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Chandela dynasty

10th century–13th century
Capital Khajuraho
Languages Sanskrit
Religion Hinduism
Government Monarchy
Rao Nannuka
 •  1017–1029 Vidyadhara
Keerat Pal Singh chandel
Historical era Classical India
 •  Established 10th century
 •  Disestablished 13th century

The Chandela or Chandel is a Rajput clan in Central India.[1] A section of the Chandelas which was also known as Chandela Dynasty ruled much of the Bundelkhand region of central India for long periods between the 10th and the 13th centuries. The Chandel dynasty is famous in Indian history for Maharaja Rao Vidyadhara, who repulsed the attacks of Mahmud of Ghazni. His love for sculptures is shown in the world heritage site temples of Khajuraho and Kalinjar fort.[2]

In modern times, the Chandela Rajputs are found in large numbers in India and are Hindu as well as Sikh in their religious faith.

The word 'Chandela' is derived from the word 'Chandra', meaning the moon. Thus the Chandelas are said to be descendants of the moon and are part of the Lunar Dynasty of Rajputs.


From the 9th century to the 13th century, the Chandelas ruled over central India. Their first capital city was Khajuraho, which was later shifted to Mahotsava Nagar or Mahoba. They are regarded to be Chandravanshi; i.e., the descendants of Soma (Sanskrit literal meaning: moon).[3][page needed][4][page needed][5][page needed]

Legend of Hemavati[edit]

Chandravarma was born to Hemavati, daughter of priest (Raj Purohit) Hemraj of Raja Indrajit, the Gaharwar raja of Benares. She was embraced by Moon (som) and Chandra Varma was born to her, she was asked to do the Bhanda Yagnya to wipe the disgrace as she had not married Chandra. He blessed the son with Philosophers stone and taught him Politics. The boy was talented and sharp and brave, at 16 he killed his first Tiger. He was made king of Mahotsava Nagar (Mahoba) and his progeny, called Chandel's ruled there for eternity.[6]

Emergence of Chandels[edit]

The kingdom of the Chandels of Khajuraho were always a part of this large empire of the Gurjara Pratiharas,[7] the extent of which varied with the fortunes of the kings. The Chandel rulers for about hundred years that is, from Nannuk till Harsh Dev, were but vassals of the Pratiharas. They proclaimed themselves independent when the Pratihara empire weakened and disintegrated. Earlier, the Pratiharas helped the Chandels and other kings of the region in defending the country from the aggression of Muslim invaders from the Middle East. This collective defence against the invaders rendered security in the region which created favourable circumstances for encouraging art and culture.

The founder of the Chandel dynasty, Nannuka was the ruler of a small kingdom centered around Khajuraho.[8]:22 According to inscriptions, he was the chief of his clan in the first quarter of the 9th century. 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, his descendants linked their lineage with the Moon or with Chandratreya of the legend, in order to attribute some divine links to the origin of their dynasty. Vakapati succeeded his father Nannuk during the second quarter of the 9th century.

The celebrated Gurjar king, Mihir Bhoja was his contemporary. Samrat Mihir Bhoj had to fight many battles against his two enemies, the Devapala of Bengal and Kokal, the Kalchuri king. Vakapati the ruler of Khajuraho, had to often assist Pratiharas in the 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. He was succeeded on the throne by his younger brother, Vajaishakti. According to Khajuraho inscriptions, Vijaishakti fought many battles and subjugated a number of neighbouring areas. The exploits and deeds of bravery of Jai and Vijai are often sung in ballads 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 Palas 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 9th century. He was succeeded by his son Harshdev around 900. Harshdev earned for himself a memorable place in the history of Chandel rulers. In the 25 years or so of his rule, he extended his territory and enhanced the prestige of his dynasty. He was the first Chandel prince whose power was to be reckoned with in those times.


Main Idol (Tri-Headed Vishnu), Lakshmana Temple, Khajuraho India

During Yashoverman 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. and was presumably commemorated by Harshdev with construction of the Matangeshwar Temple. Harshdev consolidated his position further by marrying Kanchuka, a princes of a Chauhan clan of the Malwa region. Harshdev died in 925. Yashoverman, also known as Kakshvarman, the illustrious son of Harshdev succeeded him. When the power of the Pratihara and Rashtrakuta kings began to decline Yashoverman decided to defy their authority.

Not only did he act as an independent king, he began to attack and annexe[8]:22 the contiguous areas of the Rashtrakuta kingdom. Several inscriptions record with elequence his tales of military conquests. He 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 Yamuna in one direction and the borders of Chedi and Malwa in the other. With these conquests, Chandelas became a greater power and Yashoverman 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 Yashoverman 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.

Dhanga to Devavarmana[edit]

Raja Dhanga
Sections and orientation of Kandariya Mahadeva temple.

Dhangdev, or Dhanga, the son of Yasovarman, ruled over Khajuraho from 945 to 1002.[8]:22 It is said that he voluntarily 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 Yamuna. The Imperial Bargujars were called Chandila in those times, 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 learning in addition to being a great ruler and a great conqueror. He built the two of the more important temples, the Visvanatha[8]:22 and the Parshwanatha temples.

After the death of Dhangdev in 1002, his son Ganda ascended the throne of Khajuraho.[8]:22 He ruled for 15 years only. His reign was one of peace and prosperity. He was able to maintain the prestige and power of the kingdom. The construction of the Jagadamba and the Chitragupta Temples are attributed to him.

Vidyadhar succeeded his father Gand, and he was a great king.[8]:22 Muslim invaders from the Middle East had started attacking and plundering India. 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 by his son Vijaipal to the Chandela throne. Kalchuris who were now growing in power took away some of the Chandela territory.

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 building activity. Vaman Temple might be ascribed to him and can be dated towards the close of his reign (1051). Devvarman the son and successor of Vijaipal also uses the title of Kalinjaradhipati. However, there is little to his credit but it seems that somehow he was able to keep his hold on Kalinjar. He died in 1060.

Kirtivarman to Prithvivarman[edit]

Kirtivarman Chandela visits the temple of Khajurahu

Kirtivarman, the brother of Dev Varman who had no issue, ascended the throne and "recreated the Chandela power like the creator". His general Gopala defeated the Kalachuri King Karna in battle[8]:22 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, the famous temples of Adinath, Javasri and possibly of Chaturbhuj were built. The struggle for supremacy 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 Chandelas is a tale of wars with their neighbours. 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 for support.

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. According to an inscription darted 1117. 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 lustre 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, Madanavarman.

Madanavarman (1129-1163) discarded the passive policy of peace and fought battles to revive the lost reputation of the Chandelas. He recovered Bhilsa from the Paramaras temporarily before Western Chalukya Empire Jayasimha Siddharaja of Gujarat captured it in turn. Madanavarman fought the Gahadvalas and recovered Bundelkhand from the Kalachuri King Gaya Karna.[8]:22–23 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 Dulhadeo Temple was constructed during his reign, which ended around 1163. Yashovarman II succeeded Madanvarman but had a very brief reign of two years.

Parmardidev and Prithviraj Chauhan's invasion[edit]

The legendary accounts of battles between Parmardidev and Prithviraj Chauhan's armies form the Alha-Khand ballad. After Yashovarman II died, Parmardidev, his son, occupied the throne of Chandelas. As the last of the greater Chandela rulers, he was crowned when he was 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 soldiers.

In the fierce battle that ensured Prithviraj's army suffered heavy casualties, 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, Parmardidev 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 Chandela clan, sensed that the air of Mahoba was too foul for them to stay on.

They left the Chandelas to take up residence and services under Jai Chand of Kannauj. This vital information was quickly conveyed by Mahil to the Chauhan king and invited him to attack the Chandels, which Prithviraj did soon after. Parmardidev started losing 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 was brought back as prisoner by a general of the Chauhan army who stormed and plundered the fort of Kalinjar. Prithviraj returned to his capital, Delhi, after appointing Pujjan Rai or khetsingh, 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 lived twenty years after the war with Chauhans

The Muslim conquests of the early 13th century reduced the Chandela domains, in particular Qutbu l-Din Aibak's capture of Kalinjar in 1202.[8]:23 However, the Chandela survived as minor kings and chieftains until India became independent in 1947.


The outstanding contribution of the Chandelas was to build the famous temples (and town) of Khajuraho between the mid-10th and mid-11th centuries. The temples provide a rare and striking example of north Indian temple architecture in this era. The Chandelas have left a number of other inscriptions. They are known to have endowed a large number of Jain[9][page needed] and Hindu temples.[10][page needed]

Rulers of Jejaka-bhukti[edit]

The rulers of Jejaka-bhukti were:[3]

  • Nannuka (founder)
  • Rahilya
  • Harsa (900–925): built the Chausath Yogini — ("64 Yoginis") and Lalguan Mahadeva temples
  • Yasovarman or Lakshavarman (925–950) — built the Lakshman temple and the Chaturbhuja Temple[8]:22
  • Dhanga (c. 950–1008) — built the Parsvanatha and Vishwanath temples
  • Ganda (1002–1017) — built the Jagadambi and Chitragupta temples
  • Vidyadhara (1017–29) — built the Kandariya Mahadeva temple
  • Vijayapala (1035–1045) – moved his Capital to Mahoba
  • Devavarman – was defeated by the Kalachuris
  • Kirttivarman
  • Sallaksanavarman
  • Jayavarman
  • Prthvivarman
  • Madanavarman (1129–1163)[8]:22 – constructed the Madan Sagar lake
  • Yasovarman
  • Paramardi (1165-1202)[8]:22 – his generals Alha and Udal fought Prithviraj III Chauhan
  • Trailokyavarman
  • Viravarman II - ruled until 1315[8]:23
  • Bhojavarman
  • Hammiravarman

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b The Early Rulers of Khajurāho, Sisirkumar Mitra, Motilal Banarsidass Publ., 1977
  4. ^ Kanhaiyalal Agrawal, Bharat ke Sanskritic Kendra Khajurao, McMillan, 1980
  5. ^ Harihar Vitthal Trivedi, Inscriptions of the Paramaras, Chandellas, Kachchhapaghatas and Two Minor Dynasties, Archaeological Survey of India, 1991
  6. ^ 'Origin of the Chandellas', in J.N. Asopa, Origin of the Rajputs (Delhi- Varanasi-Calcutta, 1 976), pp. 208- 1 7
  7. ^ Radhey Shyam Chaurasia, History of Ancient India: Earliest Times to 1000 A. D.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Sen, S.N., 2013, A Textbook of Medieval Indian History, Delhi: Primus Books, ISBN 9789380607344
  9. ^ Studies in Jaina Art and Iconography and Allied Subjects in Honour of Dr. U.P. Shah, Editors R. T. Vyas, Umakant Premanand Shah, Abhinav Publications, 1995
  10. ^ Krishna Deva, Temples of Khajuraho, Archaeological Survey of India, 1990