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Kalinjar is a fortress-city in the Bundelkhand region of central India. Kalinjar is located in Banda District of Uttar Pradesh state, near the temple-city and World Heritage Site of Khajuraho. The fortress is strategically located on an isolated rocky hill at the end the Vindhya Range, at an elevation of 1203 feet overlooking the plains of Bundelkhand. It served several of Bundelkhand's ruling dynasties, including the Chandela dynasty of Rajputs in the 10th century, and the Solankis of Rewa. The fortress contains several temples, dating as far back as the Gupta dynasty of the 3rd-5th centuries.


The majesty and grandeur witnessed within Kalinjar's precincts is due to the Bargujar rulers' creative imagination, their highly developed aesthetic sense and religious fervor. Though they were great devotees of Lord Shiva, they evinced a great interest in the construction of temples of other deities, too. The massive rock cut sculptures include figures of various gods and goddesses from ancient mythological themes. Wherever the Bargujar had established their reign they left their mark by enriching them with fine works of art, stone images, and sculpture.

The western part of the fort rewards all who take the time to look inside the temple of Neelkanth Mahadev. Each time one peeps through a cave-like opening and glances at an imposing Shivlinga of around five feet, one is awe-struck. The idea has been to use landscape and cave-isolation to set the solemnity of the mood for prayer. Its intrinsic feature is to reflect and refract light in the appropriate seasons, letting in light in winter and darkening to restrict its entry in summer. Just above the temple is a natural water source and water in this source never dries up. Water continually drips on Shivalinga. The priests, who are chandela rajputs since the time of the chandela kings, point out an interesting factoid: The neck of the sculpture of lord shiva on the shivalinga, though made of soid rock, is always moist to touch. In some sense reminding every visitor the "neelkantha" or drinking of poision story.

Close to the Shivling cave, stand the idols of Bhairava and goddess Parvati, made of black stone. Images of numerous gods and goddesses are carved on both sides of the gateway. A number of broken pillars are seen at regular distances. On these pillars, it is said, six-storey constructions were raised, but they were demolished later. There are numerous rock-cut sculptures showing neglect and ravages of time. The vagaries of nature and of man have taken their toll but the remnants indicate a synthesis of several ancient cultures and faiths, the legacy of a glorious past.

Another beautiful sight is the palace of prince Aman Singh. He was the descendant of King Chhatrasal. A number of legends are associated with this Mahal whose big lawns and walls unfold a long history of Chandela culture. Thousands of images made of granite and sandstone have been collected in a museum set up informally. Rich carvings on these images arrest the eye, even though they are broken and have been struck by the ravages of time.

Trimurti images are also many, showing the faces of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh(Shiva). Some distance away is a massive figure of Vishnu lying in the ocean of milk, enclosed within the coils of the Sheshnag. It presents a unique artistic charm. The presence of images of Lord Shiva the god of love Kamadev, Indrani the wife of Indra etc. speaks of influence from diverse cultures and religions. It also leads us to believe that the creation of the Chandela culture was not the handiwork of artists from one region.

The Bargujar princes who ruled before the Chandelas were influenced by the 'Shaiva' cult. Therefore, among the rock-cut and stone images are mostly those of Shiva, Parvati, Nandi and the Shivling. Shiva is seen at times in his dancing posture of tandava and at others in a close embrace with goddess Parvati.

There are numerous other attractions. The Venkat Bihari temple presents a majestic look from the outside though its interiors are decayed now. Persons suffering from skin diseases can take a dip in the 'pond of million tirthas'. The Sita-kund, Pandu-kund, Patal-ganga etc. speak for the Chandelas' taste for the aquatic resorts.

Cemented roads have been built all through the mountainous passage along which people can conveniently travel to reach the fort. But to discover the real charm and pleasure of adventure, one has to walk along the old beaten track, making way through the rough and rocky terrain of the seven magnificent gates falling in between. Seeing these gates, one truly appreciates the functional relevance of this invincible fort and its strategic defenses.

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