The temples of Khajuraho, which the area is known for were built by the Chanella Dynasty, which ruled between 900 and 1200AD. [i] The Chanella were originally local chieftains who recognized the supremacy of the imperial Pratihara monarchs of Kanaui until the middle of the 10th century.[ii] Though the exact reason for the building of the multi religious temples is not known, it is thought that their construction helped to legitimize the social status of the new dynasty.[iii] In the 16th century, the Mughal invasion led to the abandonment of Khajurho, which had been a very religiously tolerant village. [iv] In the 19th century however, the temples were rediscovered and integrated into art and history. [v]

The Temples


Statues (Lakshmana Temple, Khajuraho). by Manuel Menal

The 85 temples were built of sandstone and are a major tourist destination due to the ornate and erotic carvings that cover them. [vi] The temples themselves are shaped like a mountain with shorter sikharas (rising peaks) surrounding the main sikhara and a ribbed circular stone on top.[vii]


Devi Jagdambi Temple Khajuraho by Antoine Taveneaux

Of the notable carvings on the temples are the mithuna, which are the erotic groups of amorous couples depicted.[viii][ix] Along with these, deites, vyalas, and apsaras are also present.[x] The vyalas are hybrid lions, horses, and other animals that act as protectors of the temple. [xi] Apsaras are celestial nymphs and are a great representation of the balance of female and male at the temple as well as the female being the source of the universe’s creation, for these carvings are often the same size as the deities.[xii] The eroticism of the carvings is what the temples are known for, however their presence is not intended to be provocative, instead they are for mental purification just as yoga and asceticsm are used for. [xiii]

Present Day Khajuraho

Today, the remaining 20 temples are not used for ritual


Jeveri Temple, Eestern Group of Temples, Khajuraho, India.,_Khajuraho#/media/File:Khajuraho_Jeveri_Temple_2010.jpg

practice, but are a large site of tourism. In 1986, Khajuraho was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site, much like the Ellora Caves. This helps to maintain the sites through their financial assistance and it also generates larger international tourism.[xiv] Though inactive as a site of worship, there is still a cultural significance today, holding festivals for classical dance and music in February/March every year. [xv]

The people and the village of Khajuraho now are different than they would have been during the construction of the temples, due to the resettlement in the 19th century. Where there were once stone cutters and artists now are farmers and cultivists. [xvi] Additionally, the village has been modernized with multilingual tour guides and foreign cuisine due to the influx of tourism. [xvii]

[i] Devangana Desai, Khajuraho (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000),1.

[ii] Cartwright, Khajuraho.

[iii] Desai, Khajuraho, 8.

[iv] Zannas Eliky, Khajuraho (The Hague: Mouton & Co., 1960)., 61.

[v] Desai, Khajuraho, 3

[vi] Ibid., 74

[vii] Cartwright, Khajuraho.

[viii] Desai, Khajuraho,8

[ix] Ibid. 81

[x] David Smith, “ Monstrous Animals on Hindu Temples with Special Reference to Khajuraho,” Religions of South Asia, 7(2013): 27.

[xi] Ibid.

[xii] UNESCO TV/NKH “Khajuraho Group of Monuments”

[xiii] Vasanthi Srinivasan, “Goddesses and Damsels: Depictions of Sakti in Temple Art and Iconography in Khajuraho,” Amina 14, no. 1 (1987): 56.

[xiv] Raksha Kumar, “In India’s Ancient Khajuraho, Eroticism Mingles With International Commerce,” NY Times: India Ink, Last modified Jan. 10, 2013, (accessed April 17, 2016).

[xv] Khajuraho Travel Agent & Tour Operator. Khajuraho Tourism. Jabalpur. (accessed April 20, 2016).

[xvi] Eliky, Khajuraho, 53.

[xvii] Kumar, “In India’s Ancient Khajuraho”