Sculpture of Khajuraho Temple

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Sculpture of Khajuraho Temples[Go Back]

Khajuraho Temples are mostly made up of pale buff, yellow and pink and brown colored sand-stone. In making these temples Granite stone is also used. Sand-stone is softer than Granite so the carving work on Granite is relatively tough. That is why the Sculptures have mostly used sandstone for making the Temples. In ancient times, sculptures are popularly called by the name of “Shilp-shastri” or “Shilpi” which means one who does sculpture art. As sandstone is not very hard so the finishing of sand-stone is much fine and accurate.

Sculpture of Khajuraho can be divided into five broad categories:
Cult images
Heaven Nymphs
Family, attendant and enclosing divinities
Miscellaneous themes like teacher & disciples, dancers, musicians etc
Animals & other Species

Cult Images
Sculptured more or less round this category comprises of formal cult-images, with strict traditional values in canonical formulae. These cult-images are mostly seen In the Western & Eastern group of Temples. Such images mainly belong to Hindu religion and some of them belong to Jain sect.

Heaven Nymphs
As is clear from the name itself this category consist of Heaven Nymphs, popularly known as apsaras and sura-sundaris, and they bags the title of most abundant sculpture and supreme piece of art in Khajuraho. They are finished either on high or medium portion of outer or inner walls, or in the round, or on the pillars and ceilings of temples. The finishing of these elegant nymphs is done in such a way that they are wearing finely designed ornaments around neck, wrist, waists, arms and legs. If we observe carefully we can also find thin lining in designed pattern, around their waists, legs. They are not ornaments, but traditional Indian sarees (dress worn primarily by Indian women). Most of the apsaras are shown in various dancing postures. If we carefully read their facial expressions we can conclude the emotions & moods the nymphs which distinguish them from conventional nayikas. These nymphs are so beautifully created that they look real and they do the activities which are real like yawning, touching their breasts, scratching, disrobing, removing thern from feet, fondling babies, playing flute & vina (Indian musical instrument), playing with pets like parrot, writing letters, looking mirror to do make-up etc.

Family, attendant and enclosing divinities
This category comprises of sculptures of family, their attendant and enclosing divinities. They are projected against the walls of Khajuraho Temples and are executed either in the round or in high or medium relief. Figures in sculpture posses iconographic qualities of cult-images of first category. These figures are more formal but at the same time and on the other hand remaining figures of god and goddesses which includes dikpalas (8 guardians of the quarters) are less formal. Because of their strange head-dresses, mounts or some other special characteristics held usually in more than two hands they can be easily distinguished.

Animals & Other Species
This category consists of sculptures of animals including the mythical sardula, the fabulous beast often represented as uncontrolled horned lion with an armed human rider on its back. In this kind of sculpture you will find the sculpture of creature with lion’s body and head of some different creature. Not only this you can also get to see the sculpture of elephants, lions, parrots, and dragons like creatures. There is a reason, motive and meaning behind the construction of sculpture of each and every creature, like elephant depicted in a row (in Lakshmana Temple), use to welcome guests, lion shows strength & power, similarly wild boar is portrayed the presence of Hindu god like lord Vishnu whose one look is of human body with head of wild boar and Nandi (Bull) is devoted to lord Shiva who rides on bull called Nandi.

According to art historian Krishna Deva, the sculptural art of Khajuraho surpasses the medieval school of Orissa in revealing the sensuous charms of human body. Khajuraho revealed in admiring the human body, displaying it from the most fascinating angles.

Temples with varying art-level
The classical flavor of the sculptures of Parsvanatha and Lakshmana temples is continued in Vesvanatha Temple, which has proportionate figures, displaying admirable poise and balance. The sculptures of Chitragupta and Jagadambi are some of the most artistic in Khajuraho.

In Kandariya Mahadev Temple the sculpture of Khajuraho achieves its development because it is the only temple which displays human figures with distinctive physiognomy. The sculptures of this temple are noticeably slim and taller and show the richest variety of apsara figures. These sculptures represent the highest watermark of the characteristic art diction of Khajuraho. The Vamana and Adinatha temples carry on the sculptural tradition. The apsara of this temple are shown giving very striking, difficult and almost twisted poses.

The sculptural art is on a obvious decline in Javari and Chatrubhuja temples. These contain largely conventionalized figures without much life or expression. Duladeo represents the last flicked of the dying lamp. It combines highly dynamic and romantic sculptures such as those of dancing nymphs and flying vidyadharas, with degenerate, stereotyped and lavishly ornamented figures. As per historian Krishna Deva, plastically and iconographic ally, Duladeo marks the exhaustion of the remarkable vitality for which the Khajuraho sculptures are beingfamous.

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