The temple of Parsvanath, dominating the walled enclosure of the Jain group, is probably older than the main temples of Khajuraho, judging by its relatively simple ground plan. Its origins are a mystery; although officially classified as a Jain monument, it may have been a Hindu temple that was donated to the Jains who settled here at a later date. Certainly, the animated sculpture of Khajuraho’s other Hindu temples is well represented on the two horizontal bands around the walls, and the upper one is crowded with Hindu gods in intimate entanglements. Among Khajuraho’s finest work, they include Brahma and his consort; a beautiful Vishnu; a rare image of the god of love, Kama, shown with his quiver of flower arrows embracing his consort Rati; and two graceful female figures. A narrow strip above the two main bands depicts celestial musicians playing cymbals, drums, stringed instruments and flutes. Inside, beyond an ornate hall, a black monolithic stone is dedicated to the Jain lord Parsvanath, inaugurated as recently as 1860 to replace an image of another tirthankara, Adinath.

Immediately north of Parsvanath, Adinath’s own temple, similar but smaller, has undergone drastic renovation. Three tiers of sculpture surround its original structure, of which only the sanctum, shikhara and vestibule survive; the incongruous mandapa is a much later addition. Inside the garbha griha stands the black image of the tirthankara Adinath himself. The huge 4.5m-high statue of the sixteenth tirthankaraShantinath, in his newer temple, is the most important image in this working Jain complex. With its slender beehive shikharas, the temple attracts pilgrims from all over India, including naked sadhus.

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