Showing posts with label Unesco world heritage site. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Unesco world heritage site. Show all posts

MP Diaries - Temples of Khajuraho, Love Personified

We planned to halt at Khajuraho for that night after completing Orchha and started late evening. The drive was very difficult and tricky due to poor visibility, owing to the fog accumulation.  We had to cross a small area of Uttar-Pradesh where the highway police were in full action, stopping by vehicles for checking and inquiry. We were allowed to pass by them. After driving carefully for more than half the distance towards Khajuraho, we suddenly realized that my ID was not returned by the lodge staff at Orchha!! Thoroughly disappointed with our negligence, we were contemplating whether or not to drive back to Orchha for the ID, as we had already traveled more than a 100 km. While I insisted it would not be feasible to do the same keeping in mind the bad foggy night drive and distance, my wife insisted that we drive back and get the ID as it was an important document and the lodge staff were rude and not trustworthy. Somehow she convinced me and taking a U-turn, we drove towards Orchha keeping our cool. We informed the lodge staff to keep the ID ready and that we were heading back to bring it. We had to pass by the police check again and this time, we were stopped by them and inquired as to why we had been traveling to and fro in such a short interval! We had our vehicle checked and after a thorough explanation of our story and showing them our ID’s, we were sent. This was the only encounter with Police during our entire MP trip. We reached Orchha and collected the ID and headed to Khajuraho without wasting any much time. This entire process added only additional stress and strain, but also was quite exciting! We reached Khajuraho around 1:00 am only to find that the roads were deserted and most of the lodges either were not responding or closed. After knocking on many lodges and and not getting any response, we stopped by Hotel Zostel and found an accommodation for the night.
Khajuraho Monuments, a UNESCO World Heritage Site is renowned for its exquisite carvings of erotic sculptures that adorn its temple walls. This region was known as Jejakbhukti in medieval times and holds a significant role in Indian history. The remarkable temples at Khajuraho were built between 950 and 1050 AD by the Chandelas. Originally, there were around 85 temples, out of which now only around 22 survive. Most of the temples are built of sandstone except the Chausath Yogini, Brahma and Lalguan Mahadeva which are constructed partly of granite. The temples belong to Shaiva, Vaishnava and Jaina sects. The temples at Khajuraho are built in Nagara style of architecture and mark the culmination of Indian architecture design. The sculptures found on the exterior and interior of the temples at Khajuraho portray images of gods, goddesses and other divine figures, apsaras and sura-sundaris (celestial nymphs and beauties), amorous couples (mithuna), mythical creatures and animals, musicians and dancers, war and hunting scenes, and scenes from daily life. The temples are divided into western, eastern and southern groups. 
Reaching New  Heights - Khajuraho
The Western Group
Lakshmi Temple: This small temple is dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi, consort of Lord Vishnu and is plain, and simple in its structure and style.
Lakshmi Temple, Khajuraho
Lakshmi Temple, Khajuraho
Varaha Temple: This sandstone temple is built on a high platform and is simple in style. It enshrines a massive murti of Varaha (the boar incarnation of Lord Vishnu) which carries impressive miniature carvings of Hindu deities, close to 675 in number all over its body. At the base of the Varaha murti is seen a serpent and remains of a damaged sculpture, probably one of Goddess Bhudevi (earth goddess). This temple is datable to 900-925 AD.
Varaha Temple, Khajuraho
Varaha Temple, Khajuraho
Grand Lord Varaha, Khajuraho
Grand Lord Varaha
Lakshmana Temple: The temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and was built by the Chandela ruler Yashovarman between 930 and 950 AD. The temple stands on a high platform and consists of an ardha-mandapa (entrance porch), mandapa, maha-mandapa, antarala (vestibule) and garbhagriha (sanctum) with an ambulatory pathway. The platform has friezes depicting war scenes involving soldiers, elephants, camels, horses and other processions. The entrance is decorated with a beautifully and elegantly carved makara torana (arched entrance flanked by crocodiles). The sanctum houses a damaged murti of Lord Vishnu depicted as Vaikuntha with 3 faces (human, lion, and boar) and 4 arms. The exteriors of the temple are decked with intricately carved balconies with balustrades. The outer walls of the temple have two bands of sculptures of various gods and goddesses, sura-sundaris captured in different moods, and amorous couples and erotic scenes.
Lakshmana Temple, Khajuraho
Lakshmana Temple, Khajuraho
Kandariya Mahadev Temple: This marvelously beautiful temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and was built between 1025 and 1050 AD. It consists of an entrance porch, mandapa, maha-mandapa, antarala and garbhagriha with a pradakshina patha (circumambulatory passage). The entrance has an intricately carved makara torana. Its sanctum houses a shivalinga. The temples symmetrical proportioning is perfectly executed and so are its design and sculptures that adorn the walls.  The temple stands on a high platform carved with ornamental mouldings, geometric patterns, and friezes of elephants, horses, musicians, dancers, hunters, warriors, and miscellaneous scenes. The central shikara along with the miniature shikaras is imposing and impressive. It is an outstanding monument of Khajuraho.
Kandariya Mahadeva Temple, Khajuraho
Kandariya Mahadeva Temple, Khajuraho
Jagadambi Temple: Originally dedicated to Lord Vishnu, this temple now houses a murti of goddess Parvati in the sanctum. The temple stands on a high platform and consists of a sanctum, vestibule, a maha-mandapa with lateral transept and an entrance porch. The lintel of the sanctum contains a carving of four armed image of Lord Vishnu. Its outer walls are decorated with carvings of celestial beauties and amorous couples. The temple is datable to 1000-1025 AD.
Jagadambi Temple, Khajuraho
Jagadambi Temple, Khajuraho
Chitragupta Temple: This temple is dedicated to Lord Surya, the sun god and stands on a high platform. It consists of a sanctum, vestibule, a maha-mandapa with lateral transept and an entrance porch. The sanctum houses an impressive murti of the sun god driven by 7 horses. The outer walls of the temple carry carvings of celestial beauties (sura-sundaris), amorous couples and deities, including a partially damaged image of eleven headed Vishnu in the central niche of the south facade.  The temple is datable to 1000-1025 AD.
Chitragupta Temple, Khajuraho
Chitragupta Temple, Khajuraho
Vishwanatha Temple: This temple was built by the Chandela king Dhanga in 1002 AD and is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is among the finest monuments of Khajuraho, housing beautiful sculptures. Originally being a panchayatana shrine, now only 2 subsidiary shrines have survived. The temple consists of an entrance porch, mandapa, mahamandapa and garbhagriha enclosed by an ambulatory. The inscription on the mandapa also refers to dedications of 2 lingas, one made of emerald and the other of stone.  
Vishwanatha Temple, Khajuraho
Vishwanatha Temple, Khajuraho
Nandi Shrine:  Standing apart and facing the main deity Lord Shiva of Vishwanatha temple is a large murti of Nandi, the bull mount of Lord Shiva.  The Nandi is quite simple and plain in style and enclosed in a small shrine whose roof is supported by 12 plain pillars.  
Nandi Mantapa
Matangeshwara Temple: The temple is situated next to the Lakshmana temple and can be dated to 950-1002 AD. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva in the form of a linga and is the only temple where daily worship is still continued. The festival of Mahashivaratri is elaborately celebrated, with many pilgrims visiting this temple.
Matangeshwara Temple, Khajuraho
Matangeshwara Temple, Khajuraho
Lord Matangeshwara and The Priest
Chausath Yogini Temple: This granite temple is dedicated to the 64 yoginis and is now in a ruined state with only a few of the cells surviving. The temple is rectangular in plan with an open courtyard bordered by smaller cells housing yoginis. It is the earliest surviving temple dating to 900 AD. 
Chausath Yogini Temple, Khajuraho
Chausath Yogini Temple, Khajuraho

The Eastern Group
Brahma Temple: Though it is called as Brahma temple, its sanctum houses a Shivalinga and the lintel of its sanctum has a carving of Lord Vishnu. This temple is datable to 900 AD.
Brahma Temple, Khajuraho
Brahma Temple, Khajuraho
Vamana Temple: This temple is dedicated to Vamana, the dwarf incarnation of Lord Vishnu. It consists of a sanctum with seven projections in plan (saptaratha), vestibule, mandapa with lateral transepts and an entrance porch. The sanctum is devoid of any ambulatory path (nirandhara) and enshrines an image of 4 armed vamana flanked by chakrapurusha and shankapurusha on left and right. The shikara is simple and the outer walls are decorated with 2 bands of sculptures which include graceful figures of sura-sundaris. The temple can be dated to 1050-1075 AD.
Vamana Temple, Khajuraho
Vamana Temple, Khajuraho
Javari Temple: This temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and is datable to 1075-1100 AD. It has a garbhagriha, vestibule, mandapa and portico but without pradakshina patha. The makara torana is remarkable and so is its shikara. The outer walls are decorated with 3 bands of beautifully carved sculptures. 
Jevari Temple, Khajuraho
Jevari Temple, Khajuraho
Ghantai Temple: This Jain temple is now completely in ruins, with only a portion of its mahamandapa and pillars of the entrance porch surviving.  Its name is attributed to the presence of chain and bell motifs on its tall pillars.
Ghantai Temple, Khajuraho
Ghantai Temple, Khajuraho
Parshvanatha Temple: This is the largest and best preserved among the Jain temples of Khajuraho having individual features of plan and design. The temple was built in the middle of the 10th century and is partially made up by latticed windows and has a shrine attached to the rear of the sanctum. The three bands of sculptures on its outer walls feature graceful sura-sundaris, celestial beings, couples, Hindu gods and goddesses which are exquisitely finished. 
Parshvanatha Temple, Khajuraho
Parshvanatha Temple, Khajuraho
Adinatha Temple: This Jain temple is dedicated to Jina Adinatha and was built in the latter half of the 11th century. It now consists only of a sanctum without any ambulatory path and a vestibule. The exterior walls comprise of three bands of sculptures including graceful sura-sundaris.
Adinatha Temple, Khajuraho
Adinatha Temple, Khajuraho
The Southern Group
Dulhadeo Temple: The temple faces east and is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It consists of a sanctum which houses a linga, vestibule, mahamandapa and an entrance porch. The main shikara is clustered round by 3 rows of miniature shikaras and looks plain. There are 3 bands of sculptures seen on the outer walls. The original temple is can be dated to the early 12th century AD and has undergone extensive repair and restoration at a later stage.
Dulhadeo Temple, Temple
Dulhadeo Temple, Temple
Chaturbhuj Temple: The temple stands on a high platform and is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. It consists of a sanctum without an ambulatory, a vestibule, mandapa and an entrance porch. The sanctum houses a 9 feet tall murti of four armed Lord Vishnu. The lower part of the doorway of sanctum shows Ganga on the right and Yamuna on the left, standing in tribhanga flanked by door keepers. This temple is devoid of any erotic sculptures. There are three bands of sculptures around the outer walls. The temple is datable to 1100 AD.
Chaturbhuj Temple, Khajuraho
Beautiful Murti of Chaturbhuj Vishnu
Bijamandal: This group of mounds in the surrounding areas of Khajuraho is one of the 18 mounds unraveled during an intensive survey by the ASI in 1980. Excavations at the main mound of Bijamandal group in 1998-99 exposed remains of a big temple comparable in size with the Vishwanatha temple at Khajuraho and a huge Shivalinga, presence of other temples, sculptures and artifacts.  However, the site is yet to be fully excavated and completely explored.
Bijamandal, Khajuraho
Bijamandal, Khajuraho
How to reach Khajuraho: Khajuraho is well connected by air and also has a good bus network. However, the options of train travel directly to Khajuraho are limited, with one having to hire a cab to travel to Khajuraho from the nearest railway station. By road, we traveled on NH 39 from Orchha until a turn towards left directing towards Khajuraho.
Entry Fee: Entry is Rs.30/- for Indians and Rs.500/- for foreigners
Accommodation: There are many options for accommodation here. We stayed at Zostel which is one of the best budgeted options for bag packers and budget travelers.
Where to eat: There are many options including a few road-side eateries.

  1. ASI Information Boards
  2. Http://
  3. Madhya Pradesh – RBS Visitors Guide India

MP Diaries: Sanchi Stupas A Buddhist Master Piece

On the last day of the year 2016, we began our journey early in order to explore Bhopal and around to the maximum extent possible. Having explored many interesting places like Bhimbetka, Ashapuri and Bhojpur the previous day, we awaited the exploration of Sanchi with equal curiosity. Sanchi was always on our wish list of  places to visit as it is proudly one among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India. Sanchi is located in Vidisha district of Madhya Pradesh and is situated close to the Tropic of Cancer, which is encountered on the Bhopal-Sanchi highway. Unfortunately, we missed the exact location of the Tropic of Cancer and weren't ready to travel back. A drive of around 50 minutes from Bhopal brought us to Sanchi. We were one amongst the few early visitors to this place and  as the crowd was thin giving us an opportunity to  enjoy the calm and serene environs of Sanchi.
Buddha Dharma Sangha
Dharma-Chakra, Yaksha and Tri-Ratna 
Sanchi is one of the few places that played a pivotal role and prevailed through out the Buddhist era in India, with its history spread across 1300 years. Sanchi has witnessed the genesis, rise and fall of Buddhism. There are many stories associating Sanchi with various kingdoms, right from Ashokan era to the reign of Paramaras. Sanchi seemed a perfect site to build the Stupas owing to its strategic location between the towns of Vidisha and Ujjain and its proximity to the place of confluence of  Bes and Betwa rivers. Post Ashokan period, Sanchi came under the control of Kshatrapas which was conquered later in 4th century AD by the Guptas. Sanchi regained importance under the Gupta rule with development and construction activities  progressing in full swing. The down fall of Sanchi began only in the 12th century AD and  the exact reason for its downfall is unknown and remains a mystery. Though the accepted theory is that the rise of Brahmanism led to the extinction of Buddhism in the land of its birth, the same may not be true, since there are evidences of  places like Ellora and Badami, where both the religions of Hinduism and Buddhism peacefully coexisted for several hundred years.
Sanchi Place to Visit in Madhya Pradesh
Temple No 18
In 1881, General Taylor discovered  the ruins and found a few intact stupas, thus bringing this place to light. Though many people visited this place later, it was only in 1881 that Major Cole took charge and  initiated a large scale repair work towards restoration and preservation of these monuments. It was Sir John Marshall, the then Director General of Archaeology in India between 1912 and 1919 who was responsible for restoring  Sanchi to its present condition. Various excavations carried out later by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), Bhopal circle,  have made interesting revelations.
Monastery 46
Stupas are simple tomb like structures housing relics, better than burial tombs which were used by Buddhists and Jains. A Stupa generally comprises of torana/s (gateways), vedika (stone fence railing), pradakshina-patha (circumambulatory walkway), a cylindrical base  or foundation, stairway, medhi (upper pradakshina patha), anda (hemispherical flattened dome), harmika (kiosk),  yasti (mast)  and a chattra (spire/umbrella). When Buddha left for heavenly abode, his ashes were buried in eight different stupas. It is said that Ashoka further divided and placed them in 84 stupas, most of  which have vanished with the weakening of Buddhism.
Large Stone Bowl
Stupa 1 and Toranas - The largest stupa here is stupa 1, also known as the 'Great Stupa'. Though the size of this stupa was originally half its current size when  initially built during the Ashokan period, it was later improvised in the 2nd century AD during the reign of Shunga Dynasty. The four gateways here have magnificent toranas (gateways) belonging to 1st century BC. The gateways are in the form of three long and thin flat suspended stones standing on two pillars, portraying scenes from Jataka tales. Various scenes from Buddha's life and the subsequent history of Buddhism are depicted on the gateways here. The gateways of stupa 1 are truly an outstanding work of art on stone. This Stupa has a large dome with a  three tiered chattra or umbrella at its top.
Sanchi Stupa
Stupa 1
Stupa 3 - Situated very close to stupa 1, this stupa is much smaller and simpler in style with the presence of a single torana in its  front and houses a simple umbrella at its top, unlike stupa 1.
Stupa 3
Stupa 2 - Situated at the foot of the hill, this stupa  is similar to Stupa 3 with smaller dimensions and devoid of any torana. The chattra here lies broken.
Stupa 2
Temple 17 - This belongs to the Gupta period (5th century AD) and is one among the earliest temples of India. The temple is flat roofed  with a square sanctum  having a portico supported by 4 pillars.
Temple 18 - This is an apsidal shrine built in the 7th century AD on the earlier  remains of  a hall  belonging to the Mauryan empire. The temple has undergone restoration during 10th century AD with  an addition of carved door jambs.
Temples 17 and 18
Monastery 51 and the Stone Bowl - Monastery 51 is a large ruined structure comprising of various rooms surrounding a courtyard. The shrine was located right across the entrance. There is a giant stone bowl close by to this monastery.
Monastery 51
Monasteries 46 and 47 - These two monasteries are interlinked with each other, Monastery 47 being the larger of the two.  While Monastery 47 has many rooms, a pillared verandah that leads to an antechamber and a shrine, Monastery 46 has fewer rooms and can be reached through a doorway from the verandah of Monastery 47.
Monastery 46
Temple and Monastery 45 - This temple belonging to the medieval period was originally built during the 8th century AD along with the monastery and probably restored during the 11th century AD. The door jambs of this temple  have beautiful carvings depicting the river goddesses of Ganga and Yamuna.
Buddha Inside Monastery 45
Pillars - There are many pillars here of which, Pillar 10 is the most important and the oldest pillar erected by Ashoka.  While only the base of the pillar remains insitu, the  fragments of the shaft are placed in a shelter nearby and its capital is preserved  in the museum. Pillar Nos. 25 and 26 belonging to a later period also bear significance.
Ashoka Pillar
Ashoka Pillar 10
Building 43 - This ruined building having a peculiar round bastion at four corners,  is considered to be among the last built structures here.
Building 43
ASI Museum -  The Museum is situated at the base of the hill and houses various collections of artefacts found during excavations at Sanchi.
Ashokan Column  Lion Capital
Ashokan Column - Lion Capital 

Entrance Fee: Rs.30/- per head for Indian citizen and Rs.500/- per head for others. Entry is free for Children aged up to 15 years.
Distance from nearby major town:  48 km from Bhopal
Accommodation: Options for accommodation are few, with Gateway Retreat maintained by MPSTDC being a reasonable one. Alternatively, one can also stay at Bhopal overnight.
Where to eat: While there are many roadside eateries here, Hotel Sambodhi International is one of the better options. 
1. Sanchi - World Heritage Series by ASI
2. Architecture of the Indian Subcontinent - Takeo Kamiya
3. Upenn

MP Diaries: Bhimbetka, A gateway to Ancient Civilisation

Long ago, during one of our visits to Hampi, we were fortunate to visit the pre-historic site of Anegundi (Koppal district), Karnataka. Ever since then, our interest with regards to pre-historic cave paintings only grew and any search relevant to pre-historic cave paintings in India would lead us first to the site of Bhimbetka in Madhya Pradesh. Though visiting Bhimbetka did not happen too soon, we have had a chance to visit many such interesting sites in Karnataka. Bhimbetka is India's most renowned pre-historic site  and unlike other sites across India, this place has been very well documented and studied even today. Bhimbetka is the largest pre-historic site in India and the only such to have been inscribed on the list of UNESCO world heritage sites. This place was under continuous human occupation from lower Paleolithic period till the early 19th century AD.
On the 29th of December 2016, we drove down from Mandu to Bhopal, via Indore and Dewas. A good six hour drive brought to us Bhopal. It was around 2 am and our hunt for accommodation at this hour brought us to Hotel Midland. After a hard bargain, we negotiated a good deal and settled down for the night. We woke up considerably late the next morning after getting the much needed rest. We were ready to hit the road again after a quick Poha and Sev for breakfast. In an hour we reached Midway Retreat, located 3 km away from Bhimbetka. A cup of hot tea was only thing in between us and the cave paintings. The book of Bhimbetka-World Heritage Series quotes, "Bhimbetka's uniqueness lies not only in the concentration of its antiquity and art, and the wealth that it conceals, but that it has not remained frozen in time and space. Elements of this continuity are manifest in the creative expressions that show affinity to great antiquity in the traditional lifestyles of the adivasis of the area integral to Bhimbetka and the surrounding region". There are over 1400 rock shelters here, of which about 700 carry cave paintings, while only 15 among them are open to the public. The rest are located inside the Ratapani Wildlife Sanctuary. The 15 rock shelters are prefect representatives of Bhimbetka.
Welcome to Bhimbetka
Rock Shelter No.1 - This shelter has a few paintings mostly of historic period. Here we can see the paintings of two elephants and a bull, wounded by the arrow of a hunter.
Paintings in Rock Shelter No.1
Rock Shelter No.3 - This cave is also called as the 'auditorium cave' due to this long shape. This shelter has paintings of bull, buffaloes, deer, peacock, left hand print of a child and many such. There are many cupules (depressions) on stone, probably associated with Paleolithic period.
Pre historic paintings Bhimbetka
Paintings in Auditorium Cave
Left Hand Print of a Child
Rock Shelter No.4 - This shelter is known as the 'zoo rock' and is the most important rock shelter here. There are 453 figures here, comprising of 252 animals of 16 species. The paintings here belong to the Mesolithic, Chalcolithic and historic periods. There are as many as ten layers of super-imposed paintings which is a unique and the most important feature of this cave.
Cave Paintings Bhimbetka
Zoo Rock 
Rock Shelter No.6 - This shelter contains beautifully depicted, natural looking animal drawings, group of dancers, drummers and horse riders in white color. An interesting drawing is that of a group of dancers in a line, shown with interlocking hands.
Row of Dancers 
Rock Shelter No.7 - This shelter contains paintings of horse riders and a row of deers in stylized form, belonging to historic period.
Men Riding Horse and Carrying Weapons
Rock Shelter No.8 - This is one of the important shelters here and the only one comprising  drawings of scorpions, fowls and other insects. This is a two storeyed cave with paintings all across its ceilings. There is a scene depicting seven cavaliers accompanied by three foot soldiers, a horse, an old woman, a panther, a jungle fowl, two chicks and insects. Other paintings here exhibit various scenes of hunting, dancing,  and other daily rituals.
Paintings of Rock Shelter No.8
Rock Shelter No.9 - The only shelter here having paintings depicted in green and yellow colors. Most of the paintings here belong historic period. There are paintings of a horse, an elephant and a flower pot.
Horse Painting
 Flower Pot Painted in Yellow
 Rock Shelter Nos.2,5,10 - These shelters carry only one painting each.
Painting in Rock Shelter No.2
Rock Shelter No.11 - The paintings of this shelter depict scenes from war, most of them showing men on horses carrying swords or spades.
War Scenes
Rock Shelter No.12 - This is another interesting shelter with an attractive composition of 38 animals drawn, along with various other paintings.
Paintings of Rock Shelter no.12 
Rock Shelter No.13 - There are a few paintings here depicting humans engrossed in there daily activities.
Humans Engrossed in Their Daily Activities
Rock Shelter No.14 - There are few paintings of animals, the most beautiful of them is that of a horse painted in white and decorated with a honeycombed pattern.
Horse Decorated With Honeycombed Pattern
Rock Shelter No.15 - This shelter is also called as the 'boar rock' due to the presence of a huge painting of a mythical boar like animal chasing a human. Apart from this, many other animals and humans are depicted in the shelter here.
Mythical Boar Like Animal Chasing a Human
Entrance Fee: Rs.50/- per head for Indian Citizens and Rs.200/- per head for others. Rs.250/- for car entry including parking.
Distance from nearby major town: 45 km from Bhopal.
Accommodation: The only option for accommodation at Bhimbetka is Midway Retreat maintained by MPSTDC. A better idea would be to plan for an overnight stay at Bhopal.
Where to eat: Midway Retreat is the only closest option here for food and drinks. There are a few eateries after we reach the highway which is about 4 km from Bhimbetka rock shelter. Carry enough water as there are no facilities for the same once you enter the rock shelter.
1. Bhimbetka - World Heritage Series by ASI.

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