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.
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.
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.
The Western group have the following temples :- (Information on temples taken from Wikipedia)
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
CHATUR BHUJ TEMPLE
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.
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.
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.
All that remain 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.
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 Mouldingsis 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.
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
We headed out and being middle or March the Sun was quite strong. Walking pastShivsagar Lake we saw
CHAUSATH YOGINI TEMPLE
(Information on temples taken from Wikipedia)
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 no there on the map. We checked the coordinates on Google Map and it was not showing up. A group of three boys were walking by and Amitabho asked is they knew where
temple was. They pointed us the direction but we were confused since we could only see rows of houses and farm lands. 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 tiered. After crossing maze of lanes we reach Wheat fields 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.
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.