India

Khajuraho – Vishvanatha Temple

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The superb Vishvanatha Temple (also known as the Vishwanath Temple) sits close to the eastern side of the western group compound at Khajuraho, close to the road. Along with Kandariya Mahadeva and Lakshmana temples, it is considered one of the three grand temples in the town.

Architecturally this temple comes midway between the Lakshmana and the Kandariya Mahadeva. Its importance lies in the fact that it anticipates the Kandariya Mahadeva (also dedicated to Shiva), which marks the culmination of the central Indian building style.

Of the four smaller subsidiary shrines that once surrounded the temple, only two now survive. It probably comes as no surprise to you that the sandstone exterior of the temple has more wonderful carvings, arranged in three rows.

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On the north side, placed on the juncture of the maha mandapa and sanctum, are panels showing more acrobatic erotic scenes.

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Be on the lookout for an unusual panel in which a woman is covering her eyes in shame because of the sexual act that is taking place before her. The man next to the shocked woman is clearly enjoying himself, while in a neighbouring panel is another fine image of a woman removing a thorn from her foot.

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Thanks to a long inscription found on this temple we know quite a bit about the origins of the Vishvanatha Temple. It was built by the powerful Chandela king Dhanga and consecrated in 999 A.D. Dhanga installed two lingas within the temple, one made from stone and the other from emerald. The temple back then was known as the Lord of the Emerald Linga, or Marakateshvara.

There has been some debate recently as to whether the inscription actually refers to two temples, each one housing a separate linga. Whatever the case, by the time Major Alexander Cunningham visited the temple in 1864 the emerald linga was already missing, so today only the stone one remains.

The inscription seems to have provided a wealth of information for us, as we also know the identity of the architect. His name was Chhichchha, and was seemingly the first architect to place Matrikas (mother goddesses) in a counter-clockwise fashion on the exterior plinth.

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Clearly Chhichchha was setting the trends in late 9th century temple architecture at Khajuraho, as this placement was later adopted by the architect of the Kandariya Mahadeva Temple.

Originally the Vishvanatha Temple had five shrines, just as still can be seen today at the Lakshmana Temple, but now only two survive. The inner abulatory is fully intact with apsaras decorating the pilasters and the sanctum wall.

The sanctum has balconies on three sides for light and ventilation. This makes the whole space so appealing for photography, although without a tripod I admit it’s a little tricky.

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The main niches of the sanctum wall contain Shiva’s manifestations; Aandhakantaka subduing the blind demon, Natesha dancing in the western light (badly mutilated), and Ardhanari.

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Here there are early examples of a common motif of the Khajuraho artists, a woman undressing to remove a scorpion from her body. This may be a scene depicting fertility, although interestingly one of the Sanskrit words for scorpion is “khajura”, and so this could be related to the ancient name of Khajuraho.

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As you leave the interior of the temple stop for a moment before descending the steps. Vishvanatha is also the only temple at Khajuraho that has it’s pavilion or Nandi-mandapa intact. That structure with its magnificent Nandi sits directly facing the temple entrance.

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Group Khajuraho Monuments
Western Lakshmana Varaha Kandariya Mahadeva Mahadeva Shrine ♦ Jagadambi Chitragupta Parvati Vishvanatha Nandi Pratapeshwar Bhairava Statue MatangeshvaraChausath YoginiLalguan Mahadeva Chopra Tank
Eastern Hanuman  Brahma  Vamana  Javari  Ghantai  Adinatha  Parshvanatha  Shantinatha
Southern Duladeo  Chaturbhuj Bijamandal

 

 


 

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