In my previous and quite old post on Khajuraho, I had just given a brief description of the places to visit in the town. Now I will divulge more into what made this place or the temples present so special? It’s history and how it had stood the test of times. I will take you through the what I heard from local guides and will add my own reasons (purely based on personal experiences and knowledge).
It is well known that Khajuraho temples were built during the Chandela dynasty. Chandelas ruled the region between 9th and 12th century AD. So naturally it was built during its peak. Historians say most of these temples were built between 950 AD to 1050 AD. It’s said that Khajuraho had 85 temples spread across 20 sq.kms. and now only 25 temples across 6 sq.kms have survived. The group of temples dedicated to 2 religions; Hinduism and Jainism, suggesting the tradition of accepting multi-religions was still prevalent then.
Standing the test of times
India, for the last 10 centuries was subject to many invasions and raids from rulers and emperors. Majority of them came from Persia and Turkey. Back then temples used to be repositories of knowledge (in the form of texts and scriptures) and wealth. Kings used to store their enormous wealth collected through taxes or trade in the temples. The invaders had looted and vandalized the temple properties to steal the wealth (not sure if they are particularly interested in the scriptures). Unlike many other old temples, Khajuraho stood it’s time.
- One reason I got to hear was that Khajuraho was surrounded by forests. Now we have Panna National Park, a tiger reserve, on one side of Khajuraho just 20 kms away. This was partly true because Panna National Park is just on one side of the Khajuraho and is not completely surrounded in all directions. Leading a campaign through thick forests with wild animals is definitely not a great idea for any ruler.
- Back then invasions happened at the administrative capitals of a kingdom. The simple logic is if you kill or conquer the king, the kingdom is yours. Khajuraho was never the capital city of Chandelas. It was ‘considered’ as a cultural capital, but a king never ruled from Khajuraho.
- After Chandelas, Khajuraho from the 13th century came under Delhi Sultanates and then Mughals. From the 13th century till Babar’s invasion to establish Mughal empire, Delhi Sultanate had 5 different dynasties. They were probably more worried about saving their dynasty from others than to invade a new region.
- Even I was wondering how vast temple complexes escaped the sight of Mughals. Aurangazeb, especially, was known to run campaigns to dismantle Hindu, Jain and Buddhist temples all over his kingdom. Although it was not that all temples built by Chandelas are still intact. There were close to 100 temples, but only 25 of them are standing erect. Probably they were actually destroyed by the previous kingdoms or just couldn’t withstand the time and tide.
- It took more than 100 years even for British to discover this place. Surprisingly Khajuraho was well known among the locals then. Just that for reasons unknown the place was not part of anyone’s folklore. So very few people knew this place existed.
However it was our luck that these temples stood for the past 11 centuries that we got to know the life of the people living in Central India.