KHAJURAHO, ITS EROTIC RELIEFS AND THE CHANDELAS

KHAJURAHO

Khajuraho (600 kilometers southeast of Delhi, 400 kilometers south of Agra) is remote city famed for its erotic temples. The origin of the temples and the history of the Chandela dynasty that built them is not completely understood. But it is known that at least 850 temples were built between A.D 950 and 1050 over a wide area, of which 22 are still in fairly good shape. The city was built in such a remote location so that it could escape the ravages of invaders.

What makes Khajuraho so interesting are the sculptures of gods, goddesses and mortal in various love-making positions on the sandstone walls of the temples. In one extraordinary bas-relief a man doing a headstand is shown getting it on with a woman — held off the ground by a pair of large-breasted assistants — doings the splits. The sculptures are considered to be some of the best examples of erotic Hindu art in India. Most of the temples have two or three bands of these sculptures.

Khajuraho is situated in Madhya Pradesh among the Vindhya mountain range and features both Hindu and Jain temples. The stunning intricate sculptures depict different aspects of life — spirituality, love, friendship, sports and royal life — as well as sex. Khajuraho was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. The complex of Khajuraho represents a unique artistic creation, as much for its highly original architecture as for the sculpted decor of a surprising quality made up of a mythological repertory of numerous scenes of amusements of which not the least known are the scenes, susceptible to various interpretations, sacred or profane.

Getting There: By Air: Khajuraho is serviced by its own airport that is connected to cities like Mumbai, New Delhi and Varanasi by hopping flights and via direct flights from Agra. By Road: Regular bus service connects Khajuraho with Jhansi (about 175 kilometers), Mahoba (about 75 kilometers), Jabalpur (about 250 kilometers), Bhopal (about 376 kilometers), Indore (about 566 kilometers), and Agra (about 410 kilometers). By Train: Khajuraho has its own railway station that is connected via trains to New Delhi. Mumbai, Delhi, Varanasi, Gwalior, Kolkata and Jabalpur. Excursions from Khajuraho include Pandav Falls, Rajgarth Palace, Dhbela Museum, Bandavgarh National park and Chitrakoot. The areas around Khajuraho was the home of dacoit bandits.

Khajuraho History and Religion

Khajuraho is believed to have been built in a relatively short period of time: over 100 years, between A.D. 950-1050. The complex consists of 22 temple structures from a group of 85 original ones that were built. Forgotten for centuries, they were rediscovered in the 1850s and restored. The temples were conceived and built under the rule of the Chandela dynasty. As for the source of the name Khajuraho, it is said the Chandela rulers built a huge wall around the temples. The wall had eight gates flanked on either side by khajur or date palm trees, which is found in abundance in this region. The temples were, thus, called khajura vatika, or bearing khajura.

According to UNESCO: “Khajuraho is one of the capitals of the Chandella rulers, a dynasty of Rajput origin which came into power at the beginning of the 10th century, and reached its apogee between 950 and 1050. Of the 85 temples which were constructed at Khajuraho during the Chandella period (and which were still resplendent: when the great traveler Ibn Battuta noted them in 1335), 22 still exist, disseminated within an area of about 6 square kilometers. [Source: UNESCO World Heritage Site website]

“The great “love temples” of northern India, including Khajuraho, were built in the eleventh century by the Chandella dynasty...As, monuments of two distinct religions, Brahminism and Jainism, the temples of Khajuraho are nonetheless distinguished by a common typology: they comprise an elevated substructure, over which rises the body of the richly decorated building, the 'jangha', covered with several registers of sculpted panels on to which open-work galleries are opened. This is crowned by a series of bundled towers with curvilinear contours, the Sikharas.

“The highest are found over the sanctuary of the divinity. Each of these towers, which is characteristic of the temples in the Nagera style, symbolizes the 'cosmic mountain', Mount Kailasha. The typical plan comprises an entrance, a large hypostyle hall (mandapa), a dark sanctuary and finally various annexes.”

Chandelas

The Chandelas were the builders of Khajuraho. They ruled much of the Bundelkhand region (then called Jejakabhukti) in central India southeast of Delhi between the 9th and the 13th centuries. The Chandela or Chandel were a rajputs (a powerful military caste). The Chandel dynasty is famous in Indian history for Maharaja Rao Vidyadhara, who repulsed the attacks of Mahmud of Ghazni and was behind much of the erotic sculptures at Khajuraho. The word Chandela is said to have evolved from of Chandratreya, combination of two words indicating the lineage Chandra vamsa and Atreya gotra.

The origin of the Chandelas is shrouded in mystery. A legend attributes their descent to the union of the Moon (Candrama) with a Brahman damsel. This is obviously an absurd myth, invented for giving the clan a noble pedigree. In the opinion of Vincent Smith, however, the indications are that the Chandelas sprang from the aboriginal stock of the Bihars or the Gonds, and their original seat was Maniyagarh on the Ken river in the Chatarpur State. [Source: “History of Ancient India” by Rama Shankar Tripathi, Professor of Ancient Indian History and Culture, Benares Hindu University, 1942]

The most important cities in the Chandela kingdom were Khajuraho, Kalanjara, and Mahoba. Vincent Smith remarks: “The first-named town, with its group of magnificent temples, may be regarded as the religious, the second, with its strong fortress, as the military, and the third, with its palace, as the civil capital.” The Chandelas beautified Bundelkhand by constructing a large number of exquisite religious edifices and embanked lakes. One of the latter was the Madanasagara, formed by Madanavarman at Mahoba.

The Chandelas came into prominence in southern Bundelkhand under the leadership of Nannuka early in the ninth century. His grandson was Jeja or Jayasakti, after whom the kingdom was called Jejakabhukti. It appears from traditions and epigraphic testimony that the first few princes of the dynasty were feudatories of the great Pratihara emperors of Kanauj. But Harsadeva Chandela enhanced the prestige and influence of the family considerably by placing Mahlpala (Ksitipala) on the Imperial throne in opposition to his brother or half-brother, Bhoja II. During the reign of Yasovatman, the Chandelas gained a larger measure of independence, and aggrandised themselves at the cost of their neighbours, viz., the Cedis, Malavas, Kosalas, etc. According to an inscription, found at Khajuraho, Yasovarman was “a scorching fire to the Gurjaras,” and that he “easily conquered the fort of Kalanjara,” one of the important strongholds of the Pratiharas. He is also said to have compelled Devapala Pratihara to surrender to him a celebrated image of Vaikuntha (Visnu), which he subsequently set up in a stately shrine at Khajuraho.

Chandelas Kings

Dhanga (c. A.D. 950-1002) was Yasovarman’s son and successor. Strangely enough, however, he invokes the name of the Pratihara king (Vinayakapala II) as his overlord in the Vikrama year 1011--954 A.D. It would, therefore, appear that like the Nizam of the Deccan and the Nawabs of Oudh, who were virtually independent and yet nominally acknowledged the suzerainty of the great Moghul at Delhi, the Candel ruler did not all at once break off formal relations with the effete Imperial power at Kanauj, but for some time maintained an outward show of submission. Subsequently-, the kingdom of Jejakabhukti saw its palmy days under Dhanga, for an inscription, discovered at Mhow, alleges that he attained to “supreme lordship after inflicting a defeat over the king of Kanyakubja.” The success of the Chandelas is confirmed by the Khajuraho epigraph, wherein we arc told that Dhariga ruled the earth “playfully acquired by the action of his long and strong arms, as far as Kalanjara, and as far as Bhasvat situated (?) on the banks of the river.Malava; from here to the banks of the river Kalindl (Jumna), and from here also to the frontiers of the Cedi country, and even as far as that mountain called Gopa (Gopadri), which is the unique abode of marvel.” The loss of Gwalior must have dealt a severe blow to the fortunes of the Pratiharas, since thereby the Chandelas got hold of a strategic position, which they could well use as a base for further encroachments. Indeed, it is likely that towards the close of his reign Dhariga carried his arms up to Benares, where he granted a village to a Brahman in the Vikrama year 1055 ---998 A.D. In 989 or 990 A.D. when Jayapala, the Sahi king, invited prominent Hindu states to help him in resisting the aggressions of Sabuktigin, Dhariga, along with other potentates, promptly responded with men and money, and shared the disaster suffered by the confederate army.

Ganda was Dhariga’s son, Ganda. He joined the coalition formed by Anandapala Sahi in 1008 A.D. to repel the invasion of Mahmud but nothing availed the Hindus and their forces were utterly routed by the Sultan. Next, •Ganda sent an expedition under the crown-prince, Vidyadhara, to punish Rajyapala of Kanauj for his pusillanimous surrender to Mahmud about the end of 1018 A.D. The Pratihara monarch was, of course, slain, but when the tidings reached Ghazni the Sultan was so enraged that he forthwith marched against Nanda (Ganda) 1 to repress his audacity. Thus, the opponents came face to face in H. 410— 1019 A.D. Just at the psychological moment, however, the Chandela ruler became alarmed at the intrepidity and strength of the Muslim hosts, whereupon under cover of night he c fled with some of his baggage and equipments.’ 2 In H. 413 — X022 A.D. Mahmud attacked the Candel territories for the second time. Having taken Gwalior in 1023 A.D. he invested Kalanjara. Again, Nanda or Ganda cowardly submitted to the invader, who thereupon gave him back the conquered forts, and triumphantly returned home with a large booty.

Klrtivarman was the next distinguished member of this dynasty. He revived the power of the Chandelas, which had been eclipsed in the time of his predecessors owing to the military activities of the Kalacuri kings, Garigeyadeva and Laksml-karna. Klrtivarman himself was vanquished by the latter in the earlier part of his reign, but it appears from inscriptions and the prologue to Krisna Misra’s Vrabodha-Candrodaya, an allegorical play in honour of Visnu and the Vedanta philosophy, that the Candel ruler eventually won a decided Victory over his mighty Cedi rival.

Madanavarman was another notable figure, whose known dates range from 1129 to 1163 A.D. He claims to have defeated the “lord of Gurjara,” generally identified with Siddharaja-Jayasimha of Gujarat (c. 1095- 1143 A.D.). An inscription, found at Man (Jhansi district), further testifies that Madanavarman overcame the Cedi monarch (perhaps Gaya-Karna); exterminated his Malava i.e., Paramara contemporary; and forced the “king of Kail,” probably identical with Vijayacandta Gahadavala, “to pass his time in friendly behaviour.”

Paramardi, or Paramal of popular traditions, was the last prominent Candclla sovereign. He ruled from circa 1165 A.D. to 1203. We learn from the Madanapur inscription 2 and Cand’s R a so that he sustained a reverse in 1182-83 A.D. at the hands of Prithvlraja Cauhan who occupied Mahoba and other fortresses in Bundelkhand. But Paramardi escaped complete annihilation, and afterwards recovered the lost ground. In 1203 A.D. he offered stubborn resistance to Qutb-ud-dln Aibak during the siege of Kalanjara. Finding that the odds were altogether against him, Paramardi capitulated, but he died before fulfilling any of the terms imposed. His minister, Ajadcva, then took up the defence; he also had, however, to surrender soon after. Qutb-ud-din next captured Mahoba, and put the subjugated territory under the charge of a Muslim governor. The Chandelas were thus kid low, although they lingered on as petty chieftains.until the sixteenth century.

Khajuraho Temples

Based on their geographical location, Khajuraho’s two dozen or so temples are grouped into three areas: Eastern, Western and Southern. Kandariya, the largest, most and most typical of the Khajuraho temples, is dedicated to Shiva. The main shrine is exquisitely carved and features delicate details. Among the other temples worth visiting are Chaunsat Yogini (the oldest surviving shrine), Devi Jagada (temple dedicated to Kali), Chitragupta, Vishwanath, Lakshmana, Varaha and Matangeswara temple.

The temples are spread over an area of six square kilometers. They are dedicated to both Hindu deities and Jain figures. About six of these temples have Lord Shiva as the main idol, eight are dedicated to Lord Vishnu, one each to Lord Ganesha and the Sun God, while three are dedicated to Jain tirthankaras (saints). The largest among these is the Kandariya Mahadeva Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is also one of the four holy sites of Shiva worship, the other three being Kashi, Kedarnath and Gaya.

According to UNESCO: “ Only about 20 temples remain; they fall into three distinct groups and belong to two different religions – Hinduism and Jainism. They strike a perfect balance between architecture and sculpture. The Temple of Kandariya is decorated with a profusion of sculptures that are among the greatest masterpieces of Indian art.” Some of the temples are deteriorating at an alarming pace due to irrigation canals in the area that have raised groundwater levels, causing water to rise through the stones by capillary action and deteriorating the stones.

Sculptures

at the Khajuraho Temples

The temples have several thousand statues and art works, with Kandarya Mahadeva temple alone decorated with over 870. Some 10 percent of these iconographic carvings contain sexual themes and various sexual poses. A common misconception is that, since the old structures with carvings in Khajuraho are temples, the carvings depict sex between deities; however the kama arts represent diverse sexual expressions of different human beings. Core Hindu values are expressed in multitude of ways. Even the Kama scenes, when seen in combination of sculptures that precede and follow, depict the spiritual themes such as moksha. In the words of Stella Kramrisch, This state which is “like a man and woman in close embrace” is a symbol of moksa, final release or reunion of two principles, the essence (Purusha) and the nature (Prakriti). [Source: Wikipedia]

Stella Kramrisch said: “There is iconographic symbolism embedded in the arts displayed in Khajuraho temples. Core Hindu values are expressed in multitude of ways. Even the Kama scenes, when seen in combination of sculptures that precede and follow, depict the spiritual themes such as moksha. This state which is “like a man and woman in close embrace” is a symbol of moksa, final release or reunion of two principles, the essence (Purusha) and the nature (Prakriti).

The Khajuraho temples represent many forms of arts that flourished in medieval Rajput kingdoms, including Prabodhacandrodaya, Karpuramanjari, Viddhasalabhanjika and Kavyamimansa poems and dramas. In addition to the sculptures believed to represent sexual practices there are many imaginary animals, including the vyalas (hybrids of a lion, horse and many other animals). In South India, vyalas face outward towards the person viewing the sculpture. At Khajuraho, the vyalas face sideways and many scholars wonder why. Also at Khajuraho, the vyalas appear ro have equal status with the gods and apsarases, the female spirit of the clouds and water. This could possibly mean that the vyalas were just as important as Hindu gods in the Chandella religion.

Erotic Sculptures

at Khajuraho

The Khajuraho temples feature a variety of art work, of which 10 percent is sexual or erotic art outside and inside the temples. Some of the temples that have two layers of walls have small erotic carvings on the outside of the inner wall. Some scholars suggest these to be tantric sexual practices. Other scholars state that the erotic arts are part of Hindu tradition of treating kama as an essential and proper part of human life, and its symbolic or explicit display is common in Hindu temples. Over 90 percent of the art work at the temple is about daily life and symbolic values in ancient Indian culture. The Khajuraho temples represent one expression of many forms of arts that flourished in Rajput kingdoms of India from the A.D. 8th through 10th century.[Source: Wikipedia +]

James McConnachie, in his history of the Kamasutra, describes the sexual-themed Khajuraho sculptures as "the apogee of erotic art": "Twisting, broad-hipped and high breasted nymphs display their generously contoured and bejewelled bodies on exquisitely worked exterior wall panels. These fleshy apsaras run riot across the surface of the stone, putting on make-up, washing their hair, playing games, dancing, and endlessly knotting and unknotting their girdles....Beside the heavenly nymphs are serried ranks of griffins, guardian deities and, most notoriously, extravagantly interlocked maithunas, or lovemaking couples."

According to UNESCO: “Greatly influenced by the Tantric school of thought, the Chandela kings promoted various Tantric doctrines through royal monuments, including temples. Sculptors of Khajuraho depicted all aspects of life. The society of the time believed in dealing frankly and openly with all aspects of life, including sex. Sex is important because Tantric cosmos is divided into the male and female principle. Male principle has the form and potential, female has the energy. According to Hindu and Tantric philosophy, one can not achieve anything without the other, as they manifest themselves in all aspects of the universe. Nothing can exist without their cooperation and coexistence. In accordance with ancient treaties on architecture, erotic depictions were reserved for specific parts of the temples only. The rest of the temple was profusely covered with other aspects of life, secular and spiritual.” [Source: UNESCO]

Important Temples at Khajuraho

Kandariya Mahadeva Temple is the tallest, the largest and the most stunning in the Khajuraho complex. Built sometime during 1025-1050, with about 870 spectacular sculptures, it is considered to be the spiritual abode of Lord Shiva. It is most popular for its ornate architecture, including statues of beautifully adorned women. The structure has a shikhara (spire) about 31 meters high that depicts Mount Kailash. This main spire is surrounded by 84 miniature spires (Urushringas).

Kandariya is most sexual and typical of the Khajuraho temples. The main shrine is exquisitely carved and features delicate details. The temple houses a lingam (phallic symbol honoring Shiva) made of marble in its sanctum sanctorum, with 646 statues dotting its boundary. Facing towards the east, the entrance of the temple has a staircase and porch that have been adorned with garlands chiselled out of solid single stone. It is believed that Raja Dhandadeva, a Chandela ruler, built this temple.

Chitragupta Temple is located in the east direction and faces the rising sun. It is the only temple dedicated to the Sun God and was constructed in the 11th century. A 5-foot-tall idol of the deity sitting on a chariot driven by seven horses sits in the temple. The walls of the temple are beautifully carved and give a glimpse of various historical events. The prime attractions include an image of Lord Vishnu in the 11-headed form on the south wall. Visitors are also left mesmerised by the intricate carvings of dancing girls, elephant fights, processions and hunting scenes done on the interior of the temple. The exterior of the temple is also beautiful and one can find sculptures of apsaras (celestial nymphs), vyalas, mithunas and deities there. Moreover, more than 70 other figures have been carved on the balcony panels of the temple. The doorways are also elaborately ornamented and portray a series of three figures of the Sun God, similar to the one in the sanctum sanctorum. One can also visit the three-storeyed stepped tank inside the premises. Called as chopra, it was also constructed by the Chandela rulers.

Western Temples at Khajuraho

According to UNESCO: “The most important group of monuments is massed in the western zone, not far from the archaeological museum, including the temples of Varaha, Lakshmana, Matangeshwara, Kandariya, Mahadeva Chitragupta, Chopra Tank, Parvati, Vishwanatha and Nandi. [Source: UNESCO]

“Yasovarman (AD 954) built the temple of Vishnu, now famous as Lakshmana temple; this is an ornate and evolved example of its time proclaiming the prestige of the Chandellas. The Visvanatha, Parsvanatha and Vaidyanatha temples belong to the time of King Dhanga, the successor of Yasovarman. The Jagadambi, Chitragupta, are noteworthy among the western group of royal temples of Khajuraho. The largest and grandest temple of Khajuraho is the immortal Kandariya Mahadeva which is attributed to King Ganda (1017-29).

Lakshman Temple (in the Western group of temples) is considered to be the oldest and the most aesthetically pleasing. It was one of the first temples built by the Chandela kings, and the patron of this temple is believed to be Yashovarman, who gained control over areas in the Bundelkhand region of central India. Yashovarman sought to build this temple to mark his rule over these territories. However, he died before the construction was completed and his son, Dhanga, took over the work and dedicated the temple in 954. The temple showcases the trinity of Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva. Built on a high platform, it is made in a tiered format with intricately carved columns.

The main idol of the temple is an image of Lord Vishnu in a three-headed avatar called Vaikuntha. It is placed in the inner chamber known as garba griha (sanctum sanctorum), which is an architectural feature of most Hindu temples. The building of the temple reflects a Nagara style of architecture, owing to the flat-roofed entry porch called mandapa and a shrine called vimana. The shrine of Nagara temples comprises a base platform and a superstructure called shikhara (spire).

Chaunsat Yogini (in the Western group of temples) is a composition of small hut-like structures surrounding an open courtyard. Standing apart from all other temples in the area, it was built in 875-900 and is a part of the Western group of temples. The temple is dedicated to 64 female yoginis (female attendants) who are considered to be forms of the Mother Goddess. This temple is quite unique and is the only one here that is built with local granite. Its architecture is quite simple and has no ornamentation. The walls are almost bare and lack the characteristic carvings of temples in Khajuraho. There are a total of 67 shrines in the temple complex and the largest one is dedicated to Goddess Durga, who is presented in the form of Mahishasura Mardini. Two shrines are for Maheshvari and Matrikas Brahmani and the other 64 are dedicated to the yoginis. This temple is believed to be the oldest yogini temple in India.

Eastern and Southern Temples at Khajuraho

Among the temples in the east and south groups are also comprise noteworthy complexes (the temples of Ghantai, Parshvanath, Adinath, Shantinath, Dulhadeo, Chaturbhuja. The four Jain temples lie among the Eastern group of temples. These include the Adinath, Shantinath, Parsvanath and Ghantai temples, which were constructed under the reign of the Chandela rulers.

The eastern group contains the Parsvanath temple, a large Jain structure noted for the detailed sculptures on the northern outer wall. Other notable temples in this group are the Ghantai and Adinath temples and the three Hindu temples of Brahma, Javari and Vamana, the last of which is adorned with a variety of sensuous sculptures. the southern group includes the two temples of Duladeo and Chaturbhuj.

Parsvanath Temple (in the eastern group of Temples) is largest of the Jain temples in Khajuraho. It is noted for its spectacular tiered construction and intricate sculptures. It belongs to the Eastern group of temples and its architecture is quite similar to that of the Hindu temples here. The temple is believed to have been constructed in the 10th century during the rule of Dhangadeva (950-999) of the Chandela dynasty. It was previously devoted to the first tirthankara (religious saint) of the Jains, Adinath. However, in 1860, the image of Parsvanath was put in.

The temple attracts visitors for its intricate architecture and its walls depict the images of elephants, sea nymphs and lions. Though it is a Jain temple, one can see images of Hindu deities like Vaishnav as well, on its walls. The temple has some key architectural features like a couple of axial projections at its two ends called the ardh mandapa (the hall) to the east and a small shrine to the west called the garba griha (sanctum sanctorum).

Dulhadev Temple (in the southern group of temples) was built by the Chandelas in 1130, this temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and houses a lingam (phallic symbol honoring Shiva). Its architecture is quite fascinating and the temple has five small chambers and a closed hall. The finishing on the idols is beautiful and shows the skill of the craftsmen of that time. The temple walls and ceilings boast heavily intricate carvings and visitors are often left mesmerised by the stone-carved images on the walls. Attractive figurines of apsaras (celestial nymph) and other mythological figures also adorn its walls. Dulhadev is another name for Lord Shiva in this region that refers to the lord as a 'dulha' or bridegroom. Historians consider it to be one of the last temples built by the Chandelas.

Deor Kothar

Deor Kothar (200 kilometers east of Khajuraho) is a Buddhist site said to have been built under the patronage of Mauryan king, Ashoka, and dates back to 3rd century B.C. Stretching for almost 3 kilometers, the complex, which is believed to have once been a bustling commercial town on the trade route called Dakshinapatha, was discovered in 1982. Several structures were excavated here, including monasteries, a water channel system, an ancient pathway, and 30 stone stupas, four brick stupas, potsherds of black polished ware, which was the pottery of everyday use between 700 and 300 B.C. One of the pillars excavated here has an inscription that says it was erected in the memory of Lord Buddha.

The architecture of Deor Kothar is quite interesting and the complex boasts four stupas, the most ever found at a site of this period. The bricks used are of various shapes such as a twirling lotus, a simple flower pot on a three-tiered pedestal (the carving of which shows traces of early Buddhist art) and a conical lotus bud. These can be seen on the railing posts of the largest brick stupa rising to a height of 30 feet.

The site was discovered by PK Mishra and Ajit Singh in 1982 and it was declared a place of national importance by the Government of India in 1988. Today, it is being preserved and conserved by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

Panna and Panna National Park

Panna National Park (40 kilometers south Khajuraho) in central India harbors many species of wildlife including tigers, sambar and chitral deer, porcupines, and leopards and cover 200 square miles. It has a fairly large population of 30 to 40 sloth bears. It has a lot of humans. There are 15 villages within the park and 50 just outside it. A number of villagers in the area of the park have been attacked by sloth bears.

The park was once a raja’s hunting ground. There are a number of caves in par whose walls are adorned with ancient paintings. The number of tigers in increasing. The tigers often roam outside the park and the effort to save them has included efforts outside the park. Illegal sandstone mines that fragments the tiger’s habitat and polluted the water in the park have been closed down. The rangers have motorcycles and a troop carrier which has enabled them to battle poachers more effectively

With the meandering Ken river and spectacular waterfalls, the national park attracts both wildlife enthusiasts and adventure seekers. One can spot the gharial, a huge reptile of the crocodile family found only in the Indian subcontinent, and a variety of flora and fauna here. Spend a day or two here, and explore the park in a jeep or on the back of an elephant. Earlier, the park was the hunting ground of the erstwhile rulers of Panna, Bijawar and Chhatarpur states. The Panna National Park is the 22nd Tiger Reserve of India.

Panna was the capital of Maharaja Chhatrasal’s kingdom in 17th century. The town, meaning emerald, is a diamond mining center. Panna is famous for its huge Palladian-style Pajgarth Palace.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: India tourism website ( incredibleindia.org), India’s Ministry of Tourism and other government websites, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Yomiuri Shimbun and various books and other publications.

Updated in August 2020

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