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Art Of Khajuraha

The Kendariya Mahadeva temple, the most elegant & famous of the group of temples at Khajuraho (MP), Chandella century AD 1000. (click on pic. to see larger image)

(click on pic. to see larger image)

An expressive sculpture. Damsel writing a letter to her beloved. Chandella,10th century AD. Indian Museum, Calcutta. (click on pic. to see larger image)

 Hidden in the scrub jungles of Central India, however, the 'City of Gods', the Khajuraha miraculously survived. Built between 950 and 1050A.D. by the Chandella kings of Bundelkhand, the twenty surviving temples are still amongst the greatest examples of Medieval Hindu sculpture and architecture in North India. Scattered across a now dusty landscape, these temples were shared in style and the site by both the Vaishnavites and Shaivites and even Jains. Raised on a high plinth, the temples have high shikharas, once coated with white gesso and made to resemble the faraway Himalayas as the abode for Gods. These shikharas are supported by smaller peaks (Urushringas) on which rich tableaus of sculpures were carved out. Beneath the shikhara would be the shrine of the deity to whom the temple was devoted. The grace of the devdasis' dance and their various feminine preoccupations is frozen into a visual feast of stone sculptures at Khajuraho. Full bossomed and lithe apsaras adorned with jewels dance and beautifully gesticulate on the sandstone ceilings. One applying kohl to her eye, another teasing out her companion's hair. Here one feeds a bird on her shoulder, there another takes a thorn out of her foot. Elephants with bejewelled harnesses move in a host of lotus blossoms. Gods in their various depictions, adornments and stances wage battles with fantastic monsters. This paradise for art lovers has also remained a subject of conjecture and research because of the abundance of erotic sculpture appearing here. They allude to the presence of Tantric cults but essentially, as in Konark, continue to be a much riddled puzzle.

Built between 1025-1050AD the Kandaria Mahadev temple, dedicated to Shiva, dominates the Khajuraho complex, with it's shikhara towering 102 feet into the sky, buttressed by 84 subordinate towers. It's impressiveness is matched by a smaller and older Jain temple dedicated to the Tirthankara Parshavanath. The sculptures of Khajuraho are manifest at their finest in the Parshavnath temple, their geometric simplicity and angular planes imparting exceptional beauty and sensuous langour the figures which are not only individually remarkable but also add up to amazing monumental reliefs.  Masterpieces amongst these much celebrated beauties of Khajuraho are the images of Vishnu and Lakshmi on the southern facade of the Parshavanath temple and the exceptionally beautiful crowned female deity, whose identity has been lost but the vital grace perseveres.

The Jagadamba temple at Khajuraho.Chandella, century AD 1000 (click on pic. to see larger image)

Damsel adjusting a braid before a mirror. From the region of Khajuraho. Chandella 10th century AD. Indian Museum, Calcutta. (click on pic. to see larger image)

Damsel playing with a ball. Chandella, 10th century AD. (click on pic. to see larger image) 


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Arts Indian Atelier 1999-2000