Khajuraho, the temple city of central India , is famous throughout the world for its exquisitely carved temples in stones. Thousands of visitors and tourists from all over the world flock together to envisage this immortal saga of Hindu art and culture engraved in stone by shilpies (stone craftsmen) a millenia ago.
Today, apart from the temples, Khajuraho is a small village but a thousand years ago it was a large city of the Chandelas, medieval Rajput kings who ruled over Central India. Khajuraho is 595 km (370 miles) south-east of Delhi and can be visited by air, rail or road. An overnight train journey from Delhi takes the visitor to Jhansi, from where another morning train takes him to Harpalpur 85 km (53 miles) to the east.
According to the account of the medieval court poet, Chandbardai, in the Mahoba-khand of his Prithviraj Raso, Hemvati was the beautiful daughter of Hemraj, the royal priest of Kashi (Varanasi). One summer night, while she was bathing in the sparkling waters of a lotus-filled pond, the Moon god was so awestruck by her beauty that he descended to earth in human form and ravished her.
The distressed Hemvati, who was unfortunately a child widow, threatened to curse the god for ruining her life and reputation. To make amends for his folly the Moon god promised that she would become the mother of a valiant son.
'Take him to Khajjurpura', he is believed to have said.'He will be a great king and build numerous temples surrounded by lakes and gardens. He will also perform a yagya (religious ceremony) through which your sin will be washed away.'
Following his instructions, Hemvati left her home to give birth to her son in a tiny village. The child, Chandravarman, was as lustrous as his father, brave and strong.
By the time he was 16 years old he could kill tigers or lions with his bare hands. Delighted by his feats, Hemvati invoked the Moon god, who presented their son with a touchstone which could turn iron into gold, and installed him as king at Khajuraho.