The Khajuraho Group of Monuments is a group of Hindu temples and Jain temples in Chhatarpur district, Madhya Pradesh, India, about 175 to the southeast of Jhansi. They are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The temples are famous for their nagara-style architectural symbolism and their erotic sculptures.
Most Khajuraho temples were built between 950 AD and 1050 AD by the Chandela dynasty. Historical records note that the Khajuraho temple site had 85 temples by the 12th century, spread over 20 square kilometres. Of these, only about 25 temples have survived, spread over six square kilometres. Of the surviving temples, the Kandariya Mahadeva Temple is decorated with a profusion of sculptures with intricate details, symbolism and expressiveness of ancient Indian art.
The Khajuraho group of temples were built together but were dedicated to two religions, Hinduism and Jainism, suggesting a tradition of acceptance and respect for diverse religious views among Hindus and Jains in the region.
The Khajuraho group of monuments was built during the rule of the Chandela dynasty. The building activity started almost immediately after the rise of their power, throughout their kingdom to be later known as Bundelkhand. Most temples were built during the reigns of the Hindu kings Yashovarman and Dhana. Yashovarman’s legacy is best exhibited by The Lakshmana Temple. Vishvanatha temple best highlights King Dhanga’s reign. The largest and currently most famous surviving temple is Kandariya Mahadeva built in the reign of King Vidyadhara. The temple inscriptions suggest many of the currently surviving temples were complete between 970 and 1030 AD, with further temples completed during the following decades.
The Khajuraho temples represent one expression of many forms of arts that flourished in Rajput kingdoms of India from 8th through 10th century CE. For example, contemporary with Khajuraho were the publications of poems and drama such as Prabodhacandrodaya, Karpuramanjari, Viddhasalabhanjika and Kavyamimansa. Some of the themes expressed in these literary works are carved as sculpture in Khajuraho temples. Some sculptures at the Khajuraho monuments dedicated to Vishnu include the Vyalas, which are hybrid imaginary animals with lions’ bodies and are found in other Indian temples. Some of these hybrid mythical artwork include Vrik Vyala (a hybrid of wolf and lion) and Gaja Vyala (a hybrid of elephant and lion). These Vyalas may represent the syncretic, creative combination of powers innate in the two.