Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh
The city of Khajuraho is home to one of the best collections of temples in India. There are nearly two-dozen major temples here, including some from both the Jain and Hindu traditions. Of the Hindu temples, the Lakshmana Temple is among the best preserved and most popular. It is part of the Western Group of temples (those located on the west side of the city), and is one of the must-stops for any visitor to Khajuraho.
There are few places in India where Hindus and Jains seem to have gotten along better than in the city of Khajuraho. The two groups apparently lived here side by side since at least the 9th century. During the 10th century, a new regional power arose in Central India, the Chandela. The Chandela emerged in the vicinity of Khajuraho, and it became one of the major cities of the realm.
The Chandela kingdom survived in one form or another for the better part of the next four hundred years, during which time they built Khajuraho into a major urban and religious center. From the 10th through the 12th centuries they sponsored the construction of dozens of major temples in the city, including both Jain and Hindu shrines.
The main Hindu temples included the Lakshmana Temple around 939 AD, the Vishnavath Temple around 999 AD, the Chitragupta Temple around 1023 AD and the Kandariya-Mahadev-Jagadami Temple around 1029 AD. As many as eighty other temples of both religions were also constructed in Khajuraho at this time. Khajuraho remained a major Hindu center throughout the period of Chandela rule.
After the Muslim conquest of the region in the 13th century, many of Khajuraho’s temples were destroyed, while others were neglected and ultimately abandoned over time. They were rediscovered by British explorers in the 19th century. Most of those that survived have since been restored. One new temple, the Shantinath Temple, was constructed from the ruins of other temples during the colonial era.
The Lakshmana Temple is among the older of Khajuraho’s Hindu temples. Architecturally it is similar to most of the other temples here, though it is perhaps the best preserved. While large, it is not huge, and is seemingly larger due to its prominent position on a tall platform and the perspective trick which makes it seem taller than it actually is. The lush surroundings of lawn and trees give it a tropical and exotic look.
Every inch of the temple is covered in carved figures of people, deities and elephants. Somewhat primitive, they are nevertheless exquisite in their detail, with many depicting various erotic acts. The inner sanctuary is small but breathtaking in its dark eeriness. The main shrine is dedicated to the deity Vishnu.
The Lakshmana Temple is located on west central Khajuraho, approximately 300 miles southeast of New Delhi. It is part of the Western Group of Temples which are clustered together as a single site. The Western Group of Temples is open daily from sunrise to sunset. The cost of admission is Rs5. Web: www.khajuraho-india.org (official website).
The Lakshmana Temple is part of what’s referred to as Khajuraho’s western group of temples, which includes the Chitragupta Temple, the Lakshmi Temple, the Matangeshvar Temple, the Varaha Temple and the Vishvanath Temple. Other Vishnu temples in Khajuraho include the Chaturbhuj Temple, the Javari Temple, the Lalgun Mahadev Temple and the Vishnu-Garuda Temple.