Thursday, 7 August 2014
Khajuraho - The place of extreme Spiritual Power.
Khajuraho was known during ancient times as Vatsa, in medieval times as Jejakabhukti, and since the fourteenth century as Bundelkhand.
The Chandelas were originally local chieftains. By the middle of the tenth century, the Chandela family became independent, and stopped recognizing the overlordship of the Pratihara kings. At the height of Chandela power in the 11th cent, this territory was bounded on all four sides by the rivers: on the north lay the Yamuna, on the south the Narmada, on the east the Tamas, and on the west the Chambal.
The Chandela decorated their realm with tanks, forts, palaces which were mainly concentrated in the strongholds of Mahoba (ancient Mahotsava-nagara) and Kalinjar (Kalanjara) and Ajaygarh (Jayapura-durga) and to a lesser extent, in their towns of Dudhai, Chandpur, Madanpur and Deogarh in district Jhansi.
Khajuraho was definitely considered a special site and this is where the Chandelas concentrated their temple-building activity. Their earlier temples, built when they were still local ruler, were made of rough granite and constructed on the periphery of the site. Among these are the 64 Yogini temple and the Shiva temple, called Lalguan Mahadeva.
It was Yashovarman, who really established the Chandelas as an independent power. He acquired the prestigious Vaikuntha-Vishnu image from his Pratihara overlord Devpala, and announced his victory by building a splendid temple, the first in the Nagara style at Khajuraho. The Khajuraho temples were built over a period of 250 yrs. during the rule of the Chandela dynasty either by the rulers themselves or by their chiefs and Jain Merchants.
More than 65 inscriptions of the Chandelas, who ruled over in this area from 831 to 1308 AD, have been found.
The religion of Khajuraho was Tantric-Puranic. It was a composite and mixed religion with both Tantric and Puranic elements. By the tenth century AD, the Puranas, which had earlier the tantras, now accepted several Tantric elements such as mantras, yantras, and mandalas. The temples of Khajuraho are based on tantra based Vaishnavite and Shaivite order. Both systems believed in the role of Shakti or female Energy in the Creation and Dissolution of the Universe. The Supreme Being (Para-Vasudeva or Para-Shiva) is both transcendent and unmanifest, and also immanent and manifest in graded powers and elements.
The central purpose of religion-the attainment of the ultimate reality is expressed by representing the temple as cosmos. This is the internal logic of the iconic imagery of the temple, articulated while the designer was conscious of the central purpose of religion.
People from all works of life visited the temples. Religious aspirants as well as common people with mundane desire would worship according to their level of understanding and faith. But the temple served as more than just a place of worship. It was a socio-religious institution in the medieval period. In the halls of the temples, religious texts were recited, and the dance and music was performed. People even came to Khajuraho in search of magical cures for diseases.
One can imagine the bustling religious and artistic activities, with several priests conducting worship in different temples; royal priests supervising the construction of temples.
Art and Architecture
Chaturmukh-Mahadeva temple at Nachna, one of the earliest typical sikhara temples of north India, is even more important and constitutes a landmark in architecture, marking the transition between the Gupta and the medieval temple style. The building tradition was continued by the Imperial Pratiharas, who left in this region two of their finest temples, viz. the Jarai-Mata temple at Barwasagar, District Jhansi, and the Sun temple at Mankhera, District Tikamgarh, both assignable to circa 9th century.
The Khajuraho temples are built in the central Indian Nagara style of architecture. In this style, the spire (shikahra) is curvilinear in form. Although the temples are affiliated to different religious sects – Hindu and Jain – they have a cognate architectural style. They are unified structures consisting of four or five units: a cella or sanctum (grabhagriha), a vestibule (antarala), a large hall (mahamandapa), another hall (mandapa), and a porch (mukhamandapa). Most of the Khajuraho temples are erected on the east-west axis and therefore face the direct rays of the rising sun.
The grabhagriha, literally ‘womb chamber’, is the name given to the innermost sanctum in an Indian temple. The temple is conceived of as an abode of god, whose emblem or icon is installed in the innermost chamber. The sanctum is a dark, peaceful place, where the devotee is reborn to higher life. It is a hollow chamber resembling a cave (guha) and its centre is considered to be the centre of the universe. The temple’s spire rises exactly above the centre of the sanctum. The invisible axis joining the centre of the sanctum on the ground level and the finial of the superstructure above is conceived as the Cosmic Axis connecting earth and heaven.
The earlier temples in India, built in the fifth century AD, generally consisted of only the sanctum and an attached porch. Gradually, with changing requirements for rituals, more structures were added to this simple scheme. A hall for dance performances and another for food offerings to the deity were added and the original two- unit scheme was expanded to have four or five units.
The Indian temple is built according to the Vastushastra. These texts cover every aspect of architecture, from selection of the site to the construction of the temple from plinth to its spire. They give measurements and proportions for the different portions, images, and sculptural motifs and that adorn the walls, pillars, and other areas.
Adornment (alankara) is an important feature of Indian culture. Decoration is considered to be auspicious, and the temple is adorned with various sculptural motifs such as creepers, birds, apsaras, mithunas (couples), and vyalas. These are considered to be magico- protective motifs, and are supposed to bring good luck.
The Agni purana conceives the temple as Purusha, the humanized Supreme Being. The terminology of the human body is applied to the temple. Thus, the base of the temple is its foot (Pada), the wall is its thigh (Jangha), and the spire its head (mastaka or shikhara).
The Khajuraho temple has three main divisions on its elevation: the plinth or basal story (pitha), the wall (jangha), and the roof or spire (sikhara). In the tall platform (jagati) on which it stands, the temple has a high basal storey with a series of ornamental mouldings depicting human activities (narathara), mask of glory (grasapattika), and geometrical designs.
Above the plinth is the wall section, jangha, divided into two or three sculptural zones. It is here that we see lovely figural sculptures – apsaras, griffins, couples or mithunas, guardian deities of space (dikpalas), and so on.
The roof of the subordinate structures such as the porch and halls are pyramidal in shape, while over the sanctum is curvilinear, with graded peaks clustering around it.