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Notes on the Geography of Northern India: Khajuraho Details

The Khajuraho temples are famous for their minutely sculpted exterior surfaces, explored here.

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The shikara of the Mahadeva. Tower and sanctuary together form the vimana.

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The shikara is covered with miniature shikaras known as kudus or candrashala; each represents the home of a god.

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The large fluted disk laid horizontally near the summit represents amalaks, or Indian gooseberries, associated with Vishnu and regeneration.  Above it is the amritakalasha, a vessel holding amrita, the nectar of immortality. The tip of the tower represents the intersection of the divine and human worlds.

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Close-up of the base of the Mahadeva shikara.

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The stylistic similarities between the temples is very great: this is the Lakshmana shikara, built a century earlier.

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A close-up of the same.

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Base of the Lakshmana shikara.

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Lakshmana has the most completely sculpted surface of any of the temples. Here, the common motif of a thorn being removed from a foot.  

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Another standard image: a shardula or leogryph, a horse-lion symbolizing the victory of knowledge over ignorance. This one comes from the Javari Temple, a mile east of the main compound.

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Again from the Javari temple: a female figure in the stylized tribhanga, or "three bends," posture. 

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Javari sculpture in context.

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The Mahadeva plinth has unfortunately been none-too-carefully restored and lacks its sculptural bands.

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Not so Lakshmana, which is full of scenes from the all-too-temporal world. Here, elephants fighting and crushing human victims.

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A comparable image, again from Lakshmana. 

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Bloody combat on the Lakshmana plinth.

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Near the Lakshmana Temple is the tiny Varaha Temple.  It's easy to overlook.

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Inside is this statue of a boar--but not any boar: this is Varaha, the boar that is an avatar of Vishnu the Sustainer.

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His body is covered with tiny figures--human and divine--all of whom he carries.

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An icon of the Chandelas, the dynasty that built Khajuraho: a hapless man battles a lion.


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