Carvings of Wiswanath temple, Khujraho
Photographer: Dayal, Deen
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of sculptural decoration on the Vishwanatha Temple at Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh, taken by Deen Dayal in the 1880s, part of the Bellew Collection Of Architectural Views. The small town of Khajuraho in the Chatarpur district is the site of dozens of Shiva, Vishnu and Jaina temples, which were built between the 9th and 12th centuries under the aegis of the Chandella dynasty which ruled in central India. Of about 85 temples said to have been erected at this site only about twenty-five have survived. The compact temples, none of which are very large, stand on high plinths (jagatis) lifting them from their environs, instead of the usual enclosure walls. The sensuous sculptures that decorate them, some of which are explicitly erotic, are among the masterpieces of Indian art. The sculptures have been read as relating to Tantric practices, or illustrations of ancient treatises on sex. The Shiva temple called the Vishwanatha was erected in 1002 by the ruler Dhangadeva, according to an inscription found in the porch. It is one of the largest and finest of the temples here and exhibits a harmony of design of superstructure and plinth. It consists of a sanctuary with a surrounding passageway, a mandapa or hall and a porch. Smaller porches project from the passageway and the mandapa. The curvilinear spire over the sanctuary has clusters of miniature towers, while the hall and porch have pyramidal roofs.