Khajuraho, a quaint and small town in Madhya Pradesh, derives its name from the date palm ‘Khajur’. It is a popular tourist destination, known for its awe-inspiring temples built by the Chandela dynasty between 950 AD and 1050 AD.
The founder of Chandela dynasty started the temple works some 1,000 years ago which were continued by his successors. According to the inscriptions found in the area, there were 85 temples, 85 ponds and several mansions, built to perfection by the art-loving kings. But, majority of the temples were destroyed by Muslim invaders as upper parts of the temples were decorated with gold and the main idol in the sanctum of each temple used to be decorated with diamonds extracted from the Panna mines.
Just 20 temples grouped into west wing, east wing and south wing are what can be found today. All the temples, built in Nagara style of architecture, are in triangular shape like mountains, as Hindus believe the Gods and Goddesses reside in the Himalayan Mountains. The splendour and beauty of the temples are unparalleled.
The temples of Khajuraho have so much to offer – intrigued beauty and carved perfection is what one sees, but they go beyond. They are designed to inspire people to achieve their utmost potential and attain moksha or enlightenment.
You can visit Khajuraho between September and March, but February last week is the best time to visit this temple town as during this period the annual Khajuraho Dance Festival is organised. The festival highlights the richness of Indian classical dance forms such as Odissi, Kathak, Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, Manipuri and Kathakali.
According to Indian mythology, Gods and Goddesses are great lovers of classical music and dance, which is reflected in the carvings of the temple. Lord Shiva is considered a great dancer, so are Lord Krishna and Lord Indra, and Goddess Saraswati is always depicted with a veena. Many of the classical dance forms are inspired by the temples of India.
The Khajuraho Dance Festival was a pioneer of sorts in the country as it was the first place to begin the tradition of holding dance festivals in temples. It was started in the year 1975 as a tribute to the unknown sculptors and the makers of the iconic temples. Organised by the Ustad Alaudin Khan Sangeet and Kala Academy and the Department of Culture, Government of Madhya Pradesh, it is presented in the majestic open-air auditorium with western group of temples in the backdrop. The dance event is organised as a tribute to the makers of the iconic temples and the beautifully-lit temple adds elements of elegance, enigma and grandeur to the visually-appealing performances, and literally looks like it brings the sculptures in the background to life. All in all, the Khajuraho Dance Festival isn’t something that tourists, especially those who love music and dance, should miss!
Raising the bar high, each year
Every year, dance lovers from across the globe gather at Khajuraho to celebrate life through dance and music. This year, it took place between February 20 and 26, and each day, throughout the week, several performances were presented by some of the best dancers from across the country. Inaugural performance was an Odissi dance programme by Lipsa Satpathy from Delhi.
Some of the finest performances which left the audience spellbound were by Rujuta Soman (Kathak), Sudheshna Malik (Kathak), Suhail Bhan (Bharatnatyam) and Ratikanta Mahapatra and group (Odissi).
On day four of the week-long festival, an Odissi ballet by students of Ratikant Mohapatra, son of Odissi exponent Kelucharan Mahapatra raised the bar high. They performed a piece titled Vande Mataram set in tune to heart-warming music. The women in the group danced with perfection and elegance, swaying the entire audience with their captivating performance. The auditorium set under the starlit sky reverberated with applause even before the performance ended.
Other dance forms presented during the week were Kathakali, Mohiniattam, Kuchipudi and Mayurbhanj Chhau. Tourists from all over the world who had gathered to witness the 45th Khajuraho Dance Festival surely went back home with their hearts filled with joy and love.