The past of Khajuraho is shrouded with mystery and conjecture. In the midst of the wilderness full of ferocious animals, there is the small town of Khajuraho standing alone in its solitude with its ancient temples. With hardly any written records and rare references to its origin, the history of Khajuraho has become trapped in the mythical folklore of the region. The beautiful artwork of these temples have gained the attention of the art lovers all over the world but the real purpose behind their construction is a mere guess work of the intellectuals. The These temples fire the imagination of the visitors with innumerable questions such as their significance and their position in the society, the reason behind using these temples as an art gallery, the whereabouts of the said kingdom and why only the temples have been found and there are no ruins of the mansions and palaces in the nearby area. The graphic representation of sexual and erotic postures in a religious place is bewildering too.
However, if the myth it is to be believed, Khajuraho was known as
'Khajur-vahika' or 'Khajjurpura' in the ancient times because of its
golden date palms (known as 'khajur') that lined the gates of this city.
It has been mentioned in the Mahoba-khand of Chandbardai's (the famous
medieval court poet) 'Prithviraj Raso' that Hemraj, the royal priest of
Kashi (the old name for Varanasi), had an exceptionally beautiful
daughter named Hemvati, who was unfortunately a child widow. One summer
night, while she was bathing in a lotus-filled pond, the Moon God was so
dazed by her beauty that he descended to earth in human form full of
lust and passion and ravished her. Later, he repented when the
distressed Hemvati threatened to curse him for ruining her honor and
dignity and blessed her with a valiant son who would later become a king
and build the temples of Khajuraho. Hemvati left her home and gave birth
to a brave and strong boy child in the tiny village of Khajjurpura. The
child was named Chandravarman and it is said that by the time he was 16
years old, the glorious boy was strong and skilled enough to kill tigers
or lions with his bare hands. With the blessings of the Moon God, his
father he became a mighty king and built the fortress at Kalinjar. Then
heeding to his mother's wishes he built 85 legendary temples surrounded
by lakes and gardens at Khajuraho and also performed the bhandya yagya,
to wash away the sins of his mother.
Yet another version of the above legend raises Hemvati as a dutiful
daughter who sacrificed all her happiness and dignity for her father.
Mani Ram, the royal priest of Kalinjar, miscalculated once and declared
the dark night as the full moon night or Purnamasi in front of the king.
Hemvati, his widowed daughter could not bear the possibility of any
stigma on her father's reputation and prayed to the Moon God to uphold
the word of the priest. However, she had to pay a heavy price for her
wish being granted when the Moon God who was smitten by the lady's
beauty ravished her in return for his favor. When Mani Ram came to know
of this entire incident, he was so ashamed and grief-stricken that he
cursed himself and turned into a stone. However, Hemvati got pregnant
with the tryst and gave birth to a virtuous son by the name of sage
Chandrateya who is believed to be the founder of the Chandela dynasty.
Chandelas worshipped the Mani Ram-turned-stone as Maniya Dev.