Although it is smaller in size, the Vishwanath Temple is similar to the Kandariya Mahadeva Temple in both plan and design. It is located in the Western Group of Temples.
Vishwanath is a Shiva temple with a linga (the sacred symbol of Shiva) inside the sanctum. The temple is a Quincunx - "geometric pattern consisting of five points, four of them forming a square or rectangle and a fifth at its center" - with a shrine at each of the four corners. However, only two of the shrines - one at the north-eastern corner and one at the south-western corner - have survived.
The interior has a porch, a pillared outer hall, vstibule, sanctum, and a circumambulatory around the sanctum. Other similarities between the Vishwanath and Kandariya Mahadeva Temples include the ceilings and the window features, which indicates that the two temples were built during the same time period.
However, it is the sculputres of women that are particularly notable on this temple. Some are shown playing music, writing letters, with babies, and displaying provacative poses. Highlights of the Vishwanath Temple include the apsaras (damsels) in the aisles. The damsels are in a tribhanga (three curve) posture, in three dimensions. This shows their fully developed bosom and curved backs freely and gracefully.
On the door frame of the sanctum are Mithunas. The exterior of the temple has 3 bands of sculptures.
The Lakshman Temple is in the Western Group of Temples and one of the earliest temples of Khajuraho (circa 950 AD). It is a Quincunx - "geometric pattern consisting of five points, four of them forming a square or rectangle and a fifth at its center" - with a shrine at each of the four corners. There is also a four-armed sculpture of the Hindu God, Vishnu in the santcum.
The temple has a porch, an entrance portico, a pillared outdoor hall, vestibule, and circumambulatory around the sanctum. The interior is decorated with carved designs and sculptures.
But it is the exterior and porch that is....WOW! There are beautiful friezes that depict every day life. And then there are the friezes of the Mithunas ('state of being a couple'). The Mithunas are depicted in four postures: lavanyamaya (graceful), asakta (amorous), maithuna-rata (coitus), and bhrasta (perverted). The bhrasta mithunas are more pronounced here than anywhere else in Khajuraho. There is every kind of coupling, grouping, and sexual act that you can imagine. There is so much detail here to take in.
So why all the sex?? Please see my Khajuraho Intro for the theories about this.
Please remove your shoes when entering the temple.
Nandi Temple is part of the Western Group of Temples. It is a small square shrine that faces the Vishvanath Temple. It is an open hall of 20 square pillars, with a beautiful circular ceiling and a tiered sikhara. The sikhara is the structure above the sanctuary and also above the mandapas (porches or halls). A sikhara is also the most dominant and characteristic feature of Hindu temples in the north and has been used in several of Khajuraho's other temples.
Comfortable seat-slabs with sloping backs inside are on all sides of the temple and are a perfect place to stop and reflect. The entire interior is occupied by a huge, monolithic, polished statue of Nandi in a sitting position. Nandi is a bull that is the Hindu God Shiva's vahana ("vehicle"). Shiva is seen as Hinduism's Supreme God.
We spent a little extra time here not so much to "see" but to spend some time peacefully.
The Kandariya Mahadeva Temple is in the Western Group of Temples and is arguably the most impressive temple in Khajuraho. It is also the largest temple measuring almost 110 feet by 60 feet. It is 117 feet high and stands on a high terrace. It is said to "represent the pinnacle of North Indian temple art and architecture".
The temple is covered in 800+ sculptures. The sculptures depict gods, warriors, beasts, dancers and musicians, and erotic scenes. The first tier of the exterior has carvings of godesses and processional friezes.
The temple is curvilinear with a porch, mandapa, side aisles, a vestibule, sanctum, and circumambulatory. The portico has seat slabs with sloping backs similar to the ones in Nandi Temple (also a nice place to reflect or take a break from trying to see all the sculptures). Window openings are in the hall and circumambulatory.
The main Shikhara (spire) is 98 feet tall. 84 other spires rise towards it creating an impression of a mountain range. It is said that the mountain range is Shiva's home, Mount Kailasa.
The door frame to the inner sanctum is richly carved but the sanctum itself is plain and dark, representing a womb. Inside is a linga, the sacred symbol of Shiva. (In all Shiva temples, the linga is the main object of worship.)
There are large erotic panels on the northern and southern exterior walls. The three theories of the sculptures are: to serve as a love manual, to celebrate the marriage of Shiva and Parvati, or to express an exuberant celebration of life and creation.
The last thing of note in this temple are the Apsaras. Apsaras are nymphs with sensuous grace and charm and you will see hundreds of carvings of them in Khajuraho. They are shown as attendants of the deities, dancers, or just engaged in normal everyday activities. Often Apsaras are carved as support bracket figures as they are in this temple. Be sure to look for them.
This small museum is situated opposite Shiv Sagar, just down the road from Hotel Lakeside, and at 5INR entry, it's well worth a visit. It contains a selection of lovely carvings from the area. No photography allowed inside.
This lake is situated next to the old village of Khajuraho, and as such is a little off the beaten track, or would be were it not for the Brahma temple next to it. It is labelled as Narora in the LP guide, but seems to also be known as Khajur Sagar and Ninora Taal.
This is the main lake in town, situated on the main road and right next to the Western Group of Temples. Women carry out their washing on the ghats, and people can be seen bathing in the water early in the morning.
Watching the sunset over the lake can be a sublimely peaceful experience.
This photo was taken very early in the morning, as a lone woman was walking into town with her tiffin can.
There is another group of three temples in Khajuraho, situatued between 1 and 2.5 km south of the Jain Enclosure. Two are in ruins, and the other is one of the younger of the temples. I didn't actually visit these, as we were feeling slightly unwell, and didn't think the descriptions warranted such a walk. I do hope to go back one day and fill in the gaps however!
The statue of Hanuman in this shrine is almost 2.5m high, and because of the orange paint, and the surrounding structure you could be forgive for thinking the whole thing is quite modern. However, the pedestal is engraved with an inscription relating to the date 922AD, which makes it the oldest dateable inscription in Khajuraho.
The Brahma Temple is one of the oldest in Khajuraho, dating from around 900AD, and has a sandstone structure topped with a granite sikhara (spire). It has been suggested that it has been incorrectly named, and its original attribution may be confused due to the Shiva lingam in the sanctum, the image of Vishnu carved on the lintel above the sanctum doorway!
It is a small, squat structure consisting only of a sanctum with no halls, and the roof, instead of being the characteristic conical spire (sikhara) has a pyramidal shape. The stone lattice windows project a little way from the walls, which are unadorned with the usual complicated decorations. It sits next to Narora Sagar (lake), in what is a very peaceful setting.
Situated 200m to the north of Javari temple, and slightly older (c1050-1075), Vamana is dedicated to the dwarf incarnation of Vishnu. It again stands in solitude in the middle of a field. It consists of a mahamandapa (main hall), vestibule and sanctum, which is 'nirandhara' or without ambulatory passage. This enshrines a statue of a four-armed Vamana.
It is notable for it's simple sikhara without subsidiary spires, and for a peculiar roof known as a Samvarana over the Mahamandapa, which is characteristic of the medieval temples of western India. The outer walls of the temple have two bands of sculpture which include graceful figures of sura-sundaris (divine nymphs).
The views out over the surrounding countryside from this temple are superb!
This Jain temple, named after the enshrined image of Adinatha, once contained all the basic elements of a Nirandhara temple (one without the ambulatory passage) including the hall (mandapa) and entrance porch (ardhamandapa), which have since been completely lost. The temple with its extant intact portion of garbhagriha and antarala (sanctum and vestibule), and the modern plastered masonry of arched doorways, is now somewhat incongruous with the original structure. It is believed to have been built in the later part of the 11th century AD, and with it's three bands of sculptures, it is remarkably similar to the Hindu temples elsewhere in Khajuraho, however the black statue in the sanctum is more typically Jain.
Situated between the Jain enclosure and Khajuraho village, Ghantai is a small, ruined Jain temple enclosed by railings. Only its pillars now remain but it is still interesting for the decoration on the columns.
Parsvanath Temple, probably constructed in the middle of the 10th century, is the largest of the Jain temples within the enclosure. It was under renovation at the time I visited, and sadly the scaffolding on one side made close examination of the exterior sculptures difficult. Nonetheless the artistry was breath-taking - there is less erotica here, but some beautiful depictions of perhaps more every-day life.
It is believed to have been originally dedicated to Adinath (the first Tirthankara (religious saint) of the Jains), but a jet-black image of Parsvanath was installed in the sanctum about a century ago.
Built about a century ago, Shanti Nath is the principal site of Jain worship in Khajuraho. It may be relatively modern, but it has been constructed using a number of elements from older temples. The large statue in the main sanctuary, depicting a standing Shantinatha (or possibly Adinath) may date to 1027/8AD, and there is also a marvellous sculpture of a yaksha couple on the right as you enter (see fourth photo).