History of Khajuraho
Origin of the name & region
The legend says that once when Hemvati was bathing in the sparkling waters of a lotus filled pond, the moon god was so awestruck by her that he descended upon earth and ravished the beautiful maiden. Distressed, Hemvati threatened to curse the moon god who then gave her a boon that she would bear a child who would be a brave king, the one who would eventually perform a yagya to wash away her sins. Hemvati was advised by the moon god to go forth and give birth to the child in Khajjurpura and this is where Chandravarman, the son of Hemvati was born.A brave warrior, he was gifted a touchstone by his father, the moon god, which could turn iron to pure gold. He was also installed as the king at Khajuraho. At his mother’s request, he started building the 85 beautiful temples around the city. He also performed the Bhandya yagya, which expunged Hemvati of all her guilt.
Ancient history of Khajuraho
The Chandela rulers built the enthralling temples at Khajuraho over a period of 100 years from 950 AD to 1050 AD. Khajuraho was the cultural capital of the Chandela Rajputs, the Hindu dynasty that ruled over the region from the 10th-12th centuries. The political capital of the Chandelas was Kalinjar. Later the capital was moved to Mahoba, but Khajuraho continued to find patronage for some time. It fell into neglect and dispair much later by medieval period.
The most intriguing aspect about these temples is the choice of location, as there is nothing exceptional about Khajuraho as a place nor is there as sizeable population around the city. The Chandelas were followers of the Tantric cult, which believed that gratification of earthly desires is the first step towards salvation. The legend says that these erotic sculptures were intended as a part of a lesson for young boys in Brahmacharya stage to train them for family life in the Grihasta stage.
Khajuraho during the Medieval era
Khajuraho during the Modern era
Today, Khajuraho is one of the places listed in the UNESCO world heritage sites list. It is one of India’s major tourist attractions and is a must see on the list of both domestic and international travelers. These avant-garde sculptures are both sensuous and shocking at the same time and legends and historians have always been at a loss to explain the exact significance of these temples and their sculptures. Some historians believe that the sculptures take inspiration from Vatsyayan’s famed work, the Kamasutra, and are a rendition of the erotic poses from that epic work. Whatever be the source of inspiration, it is a testimony to the fact that much before the dawn of sexual taboos and mores, there once existed a culture, which believed in celebrating the very basis of human needs and desires.