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The Khajuraho Group of Monuments in Khajuraho (Hindi: खजुराहो), a town in theIndian state of Madhya Pradesh, located in Chhatarpur District, about 620 kilometres (385 mi) southeast of New Delhi, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in India. Khajuraho has the largest group of medieval Hindu and Jaintemples, famous for their erotic sculptures.
The name Khajuraho, ancient "Kharjuravāhaka", is derived from the Sanskrit wordskharjura = date palm and vāhaka = "one who carries".The Khajuraho Group of Monuments has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is considered to be one of the "seven wonders" of India.
Some Bargujar Rajputs moved eastward to central India; they ruled over the Northeastern region of Rajasthan, called Dhundhar, and were referred to as Dhundhel or Dhundhela in ancient times, for the region they governed. Later on they called themselves Chandelas; those who were in the ruling class having gotra Kashyap were definitely all Bargujars; they were vassals of Gurjara - Pratihara empire of North India, which lasted from 500 C.E. to 1300 C.E. and at its peak the major monuments were built. The Bargujars also built the Kalinjar fort and Neelkanth Mahadev temple, similar to one at Sariska National Park, and Baroli, being Shiva worshippers
The city was the cultural capital of Chandel Rajputs, a Hindu dynasty that ruled this part of India from the 10-12th centuries. The political capital of the Chandelas was Kalinjar. The Khajuraho temples were built over a span of 200 years, from 950 to 1150. The Chandela capital was moved to Mahoba after this time, but Khajuraho continued to flourish for some time.
The whole area was enclosed by a wall with eight gates, each flanked by two golden palm trees. There were originally over 80 Hindu temples, of which only 25 now stand in a reasonable state of preservation, scattered over an area of about 20 square kilometres (8 sq mi). Today, the temples serve as fine examples of Indian architectural styles that have gained popularity due to their explicit depiction of sexual life during medieval times. Locals living in the Khajuraho village always knew about and kept up the temples as best as they could.
The temples are grouped into three geographical divisions: western, eastern and southern.
The Khajuraho temples are made of sandstone. The builders didn't use mortar: the stones were put together with mortise and tenon joints and they were held in place by gravity. This form of construction requires very precise joints. The columns and architraves were built with megaliths that weighed up to 20 tons.
The Khajuraho temples contain some sexual or erotic art outside the temple or near the deities. Also, some of the temples that have two layers of walls have small erotic carvings on the outside of the inner wall. There are many interpretations of the erotic carvings. It has been suggested that these suggest tantric sexual practices. Meanwhile, the external curvature and carvings of the temples depict humans, human bodies, and the changes that occur in bodies, as well as facts of life. Some 10% of the carvings contain sexual themes; those reportedly do not show deities: They show sexual activities between people. The rest depict the everyday life of the common Indian when the carvings were made and activities of other beings. For example, those depictions show women putting on makeup, musicians, potters, farmers, and other folk. The mundane scenes are all at some distance from the temple deities.
"Twisting, broad-hipped and high breasted nymphs display their generously contoured and bejewelled bodies on exquisitely worked exterior wall panels. These fleshy apsaras run riot across the surface of the stone, putting on make-up, washing their hair, playing games, dancing, and endlessly knotting and unknotting their girdles....Beside the heavenly nymphs are serried ranks of griffins, guardian deities and, most notoriously, extravagantly interlocked maithunas, or lovemaking couples."
As "a strange union of Tantrism and fertility motifs, with a heavy dose of magic" they believe a document which focuses on pleasure rather than procreation. That is, fertility is moot.
The strategically placed sculptures are "symbolical-magical diagrams, or yantras" designed to appease malevolent spirits. Thisalamkara (ornamentation) expresses sophisticated artistic transcendence over the natural; sexual images imply a virile, thus powerful, ruler.
Between 950 and 1150, the Chandela monarchs built these temples when the Tantric tradition may have been accepted. In the days before the Mughal conquests, when boys lived in hermitages, following brahmacharya until they became men, they could learn about the world and prepare themselves to become householders through examining these sculptures and the worldly desires they depicted.