 2014 we took Shipra Express from Howrah (Kolkata) to Satna. Myself and Amitabho met near the clock tower at Howrah Station and proceeded towards platform No. 9. Being Holi weekend 3AC was out of scope thus we settled for Sleeper Class. We decided not to take any dinner from home and to take the service from on board catering service. This was a mistake since for 130 Rs. we were served 1 single packet of Chicken Biriyani. This small packet had around 5 – 6 spoons of dry rice with 1 small piece of chicken and a huge piece of potato. We took our dinner sitting on the upper birth and went to sleep early. Sleep do not come easily thus we kept chatting and catching up since we were actually meeting after 7 years. Had lot of untold stories which were exchanged.
We decided to sleep till 10 – 11 Am but surprisingly both woke up at 6 AM. The train had just reached Chuanarand I wanted Amitabho to take a look at the Chunar Fort. Could not see much but could figure out something from a distance. Amitabho was ready with his camera and thus or shoot had already started.
The train was supposed to reach Satna at around 11.30 AM and it was already running late by 2 hours so we decided to again have lunch on train rather than having it at a hotel/dhaba once we reach Satna. Food was simple thali 60 Rs. Not that good but better than Chicken Biriyani.
Satna Junction to Khajuraho
The train reached Satana at around 1.30 PM, as usual once we were out of the station we were hounded by cab drivers . Clearly we looked like tourist with tripod bags and backpacks. The cab drivers usually approach you with the brand of car that they have and the amount they want. They started at around 1500 Rs. for a Khajuraho drop. We started at around 1000 Rs. which we thought was justified since one of our friend had visited 3 years back and he had paid 700 Rs. Considering the cost of Diesel price increase 1000 Rs. was justified. However they refused to go below 1300 Rs and finally after haggling we managed at 1200 Rs for a new Tata Indigo.
Tip: Since you have a choice always go for a better and a spacious car, avoid Indica, Omni etc.
The driver was well behaved and informed us that it will be a 2 and half hours’ drive. However the driver had his mobile hands free glued to his ear throughout the journey and we had to bear the love talks between the driver and his girlfriend. Amitabho had his Ipod glued to his ear thus he did not face/hear the nonstop chatter and I had the privilege.
After around 1 hour drive the driver stopped at a Dhaba for his lunch and informed us to have our tea, lunch or snacks at the Dhaba since that will be last eatery for the next hour and half as the Panna forest range will start next. We did not have anything but it was a good time to stretch our legs and watch the forest and hill range in the distance. After 15 – 20 minutes we resumed our journey towards Khajuraho.
Within 20 minutes of drive we were in the Panna forest zone. At the time we were travelling there we no chance for us to spot any wildlife though occasionally we saw some monkeys and languor. What surprised me most was to see the forest officials and his teams collecting Guthka, chips and other plastic packets which lie around the road. We stopped our car to ask they why they were doing this. We were informed that this was being done to prevent the wildlife from eating these plastic items. These can be deadly for them if they consume the plastic packet.
We reached Khajuraho at around 4.30 PM. We were dropped at the taxi stand which was barely 50 meters from our hotel. Amitabho was very apprehensive about the quality of the hotel since it was only 500 Rs for a double bedded room. When we reached the reception we were greeted courteously and our booking email confirmation printout was requested by them. Once the basic formalities done we were escorted to our room. Amitabho jaw just dropped once entering the room. It was clean two bedded room (two separate single beds) with clean bed sheets and pillow covers. The toilet was spick and span with 24 hours running cold and hot water. Basically thus type of room one needs to pay around 1800 to 2500 Rs. in Kolkata.
We quickly unpacked our bags and headed for a quick shower. Once freshened up we had a cup of tea prepared by Amitabho (he always travels with Taj tea bags). Fully recharged we were now ready to head towards the Western Group of temples. The hotel was at a stone throw distance from the entrance gate. The entrance fee is 10 Rs for Indians and 150 Rs. for foreigners. 25 Rs. will be charged for Video photography. Tripods are not allowed inside, however with prior ASI permission it will be allowed. We had mini tripods with us which came in handy later.
The Western group of temples is the largest group and maintained very well by ASI (Archeological Survey of India). While entering you are searched for tobacco related items. You are not allowed to carry these inside and Amitabho had two packets of cigs. He refused to hand over the packet and decided to head back to the hotel to keep back the packet.
Khajuraho – WESTERN GROUP of Temples
LAKSHMAN TEMPLE – Khajuraho
This striking temple stands facing the Varaha and Devi Mandaps. It is one of the three largest temples of Khajuraho and the western group of temples and is considered to be the earliest ( c.AD 954 ) to have been built by the Chandella rulers. The temples faces the east and is dedeicated to Vishnu, though it goes by a rather inappropriate name of Lakshman, the brother of Ram.
DEVI MANDAP – Khajuraho
Opposite the large Lakshman Temple are two small shrines. The one directly opposite is called Devi Mandap, its cemented peaked roof an indication that it has been renovated during the last century.
VARAHA MANDAP – Khajuraho
This open pavilion stands to the south of the Devi shrine on a high platform. The Mandap stands elevated above the ground with 14 short pillars that support the high pyramidal roof capped with an Amalaka and Kalash.
KANDARIYA MAHADEV TEMPLE – Khajuraho
This is without any doubt the largest and most magnificent temple in Khajuraho. The elegant proportions of this building and its sculptural detailing are the most refined examples of this artistic heritage of central India.
MAHADEV SHRINE – Khajuraho
Between the Kandariya and the Devi Jagdambi Temples is a small shrine whose purpose is difficult to ascertain. It is called the Mahadev Shrine and consists of a small open – pillared porch and sanctum, the structure has suffered further through renovations during the last century. A figure of the rampant lion fighting with a kneeling figure, presumed to be the emblem of the Chandellas, has some reason been installed in the porch. there are two similar rampant lion figures on the platform of the Kandariya Madadev and Devi temples.
DEVI JAGDAMBI TEMPLE – Khajuraho
This is much smaller than the magnificent Kandariya Mahadev Temple. lt has a cross plan with only on set of balconies, only one Mandap and no inner Pradakshinapatha. However, the Devi Jagdambi Temple has some of the loveliest sculptures ill Khajuraho, and because of its medium height most of them are easily visible.
CHITRAGUPTA TEMPLE – Khajuraho
This is the only local temple dedicated to Surya and is situated about 91 m to the north of the Jagadambi temple and 183 m south-east of an ancient (Chandella) three storied stepped tank, known as the Chopra. In respect of plan, design, dimensions and decorative scheme this temple closely resembles the Jagadambi and consists of a sanctum without ambulatory, vestibule, Maha-mandapa with lateral transepts and entrance-porch, the last being completely restored above the original plinth. The octagonal ceiling of its Maha-mandapa marks an elaboration over the square plan and thus appears to be relatively more ornate and developed than Jagadambi and may consequently be slightly later in date.
The main image enshrined in the sanctum represents an impressive sculpture of standing Surya driving in a chariot of seven horses. Three similar but smaller figures of Surya are depicted on the lintel of the ornate doorway. The temple walls are also carved with some of the finest figures of Sura-sundaris, erotic couples and gods including an eleven-headed Vishnu. The sculptures on this temple. as on the Jagadambi, approximate those of the Visvanatha in style. The same affinity is visible with regard to the architectural and decorative motifs. The Jagdambi and the Chitragupta temples are, therefore, stylistically placed between the Visvanatha and the Kandariya and are assignable to circa 1000-25.
PARVATI TEMPLE – Khajuraho
VISHWANATH TEMPLE – Khajuraho
This is one of the finest of the Khajuraho temples and was built by the Chandella king Dhanga in 1002. The temple itself has a most delicate balance. It measures 89′ x 45’10” (27m x 13.5m). The sculptures are particularly striking in the carving and in some of the subject matter. Dedicated to Shiva, the temple enshrines not only a Shiva lingam but also his “vehicle”, the bull Nandi, as well as an image of his consort depicted as Durga. In another subsidiary corner shrine on the temple podium is an image of the Shiva lingam with four faces attached.
MATANAGESHWAR TEMPLE – Khajuraho
This is the only temple where puja is till performed by devotees and this temple is outside the boundary walls of ASI Western Group. The shrine is eight feet high that is made of shiny yellow limestone. It is considered as the holiest of the temples of Khajuraho. This temple has some of the largest Shiva lingams of India. The shrine is eight feet high which is made up of shiny yellow limestone. There is a small Ganesh at upper right, and a large image of a Goddess with two smaller attendant deities were set up on the path toward the temple.
We managed to only photograph the western side of the temples as the sun was setting and the color of the stones became reddish brown with the reflection of the sun rays. We decided to pack up and the complex closes with Sunset and the security at this section were already clearing the visitors.
By this time we were quite hungry and decided to eat some freshly prepared Aloo Parathaas. Costing around 20 Rs. a piece these were cheap yet filling. Khajuraho is costly in terms of food and a basic meal of chicken curry and 4 Rootiscan cost around 200 Rs. to 250 Rs. This was followed by a cup (glass full) of Lemon Tea. This is probably the best Lemon Tea I had ever had. Costing around Rs. 10 a glass these were a real shooting for the tiered body. We decided to skip dinner as the two Aloo Parathaaswere more than an evening snack.
Sound and Light Show – Khajuraho
We decided to check out the Sound and Light Show in the evening. There are basically two shows one in English and followed by Hindi. The English version starts at 7.30 PM and goes on till 8.30 PM. The Hindi version starts at 8.30 PM and ends at 9.30 PM. We decided to check out the Hindi version as we were told that the Hindi version has voice over by Amitabh Bachchan and we could not afford to miss this.The tickets cost Rs.150 per person. You are allowed to carry Photo Cameras but Video Cameras and Tripod are not allowed. Again our mini tripod came in handy as these were undetected. The rule on tobacco products apply here also and my friend was clever enough to leave the packets behind. There are basically no seat reservations, there are rows of plastic garden chair and you grab what position you want. We were extra enthusiastic thus took our garden chairs away from the crowd to have a clear view.
I had set up my mini tripod already and was ready for the show. The show started with the familiar baritone voice of Amitabh and the temple started being lit out according to the story one by one in different colors. All hell broke loose at this moment, somehow none of our cameras could focus on the colorful temples. Autofocus was hunting for appoint of reference and we decided to shift to manual mode. Still there was no solution as it was impossible to adjust focus manually in the dark. We took nearly 100 photographs each but none of them were to our satisfaction.
After the show we went back to the hotel and started our intellectual discussions. This lasted till 3 in the morning with Amitabho referring to each of the photographs taken and matching it with the references in the book. He took pages and pages on notes for the next day’s shoot.
With few hours of sleep we got up around 5.30 in the morning and after our morning schedule, we were ready to check out the Western Section again. By 6.15 AM the gates were open and the whole group of temples looked fantastic with the light morning rays. We took the most photographs and managed to cover all the western sections by 10 AM. After this the sun becomes very harsh and the color of the stone temple changes drastically making then not so suitable for photographing. Thus we decided to have our brunch as we were really hungry by now.
We decided to again have Aloo Parathaasand Lemon tea as we were still licking our lips from last evenings outing. After a quick snack we decided to enter the western section again but this time to photograph the inside of each of the temples.Once back inside we noticed then the inside of the temples were considerably dark and very difficult to have a steady shots with long exposure and no tripod. We tried with Flash but the output was not satisfactory. Luckily I had with me my LED ring light and this was perfect for this type of situation. Me and my friend shared the LED ring light In turns to shoot each and every section. We carried on shooting till 2 PM and then decided to head back to the hotel to freshen up. Back at the hotel, we had a quick shower and we were back to planning our next move. We decided to visit the Eastern, Southern and Jain section next.
At around 3 PM we came out of the hotel and went to the auto stand. A man approached us and we told him that we wanted to see the Eastern, Southern and Jain section he agreed to show us all these sections for 400 Rs. We thought this was a fair amount considering that the auto (Vikram Auto) will remain with us till 6 PM. We were surprised when we saw this person hail an auto and explain him the route. We then realized that this guy was guide/middleman and his commission was 100 Rs. out of the 400 Rs. thus we could have easily directly hired the auto for 300 Rs. Anyways we did not regret this as the guide and the auto driver was extremely helpful and informative.
Southern Group of Temples – Khajuraho
CHATUR BHUJ TEMPLE – Khajuraho
This stands off the main Khajuraho Airport or Bamitha road. It is approximately three kilometers south of Khajuraho and is approached by a motorable road. The temples stand lonely and serene on a high platform against the backdrop off the Lavanya hills. This is the only important temple in Khajuraho that faces west and it is worth saving your sunset to visit this little shrine. The temple is similar to Javari of the eastern group of temples but like all temples in Khajuraho, it is too unique.
DULADEO TEMPLE – Khajuraho
The temple, judging from a 1904 photograph, was severely damaged; its Shikhara had all but collapsed and the Mandap roof caved in, but the entire porch and a wide open Madap with an amazing circular corbelled inner replicas. The dancing figures on the pillars and pilasters of the Mandap are noteworthy for their vigor and energetic stances.
Jain section – Khajuraho
PARSHVANATH TEMPLE – Khajuraho
This temple is built on a low plinth, unlike the high platforms of all other temples at Khajuraho, which makes it much easier to study the sculptures here. The temple is rectangular in shape with few stars – like projections that add so much variety to the other temples of this period. The Parshvanath Temple has a porch on the east side that leads into the Mandap and sanctum. There is also a projection on the west side, apparently added later, containing a small shrine.
ADINATH TEMPLE – Khajuraho
Standing beside the Parshvanath temple on the north side is this exquisite little temple. The temple exterior has been divided into an Adhishthana, above which are two rows of sculptures and a narrow band of celestial musicians and garland bearers. the first perception of the figurative art of the Adinath temple is that it is so elegant and refined, so different from its heavier, stubbier counterparts in the Parshvanath temple.
SHANTINATH TEMPLE – Khajuraho
The Shantinath Temple is a modern composite structure that incorporates sections of several temples and has several shrines. The main section has a 12-foot-tall (3.7 m) idol of Lord Shantinath with an inscription of Sam. 1085.
In between Jain and Eastern section
GHANTAI TEMPLE – Khajuraho
All that remains are pillars, some with bells (Ghanti, hence the name) dangling on chains all carved in stone. Cunningham discovered the only Buddhist statue to be found in Khajuraho in the vicinity of the Ghantai temple.
Eastern Group of Temples – Khajuraho
BRAMHA TEMPLE – Khajuraho
This temple with a simple plan and design and with the Sikhara made of sandstone and the body of granite occupies a fine position on the bank of the Khajuraho sagar or Ninora-tal. It is miscalled Brahma on account of a four-faced Linga now enshrined in the sanctum but must have originally been dedicated to Vishnu as shown by his figure carved centrally on the lintel of the sanctum-doorway. It is a modest structure, comprising a sanctum and a porch, the later now completely lost and the former roofed by a pyramidal Sikhara of receding tiers of Pidhas, crowned by a prominent bell-member.
The sanctum is cruciform externally with projections on each side, and square internally, resting on twelve plain pilasters of granite. The projection on the east contains the entrance and that on the west is pierced with a smaller doorway, while the lateral projections on the remaining two sides contain plain latticed windows. Except for the body modeled figures of the Brahmanical Trinity on the lintel and Ganga and Yamuna at the base, its doorway is plain. Its Jangha (wall) divided into two registers and standing on simple basement Moldings also plain. Despite some difference in details this temple belongs to the same conception and early structural phase the Lalguan-Mahadeva with which it shares a common plan, design, ornaments, and building material. It is consequently assignable to circa 900.
JAVARI TEMPLE – Khajuraho
Down the path from the Bramha Temples and situated to the east, in the middle of a field, is the small platform on which this temple stands. The name Javari is derived from the one-time owner of the land, or so it is assumed, for there is no Hindu deity bearing this title. The temple is diminutive and its proportions are attractive, measuring 11.88 meters in length and 6.4 meters in breath.
The temple, though substantially renovated, has the characteristic exterior walls lined with bands of sculptures, niches on the cardinal points, but all in miniature form. The dainty roof over the porch grows to meet the pyramidal Mandap roof and this leads the eye to the elegant Shikhara above the sanctum.
The temple, dedicated to Vishnu, consists of a long porch entered through a nice stone Toran. The Makara – Toran has four decorated loops crowned by a Kirtimukha. The Mandap is small as is the Garbha Griha. This structure is similar in style to the Chaturbhuj Temple.
VAMANA TEMPLE – Khajuraho
This temple dedicated to the Varmana form of Vishnu is situated about 200 m. to the north-east o the so-called Brahma temple. It is Nirandhara (one without ambulatory) temple, consisting on a plan of a Sapta-ratha (seven-projection) sanctum, vestibule, Maha-mandapa with lateral transepts and entrance-porch, of which only the plinth has survived. Its Sikhara is unencumbered by any subsidiary Sikharas and is embellished with a fret-work of Chaitya-arches, a contrast to the developed local temples; erotic scenes are absent here, except in the subsidiary niches of the proof-pediments. It is also noteworthy for showing over the Maha-mandapa a peculiar roof known as Samvarana which is characteristic of the medieval temples of western India.
The absence of the Dhammilla- type of head-dress on the Sura- sundari figures indicates that the temple is later than the Kandariya, the sculptural types, and style of which it continues. This temple is, therefore, assignable to circa 1050-75.
By the time we completed the Eastern section, it was already 6.30 PM and we were dead tired. We headed straight back to the hotel and freshened up. We had enough of Alu Parathaas thus decided to try something else. We went to a nice restaurant and had delicious Chicken curry and Tandoori Rootis. It was really tasty and the quantity was sufficient. Back at the hotel we again went back into our discussion mode and did a quick review on the things that we had seen. We went to bed early at around 10 AM and decided to visit the Western section again the next morning since there were few idols that we had missed or did not pay much attention. We made a list and went into a quick sleep mode.
We got up by 5.30 AM and were ready to go by 6 AM. Straight to the ticket counter and we were the first ones to enter. This was a blessing in disguise since we managed to take pictures of most of the temples without any human in our frame.
Disaster struck with Amitabha when his faithful Pentax K200D started malfunctioning. There was a compelling shutter malfunction and the DSLR kept firing shutter continuously. Amitabha like a trues professional switched to P&S Canon and kept up with his documentation. We continued this till 10 AM and then decided to go for a quick brunch and again the choice of meal was Alu Parathaas.
There was another temple called Chausath Yogini Temple which was a part of the western group but was not within the main ASI Western Compound. After asking some locals and thanks to Google Maps we saw it was a five-minute walk around the Shivsagar Lake.
SHIVSAGAR LAKE – Khajuraho
We headed out and being middle or March the Sun was quite strong. Walking pastShivsagar Lake we saw Khajuraho Palace.
If you have a picture of palaces of Rajasthan then please put that away from your mind its rather a small in size. Shivsagar Lake is quite large in size but extremely dirty. We could see a couple of dead animals floating on one side and people using that same water body for bathing on the other.
CHAUSATH YOGINI TEMPLe – Khajuraho
The Chausath-Yogini temple, made of coarse granite, is the earliest building at Khajuraho and is situated on a low granite outcrop to the south-west of the Siva-Sagar tank. The temple has an exceptional plan and design. Standing on a lofty (5.4 m.high) platform, it is an open-air quadrangular (31- 4m x 18.3m) structure of sixty-seven peripheral shrines, of which only thirty-five have now survived.
The shrines are tiny plain cells, each entered by a small doorway and roofed by a curvilinear Sikhara of an elementary form. The shrine in the back wall, facing the entrance, is the largest and perhaps constituted the main shrine. A few simple moldings on the façade are all the decoration that the temple displays, but in spite of its uncouth appearance and rugged bareness, it possesses an elemental strength and reveals some basic traits of Khajuraho style, such as a lofty platform and a jangha (wall) divided into two registers. Of all the yogini temples in India, this is the most primitive in construction and unique in being quadrangular and not circular on plan.
The three surviving images, representing Brahmani, Mahesvari, and Hingalaja (Mahishamardini) are massive and squat in form and are among the oldest sculptures of Khajuraho. The latter two are inscribed as Mahesvari and Hingalaja. The evidence of the sculptural and architectural style, coupled with the early paleography of the short labels on the images, indicates that the temple is probably datable to the last quarter of the ninth century.
Just when we finished and wanted to head back to our hotel Amitabho interrupted me by informing me that there is another temple nearby which is nowhere on the map. We checked the coordinates on Google Map and it was not showing up. A group of three boys was walking by and Amitabha asked is they knew where the temple was. They pointed us the direction but we were confused since we could only see rows of houses and farmlands. These boys then asked us to come with them and we followed them to a 20-minute walk. This was a cruel walk at the Sun was at its peak and we were dead tired. After crossing maze of lanes, we reach Wheatfields and it was a treat walking amongst dense wheat plants. Finally, we reached the place where we could spot a small temple in the distance. We took some photographs and also requested the boys to pose for us. While returning we broke into conversation with the boys and they were extremely courteous. They were all studying in school but on that day they did not have school as they were having Holi vacations.
LALGUN MAHADEV – Khajuraho
In Khajuraho they celebrate Holi the next day from the rest of India. They day rest of India celebrates Holi the people of Khajuraho celebrate something called ‘KeehcharHoli’ (dirt Holi).
It was a long walk back and we bid goodbye to the boys. As a thank, you gesture we gave them Candies and Chocolates. Initially, they refused but after much insisting they agreed to accept them.
Back to our hotel, we freshened up quickly but we wanted to visit the Western section again for the very last time during this trip. It was already around 4 PM thus we only had two hours to finish up. We stayed back till 6 PM and took some sunset shots. We were amongst the last group of people to leave.
After a quick dinner, we left our hotel by 10 PM we had already arranged our auto, the same auto who had shown us around the previous day. For 150 Rs. we were dropped to Khajuraho station. We took the 11.45 PM Khajuraho – Varanasi Link train to Varanasi.
We reached Varanasi at around 11.30 AM we had some biscuits on the train thus our basic breakfast was complete. I had a contact in Varanasi (Keshari Guest House) at Assi Ghat. We had stayed here in October 2013 during our Varanasi shoot. The owner Mr. Ashwin Rai was very welcoming and I had spoken to him the previous day for our proposed stopover. We reached his guest house and we were allotted a room on the third floor with an attached bath. We freshened up quickly and went to have a good Veg thali for 90 Rs. After lunch we went to Assi Ghat and spent some time there, we took our cameras along but the light was absolutely not suitable for any photography. We came back to the guest house and took a short nap before heading back to the station. We took the Vibhuti express from Varanasi Jn to Howrah.
As usual with Indian Railways, the train was supposed to reach Howrah at 7.30 AM but it was running late. It reached Howrah at 9 AM and I took a dash to the Taxi booth. I did a quick calculation that if I go home then I will be late for the office and will miss an important appointment thus headed straight to the office. While on the way I called up my wife to carry trouser and shirt for me, luckily her school is very near to my office and can easily take them. Took the new attire from her and went straight to the office (guest room) for a quick shower and a change. By 10 AM I was back in office far away from the majestic Khajuraho, eagerly waiting to go back to MP for another stint at Orchha, Jhansi & Gwalior. Till then bye and thanks for reading patiently.
P.S. I purposely left out erotic sculptures in my writing as I felt that people only highlighted erotic concept just to build the interest in tourism. There are erotic sculptures but there is more…much much more…
Bye for now…Subhadip Mukherjee