October 13, 2012

0358 INDIA (Madhya Pradesh) - Khajuraho Group of Monuments - Kandariyâ Mahâdeva Temple (UNESCO WHS)

About one thousand years ago, in a summer night, a young Brahmin widow named Hemvati decided to take a dip in a pond near her house in Benares (now Varanasi). How she bathe under the canopy of stars, her ravishing beauty caught the eye of the Moon God, who couldn't resist her charm and descended to earth, interrupting his usual journey across the heavens. Hemvati submitted to his desire, and conceived a child out of this relationship. When the night ended, of course that the Moon God rose to leave. Worried about her fate, Hemvati asked what will happen to her after he will leave. The Moon God answered her that their son would be the first king of Khajuraho, founder of a new dinasty, and will build 85 temples, to free his mother from the blemish of extramarital love. And so it happened.

Even though of the 85 temples, built by various rulers of the Chandela dynasty between 950 and 1050 AD, only 20 remain till today, Khajuraho Group of Monuments, located in central India, is the largest group of medieval Hindu and Jain temples, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986, and considered to be one of the "seven wonders" of India. The largest and most ornate temple from this cluster is Kandariyâ Mahâdeva Temple (in image), one of the best examples of temples preserved from the medieval period in India.

Dedicated to Shiva, Kandariyâ Mahâdeva (kandara - cave, Mahâdeva - another name for Shiva) has a series of access steps following the east-west direction. The main spire (shikhara) rises 31m to depict Mount Kailash, the Himalayan mountain abode of Shiva and is surrounded by 84 miniature spires. At the top of the shikhara is the amalaka, a circular ring motif common in North Indian temple architecture. Decorating the sides of the temple are over 646 statues, many of them erotic.

I find it odd that the meaning of these statues was not preserved, today there being several theories about them. Some scholars contend that the temple commemorates the wedding of Lord Shiva and Parvati, others believe that the statues depict the union of Shiva (consciousness, a male principle) and Parvati (energy, a female principle), others are of the view that many of the sexually explicit statues in various yogic postures are actually tantric symbols, and others argue that they were made to convey that one must rid oneself of kama, krodh, lobh and moh before venturing to enter the sanctum sanctorum.

About the stamps
The first stamp on the left is part of the definitive set Builders of Modern India, about which I wrote here. It depicts Sir Chandrasekhara Venkata Rāman (1888-1970), an Indian physicist who was the recipient of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1930 for the discovery that when light traverses a transparent material, some of the light that is deflected changes in wavelength. This phenomenon is now called Raman scattering and is the result of the Raman effect.

The second is part of the commemorative series of four stamps dedicated to Rashtrapati Bhavan (Hindi for Presidential House) and issued on August 5, 2011. The erstwhile Viceregal Lodge, designed by Edwin Lutyens as a symbol of the imperial empire, has been the official residence of the Head of the State since 1950, when Rajendra Prasad became the first President:
- first stamp - it's on the postcard
- second stamp - it's on other postcard
- third stamp
- fourth stamp - it's on other postcard

Khajuraho Group of Monuments - Wikipedia
Kandariya Mahadeva Temple - Wikipedia
Ode to immortality, Celebrating 1000 years of celestial ecstasy - The Tribune

sender: R. Seetharaman (direct swap)
sent from Chennai (Tamil Nadu / India), on 24.02.2012
photo: V.B. Anand

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