Vishvanath Temple

Dedicated to Shiva as "Lord of the Universe," the Vishvanath temple was built about 1000 C.E, and stands at the northeast corner of the western group.  It shows all the elements of the developed Khajuraho templesósanctum with ambulatory pathway, vestibule, maha mandapa with transepts, mandapa, and entrance porch

It is clearly one of the finest temples, and made the strongest impression on me (although I might have felt differently had the Kandariya Mahadev temple had no scaffolding around it). 


November 2005


Here's a shot from the Nandi shrine opposite the temple, looking in toward the sanctuary.  What's visible here is not only the way that the architecture pulls one upward (here in part by virtue of the steps, through which one ascends a good ten feet up to the shrine's level), but also the smaller temples at the corner of the platform.  There used to be one on each corner (similar to the plan of the Lakshmana temple), but only two survive, on the northeast and southwest corner (the latter is visible here). 

This image conveys both the solidity of these temples, as well as some sense of their grandeur (which is quite incredible). 



November 2005


As with many of the other temples, there are images of deities set into the outside walls.  On the left an image of Brahma, identifiable by his animal vehicle (the Himalayan goose) at the lower right, and by the head on each side of the center face (images of Brahma have four heads, and so there would also be a head on the back).   

At right is a four-armed dancing Ganesh, holding an axe and broken tusk in his proper right hands (on the image's left side), and with his proper left hands holding a laddu (round sweet) and extended in a boon-granting gesture.

November 2005



Here's one of the so-called "Heaven bands" depicting explicit sexuality.  These large panels are only found on the walls of the antarala (vestibule); this is the transition zone to the temple's inner sanctum, and thus marks the boundary for the most sacred zone.  If my memory is correct, this is on temple's north side. 

People (including me) have spilled a lot of ink trying to explain the significance of these carvings and why they are there (click the link above if you are interested in reading about these).  

As at all of Khajuraho's temples, there are also a variety of figures at the sides doing all sorts of more mundane things--looking in mirrors, fiddling with hair, standing, etc.

Click on the two upper scenes for larger images

November 2005


And of course, this is Vishvanath himself.  The name means "Lord of the Everything (or the Universe)" and indicates Shiva's universal dominion.  His is portrayed here as the linga, a word that means "emblem" or "mark," and stands for Shiva's aniconic form.  It is often described as a "phallic" symbol, and this dimension is clearly part of its meaning--as one can clearly see from the form of the Gudimallam Linga (2nd C. BCE), in which the top of the shaft is very plainly shaped. Yet the symbolism of the linga goes far beyond this.

One of Shiva's characteristics is that he transcends duality--all duality, any duality. As but one example, he is at the same time the perfect husband and the perfect celibate ascetic--an impossible combination for for mortal men.  The linga's two essential parts are the shaft and base, which can be interpreted as symbolizing for male and female reproductive organs. Thus, in his symbolic form Shiva transcends the most basic reality that defines any human being, namely sexual identity.

Photo taken in November 2005



Here's another of the myriad of small sculptural bands gracing the temple as decoration, here a troupe of musicians dancing and playing a variety of instruments. 

November 2005

On to the Lakshmana Temple Page



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Last modified 12 January 2006