Beginning from the ninth century for five hundred years a powerful
dynasty of kings known as the Chandellas ruled over Central India with Khajuraho
as their capital city. They claimed to be the descendants of the moon kula (moon
born). It can be inferred from the historical accounts that the Chandellas were
Hindu Rajputs and were one of the 36. Rajputs clans who traced their descent
from the Sun, the Moon of the sacred fire. According to Rawlinson, many central
Asian tribes invaded the country and after they had become rulers, they were
admitted to the Hindu fold. In this own words.
"Modern research seems to show that they (the Rajputs) are mainly the descendants
of the Gurjara, Huna and other central Asian tribes who found their way across
the northwest frontier in the fifth an sixth centuries. These invaders carved
out kingdoms for themselves and eventually settled down in the country, taking
Hindu wives, the ruling classes had no difficulty in persuading obsequious brahmins
to admit them into the Hindu fold and to provide them with genealogies going
back to the heroic times, very much as. Virgil and Livey traced the ancestry
of the founders of the Roman Empire back to the heroes of the Trojan War.
Confirmation for the theory of the foreign origin of many of these clans is
found in the Puranic legend abut the creation of the Agnikula or Fire-born Rajputs.
When Parasurama, Rama with the axe, had, at the behest of the Brahmins, destroyed
the ancient Kashatriyas, the land was left master less, where upon the gods
repaired to Mount Abu in Rajputana, and there from the sacred firrepit produced
the four 'fire born' clans, the Pewar, the Parihar, the Chauhan and the Solanki.
There is little doubt that here we have an allegorical account of the rite by
which the foreign chieftains were initiated into Hindusim.
It is interesting to note that the destruction of the original Kshatriya caste
is admitted. Other Rajput clans, such as the Chandel, appear to power and were
similarly ennobled and admitted into the Hindu fold". Pariharas, who later
called themselves Pratiharas, one of the four main clans of Rajputs mentioned
earlier, built up a spreading to the other parts of India. By the second half
of the eighteen century they had established their rule over many parts of Northern
India. Ever after Harsh Vardhan's death, the celebrated city of Kannauj, the
fertile Gangetic palin and the land around it, was without a powerful ruler.
It was a time of darkness and misfortune for Kannauj. Three powerful dynasties
were contending for supremacy in annexing parts of the Harsh Vardhan's large
empire. These were the Prathrakutas of the south. These rich tracts of Northern
India were often changing hands among them or their vassals depending upon the
valour and wisdom of individual kings, or at other times, on the whims of fortune.
But, by and large, the Pratiharas were able to rule over Kannauj for about 150
years. The Pratihara kings Nabhatt and Vatsray can be said to be the founders
of this northern empire. Several powerful kings figure in the history of this
period, among them are the noteworthy rulers such as Nabhatt II, the famous
Hihir Bhoj and the valorous Mahendrapal.
small kingdom of the Chandels of Khajuraho was always a part of this large empire
of the Pratiharas, the extent of which varied withy the fortunes of the kings.
The Chandela rulers for about hundred years that is, from Nannuk till Harsh
Dev, were but vassals of the Pratharas. They proclaimed themselves independent
when the Pratihara empire weakened and disintegrated, earlier, the Pratiharas
helped the Chandelas and other kings of the region in defending the country
from the aggression of Muslim invaders from the Middle East. This collective
defense against the invaders rendered security in the region which created favorable
circumstances for encouraging art and culture.
A sense of beauty and values flourished which enabled the Chandela rulers to
construct magnificent stone temples. The founder of the Chandela dynasty, Nannuk
was the ruler of a small kingdom. According to inscriptions, he was the chief
of his clan in the first quarter of the ninth cnetury. Epigraphic records show
that Khajuraho, then called Khajuravatika -Bearer of Dates or Khajuravatika
-Garden of Dates, was the stronghold of Nannuk and his people. Later on, attempts
have been made by his descendants of link their line age withmoon or with Chandratreya
of the legend, in order to attribute some respectability to the origin of their
dynasty. Vakapati succeeded his father Nannuk during the second quarter of the
The celebrated Pratihara kng, Mihir Bhoj was his contemporary. Mihir Bhoj had
to fight many battles agains his two deadly enemies, the Devpal of Bengal and
Kokal, the Kalchuri king. Vakapati the ruler of Khajuraho, had to often assit
Pratiharas int eh battle field, because he was a vassal of the Pratiharas. The
inscription mention the Vindhya Hills, one of the frequent places of warfare,
as the pleasure mount (Krida-giri) of Vakapati. It can be inferred on the basis
of this inscription that Vakapati managed to extend his territory so as to include
some hills of the Vindhyas, Jaishakti and Vijayshakti, the two sons of Vakapti,
succeeded him, one after the other. Both the princes were strong and valorous
and annexed considerable territories to their kingdom.
Jaishakti, the elder brother who ruled first, was also called Jai Jak and from
this name the region ruled by the Chandelas acquired the name of Jaijikbhukti.
Aq daughter of Jaisloyalty to the Kannauj kings, but it may no son, he was followed
on the throne by his younger brother, Vajaishakti. According to Khajuraho inscriptons,
Vijaishakti fought many battles and subjugated a number of neighboring are as.
The exploits and deeds of bravery of Jai and Vijai are oftern sung in ballands
as if the two were joint rulers. Nannuk, Jai and Vijai over a period of time
added large chunks of adjoining territories to their domain, and whatever was
their status viz a viz the Pals of Bengal and Pratiharas their overlords, they
always were the master of the land they held. Rahil, the son of Vijaishakti,
ascended the throne after him.
The village Rahilya which is 3 km south west of Mohaba was named after him.
There he also built a tank known as rahilyasagar and a temple on its banks,
which is now in ruins. The period of rule of Rahil is said to be of only twenty
years and is credited to the end of the ninth century. He was succeeded by his
son Harshdev around 900 A.D. Harshdev earned for himself a memorable place in
the history of Chandela rulers. In the 25 years or so of his rule, he extended
his territory adn enhanced the prestige of his dynasty. He was the first Chandela
prince whose power was to be reckoned with in those times.
During his reign, when the Rashtrakuta king Indra III, invaded and captured
Kannauj, it was Harshdev who helped the Pratihara King Mahipal I to regain his
throne of Kannauj. This memorable even took place around 915 A.D. and was presumably
commemorated by Harshdev with construction of the Matangeshwar temple. Harshdev
consolidated his position further by marrying Kanchuka, a princes of a Chahman
clan of the Malwa region. Harshdev died in 925 A.D. Yashorvarman, also known
as Kakshvarman, the illustrious son of Harshdev succeeded him. When the power
of the Pratihara and Rashtrakuta kings began to decline Yashovraman decided
to defy their authority.
Not only did he proclaim himselfas an independent king, he began to attack and
annex the contiguous areas of the Rashrkuta kingdom. Several inscriptions record
with elequence his tales of military conquests. Lakshvarman engaged himself
in many expeditions and proved to be an able general and a brave warrior. He
captured Kalinjar and extended the frontiers of his kingdom both in the north
and in the south. He reached the banks of the Yasmuna in one direction and the
borders of Chedi and Malwa in the other. With these conquests, Chandelas became
a greater power and Yashovarman was grateful to the gods for their favours.
In his gratitude, he constructed the magnificent Lakshmana temple, the golden
pinnacle of which "illuminated the sky became, it is said, the object of
attraction for even the inhabitants of the heaven."
Though Yashovarman was tolerant of all religious sects, he himself was devotee
of Vishnu, hence the idol had been received by him as a gift from Devpal, the
son of Herambpal, who had got it in exchange for elephants and horses from Sahi,
the king of the Kirs, near Kashmir. This had been given to him by the lord of
Bhotnath (Tibet) who had found the idol at Mount Kailash. Dhangdev ruled over
Khajuraho from 945 A.D. to 1002 A.D. It is said that he voluntarial relinquished
both his throne and his life. Dhangdev was a greater ruler and the Chandelas
reached the zenith of their power and prosperity during his reign. He not only
consolidated whatever his father bequeathed to him but also expanded the territory.
The power of Prathiharas was declining and he annexed the eastern part of their
kingdom lying north of the Yanmuna. The chandelas were now completely independent
and Dhangdev called himself as Maharajadhiraj Kalinjaradhipati, lord of Kalinjar.
Kalinjar had acquired great importance after Khajuraho and was regarded as the
second capital of the kingdom. Dhangdev was also a great patron on art and learining
in addition to being a great ruler and a great comqueror. He built the two of
the more important temples the Vishwanath and the Parshwanatha temples. After
the death of Dhangdev in 1002 A.D. Gand ascended the throne of Khajuraho. He
ruled for 15 years only. His reign was one of peace an prosperity.
He was able to maintian the prestinge and power of the kingdom. The construction
of the Jagadamba and the chitragupt temples are attributed to him. Vidyadhar
succeeded his father Gand, and the was a great king indee. Muslim invaders from
the Middle east had started attacking and plundering India. While his ancestors
Yashovarman invasion, Vidyadhar was called upon to muster all his strength and
bravery in defending his country against the attack of Mahmud Ghazni. After
two attacks, peace returned and as a temple of Kandariya Mahadeva, which is
really a gem of a temple. Vidyadhar was followed y his son Vijainal to the Chandela
throne. Kalchuris who were now growing in power took away some of the Chanddela
Yet, by and large, Vijaipal was able to maintain his remaining kingdom and was
also able to provide such conditions that were conductive to the temple buildiing
activity. Vaman tempel might be ascribed to him and can be dated towards the
close of his reign (1051 A.D.). Devvarman the son and successor of Vijaipal
also uses the title of Kalinjaradhipati. However, his little to his credit but
it seems that somehow he was able to keep his hold on Kalinjar. He died in 1060
A.D. Kirtivarman, the brother of Dev Varman who had no issue, ascended the throne
and "recreated the Chandela power like the creator". He defeated the
Kalchuri Lakshmi Karan in battle and had a long reign of about forty years.
He was a great patron of arts, the well known play Prabodha Chandrodya was composed
during his reign.
During his rule, which ended around 1100 A.D. the famous temples of Adinath,
Javasri and possibly of Chaturbhuj, were built. The struggle for supermacy in
Northern and Central India among the chandelas Kalchuris and others gained ground
after the death of Kirtivarman. In those days the history of the Chandellas
is a tale of wars with their neighbors. Kirtivarman's successor was his son
Sallakshan varman, also known as Hollakshan varman from the coins he minted.
He seems to have reigned for a short period of time and is recorded in history
as a leader of those versed in the sacred love, kinsman of the virtuous a stone
of arts, and an abode of good conduct and a tree of paradise to all supplements
According to the bards, he always kept the enemies awake by the weight of his
prowess, and taking away the riches of this enemies and bestowing them on all
his reign or that of his sons. Jaivarman, his son succeeded him in 1115 A.D.
According to an inscription darted 1117 A.D. he was ruling and was, "dwelling
place of generosity, truth, policy and heroism, whose majesty, like the rising
sun, deprived the other princes of their luster". But his reign had little
luster and possible he was defeated by the Gaharwar ruler Govind Chandra, who
conquered a part of the Chandela territory in 1120 . By these events he felt
so humiliated that he abdicated his throne and started living in a jungle on
the banks of river. Prithvivarman, his uncle, ascended the throne of Khajuraho
after him. His reign was of a short duration of ten years.
Kalchuris and Chalukyas were threatening the security of his kingdom. It goes
to his credit that Prithvivarman in such hard times was able to keep his kingdom
intact and pass it on without damage to his son and successor, Madanvarman.
Ascending the throne in about 1130 A.D., he discarded the passive policy of
peac4e and fought battles to revive the lost reputation of the Chandelas. He
was a strong ruler of central Indian territory which included the four strongholds
of the Chandelas viz., Kalinjar, Mahoba, Ajaigarh and Khajuraho. The temples
building activity was once again seen in Khajuraho.
The exquisite Dulhadeo temple was constructed during his reign which ended around
1163 A.D. Yashovarman II succeeded Madanvarman but had a very brief reign of
two years. His life was cut short by untimely death, and Parmardidev his on
occupied the throne of Chandellas. Last of the greater Chandela rulers, he was
crowned when he as still a child. An inscription of one of his successors refers
to him as, "A leader even his youth who struck down the opposing heroes,
and to whom the fortune of universal sovereignty quickly came, like an enamoured
damsel, choosing him for his own free will." He ruled for a long period
of nearly thirty five years. The first few years of his reign were of peace.
The storm came in the shape of a conflict with Prithviraj Chauhan, who was returning
to Delhi after marrying the daughter of Palnsen when he was attacked by Turkish
In the fierce battle that ensured Prithviraj's army suffered heavy causalities,
though they were able to beat back the enemy. In the process they lost their
way and arrived at Mahoba, the Chandela capital and encamped in the royal garden.
By this act of his great generals to attack the Chauhans. Udal much against
his will carried out the kings orders but without much success. However, Prithviraj
returned to Delhi at that time but continued to nurse a grievance against the
Chandela ruler. Actually, Parmardided was instigated to attack Prithviraj by
his brother in law Pratihar Mahil who was more of an enemy than a friend. Alha
and his brothers Udal chiefs of the Banaphar clan, sensed that the air of Mahoba
was too foul for them to stay on.
They left the Chandellas to take up residence and services under Jai Chand of
Kannauj. Htis vital information was quickly converyed by Mahil to the Chauhan
king and invited him to attack the Chandels, which Prithviraj did soon after.
Parmardidev started loosing the battle hence he asked for truce. Subsequently
he sent for Alah and Udal, and they were persuaded by their mother to go and
fight for Mahoba. Fierce battle raged after their arrival. The two brothers
played such an heroic role that their exploits have become a part and parcel
of the Rajput annals and are sung with relish to this day. Prithviraj however,
was victorious and he ransacked the city of Mahobal. In the battle, many lives
were lost including that of Udal.
Parmardidev retreated to Kalinjar, from where he as brought back as prisoner
by a general of the Chauhan armya who stormed and plundered the fort of Kalinjar.
Prithviraj returned to his capital, Delhi, after appointing Pujjan Rai, one
of his generals, as the governor of Mahoba. Parmardidev, according to the bardic
accounts, put an end of his life due to a sense of shame and degradation. Some
say that he live dtwenty years after the war with Chauhands, Taj-ul-Ma'asir
provides another account of the Islamic invasion of Kalinjar in detail, "In
599 H, i.e, 1202 A.D. Kutabuddin accompanied by Altamash marched against Kalinjar.
The accursed Parmar fled into the fort but after a desperate resistance submitted
and accepted the same ternms as had been imposed upon his ancestory by Mahmud.
He, however, died and his Mehata Ajudeo was not disposed to surender os easily
and gave much trouble. He too was commpelled and captured because a severe drought
dried up all the reservoirs of water in the fort. The fort of kalinjar, celebrated
throughout the world, was taken and the temples there were converted into mosques.
Fifty thousand men were carried into spoils. The reins of victory were then
directed against Mahoba. The government of the country was conferred upon Hasan
Arnal." Thus the sum of the Chandelas set forever, but Khajuraho continued
to be the religious capital of the darkest days. According to the testimony
of Ibne-Batuta, Khajuraho temples continued to shine in their glory till 1335
A.D. Trailokyavarman, the successor of Paramardidev, wrested the fort of Kalinjar
from the Muslims.
But the muslims were again trying to annex it and a general Malik Nusratuddin
led an army from Gwalior. The struggle was avoided by trailokyavarman and the
invaders plundered the city and took away a large booty, Though, Kalinjar still
remained in the hands of the Chandelas but they were no more than local Virvarman
and Bhojvarman, but they were no more than local chieftains. Kirat Raja of Kalinjar
in 1545 A.D., when Sher Shah laid siege of the fort, was presumably a Chandela.
The last glimpse is afforded by the romantic history of the princess Durgavati,
daughter of the Chandela Raja of Mahoba, who married the Gond Raja Dalpat Sa
of Mandla, and was killed in battle with Asaf Khan in 1564 A.D. Thus ends the
saga of brave and valorous, patron of art and culture, rich and devout kings
of the Chandela dynasty who ruled over central India for half millennium. Their
kingdom decreased and expanded in size in accordance with the valour and fortune
of the individual ruler. But the most important objects which nearly every king
lift behind are the magnificent and exquisitely carved temples, thereby engraving
their names in history in the golden letters.