The Chandela or Chandel is an Indian Rajput clan found in Central India. 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 AD. The Chandel dynasty is famous in Indian history for Maharaja Rao Vidyadhara, who repulsed the attacks of Mahmud of Ghazni.
From the ninth 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 descendents of Soma (Sanskrit literal meaning: moon). The roots of Chandela Rajput can be traced to Sapai, which was popularly known as Samapada Nagar. The title given to them was Rao. They are the only hereditary title holders of Kanpur district. After the Muslim invasion the royals resided in Sapai. It was also called Sampada Nagar.
The kingdom of the Chandels of Khajuraho were always a part of this large empire of the Gurjara Pratiharas, 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, Nannuk was the ruler of a small kingdom. According to inscriptions, he was the chief of his clan in the first quarter of the ninth 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 ninth 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 oftern sung in ballands 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 ninth century. He was succeeded by his son Harshdev around 900 AD. 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.