Khajuraho Temples were built between 950 to 1050 AD by the ruling Chandelas. Calling them temples is actually misleading. At present, they are not places of worship. In fact, they are places of education. One can learn a lot about Ancient India, Hinduism and its mythology just by spending some keen time studying the different Khajuraho sculptures. Khajuraho sculptures can be broadly categorized into three types – stories from ancient Hindu texts, Tantric sexual images and Yogic postures. One key aspect missing in Khajuraho Temples is bhakti (devotion). There are no Khajuraho sculptures depicting any kind of devotional activities. The temples are dedicated to Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu or Shakti (the Goddesses). There are no temples dedicated to demigods or famous reincarnations of Vishnu like Lord Rama or Lord Krishna. However, there is an exception.
The Boar Who Brought Planet Earth¬†Back
Once upon a time, the demons stole our planet earth and took it to the netherworld. They place it around dead bodies, decay and excreta. Other gods and goddesses rushed to Lord Vishnu, the Preserver. They asked him to free our planet from the depths of the demon world. The only animal capable of making its way through piles and piles of dirt and decay is a wild boar. Hence, Lord Vishnu incarnated as a wild boar, freed planet earth from the underworld and restored it in its rightful place. For his efforts, Lord Vishnu got the title of¬ Bhupati (Bhu = Earth + Path = Protector).¬†Nowhere in India, Nepal or Bali will you find a temple dedicated to boar or even an image of boar in a temple. The Chandelas decided to honour the wild saviour of our planet.
Who are the people carved on the wild boar’s body? The boar’s body contains carvings of¬ Bhudevi (Mother Earth), a snake, Dadhi Kumar (God of Water), a crocodile, eight Gods of Directions,¬ Yakshas, Gandharvas, Kinnaras, 12 Adityas, 11 Rudras, seven Matrikas, Nava Durgas¬†and other demigods. These are the same demigods who requested Lord Vishnu to bring the earth back. None of the gods is depicted on the boar’s body. Demigods can be recognized from their¬ Ardhlalit Padmasan(Half Lotus Pose) as opposed to gods who are always depicted in a complete Padmasan if seated.
The Women With Flexible Body
Throughout the different Khajuraho Temples, you will see sculptures of women displaying extraordinary elasticity. The elasticity represents the tender and gentle nature of women. It also symbolizes the maternal qualities of women. A harsh and cruel woman has a hard time raising a kid compared to a gentle one. The flexibility is also a sign of sexual appeal.
The Dancing Ganesha
It is very rare to come across a dancing Ganesha idol. You find a spectacular Dancing Ganesha sculpture here in Khajuraho. The dancing Ganesha depicts three things. The potbelly symbolizes prosperity, the dance displays joy and the elephant symbolizes wisdom. All these things combine and depict good luck. Thus, the Dancing Ganesha is the first sculpture you will encounter on the walls of the first temple.
Sexual Sculptures Of Khajuraho
Khajuraho sculptures depicting sexual poses garner a wide variety of reactions. In the myriad of reactions, the true symbol of these sculptures often gets lost. There are two kinds of sexual sculptures in Khajuraho – recreational sex sculptures and Tantric sex sculptures. They are easy to differentiate based on facial expressions. On recreational sex sculptures, the expression of lust is clearly visible. But, it is the Tantric sex sculptures that are admirable.
Tantric sex is the spiritual practice that expands consciousness and brings together the polarities of masculine and feminine energy into a whole. Energy can neither be created nor destroyed, it can only be transformed from one form to another. Tantric sex is a practice of transforming sexual energy into spiritual energy. In the Tantric sex sculptures, you will clearly observe expressions of calm and Gyan Mudra (Gesture of Wisdom), a hand gesture with the thumb and index figure pressing against each other.
I will soon post descriptions of other Khajuraho sculptures. Stay tuned!