Thursday, January 17, 2013

Khajuraho Temples

Khajuraho , India's unique gift of love to the world, represent the expression of a highly matured civilization. After the Taj it is the most frequently visited monument in India. Khajuraho Situated in the heart of Central India, in the state of Madhya Pradesh, Khajuraho is a fascinating village with a quaint rural ambience and a rich cultural heritage. The fascinating temples of Khajuraho, is a unique example of Indo-Aryan architecture. The Chandela rulers between 950-1050 built these temples. There were 85 temples, which were built, and only 22 of them survive today. The temples are a world heritage site and belong not just to India but to the world. The Archeological Survey of India's dedicated efforts towards their conservation rank them against the best preserved monuments of this antiquity. Most of the temples are built of sandstone in varying shades of buff, pink or pale yellow. They each belong to a different sect, the Shiva, Vaishnava or Jaina Sects, but are often indistingushable from one another to the untrained eye. The temples are lofty with ample walking space separating them. The interior rooms are inter connected and placed in an East/West line. Each contains an entrance, a hall, a vestibule and a sanctum. Windows were added to the larger temples to add a feeling of space and light.

History of Khajuraho: Mystery is the most apt word that can be associated with the history of Khajuraho. Though not much evidence is available but the city is believed to have been ruled by the Pratihara Kings of North India from 500 to 1300 C.E. Mythological beliefs claim the city to have been called as ‘Khajur-vahika’ or ‘Khajjarpura’ during the ancient times. The reason behind the name was sought to be the golden date palms that were then grown here. 
Various legends are allied with the foundation of the city. It is said that Hemavati, the widow daughter of the king gave up her dignity, in order to behold the respect for her father, to the Moon God who was attracted to her. Their union gave birth to a sage named Chandarateya who later became the founder of the Chandela dynasty, the dynasty who built the world heritage temples in Khajuraho. 
In another folklore, Chandravarman was born to Hemavati, a child widow after the moon God ravished her in human form. He later grew to become the first king of the Chandela dynasty.
Not much of historical data is available about Khajuraho. This world heritage site earlier had 80 temples out of which only 22 stand today. However, most of them are in ruins today.

Architecture of Khajuraho Temple: The Khajuraho temples are a pinnacle of the North Indian Nagara architectural style. 

The Nagara style's primary feature is a central tower (shikhara) whose highest point is 

directly over the temple's primary deity.  This is often surrounded by smaller, subsidiary towers (urushringa) and intermediate towers; these naturally draw the eye up to the highest point, like a series of hills leading to a distant peak.  Setting the temple on a raised base (adhisthana) also shifts the eye upward, and promotes this vertical quality. 

The true arch (in which the parts of the arch are supported in tension with each other) was unknown in classical India.  The arches in Khajuraho's temple are made by a technique known as corbelling, in a dome or arch is created by overlapping masonry courses (this accounts for the step-like construction over the three right parts of the building below).  This particular image shows the Vishvanath temple.

Amalaka: a stone disk, usually with ridges on the rim, that sits atop the temple's main tower.  According to one interpretation, the amalaka represents a lotus, and thus the symbolic seat for the deity below.  Another interpretation is that it symbolizes the sun,and is thus the gateway to the heavenly world.  The amalaka itself is crowned with a 
kalasha (finial), from which a temple banner is often hung.

Entrance Porch (Ardhamandapa): The entrance porch formed a transitional area between the outside world and the mandapa or hall.  Most temple buildings have some sort of transitional space between the central shrine (garbhagrha) and the outside world, but only the largest, most developed temples will have all of these elements.

Hall (Mandapa): A hall in the temple, forming a transitional space between the ardhamandapa  and mahamandapa.  In smaller or less architecturally developed temples, this was usually omitted.

Great Hall (Mahamandapa): The temple's main entrance-hall, separated from the central 
shrine (garbhagrha), by a short vestibule named the antarala.  Just about every temple has 
some sort of entrance-hall between the central shrine (garbhagrha) and the outside world, 
but only the largest and most developed temples have all of the transitional members.   At 
Khajuraho, a mahamandapa is often distinguished by transepts (bumped-out portions perpendicular to the temple's main axis).

Vestibule (Antarala): a transitional space between a temple's main hall and the inner sanctum (garbhagrha) where the image of the temple's primary deity would be housed.  The antarala was found only in the largest temples, and in many smaller ones was omitted entirely.  This architectural element marks the liminal space between the exterior world and the divine world, and at Khajuraho the exterior panels on these elements are the primary sites for large panels with sexually explicit scenes (particularly on the Vishvanath and Kandariya Mahadev temples).  This placement cannot be accidental, although observers differ about what these mean.  At the very least, it could indicate that sexuality and encountering the divine are both liminal experiences that force us out of ourselves. 

Inner Sanctum (Garbhagrha):  The temple's inner sanctum, containing the image of the temple's primary deity.  The basic function of a Hindu temple is to serve as the deity's dwelling-place (the most common word for temple, mandir, simply means "house"), and devotees come there to interact with and worship the resident deity (often in family groups).  In this respect, Hindu temples are very different from places of worship in many other religious traditions, which serve as centers for congregational worship.  The word garbha can mean either "womb" or "embryo;" both meanings connote potentiality, hiddenness, and a sense of development.  The garbhagrha was located directly below the summit of the highest tower, with the primary deity directly under the highest point.  Smaller temples may only have a small shrine room at the back end of the temple (a "womb" in the metaphorical sense), but larger temples often also have a processional pathway ("ambulatory") around the central shrine, via which devotees can circle around the deity (always clockwise) as a gesture of respect and worship.

Secondary Tower (Urushringa): smaller towers on the temple's exterior to lead the eye up to the highest point.  Their shape often replicates that of the tallest central tower, and 
serves to draw the eye upward toward it.

Base Platform (Adhishsthana): The raised base on which a temple was built.  These are particularly high in the temples at Khajuraho, and by their height accentuate these temple's upward thrust. 

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