Chandela dynasty: the glorious 500 years long past of the Bundelkhand - Bundelkhand Explorer

Chandela dynasty: the glorious 500 years long past of the Bundelkhand

Chandela Dynasty is the one we first think of when we talk about the history of Bundelkhand. Chandela’s were Rajpoot Dynasty who ruled over central India from the 8th to 13th centuries. Chandela dynasty was founded by Nannuka (r. c. 831-845 CE)

Chandela kings were also known as The Chandelas of Jejakabhukti as they ruled much of the Bundelkhand region (then called Jejakabhukti). They have left a huge impact on our history and culture and left behind a great heritage that is standing tall even after 800 years.

places to visit in khajuraho

CHANDELA DYNASTY CHRONOLOGY

Chandela King nameRuling timeline
Nanuka835 – 845 CE
Vakpati845 – 865 CE
Jayashakti & Vijayashakti865 – 885 CE
Rahila885 – 905 CE
Shri Harshadev905 – 925 CE
Yashovarman925 – 950 CE
Dhangadeva950 – 999 CE
Gandadeva999 – 1002 CE
Vidyadhara1003 – 1035 CE
Vijaypala1035 – 1050 CE
Devavarman1050 – 1060 CE
Kirtivarman1060 – 1100 CE
Sallakshanavarman1100 – 1110 CE
Jayavarman1110 – 1120 CE
Prithvivarman1120 – 1128 CE
Madanavarman1128 – 1165 CE
Yahsovarman-II1164 – 1165 CE
Paramardi1165 – 1203 CE
Trailokya Varman1203 – 1245 CE
Viravarman1245 – 1285 CE
Bhojavarman1285 – 1288 CE
Hammiravarman1288 – 1311 CE
Viravarman1315 CE

Chandela dynasty capital

Khajuraho was the capital during Chandela’s rules, earlier it used to be Mahotsav Nagar, which is currently known as Mahoba. It is also written in some historic literature that Chandela’s considered 3 Capitals. Mahoba was the cultural capital, Khajuraho was the spiritual capital and Kalinjar was their Army capital.

History of Chandela dynasty of Bundelkhand

The land of Bundelkhand has always been the bone of contention between various kings and dynasties that ruled over here. Earlier this area was under the Gupta empire till 5th century AD, then it was ruled by the Gurjara-Pratihara dynasty; later this area was acquired by the Chandelas.

The Chandela’s dynasty king had contributed a lot to the rich heritage of the Bundelkhand by constructing monuments, temples, and buildings of public use. There are several sites which are of historical importance at different places- most of which had glorious past but are in ruins today.

Khajuraho temples are a great example of historical monuments built by Chandela kings. At present time, most of these temples are in bad condition due to improper care of these architectural masterpieces.

Chandela rule map – Central India region ruled by Chandela kings

Chandela dynasty
Map of Asia during 850-1200, it shows the ruling area of Chandelas of Jejakabhukti

Monuments built by the Chandela kings


The remnants of those monuments can be seen in the Kalinjar fort, The Raheliya sun temple at mahoba, Ajaigarh temple, and many more, but the most important historical site in all of them is the group of temples built by the Chandela rulers at the Khajuraho. These temples were built for 100 years by the Chandela rulers one after the other.

Temples built during Chandela’s rule at bundelkhand

  • Kandariya Mahadeva Temple Khajuraho
  • Duladeo Temple, Khajuraho
  • Lakshmana Temple, Khajuraho
  • Matangeshwar Temple, Khajuraho
  • Adinath Temple, Khajuraho
  • Javari Temple, Khajuraho
  • Chitragupta Temple, Khajuraho
  • Rahila Sagar sun temple, Mahoba
  • Vamana temple, Khajuraho
  • Brahma Temple, Khajurho
  • Chaturbhuja Temple, Khajuraho
  • Vishvanatha Temple, Khajuraho
  • Jagadambi Temple
  • Ghantai Temple, khajuraho
  • Bijamandala Temple, Khajuraho
  • Shantinatha Temple, Khajuraho

You can read more about temples in Khajuraho built by Chandela kings with below link

There were initially 80 temples at the site, but now only 20 temples are left. Most of these temples are dedicated to the god Shiva and god Vishnu, some are Jain temples also.

Rahiliya-Sagar-Sun-temple
The Raheliya sun temple at mahoba

These groups of temples are famous worldwide and people from every nook and corner of the world flock together to visit this marvelous piece of architecture. the theme of the construction in the outer walls of these temples is of day to day life of the state and is general in nature and some are erotic.

It also tells us that the people of those times were very open-minded and rational and there was the acceptance of every kind of thought in the society; they were more liberated than our current generation.

Let’s just go through the most frequent question people ask before we go more in-depth of Chandela dynasty


Who were Chandelas of bundelkhand

Chandelas were originally one of the 36 clans of the Rajput rulers who had ruled over central India starting from the ninth century AD to the thirteen centuries. The land of the channels was called Jejakabhukti. Though the boundaries of the state always varied by Jejakabhuktiom from time to time the state had always included Mahoba, Khajuraho, Kalinjar, and Ajay Garh.

The extent of the empire comprised the region from the south of Ganga and Jamuna, and Betwa river on the west to the Narmada river on the south. the area which is known as Bundelkhand today has its outer boundaries touching the Vindhya region.

Origin of Chandela dynasty in Folklore

Chandelas considered themselves the descendants of the moon (chandravansh) however, modern researches show that they were the descendants of the gurjar, huna and central Asian tribes who made their way across the northwest frontier and after fighting wars settled themselves in this land.

Chandelas were originally one of the 36 clans of the Rajput rulers who had ruled over central India starting from the ninth century AD to the thirteen centuries. The land of the channels was called Jejakabhukti. Though the boundaries of the state always varied by Jejakabhuktiom from time to time the state had always included Mahoba, Khajuraho, Kalinjar, and Ajay Garh.

The extent of the empire comprised the region from the south of Ganga and Jamuna, and Betwa river on the west to the Narmada river on the south. the area which is known as Bundelkhand today has its outer boundaries touching the Vindhya region.

Origin of Chandela dynasty in Folklore

Chandelas considered themselves the descendants of the moon (chandravansh) however, modern researches show that they were the descendants of the gurjar, huna and central Asian tribes who made their way across the northwest frontier and after fighting wars settled themselves in this land.


The advent of Chandela dynasty in mythology

If we go by mythology, then the rise of Chandelas is attributed to Hemavati, the daughter of Hemraj, the purohit of the gahadawara ruler indrajit of banaras. according to the story when hemavati went for bathe in rati talab, the chandrama was mesmerized by her beauty, snuggled her and tied her to the sky. distraught hemavati could not bear her dishonour in such a way and cursed the chandrama.

chandrama scared of her curse tried to console her and said that if she would perform sacrifice and give birth to her child in Khajuraho, the son would become very famous and would bring glory to the clan. As told by the moon god, the son became the famous king of mahoba and built the famous fort of kalinjar.

The rise of the Chandela dynasty of Bundelkhand

Nannuka (831-845 A.D.) – Founder of Chandela dynasty

Initially the founder of the chandela dynasty, Nannuk, had to support the ruler of the Gurjar-Pratihara militarily as he was their vassal. in return Gurjar-Pratihara ruler provided them the security against the aggression of the Muslim invader. the collective security of the Chandelas provided by the Pratiharas, enabled them to had a peaceful time and they could concentrate more on the art and culture and temple buildings.

This period is considered one of the golden period in the history of temple building in India. The first capital of the Chandela rulers was Khajuraho and then they shifted it to Mahotsav Nagar or mahoba as it is known nowadays. According to the inscriptions, Nannuk was the ruler of the small kingdom known as khajurwatika at that time later known as Khajuraho.


Vakapati (845-865 A.D.)

Vakapati succeeded his father nannuk in the second half of the ninth century and conquered many adjoining areas of vindhayas. Inscriptions of that time tells that vakpati’s fame spread in all the corners of the world and he defeated all his enemies and made the vindhya region as his pleasure mount. he too had provided military support to the pratiharas and in return they helped him in consolidating his empire.


Jaishakti and Vijayshakti(865-885 A.D.)

After Vakpati, his two sons Jaishakti and Vijaishakti, succeeded him one after the other- both of them were very courageous and strong minded and continued consolidation of their empire. The areas conquered by the king Jaishakti were called jaijakbhukti or Bundelkhand as at that time “bhukti” was considered the territory which was directly administered by the Palas and the Pratiharas. After the disintegration of the Pratiharas empire, the Chandelas proclaimed themselves independent and ruled over in those areas in many years to come.

Rahila dev (885-905 CE)


Rahilya annexed to the throne after the death of the Vijaishakti. Dhanga stone inscriptions says that Vijayshakti had a son whose name was rahilya- his enemies were very petrified from him. Another inscription says that he founded the city named Rasina or Rajavasani this town was situated on the way from banda to kalinjar.

he showed great enthusiasm in undertaking public work and excavations for the tanks and lakes and construction of temple. There is a town named after king rahilya to the 3 km distance south-west of the district mahoba. There he constructed a water tank known as rahilya sagar, which is in ruins nowadays speaking volumes of its rich past.

Harshdeva(905-925 A.D.)

After Rahilya followed Harshadev and he made a significant contribution to the progress of his territory. He was the prominent prince and during his rule, he extended the boundaries of his state and brought fame to his dynasty.


Yashovarman(925-950 A.D.)

Yashovarman succeeded Harshadev and he was the first independent king of the Chandel dynasty. The weakening of strong dynasties of Gurajar-Pratihar and Rashtrakutas gave chance to Yashovarman to strengthen and expand his territorial boundaries. consequently, he captured kalinjar hill. Acquiring kalinjar hills led to the enhanced prestige of the Chandela kingdom and they came as a challenging power in the north India.

Dhanga(950-1002 A.D.)

Dhanga ascended to the throne after yashovarman and became the most powerful king of north India. he was the great ruler and conqueror. During his reign the empire reached the zenith of their empire. Epigraphic records shows that he captured the kalinjar fort, occupied the Gwalior fort and brought laurels to his clan.


Ganda(1002-1015 A.D.)

Ganda came to the rule after the death of his father Dhanga, there is not much information available from inscriptions about him. Only one inscription from mahoba shed some light that he ruled for 15 years and constructed Jagdamba and Chitragupta temples.


Vidyadhara(1015-1036 A.D.)

Vidyadhara, one of the greatest and mightiest rulers of the Chandel dynasty, was the son and the successor of the king Ganda. Mahoba inscription mentions that Vidyadhara defeated kanya kubj ruler Narendra, won adjoining areas of Kalchuis and Parmaras. he also defended his state against the aggression of the Mahmud of Gazini.he had a strong army of 56000 horsemen, 194000 foot-soldiers, and 786 elephants. this army was his power and with the help of this he won many wars and brought glory to his clan.

Muslim writers of that time mention him as the greatest ruler of the Indian territory. he was not only an able warrior but also constructed many temples. The Kandariya Mahadev temple was one of them. after his death the power of the Chandelas gradually started declining.

The decline of the Chandelas

Many successors ruled the Chandela dynasty-one after the other but none of them were able to attain the fame and glory that Vidhya Dhar brought to his clan and territory. later kings were weak and had not enough power and control to continue to reign in their state; consequently, the Chandel dynasty started to crumble. after the death of the Vidyadhar, the attacks by the Ghaznavids weakened the kingdom.

Looking for an opportune time the kalachuri king Gangya-Dev invaded the chandela’s territory and captured the eastern part of the kingdom. Probably at that time, other small kings who had an allegiance with the Chandela rulers to protect them at the time of invasion from outside kings- began to come out of allegiance that left the chandela’s kingdom helpless and defenseless.

Further disintegration of the chandela dynasty began with the advent of sultan Qutb-ut-din Aibak. they could not recover fully from the attack of the Delhi forces of the sultan. the chandel king Paramardi surrendered to them and offered to pay the tribute to the sultan but he died before fulfilling his promise. his diwan gave some tough time to the sultan but later he was also subdued. the rising muslim influence as well as the rise of the local kingdoms of the Bundelas, the Bhagelas, and the Khangaras made resurgence difficult for the chandel dynasty. the frequent attack by the then-powerful king Prithviraj Chauhan also made the empire weak and fragile.

Monuments and Architecture style Chandela kings used

The Chandelas were the great patron of art and architecture. they built a number of monuments, palaces, water tanks, and strong forts at different places of the Bundelkhand. they had constructed temples in Nagara-style of architecture.

The group of the Hindu temples and the Jain temples at Khajuraho is a visible example of this style of artistry. this artistic excellence of temple building can be witnessed at various places of the Bundelkhand like- Jayapura-Durga(modern-day Ajaygarh), kalanjara(modern-day Kalinjar), and Mahotsav Nagar(mahoba).

Final words

Born and brought up in the land which is the part of Bundelkhand- I was always fascinated about knowing its history, its traditions, and its rulers- who were the people that came before us that ruled over this land and how they came to this land; what were their contributions in shaping the identity of this land in a way as it looks now.

There had been a number of kings who had contributed in their own way in making this land to have their own rich heritage by constructing beautiful palaces, temples, water bodies, and buildings for their subject use. Some of these have been completely destroyed, some are in ruins and some, after braving a number of attacks, are still speaking volumes about their ancient glory.

Khajuraho temples built by Chandela kings
Khajuraho temples built by Chandela kings

All in all, the Chandela rulers were one of the most powerful kings of their time, conquered many adjoining areas, and annexed these areas to their empire, took ample interest in the well-being of the general public, and constructed many great temples like the Khajuraho group of temples.

These temples built by Chandela kings are included by UNESCO in the world heritage site list in 1986. it should be our priority to visit these sites and witness the marvelous piece of artistic excellence, unparalleled sculpting, and a fine display of human emotions. it is our collective heritage and reflects our past and something to be proud of.

Frequently asked questions about the Chandela dynasty

  1. what was the capital of the Chandela dynasty?

    Khajuraho was the capital during Chandela’s rules, earlier it used to be Mahotsav Nagar, which is currently known as Mahoba

  2. who built the Khajuraho temple?

    Khajuraho Temples were built by Chandela kings, they have built around 120 temples in 500 years of their rule.
    Read more about Khajuraho temples here.

  3. Who was chandelas most famous king?

    Rahil dev was the most famous ruler of Chandela dynasty

  4. Who is the founder of the Chandela dynasty?

    Nannuka (r. c. 831-845 CE) was the founder of the Chandela dynasty of India.

  5. Who was the last ruler of the Chandela dynasty?

     Paradidev (Parmadi) was the last significant king who fought with the Prithviraj Chauhan, although Hammīravarman and Vira-Varman II were officially the last leaders, they ruled the tiny part of Bundelkhand

  6. Which temple was built by Chandela kings?

    Chandelas had built a lot of temples in Khajuraho. They build lord shiva and Jain temples. They also build Sun temple in Mahoba and multiple temples inside of Kalinjar Fort

  7. What is the caste of Chandel?

    Chandel or Chandela is a Rajput clan from India

  8. Who was the most powerful ruler of the Chandela dynasty?

    Nannuka was the first and most powerful leader for Chandela dynasty

  9. What was the Chandela period (Chandela dynasty ruling period)

    They ruled for 500 years 831 CE – 1315 CE

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Santosh Kumar
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