Khajuraho sculptures are commonly referred to as Kama Sutra carvings and for good reason; many of the sculptures are largely erotic artwork.

Khajuraho sculptures are commonly referred to as Kama Sutra carvings and for good reason. Many of the sculptures are largely erotic artwork; however, on closer inspection they do not properly illustrate Vatsyayana’s famous sutra. So what was the reason the Chandela kings created such erotic artwork in their temples? Debate continues as to its significance: to appease evil spirits or imply rulers here were virile, thus powerful? Interestingly, the erotic carvings are never located close to the temple deity.

Here are a few Khajuraho sculptures to keep an eye out for while you wander around Khajuraho’s many temples.



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Khajuraho’s temples are largely characterised by a series of shikharas (spires) that grow successively higher. Serving as both metaphoric and literal “stairways to heaven,” these shikharas are believed to be a visual echo of the soaring Himalayan Mountains, abode of Lord Shiva.

The Khajuraho temple with the most impressive and tallest sikharas is Kandariya Mahadev Temple in the Western Group of temples. Despite its many fine statues, its soaring sikharas (temple rooftops) are a masterpiece of fine artwork.


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Apart from the sikharas that top Khajuraho’s temples, another striking characteristic of temple art and architecture in Khajuraho are the surasundaris (nymphs). Most of the temple façades are beautifully decorated with these graceful nymphs, several of them in erotic poses and postures. While all the sculptures are beautifully sculpted, some are more eye-catching that others.

Despite all the depictions of gymnastic orgies at Lakshmana Temple, the wonderfully seductive surasundari draped in a wet sari is arguably the most erotic of all; look for this sculpture in the northwest corner. Also noteworthy are the surasundaris in the southwest corner – one applies vermilion while another plays with a ball.

Head to Parsvanath Temple in the Jain Enclosure of the Eastern Group of temples for some of the best known and best preserved non-erotic yet graceful surasundaris – one applying kohl (eye make-up) and another removing a thorn from her foot, on the south façade; one tying ankle-bells on the north façade.


Vishnu’s Boar

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Located in the Varaha shrine next to Lakshmana Temple in the Western Group of temples, this 9th-century statue of Varaha, the boar incarnation of Vishnu, is carved all over with figures of Bramanical gods and goddesses. Under Varaha’s foot notice the serpent Seshanaga in a devotional posture, and the feet of a goddess, now missing.


Handstand Position

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Perhaps Khajuraho’s most famous carving, this flexible flirtation is above you as you stand on the south side of the awesome Kandariya Mahadev Temple.


Sardula Statue

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There are four lion-stroking sardula (part-lion, part-human mythical beasts) on the huge stone plinth at Mahadeva Temple (Western Group of temples).


Nandi Statue

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The massive 2.2-m-long statue of Nandi, the bull-vehicle of Shiva, is enshrined in a pavilion facing Vishvanath Temple in the Western Group of temples.


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