The Vyala of Khajuraho Temple Complex

Khajuraho and its Vyalas!

I can understand the surprise of Capt. T S Burt and the tough criticism by Sir Alexander Cunnigham, when they saw the erotic sculptures that adorn the walls of temples at Khajuraho temple complexes. Scandalized would be an understatement.

A Temple in Khajuraho

But i do not understand why most articles and blogs talk only about the sculptures which are much less than 10% of all the art work, placed away from ones casual glance unless pointed out or searched for. Why is that we do not talk about the most prominent sculpture with the most relevant message? What are you? Vyala or Yali or Shardul?

The Vyala of Khajuraho

The Great Vyala

Probably the most recurring piece of work in the temples of Khajuraho.

The Vyala of Khajuraho

Every alternate sculpture (pic below) is a Vyala.

Mysterious animal sculptures of Khajuraho

The guard at Javari temple told me that he is Shardul, a mythological character with the body of lion & head of parrot, horse or elephant, representing strength. While the audio guide of Western temple group tells me that this is Vyala, the representation of our ambitions or wish.

Irrespective of what we call this beautiful yet fearsome creature, the story it says is much more relevant. There are two men seen fighting it in every sculpture, one at its foot an another near its head. Yet victory is its virtue. Both interpreters agree that the one who reach till the head is swallowed by the creature and thus asserting the fact that we are all slaves to our ambitions or dreams or wishes.

A temple in Khajuraho

This beautiful piece of sculpture is a story by itself, the artist repeating it on every walls, scattered between the beautiful sculptures on day-to-day life (from war scenes to music to dance and even next to the depiction of lust or eroticism).

It’s like a constant reminder, lest we not forget the inner demon which we constantly fight and submit to.

author --
Doulos calls himself a 'desi', since he prefer to explore the vast lands within the Indian boundary... mostly clad in a dhoti. He is extremely passionate about people & their stories. In his travels, he is often caught flirting with rivers & can be seen dancing when it rains. History, heritage & environment are his causes; dogs are weakness.

18 thoughts on “The Vyala of Khajuraho Temple Complex

  1. The temples of Khajuraho are one of the must visit places in India. The detailed artwork and creativity is unique and out of the world. Thanks for sharing such an interesting detail which is otherwise gone unnoticed.

  2. I love metaphors and symbolism. Because of it, i like the message that Vyala or Shardul brings to us – the message of being slaves to the ambitions/dreams/wishes. So valuable message!

  3. The attention to detail needed to complete that many statues and have them stand the test of time is incredible. It would be very interesting to follow a guide around and learn about the history here.

  4. Wow, I’m stunned by the architecture here! I’ve not been to India, but am mesmerised by your sculptures, and the stories behind them too! Amazing photos also.

Do share your thoughts or ask a question here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: