Western group of Temples

This is certainly the best known, because it is to this group that the largest and most typical Khajuraho temple belongs: The KandariyaMahadev. Perfectly symmetrical, it soars 31 km high. Though the four temples that stand at the corners of the main shrine are now in ruins, the main shrine has an exquisitely carved entrance arch with a multitude of themes. Celestial beings, lovers serenading musicians… movements captured in stone, frozen in time, yet retaining a quality of warm, pulsating life. The very stone seems to have taken on the living, breathing quality of the carved figures.

Beyond the archway of the KandariyaMahadev, lie the six interior compartments; the portico, main hall, transept, vestibule, sanctum and ambulatory. The ceilings are particularly noteworthy and the pillars supporting them have intricately carved capitals. The transept’s outer walls have three horizontal panels showing deities of the Hindu pantheon, and groups of lovers, a pageant of sensuousness, vibrantly alive.

Also in the western group is the Chaunsat Yogini, the only granite temple in the Khajuraho group. Dedicated to Kali, it is also unique in being quadrangular in plan. Only 35 of the original 65 cells remain and no image of Kali has survived: Not surprisingly, since this is the earliest surviving shrine of the group dated to 900 AD. Another Kali Temple (originally dedicated to Vishnu) is theDevi Jagadambe Temple.

North of it facing eastward to the rising sun, is the Chitragupta temple, dedicated to the sun-god, Surya. The image of this powerful deity in the inner sanctum is particularly imposing: 5ft high, and driving a seven-horsed chariot. The group scenes depicted are equally spectacular: royal processions, elephant- fights, hunting scenes, group dances. The lavish lifestyle of the Chandela kings and their court is here in all its pomp and glory.

Similar in plan to the KandariyaMahadev is the Vishwanath Temple. Lions flank the northern steps and elephants the southern, leading up to the temple. Within, there is an impressive three headed image of Brahma. The exteriors are profusely carved.

Facing the shrine is a Nandi Temple with a massive, 6 ft high Nandi bull.

Since the first few Chandela rulers were devotees of Vishnu, there are some important Vaishnavite temples in the Khajuraho group, the finest of which is the Lakshmana Temple. The lintel over the entrance shows the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, with Lakshmi, Vishnu’s consort. The sanctum is richly carved and has a three-headed idol of Vishnu’s incarnations, Narsimha and Varaha. The boar incarnation also appears in another Vaishnavite shrine, the Varaha Temple. The statue here is a mammoth 9 ft high one, its surface covered with figures from the Hindu Pantheon.

The Khajuraho temples are no longer living places of worship, with a few exceptions. The Matangeswara Temple for example is still a place of worship. Dedicated to Shiva it has an 8 ft high lingam. South of this temple is the open air Archaeological Museum, which has a beautiful displayed collection of statues and friezes collected from the area: the remains of long vanished temples.