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Khajuraho – Chandela Dynasty

Khajuraho –  Chandela Dynasty

Chandela Dynasty, Khajuraho Temple, Khajuraho History.

This region was under the control of the Gupta empire in the 5th century, but as their power dwindled in the region, local rulers took over. The Prathiharas ruled the next 3 centuries. Ultimately in the 10th century, the Chandelas began to rule this region.

The Chandela dynasty of Khajuraho, derives its name from the word CHAND which means Moon and the legendary Sage CHANDRATREYA. Ancient Hindu dynasties are divided into the descendants of the Moon ( Chandra ) and the descendants of the Sun ( Surya), they are called Chandra Vansham and Surya Vansham, depending on their lineage.
This dynasty built the complex of Khajuraho temples, there were 85 temples in all in the complex and some were even Jain temples. Of which 20 still stand, while the others have been destroyed by the Muslim invasions over time.
The mention of these temples can be found in the accounts of Abu Rihan al Biruni In 1022 CE and an Arab traveller Ibn Battuta in 1335 CE.


Mythological significance :

shiv parvati wedding

Shiv Parvati wedding

It is said that Shiva, refused to marry Parvati and was in penance when the gods knew that the union was important for the creation and protection of the universe. They called upon Kamdev the Hindu god of love and desire to strike Shiva with arrows to arose love and desire for Parvati. But at the same moment, Shiva opened his third eye and burned Kamadeva to Ashes, thus destroying desires itself.

Shiva Destroying Kamadev

Shiva Destroying Kamadev

However Shiva marries Parvati, this is celebrated on Maha Shivratri every year.
Symbolism being; that desires are to be shed before one meditates or prays.




Rediscovery :

This temple was rediscovered by Captain T.S.Burt in 1838, in his accounts he states that the temples were overgrown and abandoned for almost 7 centuries. In 1904 Archeological Survey of India introduced a conservation program. This site now declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO.

UNESCO :  https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/240/


The Folklore

This temple is built by a son for his mother as she was ridiculed for having a child out of wedlock. The sexual sculptures on the exterior walls of the temples were his tribute to his mother.
The legends of the Chandela dynasty say that A young Brahmin woman Hemavathy who had a brief love affair with the Moon-god had a son out of wedlock. She was told by the gods to go to Khajuraho and give birth there. They foretold that the child would grow up to be a great king. He was named Chandravarman.

Chandela emblem

Chandela emblem

True to the predictions, the boy grew up with extraordinary strength and was known to kill lions and tigers with his bare hands. This can be seen throughout the Chandela dynasty, which used the emblem of the King and a lion in combat.




The Kings :

Khajuraho was shaped by the Chandela dynasty which ruled this region between the 9th and 13th century CE. Each temple is added by the Chandela kings over a period of 100 years. Each king at least made one temple in his reign.
The temples were built around 60 km from the capital of Chandela dynasty rulers, Mahoba.


The Chandela Kings

The Chandela Kings : chart



Nanuka was the Vassal of the Gurjara Patiharas, he ruled a small kingdom near Khajuraho.
The Chandela Dynasty had made Khajuraho its capital and then moved it to Mahoba. Nanuka was the chief of this dynasty.
He was succeeded by Vakapati. Later his son Jaishakti( Jeja) ruled this region and gave the region the name Jejakabhukti.
His brother Vijayshakti and his son Rahil contributed to extending their borders. Rahil built a tank known as Rahilsagar and a temple next to it.
After which his son Harshdev ruled for 25 yrs (900 AD). He was instrumental in restoring power to the Patihara King Mahipala.



The Rise :

After Harshdev’s death, Yashorvarman, son of Harshdev succeeded him to the throne. He began to take over the neighbouring areas of the Rashtrakuta kingdom. He captured Kalinjar and extended his empire in the north and in the south.
He is credited for the beginning of the Chandela art and architecture. The Lakshmana temple was commissioned by him.
Dhangdev succeeded Yashodharman (Lakshvarman) and ruled over Khajuraho from 945 A.D. to 1002 A.D. Chandelas reached the peak of their power during his reign by expanding the territory. Kalinjar had attained great importance after Khajuraho and was regarded as the second capital of the kingdom. He was a great patron of art and literature. He commissioned the Vishwanath Temple at Khajuraho.

Ganda ascended the throne of Khajuraho after the death of Dhangdev, though he ruled for fifteen years only it was a reign was of peace and prosperity.
Vidyadhar succeeded his father Ganda. This is the same time that Muslim invaders had started attacking and plundering India. He defended his territory against the attack of Mohammud of Ghazni. Vidyadhar had commissioned the Kendriya Mahadev temple.

From the Reign of Yashovarnam, Dangadev and Vidyadhar saw the Chandela dynasty rise to its peak.

Most of the present-day surviving temples were built during the reigns of king Yashovarman and Dhangadeva. To prevent attacks the kings signed a treaty with Mohd of Gazni, by paying a hefty ransom. This ensured the safety of the temples and save them for loot and destruction.

Chendela Territory

Chendela Territory


The Decline :

Vidyadhar was followed by his son Vijaypal. He was able to maintain his remaining kingdom. Devvarman was the successor of Vijaipal.  The other kings were Kirtiverman then Sallakshan Verman, Jaiverman, Prithvivarman as the descendent but their reign was small.


Revival :

Madanvarman, fought battles to regain the lost reputation of the Chandelas. He was a strong ruler of Kalinjar, Mahoba, Ajaigarh and Khajuraho. Temples were built under his rule, and the Khajuraho temple complex was extended. The temples building activity was once again seen in Khajuraho.

Yashovarman II succeeded Madanvarman but had a very brief reign. After Yashovarman II died, Parmardidev, his son, occupied the throne. As the last of the greater Chandella rulers, he was crowned when he was a child. He ruled for a period of nearly thirty-five years. The first few years of his reign were of peace.



Final Decline :

Escavated sculpture

Escavated sculpture

Prithviraj Chauhan was powerful and he attacked more than once. Kalinjar was still in the hands of the Chandelas but Virvarman and Bhojvarman were local chieftains.
The Chandela dynasty’s decline started towards the end of the 12th century due to Qutb-ud-din Aibak the sultan of Delhi. Till them, the complex of temples grew with each king and was holding prayers
The marriage of the princess Durgavati ( daughter of the Chandela king of Mahoba ) to King Dalpat Shah of Mandla, is noted as the last king and was killed in battle with Mughal emperor Akbar’s military general Asaf Khan. Due to the remote location of the temples, they were difficult to be completely destroyed but some were disfigured.

Sculptures at Khajuraho

Sculptures at Khajuraho

The Chandela dynasty, thus ende and with it the patrons of art and culture.

The temples of Khajuraho is one of the significant achievements of the Chandela Dynasty. Today it is one of the most visited temple sites by foreign tourists.
Khajuraho is known for its breathtaking sculptures and elegance. The elaborate carving and intricate work are done in the Nagara style architecture. 90% of the carving depicts everyday life only 10% are erotic depictions of the female form and sexual practices of that period.
The immense contribution of the Chandela Kings at Khajuraho stands as a testimony of the grandeur of the North Indian temple architecture of that period.


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