The Best Preserved Structure
(Built in circa AD 930-950, during the reign of Yasovarman). This temple dedicated to the Vaikuntha form of Vishnu, stands in the heart of a large cluster of ancient temples, situated to the west of the present village of Khajuraho. It adjoins the temples Matangesvara and Varaha, which are respectively to its southeast, and is not far from an old tank called Shivasagar. The deity of the temple is variously known as Lakshmana, Ramachandra or Chaturbhuja attesting its Vaishnava dedication.
Lakshmana Temple is the earliest, best preserved and most typical of the evolved variety of Khajuraho temples. This is the only temple, which preserved the subsidiary shrines and the platform terrace (jagati) with their essential features and decorations intact. No other temple has retained the powerful processional frieze on the platform façade, consisting of a moving pageant of hunting and battle scenes, processions of horses, elephants and soldiers and other miscellaneous representations including domestic and erotic scenes.
This is the only temple, which has conserved bits of the parapet wall of the platform, representing ornate balustrade and linking all the subsidiary shrines in a common enclosure, with a conspicuous projection in front. This temple is a 'panchayatana' i.e. a complex of five shrines. The principal elements of the evolved temple type, viz. entrance porch, 'mandapa' (hall), 'maha-mandapa' (hall with transepts), vestibule and sanctum with an ambulatory and transepts on the sides and in the rear, are all present here in an excellent state of preservation.
Even with regard to internal decoration, this temple is the best preserved and provides the finest specimens of female brackets, which constitute one of the distinguishing traits of the Khajuraho temples.
Uniqueness Lies Underneath
Architecturally, this temple has some remarkable features. Firstly, the roofs of its 'maha-mandapa', 'mandapa' and the entrance porch are of the 'phamsana' type and show a pyramidal superstructure of a straight contour, which is crowned by a prominent chime.
The representation of Dikpala figures with two arms and the decorations on the outer band of the doorway with an elaborate pattern of lotus leaves in relief, which are features of early medieval temples are noteworthy features of Khajuraho temples. Only two temples at Khajuraho, namely the Lakshmana and the Parsvanath, display on the door-lintel two bold sculptured friezes, of which one represents the Nine Planets with a large figure of Rahu.
The Lakshmana Temple, which should have taken about two decades to build must have been constructed between circa 930 and 950 and dedicated for worship in circa 953-54. It is noteworthy that the inscription refers to the dedication of the temple to the Vaikuntha form of Vishnu, distinguished by three heads respectively of lion, man and boar, which corresponds with the image now enshrined in the sanctum.
The Prime Shaiva Temple
(Built in circa AD 1025-50, during the reigns of Vidyadhara and Vijaipal). Situated about a furlong to the west of the Vishvanatha Temple, this Saiva Temple enshrining a marble Shiva-linga is the largest and the loftiest monument of Khajuraho. It measures about 100 feet each in length and height and 66 feet in width, excluding the platform.
This magnificent temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva is marked by its mature plan, design, grand dimensions, symmetrical proportions, superb sculptural embellishment and architectural elaborations. It is one most evolved and finished achievement of the central Indian building-style and one of the most sublime creations of Indian architecture.
Decorated with graded and ascending series of smaller replicas of itself, totalling eighty four, the grand 'sikhara' of the Kandariya is a lofty and intricately-ornamented pile, some what restless in movement but unified in theme and design.
Images In Stone
The Kandariya Mahadeva is the only temple of Khajuraho where the platform shows projections on the lateral sides and the rear, corresponding to the projections of the transepts. Again, of all ornamented mouldings, which include two rows of processional friezes teeming with elephants and horses, warriors and hunters, acrobats and musicians, dancers and devotees, and miscellaneous scenes including erotic couples.
The largest number of sculptures of alluring beauty appear on the three bands of its wall and represent an animated array of gods and goddesses, 'mithunas' (couples) and 'sura-sundaris' (nymphs) on projections and mythical lions in recesses. The interior of the Kandariya Temple is largely similar in design to that of the developed local temples, but is more spacious and gorgeous and is replete with a lavish wealth of carvings and sculptures. It is the only local temple, which has preserved two exquisitely designed 'toranas' (festooned arches) both of exquisite design, in the interior.
The sculptures on this temple are conspicuously slender and taller and show the richest variety of the nymphs in lively and often violently agitated postures. Exhibiting mastery in the rendering of female contours and revealing a peak of conscious sophistication and exuberant grace, these sculptures represent the highest watermark of the characteristic art diction of Khajuraho.
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