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10th century temple discovered in Khajuraho

10th Century Temple at Khahuraho

Archaeologists have discovered a 10th century Chandela temple south of here which may have erotic sculptures similar to the ones which have made this place world famous.

Excavation by a team of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), which commenced on March 6 at a site near Jatkara, six km south of here, revealed a two-metre tall and 20-metre wide pitha (plinth) of the temple, decorated with mouldings.

Until now, the ASI team has discovered several exotic sculptures and fragments of Uma-Mahesh-war, Vishnu, Shiva, Apsaras, Brahma, Agni and pottery and iron objects, which will help date the discovery and ascertain if its architectural style is Nirandhara or Sandhara.

Spearheaded by archaeologist P.K. Mishra, the ASI team is slowly unearthing remains of the Chandela temple in the Bijamandal mound on the eastern banks of Khudar Nala, near the Chaturbhuj temple. A survey last year identified 18 mounds, in and around Khajuraho, which could conceal the remnants of Chandela architecture.

The archaeological findings definitely point to a Buddhist influence. Of the fabled original 85 temples at Khajuraho, only 25 are known and documented. The newly-discovered temple will be the 26th. The Khajuraho temples are broadly classified into the Western, Eastern and Southern group of temples.

The Western group of Chandela temples (950 to 1029 AD), famous for erotic sculptures, are made entirely of sandstone; the tantric Chausath-Yogini temple, the earliest known structure here, is made of granite; and the Mahadeva and Brahma temples (900 AD) are made of both sandstone and granite, indicating a transition from one medium to the other.

The sculptures unearthed so far have been sent for cleaning and restoration work. The entire project is likely to be completed in a month, according to the archaeologists. Meanwhile, the ASI is gradually involving the residents of Khajuraho in the recognition and preservation of their rich heritage.

The extension of the 26th temple is made of large bricks, similar to the Buddhist Sunga period. "We have been strong indications that the smaller mound may be concealing a Buddhist stupa. If it does, it would be the first ever evidence of Buddhist influence in the area," Mr. Mishra says.

That would be a significant discovery for archaeology. With the Khajuraho millennium celebrations in progress and the ongoing Visit and Explore India Millennium Year, the recent archaeological findings are bound to heighten both international and domestic interest in the major tourist destination.

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