On 15th March, we started while it was yet raining to reach the famous canyon on Ken River forming the very famous Raneh Fall. An entry fee of Rs. 450/- per vehicle with maximum six person plus Rs. 60/- as guide fee per vehicle, allowed us to enter the gate leading to Raneh Fall & further to Ken Gharial Sanctuary.
The granite canyon in different shades of colours and layered crispy stone formations will leave you in awe at the first sight. Visionary illusion persists while walking at the edges of the cliffs. A tiled and fenced track has been constructed to prevent accidental fall into the more than 30 meter deep canyon. Down, the water is deep and bottle green in the craters formed many thousand years ago.
Ken is a prime tributary of River Yamuna. During monsoon it overflows the rocky barriers around the 5 km canyon thus forming series of cascades. The best season to watch the multiple cascades falling from a height of more than 100 feet at Raneh Fall is October-December and not during peak monsoon. However, January-May is the time when you can experience the majestically, natural, colourful crystalline formations of the canyon and the craters of the dormant volcanoes at the bed. The canyon consists of various graphite in different colours prominently white, pink, green, red & grey. During heavy monsoons the entire canyon and the surrounding inundate with as deep as 150 feet above its bed. The famous Bollywood classic Kama Sutra, featuring veteran actor Rekha was shot at one of the craters here.
Ken Gharial Sanctuary is further 6-7 km inside the forest. One of the endangered species is well conserved in a natural habitat. On the way the sanctuary is also habitat to many antelopes and herbivore and omnivores and various avian. During monsoon or any rainy day, the sanctuary remain close and visitors are not allowed to enter beyond the barrier at Raneh Fall. Hence, we were also not allowed but strangely, it was not informed at the time of procuring the entry ticket.
Our next destination was the famous temples at Khajuraho, a small rustic town bustling with touristy activities and full of budget to star hotels. Guides and drivers, hawkers and restaurant staffs strolling behind the foreign tourists is a common sight. Shacks selling Italian to French and Chinese to Japanese cuisine proves volume of foreign tourist inflow at the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Though the peak season was over, still some tourist do visit all the year round.
The Khajuraho Group of Temples are reportedly constructed during 10th& 11th century by the Chandelas and dedicated to the Hindus & Jains. Most of the temples are constructed by hard sedimentary rocks and erected in an advanced geometrical technology avoiding cementing mortars. A few are constructed by granites too. This was perhaps to enhance the longevity and religious faiths. The architecture is “Nagara-Style” and rock cut sculptures are similar to wooden carvings during the earlier ages. The intricately expressive figures and designs are profusely available in all the structures. It is believed that there was originally 85 temples constructed around 25 km out of which only 25 survived within 6 km now. They are divided in three zones viz. Western Group, Eastern Group & Southern Group. A brief of these exquisite temples are compiled herewith for reader’s delight.
The temple is dedicated to Lord Vamana an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. A four armed granite statue of Lord Vamana is seated at the sanctum and worshipped. A large proportionate structure with elegant carvings and flight of stairs proudly speak the engineering skill of the era. ASI has well protected, preserved and maintained the sanctity within the bounded premise. However, the vicinity is filthy, swampy, unclean and full of garbage dumped around. Seems, the local administration is least bothered in keeping the surrounding hospitable by extending their civic duty.
Another piece of architectural marvel is located a few meters away of the Vamana Temple amid a sprawling lawn. Based on a high platform & accessible through a flight of stairs is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. A full size idol of Lord Vishnu stands in the sanctum. On a closer look it was very disheartening to see the masterpiece beheaded. Some flower petal offering at the doorsteps shows the ritual still maintained despite of all atrocities. The walls are decorated with sculpted statues and symbolisms and chiselled with many shapes and decorative. The sandstone structure is larger than the Vamana Temple and comprised of more rock cut figures both on the outer walls and inside as well as the roof.
Also known as Kunwar Math, is a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. A later construction, portrays its glamour despite destructions. The sanctum thrones a huge Shiv Lingam garlanding one thousand more small lingams. Unfortunately the door to the sanctum is closed and locked now to protect the precious lingams from devotees’ ritual touch and pouring water on them. A common belief is deifying Duladeo by unmarried girls are blessed with desired grooms.
A lofty structure built upon a high platform is a temple also dedicated to Lord Vishnu. A four hand (Chaturbhuj) life size idol of Lord Vishnu is still venerated. Uniquely, this temple does not portray any erotic sculptures. Stone carvings and sculptures adorn the walls and ceilings as well as the domes.
In the southern zone, a huge temple structure is discovered in the recent years. After too much devastation and ravages already done, the administration finally handed it over to the ASI. The large platform on which the remaining pieces of sculpted rocks are compiled and restored by the ASI is a pathetic truth of our apathy towards preserving the rich heritage. Piles of devastated rocks and patterns still lying scattered around the site. The ASI personnel under a temporary tent were on duty religiously. They informed, the structure can’t be restored any further due to enough ravages. The connecting original pieces of structured rocks are either missing or damaged hence, it has been decided to give up the restoration with some ornamental beautification.
Parashvanath (Jain) Temples:
The lofty and magnificent Jain Temples in the area signifies the golden era of Jainism and its flourishing in central India. A cluster of simple and sculpted temples are enclosed within a boundary during the 20th century. The premise is well kept and preserved. Many small and big structures both rock sculpted and simple brick & mortar constructions are relatively in better shapes. The sanctums of the main temple thrones Jain Tirthankar Parashvanath hence, the name. The rock structure depicts a change in architectural designs with many netted windows and embellished with bands of sculptures of Hindu deities. The precision in designs and rock cut sculptures are gracefully admiring.
All the magnificent and well preserved temples are situated in the western zone. Surrounded by high walls and well protected with adequate security arrangements, an entry fee of Rs. 10/- per Indian is levied. The wide sprawling lawn is adorned with the magnificent heavenly structures scattered unevenly. The light & sound show is organised here. All touristy activities are also centred around the western group of temples.
Entering through the only entry gate, inside the boundary is a wide sprawling and very well maintained lush lawn with several trees and flowering plants. The view of the magnificent temples spotted at different locations is a visual delight. The first huge structure adjacent to the Matangeshwar Temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu but christened as Lakshman Temple for reason unknown. Constructed on a high rectangular platform, this is one of the largest and most carved temples in Khajuraho. Millions of minute detailing and various figures of deities, symbolisms, apsaras and sensual artistry, a compendium of Kama Sutra attract visitors from around the world.
Two smaller temples in front of the facet of Lakshman Temple are Varha and Devi Temples. A huge monolithic statue of Varha on an open podium suspended upon 14 short pillars is seated on a high platform. The Devi temple, a small & simple structure is also constructed on a high base facing the Lakshman Temple.
Kandariya Mahadev Temple:
The most magnificent and well preserved temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. This is also the finest minutely carved and decorated structure in Khajuraho. Based on a high platform the lofty structure have many balconies and highest spire. The erotic sculptures on the outer wall are precise and considered most energetic imaginative sensual poses. The sanctum and inner walls do not possess any erotic figures.
Situated between the Lakshman Temple and Kandariya Mahadev Temple, this temple is considered as the most important and revered temple built in the early eleventh century. The sculptures and architectural design is at par excellence like all magnificent temples in Khajuraho. It is believed that the temple was dedicated to Lord Shiva and comprised two invaluable lingams one constructed with Emerald and the other by stone.
Our day ended with immense satisfaction after sighting the magnificent temples of Khajuraho and the immaculate care by the ASI in maintaining & preserving our heritage, which otherwise are sure to extinct. How we wish the local civic bodies and administrators also contribute in caring & upgrading the surroundings under their jurisdiction to maintain safety & sanctity.
1. MPTDC runs three hotels in Khajuraho & one camp at Madla near Panna Tiger Reserve.
2. Best time to visit is November-February.
3. Best mode is Train (UP Sampark Kranti) from H.Nizamuddin-Khajuraho. Other nearby stations are Jhansi-175 km, Mahoba 70 km, & Satna-115 km. One flight from Delhi via Varanasi also flies daily.
4. Must visit places are the ones described in my logs. Also, Panna, Chitrakoot, Kalingar Fort & Maihar are nearby excursions.