Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Khajuraho and Panna Tiger Reserve

Though a visit to Khajuraho was pending since long, this trip came up suddenly. One fine day it was proposed and accepted by most of trekker's gang members.


Convenient rail route to Khajuraho is via Jhansi. Though I must say that governments have made sure that this legendary place remains away from proper connectivity and development.

We planned it for a weekend. Saturday morning to reach Khajuraho, explore it for the day. Sunday; travel to Panna Tiger reserve in search of king of Indian jungles.

We took train via Jhansi and reached Khajuraho in morning around 830 AM.

Some construction work is in progress at Khajuraho railway station, so platform 2 is in bad shape currently but platform 1 is better. It also has clean waiting rooms with bath and toilet facilities.

The railway station is a few KMs away from Khajuraho town. After some discussions we decided to book an auto for sightseeing and to drop us at our previously booked hotel at MP Tourism Jungle camp at Madla by evening.

Though this above arrangement means not attending the sound and light show at Western Group of Temples at Khajuraho (and also missing the museum), but we had to content with the time we had!

Getting fresh at Khajuraho Railway station itself, we boarded our auto and headed towards the town. First we went to a small restaurant for much required breakfast.


On the way I also saw the Khajuraho airport. I was told that it has direct connectivity with Delhi, Mumbai and Varanasi.

Breakfast was quite good, supplemented with hot refreshing tea.

As some of us were taking breakfast, some of the younger friends went for quick shopping of sun glasses etc.

We were now ready to explore Khajuraho.

There are three main sites scattered in this dusty town.

1. Southern group of temples
2. Eastern group of temples
3. Western group of temples

We took the road first to Southern group of temples starting with Chaturbhuj Temple.

Most Khajuraho temples were built between 950 AD and 1050 AD by the Chandela Kings. It is said that Khajuraho had 85 temples but now only about 25 temples are there, many in dilapidated state, that have survived the wrath of Muslim invaders as well as time.

Most temples were built during the reigns of the kings Yashovarman, Vidyadhara and Dhanga.

Yashovarman's legacy is best exhibited by the Lakshmana Temple. Vishvanatha temple best highlights King Dhanga's reign amd Kandariya Mahadev Temple was constructed by Vidyadhara.

Khajuraho was mentioned by Al Baruni, the persian historian who accompanied Mahmud of Ghazni in his raid of Kalinjar in 1022 CE.

Khajuraho temples were in active use through the end of the 12th century. This changed in the 13th century; after the army of Delhi Sultanate, under the command of the Muslim Sultan Qutb-ud-din Aibak, attacked and seized the Chandela kingdom. Under Muslim rule, most of the temples were destroyed and the rest left in neglect.

Ibn Batuta writes (1335 AD):

...near (Khajuraho) temples, which contain idols that have been mutilated by the Moslems, live a number of yogis whose matted locks have grown as long as their bodies. And on account of extreme asceticism they are all yellow in colour. Many Moslems attend these men in order to take lessons (yoga) from them.

In the 1830s, local Hindus guided a British surveyor, T.S. Burt, to the temples and they were thus "rediscovered".


Alexander Cunningham later reported, few years after the rediscovery, that the temples were secretly in use by yogis and thousands of Hindus would arrive for pilgrimage during Shivaratri celebrated annually in February/March.


Chaturbhuj temple is only temple among all temples in Khajuraho, that does not faces east. All other temples faces east. It has a beautiful diety with four arms, face of Vishnu, chest of Shiva and feet of Krishna.

The temple was constructed around 1100 A.D.and is the only temple in Khajuraho which lacks erotic sculptures.

Yashovarman of the Chandela Dynasty built the temple at Khajuraho. The diety faces south as the favorite location of lord Vishnu, same south facing plan is incorporated in Angkor Wat Temple in Cambodia.


Outer walls are decorated with beautiful carvings of males and females deities.


Next we visited Duladev temple.

This temple is dedicated to the Lord Shiva in the form of a linga, which is deified in the sanctum. 'Duladeo' means "Bridegroom God". The temple faces east and is dated to 1000–1150 AD. It is the last of the temples built during the Chandela period.


The main hall in the temple is very large and octagonal in shape. Its ceiling has elegantly carved with celestial dancers. Women in erotic poses are also part of the temple architecture. It is said to be the "last glow of Khajuraho's architectural and sculptural mastery".


It is said that the central icon of the linga in the sanctum is not the original but a duplicate, as the original is untraced. Worship is offered at the temple by the local people. A unique feature of the depictions on the linga is that it has 999 more lingas carved all around its surface. Its religious significance is that going round the linga would amount to taking of circumambulation a 1,000 times around it.

These were the two prominent temples of Southern group of temples.

The Jain temples are located on eastern region of Khajuraho monuments. This contains Parshvananth, Shantinath and Adinath temples.

Very serene and peaceful !


During the Chandela rule Khajuraho was home to large and flourishing Jain communities. All the Jain temples are now enclosed within a modern compound wall constructed in the 19th century, with the exception of the Ghantai temple.

There is also an archaeological museum where historical Jain artifacts from the chandella period are preserved.

A key difference between the Jain temples and most other Khajuraho temples is that the Jain temples are alive with active praying and worship. Digambar Jain monks still visit time to time and can be seen meditating, studying or preaching.

Two of the large temples still stand in a good state of preservation in the original form.


One by one we visited all Temple. Next to these big temples are several small temples that have been restored.

A number of Jain inscriptions from the Chandella period have been found in Khajurao.


Parshvanath Temple contains an inscription dating from 954 AD by its builder Pahila, mentioning donation of gardens and requesting future generations to safeguard the temple. It mentions Chandella Dhanga as the reigning king.

The Adinath temple contains an idol with an inscription dated to year 1027 during the rule of Chandella king Madanavarman.


The Shantinath Temple has a 15 feet idol of Lord Shantinath with an inscription of year 1028.

The Ghantai Temple was built around 960 AD by Chandela kings of Khajuraho. This temple was dedicated to lord Rishabha. It is in ruins and in very dilapidated state.

There are three hindu temples in eastern group, Bramha, Javeri and Vaman.

Road conditions are bad, our auto moved slowly across the dusty path, braving a weight of of 9 people (including driver). We Indians are good at extracting the max out of anything.

Brahma temple is located on the banks of Khajuraho Sagar lake. It is incorrectly called a Brahma Temple; the garbhagriha (sanctum) of the temple contains a four faced lingam, the symbol of Shiva, and local worshippers mistook this for a sculpture of Brahma, who has four faces.


 The temple was built of granite in either ninth or earlier half of the tenth century.


The temple originally consisted of a porch and a garbhagriha. The porch has been destroyed and only the garbhagriha remains which is crowned by the shikhara.


We didn't spend time there and moved towards Vamana Temple.


This temple is dedicated to Vamana, an incarnation of the Lord Vishnu. The temple was built around 1050-75 AD.


The Javari Temple was built between 975 and 1100 A.D. The temple is dedicated to the Lord Vishnu. The main idol of the temple is broken. It has well-proportioned architecture along with Makara Torana. The temple has a close resemblance with Chaturbhuja Temple.


The entrance gate of sanctum has sculptures depicting nava-graha on the top. Along with nava-graha sculptures, sculpture of the deities Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva can also be seen.

It was afternoon by now and we were getting tired. Mostly because we had not slept the previous night.

Next was Western group of temples. These are most elaborate and better preserved.

Among these Lakshmana and Kandariya Mahadev are most famous.

We started our exploration with Lakshmi and Varaha temples. Lakshmi Temple is opposite to Lakshaman Temple.

Varaha deity is magnificent. Made of a single rock its a piece of art to be seen.

Varaha is the boar incarnation of Lord Vishnu. This temple depicts Varaha in a purely animal form.

Legend is that Lord Vishnu appeared in the form of a Boar in order to defeat Hiranyaksha, a demon who had taken the Earth (Prithvi) and carried it to the bottom of the cosmic ocean. Varaha carried the Earth out of the ocean between his tusks and restored it to its place in the universe.

It is dated to 900–925 AD.

The Varaha Shrine, built on a lofty plinth, is simple and modest. The sculpture is colossal and monolithic and made of sandstone. The sculpture is carved with numerous figures on its entire body. The sculpture carved between nose and mouth, depicts goddess Saraswati carrying Veena in her arms.


Next we visited Lakshmana and Kandariya Mahadev temples.

The Lakshmana Temple is a 10th-century temple built by King Yashovarman.

The entire temple complex stands on a high platform. The wall portion is studded with balconied windows. It has two rows of sculptures including divine figures, couples and erotic scenes. The sanctum contains four-armed sculpture of Vishnu.

Next to Lakshmana temple is the largest and currently most famous surviving temple of Kandariya Mahadeva built in the reign of King Vidyadhara (~1030 AD).


The Kandariya Mahadeva meaning "the Great God of the Cave", is the largest and most ornate temple at Khajuraho. It is considered one of the best examples of temples preserved from the medieval period in India.


Vidhyadhara, also known as Bida in the recordings of the Muslim historian Ibn-al-Athir was a powerful ruler who fought Mahmud of Ghazni in 1019 AD. This battle was not conclusive and Mahmud had to return to Ghazni. Mahmud again waged war against Vidhyadhara in 1022. He attacked the fort of Kalinjar. The siege of the fort was unsuccessful. It was lifted and Mahmud and Vidhyadhara called a truce and parted by exchanging gifts. Vidhyadhara celebrated his success over Mahmud and other rulers by building the Kandariya Mahadev Temple, dedicated to his family deity Shiva.


The temple is founded on a massive plinth. The structure above the plinth is dexterously planned. The superstructure is built in a steep mountain shape or form, symbolic of Mount Meru.

In the interior space from the entrance there are three mandapas or halls, which successively rise in height and width. The sanctum sanctorum is surrounded by interlinked passages which also have side and front balconies. Due to inadequate natural light in the balconies the sanctum has very little light thus creating a "cave like atmosphere".

The exterior surfaces of the temples are entirely covered with sculptures in three vertical layers.


After seeing this, I was just thinking that how many such temples were destroyed by islamic invaders. How much art and culture the world lost!

Next is Jagdambi Temple.

Devi Jagadambika temple, is one of the most finely decorated temples with numerous erotic carvings. Three bands of carvings encircle the body of the temple. In the sanctum is an enormous image of the Goddess.

The Chitragupta temple is very similar to the nearby Jagadambi temple. The temple's sanctum has a partially broken statue of Surya riding a chariot of seven horses. He is shown standing, dressed in an armoured coat and boots, and holding lotus flowers.



The exterior walls of the temple has an 11-headed Vishnu. This rare representation is not seen anywhere else. There is also a sculpture of Shiva's attendant Nandi, who is shown with a human body and a bull's head.

The Vishvanatha Temple is believed to have been commissioned by the Chandela king Dhanga, and was probably completed in 999 CE or 1002 CE. Its architectural style is similar to that of the Lakshmana Temple and the Kandariya Mahadeva Temple. It features several sculptures of various deities and creatures.


 The main shrine is an example of the nagara style.


Many of my friends were badly tired by now. But some of us pushed them to complete a few pending temples.


Infront of Viswanath temple is Nandi Shrine with a huge monolithic deity of Nandi.

These temples of Khajuraho were a new experience to me in North India. Such beautifully carved temples are an identity of South.

Perhaps most temples in north were destroyed.


These temples have a rich display of intricately carved statues. While they are famous for their erotic sculpture, sexual themes cover less than 10% of the temple sculpture. most erotic scene panels are not prominent, they are in proportional balance with the other images.The viewer has to look closely to find them, or be directed by a guide. The arts cover numerous aspects of human life and values considered important in the Hindu pantheon.

Pratepshwar temple is last one, along with Parvati temple, as we are about to exit the western groups of temples.

Pratepeshwar temple looks different to any other structure in the compound. This Temple is by far the newest temple here, built almost 800 years after the other temples surrounding it.


This was constructed by Raja Pratap Singh somewhere around 1850 AD.

Inside the temple is quite plain, with a single black linga. Access to the inside of the Pratapeshwar Temple has only been possible in the last couple of years. The temple was closed in 1956 due to the States Reorganisation Act, and the doors remained locked until late 2016.

Parvati Temple is a restored small sanctum. The porch is completely lost and of the sanctum only the plinth has survived.


The arch above sanctum door depicts sculpture of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. The side and back walls do not have any sculptures

The Khajuraho temples are made of sandstone, with a granite foundation that is almost concealed from view. The artwork at Khajuraho temples symbolically highlights the four goals of life considered necessary and proper in Hinduism - dharma, kama, artha and moksha.

Over 90% of the artwork at the temple is about daily life and symbolic values in ancient Indian culture. For example, depictions show women putting on makeup, musicians making music, potters, farmers, and other folks in their daily life.

Of all temples, the Matangeshvara temple remains an active site of worship.

The way to this is next to the Western group of temples.

Among the Chandela era monuments of Khajuraho, it is the only Hindu temple that is still actively used for worship.

Construction to this temple is assigned it to approximately 1000 AD.

According to a legend, the temple is named after an aspect of Shiva who controlled the god of love.


The Matangesvara temple is the plainest looking among the sandstone temples of Khajuraho. It is not richly decorated: its interior walls, exterior walls and curvilinear tower are devoid of carvings.

Getting blessed, we walked towards our auto and started planning to go to Ken Ghariyal Sanctuary, but then I saw a direction board of Chausath Yogini temple.

I had seen it in Odisha (see my Odisha trip blog), so I wanted to visit this shrine. Auto driver told me that its in complete ruins but still I asked him to take us there.

It is not very far from Western group of monuments.

Slowly we took the stairs to reach the compound.

The temple is totally in ruins. Dated to the late 9th century, it is the oldest surviving temple at Khajuraho. Unlike the Chausath Yogini temples at other places, it has a rectangular plan.

The construction of the Chausath Yogini temple can be dated to approximately 885 AD.

Fourteen other historic Chausath Yogini temples have been discovered throughout India: the Khajuraho temple is the only one with a rectangular plan, all others have a circular plan.

The temple is made of large, coarse granite blocks, with an open courtyard at the centre. The courtyard was originally surrounded by 65 shrine cells: 10 on the front (north) wall, 11 on the back wall, and 22 on each side. Only 35 of these 65 cells now survive.

The temple ruins have no sculpture. Three large statues of goddesses, found among the ruins, are now located at the Khajuraho museum. The goddess has been identified as Brahmani, Maheshvari, and Hingalaja or Mahishamardini. These statues are among the oldest sculptures of Khajuraho.

Chausath Yogini represent the chausath (sixty four Siddhis or powers). Only Krishna is said to possess all.

In those times, it must have been very powerful place of worship and salvation.

Who destroyed this and why? (Don’t we know this?)

With heavy heart, I took the road to Ken Sanctuary.

Close to the Western group of monuments is big monument, with architecture similar to Pratepshwar temple. This building is the chhatri of Raja Pratap Singh, who built the Pratapeshwar Temple.


It was late afternoon and we had not taken lunch, so decided to take some quick snack. One small sweet shop helped us with tasty samosas.

In next about 45 minutes, we reached Ken Gharial sanctuary.

Gondwana wall forms a boundary as we go towards the Canyon. It is mentioned there that its 500 years old. Though I did not get answer about who constructed it and why.

This is all forest area. We passed through a Nilgai there, who was staring us cautiously.


The Canyon is very beautiful. Our auto driver mentioned that Gharial can be seen at its banks, though we didn't found any.

The Ken Gharial Sanctuary also acts as a center for breeding of Gharial. Ken river provides an ideal natural habitat for Gharial. This is located at the confluence of the Ken and Khudar rivers further down from Reneh Falls. The Ken river here runs through a narrow gorge of igneous rocks rich in Granite and Dolomite.


It forms a 5 KM long, and 30 metres (98 ft) deep canyon made of granite in varying shades of colors.


There is a series of waterfalls in the canyon. The larger and smaller falls run all through the year.

Lord Anshumaan was going towards deep west and it was time for us to go to MP Tourism hotel at Madla, about 20 KMs from Ken Gharial Sanctuary.

This Hotel is an excellent place to stay across the Ken river, which is quite mighty here. Good part is that its just next to Panna forest entry gate.

We took some rest there and then a walk across the property relaxed us. Some guys enjoyed playing badminton.

A good dinner and a much required sleep took us in lap of relaxation.

We got up early morning and rushed to the ticket counter which is across the river. Soon we were ready with two open gypsies for our next 3 hours exploration inside the famous jungle.

 Panna National Park has an area of 542.67 sq KM. It is notable that by 2009, the entire tiger population had been eliminated by poaching with the collusion of forest department officials. The Ministry of Environment and Forests approved a proposal to translocate two tigers and two tigresses to the reserve. One female each from Bandhavgarh National Park and Kanha National Park were translocated to Panna Tiger Reserve. A tiger male, coded T3, was brought from Pench Tiger Reserve but strayed out of the park shortly thereafter. Forest department staff tracked it continuously for over a month and finally brought it back to the Panna Tiger Reserve. It then settled well, established territory and started mating. The tigress, T1, translocated from Bandhavgarh National Park, gave birth to four cubs in April 2010 of which 2 survive till date. The second tigress, T2, translocated from Kanha National Park gave birth to four cubs several months later and all four survive till date.

It is said that currently there are 20+ tigers here.


I love being in jungle.


Soon we were welcomed by spotted dear, serpent eagles, langurs and Sambhar deers. Though our eyes were eager to get glimpse of mighty king.


There were several calls heard from deer and langurs, tough we could not spot any tiger.


At one place, a lot of "ber" (berry) trees were there. Here we spotted the sloth bear, who was on top of tree relishing the sweet fruits. One wild boar and a few deers were below the tree waiting to take the prize as soon as any fruit falls down. After some time the bear came down and started eating all the fallen berries.


It gave us ample opportunity to shoot it with quite close quarters.

Two forest guards were on patrol on foot. As soon as the bear saw them it just galloped away in haste.


This is fear of humans!

Suddenly it started raining. I packed my camera in polythene which I always carry to protect my canon.

We took shelter in a makeshift hut of forest department next to Ken river. Here we observed a crocodile swimming gently across the river.


It is always good to see animals in their natural habitat.


As we had to take train the same night from Jhansi, so we decided now to take the route back to our hotel. The rain continued and with some difficulty we were able to save ourselves from getting fully drenched.

Reaching at hotel we decided to have a quick tour to Panna town, some 20 KMs away.

Taking breakfast, we all waited patiently for a bus to come. Not getting any bus in time, we decided to take a mini truck (Tata Ace, more famous as "dala" here). While I along with Vishal took the "cabin" seats, rest of the guys enjoyed journey standing on load area.

The route is from deep forest and so quite interesting.

After reaching Panna, we booked an auto to take us to two famous temples there and then drop us to bus stand.

Based on our discussion with hotel staff at Madla, we had decided to visit two temples at Panna town, Prannath ji and Jugal Kishore. Though Panna mines would have been quite interesting to visit but we could not go there as due to time crunch.

Mahamati Prannathji temple is an important pilgrimage of Pranami sect and attracts number of devotees. It is believed that Mahamati Prannathji lived at the site for 11 years after which he took samadhi inside one of the domes of this temple. The temple was built in 1692 and has Muslim and Hindu architectural styles.


The temple was closed when we reached there. The architecture is amazing. We just roamed inside the complex for some time and then took road to Jugal Kishore temple.

Jugal Kishore Ji Temple was built by Raja Hindupat Singh, the fourth Bundela King of Panna, during his reign from 1758 to 1778. According to the legends, the idol placed in the garbha griha of this temple has been brought from Brindavana.


It was quite amazing to be there. I felt very happy and blessed.

Next to this temple is a small Jagannathji Temple. The deity is similar to what we have at Puri in Odisha.

Time to take bus now!

We took a bus to Chhatarpur, which took the route via Madla. Reaching Chhatarpur we took the bus to Jhansi, reaching there by around 8 PM.

We took dinner nearby and then came to railway station. The train was little late but still we reached home sweet home quite well in time.

20 comments:

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