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This article is about the royal dynasty. For the Rajput clan to which this dynasty belonged, see Chandel (Rajput clan).
Chandela dynasty

10th century–13th century
Capital Khajuraho
Languages Sanskrit
Religion Hinduism
Government Monarchy
King Nannuka
 •  1017–1029 Vidyadhara (Chandela king)
Historical era Classical India
 •  Established 10th century
 •  Disestablished 13th century

The Chandelas of Jejakabhukti were a Rajput dynasty in Central India. They ruled much of the Bundelkhand region (then called Jejakabhukti) between the 10th and the 13th centuries. Their capital cities included Khajuraho and Mahoba.

The Chandela king Vidyadhara repulsed the attacks of Mahmud of Ghazni. The Chandelas are noted for their temple architecture and sculptures of Khajuraho Group of Monuments, Kalinjar Fort and Kakadeo.


The Chandelas are included in the list of 36 Rajput clans in multiple texts, including Varna Ratnakara, Prithviraj Raso and Kumarapala-charita. Like other Rajput dynasties, their origin is obscured by mythical legends.[1]

The epigraphic records of the dynasty, as well as texts such as Balabhadra-vilasa and Prabodha-chandrodaya, claim that the Chandelas belonged to the legendary Lunar dynasty (Chandravansha). Balabhadra-vilasa also names Atri among their ancestors. A Khajuraho inscription describes the Chandela king Dhanga as a member of the Vrishni clan of the Yadavas (who also claimed to be part of the Lunar dynasty).[1]

The legend of Hemavati explains the Lunar ancestry of the Chandelas as follows: 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.[2]

However, the official records of the Chandelas do not mention Hemavati. R. K. Dikshit dismisses such legends as "bardic inventions and imaginations".[3]


Early rulers[edit]

The kingdom of the Chandels of Khajuraho was always a part of this large empire of the Gurjara Pratiharas,[4] the extent of which varied with the fortunes of the kings.

The founder of the Chandel dynasty, Nannuka was the ruler of a small kingdom centered around Khajuraho.[5]:22


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

Not only did he act as an independent king, he began to attack and annexe[5]:22 the contiguous areas of the Rashtrakuta kingdom.

Dhanga to Devavarmana[edit]

Raja Dhanga
Sections and orientation of Kandariya Mahadeva temple.

Dhanga, the son of Yasovarman, ruled over Khajuraho from 945 to 1002.[5]:22 It is said that he voluntarily relinquished both his throne and his life. Dhanga 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 Dhanga called himself as Maharajadhiraja Kalinjaradhipati (lord of Kalinjar). Kalinjar had acquired great importance after Khajuraho and was regarded as the second capital of the kingdom.

Dhanga 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 Vishvanatha[5]:22 and the Parshwanatha temples.

After the death of Dhanga in 1002, his son Ganda ascended the throne of Khajuraho.[5]: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.[5]: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[5]: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 Gujarat Chalukya king Jayasimha Siddharaja captured it in turn. Madanavarman fought the Gahadvalas and recovered Bundelkhand from the Kalachuri King Gaya Karna.[5]: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.[5]: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[6][page needed] and Hindu temples.[7][page needed]

List of rulers[edit]

Based on epigraphic records, the historians have come up with the following list of Chandela rulers of Jejākabhukti (IAST names in brackets):[8][9]

  • Nannuka, c. 831-845 CE
  • Vakpati (Vākpati), c. 845-865 CE
  • Jayashakti (Jayaśakti) and Vijayashakti (Vijayaśakti), c. 865-885 CE
  • Rahila (Rāhila), c. 885-905 CE
  • Shri Harsha (Śri Harśa), c. 905-925 CE
  • Yashovarman (Yaśovarman), c. 925-950 CE
  • Dhanga (Dhaṅgadeva), c. 950-999 CE
  • Ganda (Gaṇḍadeva), c. 999-1002 CE
  • Vidyadhara (Vidyādhara), c. 1003-1035 CE
  • Vijayapala (Vijayapāla), c. 1035-1050 CE
  • Devavarman, c. 1050-1060 CE
  • Kirtivarman (Kīrtivarman), c. 1060-1100 CE
  • Sallakshanavarman (Sallakṣaṇavarman), c. 1100-1110 CE
  • Jayavarman, c. 1110-1120 CE
  • Prithivivarman (Pṛithvīvarman), c. 1120-1128 CE
  • Madanavarman, c. 1128-1165 CE
  • Paramardideva, c. 1165-1203 CE
  • Trailokyavarman, c. 1203-1245 CE
  • Viravarman (Vīravarman), c. 1245-1285 CE
  • Bhojavarman, c. 1285-1288 CE
  • Hammiravarman (Hammīravarman), c. 1288-1311 CE
  • Viravarman II (an obscure ruler with low titles, attested by only one 1315 CE inscription)[10]


  1. ^ a b Dikshit 1976, p. 3.
  2. ^ 'Origin of the Chandellas', in J.N. Asopa, Origin of the Rajputs (Delhi- Varanasi-Calcutta, 1 976), pp. 208- 1 7
  3. ^ Dikshit 1976, p. 4.
  4. ^ Radhey Shyam Chaurasia, History of Ancient India: Earliest Times to 1000 A. D.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i Sen, S.N., 2013, A Textbook of Medieval Indian History, Delhi: Primus Books, ISBN 9789380607344
  6. ^ 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
  7. ^ Krishna Deva, Temples of Khajuraho, Archaeological Survey of India, 1990
  8. ^ Dikshit 1976, p. 25.
  9. ^ Sullerey 2004, p. 25.
  10. ^ Jackson, Peter (16 October 2003). The Delhi Sultanate: A Political and Military History. Cambridge University Press. p. 199. ISBN 978-0-521-54329-3.