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Khajuraho, a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Madhya Pradesh, is known around the world for its stunning temples adorned by erotic and sensuous carvings. A small town located in the Bundelkhand region, Khajuraho is a brilliant example of Indian architecture and its culture back in the medieval period. The architecture of these Hindu and Jain temples depict the erotic forms of love, the carvings on the walls display passion in the most sensuous yet aesthetic ways. Built between 950 to 1050 AD the sheer confrontational nature of these carvings shows a stark paradox with the conventional Indian ideals about eroticism, leaving everybody spellbound.
Art in this small town is engrained in all of its structures and are a classic example of the finesse of India's cultural and artistic heritage. The best part about Khajuraho is that although scores of plunderers tried to destroy the whole complex, they could never succeed, even though they managed to reduce the number of temples and caves to 25 from a staggering 85 at the time it was created.
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The temple complex in Khajuraho is grouped into two categories based on their orientation- Western Group of Temples and Eastern Group of Temples. The Western group is more famous out of the two as it has the largest temple Kandariya Mahadeo Temple which is dedicated to the glory of Lord Shiva.
The Western group mainly houses the temples dedicated to Hindu gods and goddesses. Among a large number of temples built in the complex, six are dedicated to Lord Shiva, eight are dedicated to Lord Vishnu, one each to Lord Ganesha and the Sun God, while three are dedicated to Jain Tirthankaras. All of these have beautiful intricate designs and boast of fine architecture and the very famous ever-so-elaborate sculptures.
The Eastern Group primarily has the four Jain temples- Parasvanath, Adinath, Shantinath and Ghantai dedicated to the worship of the Jain Tirthankaras.
The Chandela rulers originally built these temples to represent love and lust in the purest forms. Some sculptures are bound to make you cringe, some will make you awe at the raw art, some will disappoint you and some will leave you in wonder. There are several stories weaved around the erotic sculptures of Khajuraho. One of these stories suggests that the moon God got allured by the beauty of maiden bathing in a lake under the moonlight. She ran to the forest to seek refuge and raised her son alone. In turn, the moon God promised her son, a kingdom of his own.
This lore claims that her son grew up to be the first Chandela ruler and influenced by her mother’s story, got the monuments constructed. Some theorists believed that the Chandela dynasty used the sculptures as forms of sex education. Some say that the carvings are symbols for “good luck”. Some suggest that the figurines much in love are only carved outside the temple and is a message that says to leave all lust and worldly pleasures behind before entering the temples, which in turn is a metaphor for “moksha” (Hindu theory of salvation).
The sculptures are grouped into five broad categories- The first ones are the Shilpshastras- the Jain Tirthankaras. The second category represents the deities, attendants, ganas, gandharvas, ashta dikpalas, among other images. The third category represents the apsaras, also called the sapna sundaris. These are sculptures of really beautiful women doing mundane jobs like holding a baby, painting, dancing or just plain undressing. The fourth category portrays scenes from everyday life- warriors, dancers, musicians, royal court, teacher, pupil etc. The fifth and the final category has the very famous erotic images of unnatural sex, group sex etc.
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