The Eastern Group of Temples

The Eastern Group of monuments, I situated near Khajuraho village, includes three Brahmanical temples, Brahma, Vamana and Javari, and three Jaina temples, Ghantai, Adinatha and Parsvanatha. The Brahmanical temples are located along or near the Khajuraho-sagar, while the Jaina temples are situated further south and are conveniently accessed by a metalled road.

By: Ganesh Dutt

Posted on: 25/9/2020 View : 73

The Eastern Group of Temples

The Eastern Group of monuments, I situated near Khajuraho village, includes three Brahmanical temples, Brahma, Vamana and Javari, and three Jaina temples, Ghantai, Adinatha and Parsvanatha. The Brahmanical temples are located along or near the Khajuraho-sagar, while the Jaina temples are situated further south and are conveniently accessed by a metalled road. A colossal statue of Hanuman, the monkey-god, is housed in a modern shrine situated about half¬ way between the Western Group of temples and Khajuraho village. It is interesting mainly on account of a short dedicatory inscription on its pedestal, dated 316 of possibly the Harsha era (AD 922), being the oldest dated inscription at Khajuraho.

Brahma Temple

This temple has a simple plan and design. Its sikhara is made of sandstone and the body of granite. It occupies a fine position on the bank of the Khajurahosagar or Ninora-tal. It is mistakenly called Brahma Temple on account of a four-faced linga now enshrined in the sanctum, but it must have originally been dedicated to Vishnu as shown by his figure carved on the lintel of the sanctum doorway.

It is a modest structure, comprising a sanctum and a porch, the latter now completely lost and the former roofed by a pyramidal sikhara of receding tiers of pidhas, crowned by a prominent bell-member. The sanctum is cruciform externally, with projections on each side, and square internally, resting on 12 plain pilasters of granite. The projection on the east contains the entrance and that on the west is pierced with a smaller doorway, while the lateral projections on the remaining two sides contain plain latticed windows.

Except for the boldlymodelled figures of the Brahmanical trinity on the lintel and of Ganga and Yamuna at the base, its doorway is unornamented. Its jangha or wall, divided into two registers, is also plain. Despite some difference in details, this temple belongs to the same structural phase as the Lalguan-Mahadeva, with which it shares a common plan, design, decoration and building material. The temple is consequently assignable to c.900.

Vamana Temple

Sculptures Of Khajruaho This temple, dedicated to Vamana or the dwarf incarnation of Vishnu, is situated about 200 metres to the north-east of Brahma Temple. It is a nirandhara temple, that is, one without an ambulatory. It has a sapta-ratha or sevenprojectioned sanctum, vestibule, maha-mandapa with lateral transepts and entrance-porch, of which only the plinth has survived.

The sikhara of Vamana Temple is not encumbered by subsidiary sikharas and is embellished with a fretwork of chaitya arches. In contrast to the developed local ,erotic scenes are absent here, except in the subsidiary niches of the roof-pediments. It is also noteworthy for the roof over the mahamandapa -the roof was characteristic of the medieval temples of western India, but this is the only example of its kind at Khajuraho.

The temple's outer walls are girdled by only two bands of sculptures that are as fine as those on the other developed temples and include graceful figures of surasundaris. The main niches of the sanctum contain, in the lower row, Vaishnava images of Varaha, Narasimha and Vamana. The sculptural style of the sura-sundaris indicates that the temple is later than the Kandariya, whose style it continues. It is, therefore, dated to c. 1050-75.

Javari Temple

This temple, dedicated to Vishnu, is situated about 200 metres south of Vamana Temple. It is a small but wellproportioned nirandhara temple, consisting of a sanctum, vestibule, mandapa and portico. The Javari Temple is an architectural gem and is indeed remarkable as much for its ornate makara-torana as for the slender and soaring outline of its sikhara. 

The carvings and the three bands of sculptures on its outer walls are as rich as on the larger temples. On general plan and in design, the Javari Temple resembles Chaturbhuja and is datable between c.1075 and c.1100.

This temple, however, shows two significant architectural features characteristic of the developed medieval temples of western India. First, its jangha or wall is separated from the sikhara by a projecting curved cornice or a kutachhadya. Second, the gods on the lower row of the jangha are placed in niches canopied by torana-arches. 

Ghantai Temple

The temple, locally called Ghantai, on account of the chainand-bell (ghanta) motifs carved on its tall elegant pillars, is situated to the south of Khajuraho village. It is the shell of a structure of essentially the same design as Parsvanatha Temple. The Ghantai Temple is grander in conception and nearly twice as large as Parsvanatha. All that has survived of Ghantai is an entranceporch and a mahamandapa, both resting on four pillars that support a flat ornate ceiling. The coffered ceiling of the entrance-porch is bordered by oblong panels carved with exquisite groups of dancers and musicians.

Its maha-mandapa, like that of Parsvanatha, is entered through an elaborate doorway and was originally enclosed by a solid wall, of which only a few supporting pilasters have survived. The door-lintel displays centrally an eight¬ armed figure of yakshi Chakresvari, seated on Garuda. The architrave surmounting the doorway is carved with 16 auspicious symbols seen in a dream by Jina Mahavira's mother at the time of conception, a piece of iconography identified with the Digambara sect.

The similarity in plan and design between this and Parsvanatha indicates that the two temples cannot be far removed from each other in date. Of the two, Ghantai appears slightly more evolved and is consequently datable to the end of the 10th century.

Other Jaina Temples

About 400 metres south¬ east of Ghantai Temple is situated a group of Jaina temples enclosed within a modern compound-wall and accessible by a metalled road. The group comprises the Parsvanatha, Adinatha and Santinatha temples, besides numerous modern shrines, some of which stand on the ruins of older ones, while the rest are built partly with old material and contain old images. 

Numerous ancient Jaina sculptures, some of them inscribed, are built into the compoundwall. The temple of Santinatha enshrines a 4.5-metre high image of Adinatha, on the pedestal of which, it is reported, exists a dedicatory inscription dated 1027-28, now hidden under plaster. Drastically renovated, this temple has an old nucleus with an oblong enclosure of shrine-cells, typical of medieval Jaina architecture. Among the ancient sculptures, the one representing Jina's parents is remarkable for its artistic execution.

Parsvanatha Temple

This temple, originally dedicated to the first tirthankara, is one of the finest monuments of Khajuraho and the largest among the Jaina temples here. It is distinguished by a few individual features of design and composition. It is oblong on plan with axial projections on the two ends; the projection on the east constitutes the entrance-porch, while that on the west comprises a shrine attached to the back of the sanctum. Although it is a sandhara temple, the transepts with the balconied windows, which are so characteristic of the developed Khajuraho style, are absent. The outer wall is solid and embellished with three bands of graceful sculptures, with no voids to relieve the monotony. In the absence of balconied openings, perforated windows are introduced to admit diffused light into the interior of the temple.

The entrance-porch shows an ornate ceiling of coffered design with five pendants, the central one being exquisitely embellished with chain and floral patterns, terminating in a pair of intertwined flying vidyadhara figures. The interior consists of a sanctum enclosed by an ambulatory, a vestibule and a maha-mandapa provided with a doorway. 

The door-lintel of the maha-mandapa bears a ten-armed image of yakshi Chakresvari riding on Garuda, while that of the sanctum shows figures of the Jinas. Despite its Jaina affiliation, Parsvanatha Temple bears a significant kinship to Lakshmana Temple in the Western Group in that its sculptures show a predominance of Vaishnava themes, which include Parasurama, Balarama with Revati, a group of Rama, Sita and Hanuman and the Yamalarjuna episode of the Krishna legend.

The sculptures of this temple also approximate those of the Lakshmana in voluminous modelling, proportion and poise. In addition to the superbly expressive images like those of Agni, Siva, Kama with Rati and Lakshmi-Narayana, this temple bears some of the loveliest sura-sundari figures, such as those applying collyrium and painting their feet (on the south facade) or donning their anklebells (on the north facade).

Despite the striking affinity in sculptural style and theme, Parsvanatha shows some advance over Lakshmana Temple in the form and design of the sikhara. Further, while Lakshmana is girdled by two sculptural bands on the outer facades, this temple has three rows, the top one largely showing flying vidyadharas. Being similar to Lakshmana, but slightly more advanced in these few details, this temple is assignable to c.950-70, during the early part of King Dhanga's reign. This, in fact, is supported by an inscription on the mahamandapa doorway. 

Adinatha Temple 

This Jaina temple dedicated to Jina Adinatha is smaller than Parsvanatha, and located immediately to its north. It is a nirandhara temple, of which only the sanctum and vestibule have survived. In elegance of sculptural style as well as in general plan and design, it bears the closest kinship to Vamana. In fact, the only noteworthy difference between the two lies in the decoration of the top row of the outer wall. In the case of Vamana this shows diamonds in niches and here a band of flying vidyadharas, also found on Javari, Chaturbhuja and Duladeo temples. As its sikhara is not as squat and heavy as that of the Vamana, it appears slightly more evolved and somewhat later in date than Vamana.

Adinatha Temple is girdled by three bands of elegant sculptures including charming sura-sundaris. The principal niches of the outer facades contain images of Jaina yakshis. The roof of the vestibule deserves particular attention for its elegant design and decoration.