Monday, July 23, 2007

Sensuality in stone - Khajuraho

The Khajuraho temples are perhaps most well known for their erotic sculptures
When a British army captain chanced upon the ruins of the famous temples at Khajuraho, he probably wasn't aware that he was chancing upon a piece of history that had been hidden away from the world for several centuries. Built by the Chandela kings between 950 and 1050 AD, the temples at Khajuraho were lost to civilisation, till the middle of the 19th century, when they were rediscovered by the British. Originally, 85 temples were built by the Chandela kings. Of these, about 24 were found again. Today, these temples have been painstakingly restored and present a stunning picture to the millions of tourists who visit them.

The Khajuraho temples are perhaps most well known for their erotic sculptures, which have been carved out in explicit detail. Many explanations have been given for the eroticism depicted on its walls. While some say that the sculptures were meant to distract the rain god Indra, so as to prevent him for striking them down with lightning, another explanation is that they were meant to familiarise brahmacharis with worldly ways. The most accepted argument is that the Chandelas, who believed in Tantra practices had incorporated these sculptures to ward off evil eye to protect the temples as well as to depict the futility of carnal desires, in the pursuit of spiritualism.

However, eroticism is but a mere segment of these temples which follow a unique architectural style, characterised by the exquisite detail of their sculptures and the effect of overall lightness that they produce. Khajuraho's temples, thus, are a tribute to the master craftsmen, who worked on them - a feeling summed up by the poet Harivansh Rai Bachchan, in the following lines: "Khajuraho ke nidar kaladhar; Amarshila mein gaan tumhara." (O brave artisans of Khajuraho! Your song will live forever, immortalised in stone).

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